I Heart Competition (#335)

In BC times (“Before Child”), my Chinese American husband never missed a gift-giving occasion. Flowers were delivered on my birthday, or sometimes, “just because.” There were platinum earrings to match my engagement ring at Christmas. An emerald necklace was mine on Valentine’s Day.

It took me a while to realize part of Andy’s motivation was to overshadow—and in some cases replace outright— all gifts from previous boyfriends.

In AD times (“After Dalton”), Andy’s gift-giving prowess deserted him. One year he completely spaced on stuffing my stocking (a huge family tradition) or giving me any Christmas presents. Since that was the first year we didn’t spend Christmas with my family, that meant I had nothing to open on Christmas morning.

Our son actually stopped stuffing his face with gummy worms, looked over his giant wall of toys/crumpled wrapping paper, and said, “Mommy, you must have done something terrible.”

Andy, behind his own pile of wrapping paper, Kona coffee, See’s Candies, and bourbon bottles, looked everywhere except at me as I said, “Well, Dalton, sometimes people don’t always make good choices. And then they have to live with the consequences.”

I left them to clean up the mess while I took the dogs for a long, long walk and called my girlfriends. Since Andy didn’t grow up with a lot any holiday traditions, the gal pals felt that divorce or murder was a smidge premature. However, they agreed that it was completely reasonable that Andy should sleep outside on the patio, especially since rain was in the forecast.

Later, I had a long talk with Andy about his new sleeping arrangements the importance of men modeling caring and respect for one’s partner. This is especially critical when one has an only son that one does not want to grow up utterly entitled.

Andy was very contrite. He may have been allowed to sleep on the couch. With the snoring, farting dogs.


Perhaps Christmas night with the dogs was an unforgettable consequence for Andy. I may also have dropped a few sharp, pointed comments reminders about modeling good behavior over the next month.

On Valentine’s Day, I found several gifts on my placemat when I got up: a tote bag that looked like an old school library card, a book, and some Vosages chocolate bars.

“Aw! What a cute bag! And a new book!” I exclaimed. “And which of you gave me the expensive chocolate bars?”

“Those are from Dad,” Dalton yelled dismissively, running into the dining room. He excitedly handed me a big red heart filled with at least a pound of See’s Candies. “This is from me.”

I hugged him and said. “Thank you! That’s so nice!”

“Dad took me shopping and I picked it out myself. And they gave me free samples.”

Andy appeared, presenting me with an even bigger red heart. This one was covered in red satin and held two pounds of See’s Chocolate. “And this one is from me. Happy Valentine’s Day.”

“Wow. That’s huge.”

Dalton glowered at Andy for a minute before launching himself at his father. “You copied me! But you got the bigger one! How dare you!”

Andy laughed and tried to fend off Dalton. As the inevitable wrestling match ensued, Andy yelled, “Well, I couldn’t have my Valentine be outdone by my own son!”

That was NOT the message I wanted my son to learn about gift-giving.

But it was something.


Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

31 thoughts on “I Heart Competition (#335)”

  1. “Well, Dalton, sometimes people don’t always make good choices. And then they have to live with the consequences.”

    This was so cold even Frosty the Snowman felt a shiver down his back! Yet, well-deserved. I’m glad Andy learned his lesson. Hopefully, Dalton will learn from dad’s mistakes when he’s the one giving gifts to his future significant other.

    1. It probably helps that Dalton is being raised with so many different holidays and gifts. He’s actually pretty good about wanting to give good gifts to his friends. And when he didn’t really have a birthday party during the height of Omicron, his best friends all stopped by and gave him gifts on the front porch throughout the day. It was so cute.

      It was funny, though, that he thought Mommy had been so terrible Santa didn’t bring her anything. I really felt this skit from SNL:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FOVCtUdaMCU

  2. Sees chocolates make the heart grow fonder, whether it’s a big box or a small one. I love the way they’re both so proud when they hand over their gift.

  3. Oh my, that is some serious competitive gifting 😀 Himself is a nightmare to buy gifts for, because he knows what he likes and he only wants exactly that. He also tends to quietly buy it for himself once he’s finished doing the research. For a couple of years running, my Christmas stocking gifts were huge winners (and expensive, if small) but it’s a strain maintaining that standard. Nowadays he understands about letting me buy him something he’s selected, and I do likewise for him. We both agreed not to Valentines as we overdid the chocolate at Christmas and, frankly, the strain of getting gifts exactly right is high enough twice a year. I love that Dalton is thoughtful about his gifts, that’s the perfect way to gift.

    1. We usually agree on gift size for holidays also. This past Christmas it was stocking stuffers only, for example.

      The good thing about having a husband who likes expensive alcohol but is very frugal is that there’s always a consumable gift option available. Except I had to go to three different stores to find his favorite bourbon this year. (Year 3 of Pandemic: Everyone is still drinking.)

      1. That was my go to option as well (and for the same reasons), but then he gave up drinking during the pandemic! I know, quelle horreur eh? 😉

          1. Fortunately, he is now majoring in coffee. One half of our kitchen is full of his kit, but I’m now allowed to hunt out interesting and “far too expensive” coffee for him. It does mean that I get me barista quality coffee at home – I am spoiled I tell you 😀

              1. We have a couple of professional quality machines and an electric grinder (which I hear needs upgrading, so I’m putting my name on it for the next episode of gifting). He’s quite traditional in his coffee taste, but was quite taken with one of the Japanese blends I tried. I used to love Blue Mountain myself 🙂

  4. I’m laughing here because that kid of yours never misses a trick. What a good thing for you, too. Who cares how many chocolates you get, it’s the thought that counts– and whether you’re expected to share your chocolates.

    1. I do share the chocolates. Dalton loves scotchmallows and raspberry creams, so I save him some as an after school treat. Some people hoard their goodies, but I’m more of a sharer.

  5. Wow, so you ended up with 1.5 kg of chocolate? You’re so lucky, haha.

    This Valentine’s Day must have been the first I didn’t get anything. My husband is out of his element, hahaha.

  6. Well, at least he learned from his mistake!! Something similar happened to me 2 Christmasses ago and it felt bitter! I still feel bitter! Because I had put SO much effort into making it nice for the kids and then everyone just forgot about me. This year I made up by buying myself many nice presents!

    1. Good for you! I have a friend who leaves out catalogs with the circled items she likes to “help” her spouse.

      I totally get the bitterness. I threw a Christmas Eve party so our kid didn’t miss his cousins and relatives. So much work, plus getting all the gifts and stocking stuffers for the two of them. I didn’t even get a robe!

      1. Yes, exactly!! I had spent all month decorating gingerbread houses and creating magic atmosphere. Of course, I’m happy the kids enjoyed it, and they are too small to get me anything, but our family came over for dinner and brought zero gifts! I’m still gobsmacked. It wasn’t just hubby who forgot me, but everyone! Depressing.
        That catalogue is a great idea! 😀

  7. Over from Ally’s. I find different cultural traditions fascinating, as a retired language teacher. I would be overwhelmed by that much chocolate. Does it freeze?

    1. Welcome! I probably shouldn’t admit that I don’t know if it freezes because that would be the same as admitting I’m quite the chocolate piggy. I have yet to be overwhelmed by any amount of chocolate.

      I do know that See’s keeps for a very long time at room temperature. I think one of See’s giant hearts lasted a month.

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