There are a lot of entertaining, funny, sad and even downright odd questions posed to Dear Abby, but one last week especially caught my attention.
Here is the exchange between reader and columnist, if you missed it:
DEAR ABBY: My wife and I are expecting our first child. A friend of hers pulled me aside to ask if I had already gotten my wife a "push gift." I have never heard of this, but apparently it's supposed to be something nice, like jewelry, to celebrate the birth.
We have already been spending a lot of extra money to decorate a nursery. In addition, the delivery will be costly under our high-deductible health plan. Combined with the fact that my wife just retired from her teaching job, the expenses are starting to freak me out.
In light of this, what do you think of the idea of a push gift? Have you heard any good ideas for a low-cost but appropriate alternative? -- EXCITED FATHER-TO-BE
DEAR EXCITED: A push gift can be a piece of jewelry, your first "family vacation," a piece of electronic equipment for your wife or a piece of furniture for the nursery. Some couples prefer something less materialistic, such as help with baby care or money for the child's education.
A "push gift"? Are you kidding me?!
Yes, I've heard of it and I know what it means. In case anyone out there doesn't, it's a gift that a father gives the mother of his child for giving birth, basically ... hence the awful name "push" gift.
Now give me a break.
First of all, I certainly think it's nice for a new dad to show his love and appreciation for a new mom at the birth of their child. My dad gave my mom a dozen roses when I was born. I guess nowadays that would be called a "push gift."
Then, I think it was just called "sweet."
Second, anytime someone gives a gift it is a nice thing. Even if someone gifted me a rock from their driveway -- did you read the recent story about painted rocks being all the rage? My sarcasm isn't not too far from a real trend, here -- I'd appreciate it because they took the time to think of me in a kind way.
But here's my problem -- or, problems -- with a push gift.
First of all, when it comes to be expected, it kind of loses its sweetness, doesn't it? Society suddenly expects something so much that it gives it a name and new fathers are going to be frowned upon if they don't deliver...so to speak.
"Here, honey, I've fulfilled my societal obligation to get you a push gift. Thanks for the straining and the new life that resulted from it."
Second, what on God's green Earth prompted someone to name this a "push gift"?! We can't do better than that?! How about a "new mom gift," or simply "birth gift"? Even those would be better than the "push gift" name. It sounds downright stupid.
But other things about this bother me, too. I know you want to know what they are.
How about the dad? Doesn't he get some kind of ridiculously named gift for his part in this new life coming into the world?
Sure, he doesn't do the most physical work of carrying and giving birth -- when you think about it, still a dangerous thing for a woman to experience, never mind the wringer that the baby goes through -- but he's got a very important role to play.
What about a gift for him?
We could give it an awful name -- many ideas come to mind not appropriate for a family newspaper -- but it should become a societal expectation too. How about an "eject" gift, comparable to the "push" gift name in ridiculousness and appropriate in an almost double meaning.
My verbal rolling of the eyes -- oh, it can be done, with the properly executed sigh -- over this topic started a little discussion in the newsroom. We asked a couple of the moms what their push gift was: the hospital bill, was their reply.
I guess I'm just being too grumpy about this. Maybe it's because I've never given birth and, therefore, missed out on getting a push gift. Perhaps since I didn't procreate I should get a "pull" gift -- pulling the world's population down via my lack of offspring.
See. I can make up excuses for gift-giving too.
I kind of feel like George Costanza from "Seinfeld." Just when does all this obligation for presents -- and spending money on others -- stop?
A couple gets engaged, and there are engagement gifts to be purchased. Then there's the bridal shower -- more presents; the wedding -- bigger gifts; and along comes a baby, bringing baby showers with present-buying for the child's impending arrival; later, the dad's obligation for a push gift, new baby gifts from friends and family, birthday gifts for the kiddo, high school and college graduation presents ... and on and on.
It's kind of expensive to have friends and relatives.
Then again, one can only spend so much of one's own money on oneself, so spreading the wealth is a nice thing.
I just think things should be given for the sake of giving, not out of societal pressure.
Mow your grandma's lawn because she's your grandma and you love her, not so that she can pay you $50. Besides, how much did you pay her to bake your favorite cookies for you when you were a kid? And what price can you put on her homemade pies?
Clean out Mom's gutters every spring and fall because, with all that each of us puts our parents through, there's surely no way we could "pay back" everything our parents have done for us, assuming most people have/had good parents like my sisters and me.
Leave a couple of bags of groceries on a struggling family's doorstep because you want to help, not because you want some kind of recognition for that good thing you did. Do it for the sake of doing something good.
So feel free to disregard my venting about this whole push gift thing. I'm just sore because no one got me anything for my 46 1/2th birthday. Come to think of it, no one acknowledged my 46 1/4th birthday either.
The short end of the stick, though ... I got that.