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Gift for an Outgrown Interest

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Ned: Don't you like it?
Sansa: I haven't played with dolls since I was eight.

In gift-giving, it's often said that "it's the thought that counts." However, the thought sometimes reveals how little the giver knows or cares about the receiver.

For instance, Alice is shopping for her teenage nephew Bob and niece Claire, whom she's visiting for the first time in years. He still plays soccer, right? And All Girls Like Ponies, don't they? At least, they did the last time she saw them. So she buys Bob a soccer ball and Claire a book about horses — only to find out when she gives them her gifts that Bob hasn't played soccer since little league and Claire stopped caring about ponies in middle school.

A Gift for an Outgrown Interest is most likely to be done to a child by a relative they rarely see, like an uncle/aunt or grandparent who visits from out of town. Another common culprit is a parent who Doesn't Know Their Own Child, whether that's because they're neglectful, a workaholic, hands-off, or trying to reconnect after being absent. It often overlaps with the Disneyland Dad, trying to buy their children's affection with gifts and activities they enjoyed together pre-separation. It could also be done with a grown-up child trying to make up for the parent-child memories they never made, while the child is more interested in a more mature relationship with them.

This usually triggers an Unwanted Gift Plot in an attempt to stay polite, while a younger or blunter recipient's reaction is "My New Gift Is Lame." While most recognize that it was just Innocently Insensitive, others may believe that the gift was intentionally terrible and take it as an insult. In the case of parents and children, this will often result in Calling the Old Man Out for not putting any effort into understanding them and their interests, but by the end, they understand that it was their parent's misguided but well-meant attempt at showing affection and relating to them.

Subtrope of Gift-Giving Gaffe. Compare Unwanted Gift Plot, Faked Gift Acceptance, Birthday Party Goes Wrong, and Don't You Like It? See also Doesn't Know Their Own Child, Always a Child to Parent, Misplaced Kindergarten Teacher, and Loving a Shadow. If the interest in question was a Fleeting Passionate Hobby, see Once Done, Never Forgotten.


Examples:

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    Film ā€” Animated 
  • Coraline: Wybie gives Coraline a doll that looks just like her that he found lying around. Coraline scoffs that she's "way too old for dolls", but she does eventually start playing with the doll. It turns out that the doll is being used for surveillance by the main villain, the "Other Mother".
  • Hey Arnold! The Movie: Discussed. "Big Bob" Pataki tries to convince his daughter Helga that his Community-Threatening Construction would be good by saying it'll make them wealthy enough to buy her what she wants.
    Big Bob: You can have that pony you've been wantin'.
    Helga: Dad, I wanted a pony when I was five.

    Film ā€” Live-Action 
  • A Christmas Story: Ralphie's Aunt Clara is known for making terrible Christmas gifts that are more suited for the tastes of a far younger child. For this Christmas, she sends him a pink onesie that looks like a bunny rabbit.
    Ralphie: [narrating] Aunt Clara had labored for years under the delusion that I was not only perpetually four years old but also a girl.
    Ralphie's mother: She just always gives you the nicest things, Ralphie!
  • Life-Size: Discussed when Casey gets a gift from her dad's new girlfriend Drew, which turns out to be a Barbie-esque doll called Eve. The rather tomboyish Casey is instantly disappointed; Drew tries to salvage the situation by pointing out that even though she's too old to play with dolls, maybe she could keep it as a collector's item.
  • Taken: Subverted. Bryan buys his daughter Kim a karaoke machine for her 17th birthday since she always wanted to be a singer. His ex-wife trivializes it, saying that Kim isn't 12 anymore. Although Kim's stepfather upstages him by buying her a horse, Kim is nonetheless happy with Bryan's present and is implied to want to pursue a serious music career at the end of the film.

    Literature 
  • Amelia's Notebook: In "Amelia's Family Ties," ten-year-old Amelia flies across the country to visit her absentee father, this being the first time they've met since she was an infant. He brings a teddy bear to the airport, which Amelia is too old for, and she's immediately reminded that her dad is a literal stranger to her. She gifts the bear to her baby half-brother George, and at the end, her dad buys her a gift (some drawing supplies) that reflects her more recent hobbies.
  • American Girls Collection: "A Smart Girl's Guide to Knowing What to Say" has a section on how to say thank you to bad gifts. One of the hypothetical scenarios is a ten-year-old girl being given a stuffed bear that teaches kids how to count.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth: Greg and his brothers are left with their Grandpa Heffley when their parents go out of town. Grandpa follows an instruction book the parents wrote, but it was written years ago when Greg and Rodrick were still small children and Manny hadn't been born yet. For example, Grandpa only puts on Edutainment Shows, which the twelve-year-old Greg doesn't like.
  • Origami Yoda: In Rise of the Fortune Wookiee, Kellen tries to get in Rhondella's good graces again by buying her a Godzilla plush toy, assuming that she still likes the series (she was obsessed with it as a kid and she's currently in middle school). He finds out the hard way that she's no longer interested in it when she's less than impressed by this peace offering.
  • Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing: The Yarbys give nine-year-old Peter a picture dictionary which is more suitable for a preschooler like his younger brother Fudge. While Peter at least has enough tact to pretend to be enthused, Fudge brings out his old copy of the same book, which was a hand-me-down from Peter.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones: To smooth over his tumultuous relationship with his 13-year-old daughter Sansa, Eddard Stark buys her a doll from a renowned craftsman in King's Landing who's also a toy-maker for the (far younger) Princess Myrcella. Sansa bitterly replies that she hasn't played with dolls since she was eight.
  • Sesame Street: In one episode, Baby Bear's grandma visits, but doesn't realize that he's no longer a baby. At one point, she gives him a new bonnet, which he thinks is just too juvenile. She even tries to put him in a diaper, but he refuses.
  • Ted Lasso: In an effort to reconnect with Nora, her 13-year-old goddaughter whom she hasn't seen for six years, Rebecca takes her out to afternoon tea, only to realize partway through that all the other kids there are little girls and Nora isn't 6 anymore. While Nora is polite about it, she takes the chance to leave when Rebecca offers it.
  • Trace: In "Not in the Brow but in the Eye", Larisa Gavrilova tries to get back into her daughter Masha's life after effectively abandoning her, and attempts to give her a Barbie doll. The problem is that Masha is seventeen and tells her bluntly that she hasn't been interested in dolls in years; she views Larisa's sister Albina as more of a real mother, wants nothing to do with her, and Larisa is just trying to mooch off of Albina's family.

    Web Animation 
  • Helluva Boss: In "Loo Loo Land", Stolas tries to bond with his estranged teenage daughter Octavia by taking her to Loo Loo Land, a place she hasn't enjoyed going to since she was a child.

    Webcomics 
  • Dorkly: "The Last Nintendo Power Subscriber" by Andy Kluthe depicts a grandmother who tries to get her grandson Timmy a subscription to Nintendo Power magazine for his birthday; when she learns they've gone out of print, she makes a homemade issue herself and gives it to him. Timmy is revealed to be a grown adult who gladly accepts the gift, even though he doesn't have the heart to tell her he hasn't played Nintendo games in a long time.

    Web Original 
  • Cracked: A a children's party planner recounts the time they planned a Western-themed Bar Mitzvah party because the boy's favorite movie at age 8 was Home on the Range. His parents never bothered to ask him 5 years later whether he still wanted that theme. The planner was Genre Savvy enough to realize this trope would likely occur and tried to get the boy's mother to ask her son if he still wanted the western theme, but she insisted on going through with the party. Needless to say, the boy became one mortified mensch that day.
  • It's My Life: This question concerns a girl named Talia who was a fan of American Girl dolls when she was younger. Her mother wants to take her to American Girl Place in New York, not realizing that her daughter's long moved on from them.

    Web Videos 
  • SuperMarioLogan: Invoked by Bowser Junior and Joseph in "Cody's Birthday!" Cody makes the mistake of revealing to Junior and Joseph that he was born on February 29, and even though he's eight years old, per the calendar, this will only be his second birthday. Upon hearing this, Junior and Joseph go as far as to make a baby-themed birthday party for him and pretend that he's two years old. Among the presents they give him are diapers, an animal wheel, rattles, and rainbow stacking rings. Cody is less than amused.

    Western Animation 
  • As Told by Ginger: Played With in "Family Therapy". Macie Lightfoot's parents are both workaholic psychologists who manage to forget their own daughter's 13th birthday. When they realize this, they try to make up for it by throwing a party for her, but it seems more suited to a small child, featuring a clown, balloon animals, and Macie dressed in a pink princess dress. Her best friends Ginger and Dodie try to stop it and save Macie the embarrassment — but she isn't embarrassed at all. She loves the theme, seeing it as an opportunity to make up for missed birthday opportunities of the past, and loves the attention she's getting. And for that matter, the popular girls attending love it, too.
  • Bluey: Played With in "Onesies". Aunt Brandy, who drifted apart from her sister's family, returns for a visit, bringing her nieces animal onesies.
    • When Chilli sees the presents, she gets nervous, which makes Brandy worry the girls don't like onesies anymore. The girls actually love the onesies — the problem is Bingo tends to go feral and embody whichever animal her onesie represents, which in this case happens to be a cheetah.
    • Later, when Bluey asks if the cheetah onesie was available in her size, Brandy apologizes for not thinking of it, since the last time she saw Bluey, zebras were her favorite animal. Bluey replies that they used to be but she changed it to cheetahs four years ago, further emphasizing how long Brandy has been distant.
  • Harley Quinn: In "B.I.T.C.H.", Talia wants to buy a pacifier for her son Damian, not even bothering to remember his age or recognize the fact that her son is now a grown boy now.
  • One episode of Hey Arnold! sees Big Bob spending a day with Helga in an attempt to bond, taking her to a petting zoo to ride ponies. When Helga is visibly displeased, Big Bob argues that she loves ponies, to which Helga responds "When I was five! Iā€™m nine!"
  • Miraculous Ladybug: The episode "Befana" has Marinette's grandmother drop by for her birthday; her presents are a sweater that only would've fit Marinette seven years ago, and candy which she stopped liking around the same time.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Forever Filly", Rarity realizes she hasn't really spent quality time with her sister Sweetie Belle since both have been busy helping others in their separate lines of work. When Rarity tries to spend the day with her doing things they used to love doing together, Sweetie Belle feels uncomfortable because she's a little old for pretty much all of them, causing her to lash out at Rarity for not really knowing her. The Cutie Mark Crusaders' client, Zipporwhill, also struggles to train her dog, Ripley, until Sweetie Belle realizes Ripley is having the same problem she is — Zipporwhill is using dog toys meant for puppies when Ripley is an adult dog. Both Zipporwhill and Rarity adjust their approaches.
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • In "Dude, We're Getting the Band Back Together", the divorced Dr. Doofenshmirtz throws a surprise Sweet 16 birthday for his daughter Vanessa. However, the decorations—princesses, teddy bears, and bright colors — seem to be meant for a little girl, and demonstrate his complete ignorance of the fact that Vanessa is going through her Emo Teen phase.
    • In "Finding Mary McGuffin," Candace's father accidentally sells her favorite childhood doll at their Garage Sale. The buyer was Dr. Doofenshmirtz, who had spent a decade trying to find such a doll for Vanessa. Although she'd long outgrown her desire for one, she's touched by his dedication, concluding that he's not such a bad dad after all. She spends the episode trying to get it back after it accidentally falls into a donation box, even forcibly taking it back from a little girl. Doof tells Vanessa he's proud of her for committing something kind of evil.
  • Rugrats (1991): In "Back to School", Didi is horrified to find out that her Dr. Lipschitz parenting book only covers advice on how to take care of children from birth to age five. Betty assures her that she'll be fine and asks her what could possibly happen when the kids turn six. What follows is an Imagine Spot where Didi throws Tommy a Dummi Bears-themed party on his sixth birthday, only for Tommy to complain that he's sick of the Dummi Bears. When Didi apologizes to him, he asks her why she didn't make him a big-boy party.
  • Steven Universe: Sadie's mother is well-meaning but goes overboard for Sadie's interests. According to Sadie, she mentioned one time that it might be fun to try softball, and even though years have passed and she no longer plays, she still gets softball gear for her birthday. Her mother also gets her stuffed animals at random moments, despite Sadie considering herself too old for stuffies (she simply keeps them in a large pile in her room).
  • The Venture Brothers: In "The Diving Bell vs. the Butter-Glider," the Monarch got supervillain King Gorilla a carton of cigarettes to celebrate him making parole. Only after he gets to the party does the Monarch learn that King Gorilla was paroled for medical reasons because he's dying from late-stage lung cancer. When his gift is opened, all the Monarch does is avoid eye contact and sheepishly say "Nobody told me."

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