DEAR MISS MANNERS: My brother told me that he disapproved of my intention to give my teenaged niece a small makeup kit as a gift. He said I should have asked his permission first.
I know my niece is allowed to wear makeup, as I have seen her do so at family functions. While I support his right to determine what is appropriate for his daughter, I feel the line should be drawn well short of dictating gift choices. Gift-giving is supposed to be an expression of regard from the giver to the recipient, is it not?
I took the time and thoughtfulness to choose a gift I thought my niece would enjoy. I ended up returning it in favor of a gift card to a big box store, since I didn't see how my brother could object to that, but all the joy of giving the gift is gone.
GENTLE READER: Indeed. What fun is there in being the favorite aunt or grandparent if you can't annoy the parents with presents that undo their rules and parenting in the process?
Miss Manners agrees that barring any truly bad taste or danger, presents should be up to the giver. It is then the parent's privilege to withhold their use until the recipient is "living in her own house and paying her own rent."