Excessive Gift Giving

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Excessive Gift Giving

Post by Wondering on Fri Dec 18, 2015 10:48 pm

How do you tell people to stop giving so many things to your kid?

It is just over the top. My mother-in-law brought a suitcase full of Christmas presents for the baby when they came to visit this summer. Which has taken up a not insignificant amount of space in our garage to store as we're trying to get unpacked. But then, she also sent more stuff last month. It's just things things things. Like things are what make love or family or something. I have actually come to dread getting packages from my mother-in-law, it's so bad.

And now, my aunt and uncle have almost entirely cleared out my Amazon wish list for the baby. They have two grandkids of their own. Why are they sending us so much?

And how do you tell people to stop without sounding ungrateful and rude? It's overwhelming, though, and we don't want our child's life filled with so many THINGS.

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Re: Excessive Gift Giving

Post by eselle28 on Fri Dec 18, 2015 11:28 pm

I definitely know some other people who've had this problem, so it sounds like you're by no means alone. The people I know who seem to have had the most luck have gone with the redirection route rather than objecting to the things outright. My sister is fine with most gifts (or at least she claims mine are okay!) but has the only grandchild in either her or her husband's family and got more from grandparents than she could use, some of which were huge or noisy or both. She's had some success with steering them toward things like a science museum membership and swimming lessons, so they could still give something but it wouldn't take up space.

This is more appropriate for a child who's a little older than your baby, but I also have a friend who's raising two and soon three in a two bedroom apartment and who just doesn't have room for many things. She tells people that part of what her kids are learning is the value of giving to others, so one of the things on their gift list is a charity the child chose (like, her little girl likes horses, so there was some sort of steering conversation where they landed on a farm animal rescue as her choice).

In any case, I'm sorry to hear you're dealing with it! I know it's a tough problem to have and it's one that can be hard to talk about.
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Re: Excessive Gift Giving

Post by Wondering on Fri Dec 18, 2015 11:42 pm

Ours is also the only grandchild on either side, so that's part of the problem.

But my mother-in-law has always been like this, according to my husband. She is very much quantity over quality, and throwing a bunch of toys at the wall to see what sticks. He talks about how when he was a kid, his mom wouldn't get him the one Transformer he asked for that was $15 but would instead get him 3 other Transformers he didn't want that were $5 a piece.

And my husband says his parents will definitely not get intangible things like museum memberships or charity. It's all about the "fun" of having so many presents to unwrap under the tree.

We actually sorted through most of what she left this summer and culled it, giving what we didn't want for our baby to Toys for Tots. And then we did it again when she sent more stuff last month. That will work for the next year or two, but soon the baby will be old enough to talk when grandma and grandpa ask her about the Christmas presents they gave her (that we didn't).

It's hard, too, because it's my husband's conversation to have with his mom, so I'm not even the one who would do the talking. And he's very don't-rock-the-boat and non-confrontational. Sad

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Re: Excessive Gift Giving

Post by Caffeinated on Fri Dec 18, 2015 11:50 pm

That's a hard one, because it's so easy and fun to get things for a baby or very small child. They're easy to buy for because they don't yet have their own sense of style so you can buy them all the cute clothes, and anything that's rated as age appropriate they're likely to like playing with at least for a little while. Plus it's a nostalgia thing, where they can look back and remember the sweet parts of having a baby without the inconvenient bits like massive sleep deprivation. Yes, the baby aisle is a place of great temptation.

One thing I've seen, you can make a family policy of "one in, one out", so that you keep a set amount of kid stuff (especially toys) but no more. Talking about it openly with family as a positive thing, or even including mention of it in a holiday newsletter, can help with reminding people.

Another thing I've seen, a parent I know used to hand out index cards/send out emails to each person who might be expected to give her son any gifts, with a specific list of items that they could get. So one person got a list of clothes, another got a list of toys, another got a list of books, etc. This is a tricky one to do without feeling like you're being super-controlling.

Another thing is, you can sit down and have delicate conversations with each person, telling them that one of your parenting goals is to try not to let our culture's materialism influence and get a hold on your child, and ask them to help with that project. Ask to keep gifting to one item only, or however many you feel is appropriate.

Another idea, talk to each person and mention your concern that your house is starting to look like an auxiliary storage area for ToysRUs, and request that they try to mostly give your child books. That can be combined with a request that when they visit, they make a special point of sitting down and reading to your child, making the giving and reading of books together a special thing.
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Re: Excessive Gift Giving

Post by eselle28 on Sat Dec 19, 2015 12:08 am

Oh. Dear. From that description, I'm going to assume she's also not steerable toward useful gifts or perishable ones and that lots and lots of toys is her ideal of a great holiday or birthday. I think, then, that the answer probably means saying something that she'll find ungrateful and rude like setting a limit of the number of presents from each gift-giver and being upfront about the fact that anything extra either can't be opened or will be opened but later given away or some other response. (Are your aunt and uncle able to be a little more flexible, or do they also have a rigid view of what gifts should be? If they're a little easier, maybe that can at least help with part of the problem.)

This is a very, very small consolation, but it is kind of telling that your husband doesn't really seem to have liked his gifts as a child. Perhaps as your child grows older, she won't find they have much appeal either, and can be a partner in semiannual toy cull or a one in one out policy? I know I didn't tend to place a ton of value on gifts that weren't very thoughtful when I was a child, and that I tended to be pretty nonchalant about sending them to the rummage sale. Though, admittedly, having lots of junky things that are bought, opened, and then quickly discarded seems like it might be a negative lesson in its own right. Ugh. Sorry.
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Re: Excessive Gift Giving

Post by Wondering on Sun Dec 20, 2015 2:33 am

Thanks for the responses, both of you. I have read them and will come back and comment when I have a bit more energy -- since this is an energy-draining topic for me -- and I've got a sick baby at the moment. Smile

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Re: Excessive Gift Giving

Post by waxingjaney on Sun Dec 20, 2015 1:33 pm

If you don't mind being a jerk, you could declare that the first two presents get opened, and the rest are going to charity.
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Re: Excessive Gift Giving

Post by Wondering on Mon Dec 21, 2015 8:24 pm

Okay!

So, yes, Caffeinated is right that a lot of this (right now) is about how easy and fun it is to buy for babies. And my mother-in-law is a bargain shopper. So she buys tons and tons of stuff because it's a good deal. A lot of it out of the clearance bin. (A lot of which are in the clearance bin because they're damaged and not safe for babies. Suspect)

Of course, it's not just because the baby is a baby because this pattern goes back to my husband's childhood, too. (Today he told me they always used to just have English muffins for Christmas breakfast because they didn't have time to have a bigger breakfast because they had to get back to present opening. My mind is boggled by that.)

I think a combination of what you all have said is going to be what we're (my husband, really) going to have to say. We're going to have to tell her that there is a hard limit on presents. No more than X amount. My therapist, who I was talking to about this, mentioned a popular idea going around of 4 presents: Want, Need, Wear, Read. Where you get one present the kid wants, one they need, and so forth. Now, my MiL won't get the baby something the baby needs (that's no fun!), but the idea that we limit her to only 4 might work, and that anything over 4 goes to charity. And I think the best way for us to try to do that is to couch it in terms of materialism. That might be the only thing that works. And we need to do the thing with making I/We statements. "We don't want the baby to have too many things." "We have decided she should not have more than X because materialism reasons." It still may not work, but giving a hard limit is probably our best bet. And it will probably hurt feelings. I don't want it to. I do appreciate that she wants to give so much, and I appreciate all the clothes she buys so that we don't really have to at this point when the baby is growing so fast, but that may be a sacrifice we have to make for the presents to stop.

(Actually, my therapist said this is not an uncommon problem with parents of kids these days, trying to deal with people giving their kids way too much stuff.)

For my aunt and uncle, I'm not sure what will work. I don't think the materialism thing will. Because I have a very strong suspicion that they feel they should be getting our baby an equal amount to what they get their granddaughters. Which they totally should not. So if we say, "No, this is too materialistic." And they're still doing that for their grandkids? I think they'll feel like we're passing judgment. Feelings get offended very easily on that side of the family. And this is the aunt who still sends me money for my birthday. I'm 40. And married. With a kid.  Shocked

This will be harder because with aunts and uncles and various relatives who are not us or grandparents, we really don't want anymore than one gift. Just one. So, we're going to have to think a bit more on that one.

It really is hard to establish boundaries with people who still view you as a kid.

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Re: Excessive Gift Giving

Post by reboot on Tue Dec 22, 2015 9:16 am

My sister in law started a 529 (American college savings account) when the kids were born and requested all gifts be deposits to the accounts until the kids were old enough to know who gave them gifts and to say "thank you". It worked pretty well, barring the occasional unfortunate, usually gendered, terribly gaudy gift from my side of the family.
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Re: Excessive Gift Giving

Post by WJMorris3 on Wed Dec 23, 2015 1:02 am

There's also the idea of giving to a charity in the kids' name. Might I suggest the K.I.N.D. fund? They raise money to purchase desks for children in Malawi.

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Re: Excessive Gift Giving

Post by Wondering on Wed Dec 23, 2015 4:39 am

My husband just discovered that the package sent to him by his mom with my Christmas present in it actually has two more presents for the baby in it, as well. Gah!

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Re: Excessive Gift Giving

Post by JP McBride on Wed Dec 23, 2015 6:30 pm

Wondering wrote:We actually sorted through most of what she left this summer and culled it, giving what we didn't want for our baby to Toys for Tots. And then we did it again when she sent more stuff last month. That will work for the next year or two, but soon the baby will be old enough to talk when grandma and grandpa ask her about the Christmas presents they gave her (that we didn't).


Let her have all the toys, but periodically go through them and ask her which ones she doesn't want anymore, then have her give those ones to charity.

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