If you want to really upset Auntie Kate or I, give us a gift that we can’t give a literal equal response to. We are incredibly awkward around gifts anyway, but we are especially messed up around unequal giving.
Why? Well this is quite obviously another Grandad El Paso story. Normal people give gifts because they want to see you happy. Grandad gives gifts because he wants to OWN your happiness, which is a very different thing.
If Grandad has given you a gift, he wants to see the kind of gratitude usually reserved for being rescued from the jaws of a Kraken. Also, Grandad will remind you of the happiness he has provided and will call in favours against it for years after, like Don Corleone.
Unfortunately, from this we have developed a Pavlovian response that gifts “bring pain” or at the very least require aggressively reciprocal gifts to negate the power of the original gift. These are of course completely INAPPROPRIATE responses to gifts from NORMAL people.
So, here comes the “do as I say, not as I do” advice. If a normal person gives you something amazing they probably just want to make you happy. So, simply show them that they have made you happy and say thank you, rather than panic and splutter that you can’t afford anything of equal value for them.
If someone (Grandad) gives you a gift because they want something in return, then that is their problem, they should not have declared it to be a gift. In any barter system worth it’s salt, the choice of what you are bartering away has to be known up front in the agreement, otherwise it is less bartering, more extortion.
That is not to say you shouldn’t reciprocate gifts, but you should do so because you want to make that person happy not because you owe them an equal amount of happiness. Gifts should be a voluntary and benevolent act, not a straight-up swap, and certainly not a bargaining chip.
Most people are NOT Grandad and when they do something nice for you they are simply trying to spread a bit of joy in the world. Help them spread that joy by experiencing the joy and then pay it forward when and to whomever you can.
Disclaimer – Grandad has never really asked us to kill anyone, neither have we ever offered.