ADD Men's Gift Giving Guide 2011

I have been thinking a lot about the subject of gifts, after a number of posts from people who felt really hurt this year because of the kind of the gifts they received either for Christmas or some other occasion, or the lack of gift at all.  So I thought I would give my thoughts on gift-giving to the ADD men out there -- I actually think this could be a book in and of itself.  Perhaps my own DH will take a look at this at some point.

Here are the major events for which you SHOULD give a gift, and what you should think about when buying/planning it:

1.  Valentine's Day: think ROMANCE.  Most women recognize that Valentine's Day is an artificial holiday which really ends up making everyone feel a little used and forced into doing or buying something.  We all remember how much we hated this day when we were single, and the cliche gifts like roses or some overpriced dinner at a restaurant crammed with other couples is usually not necessary (and you probably won't be able to get a reservation at a restaurant anyway if you wait till the last minute, which ADD-ers are likely to do).  HOWEVER, it is nice to celebrate the spirit of this holiday, which as I said, is romance.  Try to think about what you used to do when you were wooing your wife.  Maybe coming home early and preparing a nice home-cooked, candlelight dinner.  Or maybe reading some love poems, or an old love letter you wrote her, by a fire.  Or if you live somewhere warm, maybe a little picnic with wine, under the stars.  Basically, something that goes back to the courtship period, JUST FOR ONE DAY.  (NOTE: I would not recommend the "lets-get-it-on" type of gift, like sexy lingerie...if you're on this site, it's likely your marriage is a little rocky, and you're liable to get strangled with a thong.)

2.  Anniversary: think LOVE and MEMORIES.  Anniversaries are the time to celebrate YOUR MARRIAGE.  They are also nice occasions to develop some kind of ritual (which can lessen the need to plan every year) -- like, is there a particular restaurant you went to for your first date, or when you were first married?  Maybe that's where you go on your anniversary.  If you REALLY can't think of anything, you can always look at the traditional marriage gifts, and do something with that, for example -- again, the thinking is kind of done for you, and you can get a little random and still have it mean something.  Your spouse might actually think it's fun for you to come up with a gift made of tin or aluminum for your 10th anniversary, for example (just remember that if you give her 10 boxes of aluminum foil, please also take her to dinner).

3.  Mother's Day: think APPRECIATION.  Here's where some act of service can really go a long way -- take care of your kids and give your wife the entire day off.  Or focus on that long Honey-Do list and tackle them for a day.  Take over the chores she most dreads.  Be her "butler" and bring her breakfast in bed.  Anything you do on this day where you "let her off the hook" for what she does the other 364 days of the year will implicitly convey your immense gratitude for the value she adds to your and your family's life.

4.  Birthday:  think SPECIAL and UNIQUE.  So, you will actually need to think about your wife's INDIVIDUAL PERSONALITY, her INTERESTS, her HOBBIES, what SHE likes.  There are clues all over the place of you just look. It doesn't have to be extravagant, just really, really THOUGHTFUL.  Birthdays, in my opinion, are a time to give someone what they WANT, rather than NEED.  For example, if your wife has been complaining that the vacuum has been broken, and you get her a new vacuum for her birthday, you might find her less than enthused.  Why?  Because the vacuum, although it is thoughtful and something she needs, isn't about HER (except the fact that it reinforces that she does the cleaning, not the message you want to send).  The point here is that you want to give her something that reflects your knowledge of her as a person.  Honestly, if you are really stuck, call one of her girlfriends or her mom or sister and they will give you some ideas.

5.  Christmas: think FUN and SURPRISE.  I think Christmas is actually very similar to birthdays, but you have a little more latitude -- here I think you can go with things she NEEDS as well as WANTS (though I highly recommend that you still pass on the vacuum, or anything that links to things she does for YOU).  So, if she's just started exercising or running, it's fine to get her a really nice pair of running shoes.  Again, needed, but also thoughtful and about her.  Maybe a book or DVD that reflects some topic or interest or passion of hers.  It's going to depend on your wife, but you want to take the extra step here and WRAP the gift.  In wrapping paper.  Do not wrap it in brown paper bag, like my husband often does, because that looks like a mail bomb.  

6.  BONUS POINTS: Just Because.  I think that at least TWO TIMES a year, you can give your wife a random, "just because" gift.  Something small, that just says you are thinking of her.  Like, picking up a pint of her favorite ice cream when you go to the grocery store.  Or a small little note tucked into her purse or briefcase that she'll find at some point.  You have NO IDEA how much a small gesture will mean to your wife and how much it will add to her emotional bank account.

A few logistics:

1.  Get a card for each holiday.  Just do it.  You can buy a box of neutral, blank cards with kittens on them or something and use them for each one, but the step of taking the time to write a short note, sticking it in an envelope, and presenting it to her along with whatever gift you have planned or bought is a VERY nice touch.

2.  If there is a dinner involved, make the reservation yourself.  This is NOT hard.  Simply go to Google and search the name of the restaurant.  It will pop up, along with a number.  Call the number, say "table for two at x:00" and give your name.  DONE.  It will take all of THREE MINUTES.

3.  You will see that almost all of the above require a little advance planning, which probably causes your heart rate to rise.  Set an alarm/reminder for (at least) ONE WEEK BEFORE to just think about the particular occasion.  I really can't imagine that the entire planning phase for any of the above would take more than an hour (possibly a bit more for the birthday, though as I mentioned you can cheat and call some friends and family).  Think about it: five major holidays = FIVE HOURS of thinking.  That's .05% of your entire mental energy expended over the course of entire year.  The return on that small amount of mental energy will be HUGE.

You can do it!  Good luck!!!