It's quite possible I'm hardcore about gifts and gifting, but as a Dad, I think it's really important to share my values with my children, and one of them is the importance of a gift being a demonstration of your love and awareness of the recipient.
It's rather a game I play, actually: when someone I know has a birthday or Hanukah / Christmas is coming up, or, in the case of a partner, Valentine's Day, the challenge of figuring out the perfect present begins.
You pay close attention to them, listen to what they talk about wanting, take note of the things they gravitate towards in stores, at the Mall, or even in product catalogs or newspaper fliers. You obliquely ask them about specific kinds of products. You see what they are coveting of yours (or a friend), and you keep track.
When it's time to purchase the gift, a bit of research on a site like Amazon.com, with its extraordinary database of product reviews and comments, can quickly reveal the best in class or the limitations and problems associated with a given potential gift.
In the end, a perfect gift is a terrific gesture of love, an obvious sign that your affection for them isn't just associated with a cash value but that you pay attention to them. That you see them, hear them, and think about them.
How can a gift card compare to that?
Dave Taylor writes a parenting blog at GoFatherhood.com and is a single dad to three children, 15, 11, and 8.