Gifting my time

Exploring the pressure of hand-making gifts


Jasvinder Singh

One of the nights I spent crocheting the purple scarf on my bed for my mom’s birthday.

Jiya Singh

I tend to cry a lot. It’s kind of the way I’ve always been.

Whether it was getting a bad grade on a test or stubbing my pinky toe on the TV set, going to my room and sobbing in my bed while listening to the saddest music I can find has been a bit of a routine for me in the past couple of years.

And while I have probably checked off nearly every item on the list of absurd reasons to be upset by now, I had never imagined I would be crying at 2 a.m. while trying to crochet my mother a scarf for her birthday.

It was the end of October 2020 ––  one of the busiest times of the school year –– and I was stressed enough about my deteriorating grades, the presidential election results and anything else that might have had the power to scare a high school sophomore. But rather than focusing on school, I chose to spend an hour each night for two weeks working on the scarf.

After all, it was my mom who had taught me how to crochet in the first place, and after a long summer of desperately asking for her help on cross-stitching and front looping, it was obvious that I just had to crochet her something by myself as a gift (with the assistance of YouTube, of course). 

After long nights of trying to cram in chemistry assignments between the hours I spent crocheting on my bed, I began to realize that I was feeling so much stress from something that wasn’t even worth a grade. 

Why do I get so stressed about hand-making gifts for the people I love?

Unlike the stereotypical MVHS student, I have never been interested in anything related to science, math, coding, engineering or all those other subjects I’ve become far too familiar with. And luckily, my parents have never pressured me into pursuing any of those fields, which I am so grateful for.

Instead, my strengths have always been in all things creative and my family has always supported me in those endeavors, whether it was through my embarrassing elementary school duct tape phase, middle school iMovie phase or current bullet journal phase. 

The painting that I made my dad for Father’s Day last year

But somewhere along those phases, I began getting busier and busier with school, so I had to start devoting my artistic time strictly towards occasions that I thought truly mattered –– my family members’ birthdays. 

And as a result, each birthday, Christmas and anniversary felt like a new chance to show my family my true capabilities outside the mediocre performance I had in school. The feeling I received as my parents would excitedly share pictures of my gifts to every phone number they had saved on WhatsApp is unparalleled to any “A” I’d gotten on a test. For the first time in my life, I was able to excel in something that the rest of my engineer family could not and it felt amazing.

But over time, each compliment I received began augmenting into an expectation to create a newer and more exciting present. My parents never pressured me to make them a gift when I could easily hand them a card or store-bought gift from Target for a lot less effort, like my peers did. But the sole longing of validation from my family was reason enough to spend weeks before any large occasion drafting away plans for a present that outdid the last one. 

And so the cycle continued and is still going on today to some extent. However, somewhere along the line — probably that night when my mom walked in on me crying with a spool of yarn in my hands — I learned to not hyperfixate on making every gift perfect. She sat down by my side and asked that I never make anything for my family if it was going to cause me so much stress. I didn’t want to accept at first, but I knew her words came from a place of unconditional love. No one wants to see their child crying over them, and I learned that the greatest gift I could give my family was the assurance that I was doing OK and staying on top of things that truly mattered in the long run.

My mom and I hug as I gift her the completed hand-made scarf on her birthday.

Although I still try to be creative and make things for my family as much as possible, I’ve learned that there are other ways to show them my love that don’t cause me as much stress. I believe I’ve finally reached the stage in my life where I’ve become friends with my family, and it’s the best gift I could ever give or receive more than any little painting.

And while hand-making gifts was an excellent excuse to unleash my creative side, I now know that I don’t need to prove anything to anyone through simple crafts — just being myself finally feels like enough.