Monday, January 23, 2012

The Birthday Present Dilemna

Grandpa is getting me a pony!
Today's post comes from our friend Rob. You might remember him as the dad who gets annoyed when old ladies ask him if he's babysitting and he's all: "I'm not babysitting. SHE'S MY KID."

A little more about him:
Rob Kristoff was educated as a Pastor, licensed as a teacher, but works as a freelance writer.  But in reality he spends most of his time with his daughter, who just turned 6.  Read more of his writing at www.ourdaysarejustfilled.com (where they call him 'Monkey's Uncle') & www.RobKristoffWriting.blogspot.com

Or follow him on Twitter:  @RobKristoff.

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The other day I got a pleasant and  unexpected opportunity, and it brought on a sort of epiphany.  I write stories for a website, and through some contest that I was unaware we were a part of, I won a gift certificate to this kids’ clothing place that seemed very expensive and exclusive.  I’d already been thinking about writing what you’re reading now, but this sort of crystallized and encapsulated the thoughts that were forming.

In my little family, we don’t have enough money.  I mean, who does, right?  But I only say that to explain why Grandma and Grandpa, friends,  aunts and uncles, and whoever, might feel the need to give us things.  And they’re nice things!  Objects that we can’t, in good conscience, replace just because we’re proud.  Often, they’re the things we’d buy anyway, if we could.  Which is cool:  My kid wears the kind of clothes and shoes, and rides bikes, that she really might not, if generous others hadn’t given them to us. 

I’m thankful for those things others have given us  Let me emphasize that point.  Ever since she was born, people have been incredibly generous.  And I also love the aspect of family wherein her mother goes shopping with her and comes home with new things I’ve never seen before.  Really. 

But there’s always been an undercurrent, since the very beginning, and in my head it sounds something like this:  Do you really think I don’t want to buy my daughter cute stuffed animals?  Or pretty clothes?  And yet, shouldn’t I be spending that money on bills, especially when someone else gives her these things?  But what do I give up, by not allowing myself that experience?

But then there’s also this:  I don’t want to teach my daughter to value things more than people.  Or  relationships, and adventures.  And with all the possessions she gets from others, I don’t feel like it’s philosophically responsible to buy her even more.  Especially when I know the truth- that less is often more, that a simpler life materially can often mean a happier life spiritually and/or emotionally.  ‘How much does she NEED?’ is a much better question than ‘How much stuff can fit into our house?’

I'm three and I have an iPad. Suck on THAT.
So with all that in mind, I’ve started buying her impromptu tiny gifts.  A little Japanese puzzle eraser that looks like a hamster.  A 29 cent pink bear.  And now, thanks to that pennies-from-Heaven gift card, a new pair of rain boots, some wool mittens, and a hat I liked:  just because.  And it felt good.

Which leads us, inevitably, to the birthday problem, as we all knew it had to.  What does the Minimalist- Zen Master- Great Provider do when Grandma or Grandpa, despite all his pleas, literally buries his child with gifts at birthdays or winter holidays?

I want to take a stand for that old bit of folk wisdom that ‘they like the box as much as the present’, but to be honest, I also feel a little competitive about it all.  “You think YOU can buy her the perfect gift?” I want to say,  “Wait’ll you see what I buy her!”  Oh, sure, it sounds funny, but it’s a very real feeling.  Painfully so.

So I try to go for less volume and more quality.  I hope she someday appreciates this, even if she doesn’t notice it just yet.  But isn’t that a moment too subtle to hope for?  “Wow, everyone else bought me tons of junk that first birthday, but Dad bought me a wooden rattle- dyed with organic vegetable dyes- that looked like a monkey.  And it set the course for my life:  Minimal- but ecologically responsible and high-quality- material possessions.” Um, yeah…

This is the view from the trenches of this neo-recession.  This is the tension that some of us who are- let’s face it- overeducated and underpaid, live in.  To those who know me:  this is why any sort of gift-giving holiday leaves me crosseyed, and with the veins in my temples throbbing. 

Still, those red-striped boots are pretty sweet…

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011

54 comments:

  1. THANK YOU for posting this. I always feel like a whiner - seriously who wants to listen to "my kids grandparents are so generous that I end up with too many fun things for my kids....". But, it is a big problem in my house. No only do the grandparents go for quanitity over quality - so we just end up throwing out broken stuff in two weeks - but the one nice thing that they buy is almost always the big toy that we wanted to get the kids. It is very frustrating to me - (and it makes the other grandparents, who do believe in quality over quantity, look stingy to the grandkids). Add this to my list of first world problems......

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    1. I think that is a big part of it -- the competitive grandparents. My parents are the ones who live nearby, are always babysitting/taking-care-of/spending time with the grandkids, and my sister's in-laws live furhter away and show up once a month with presents, take the kids to the Bahamas and other fun places, etc. What do the kids talk about at school, the grandparents that watch them for the weekend, take them to the playground, make them eggs and grilled cheese... or the grandparents who give them a digital camera, take them to the Bahamas... etc. I know my parents wouldn't change anything, but they still feel bad because they can't compete that way. (Although they try...)

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    2. We have exactly the same problem...my in laws think bigger is better and have filled our house with a giant easel, doll house and a variety of other toys that have turned our living room into a nursery school. When I say, only a few things for Christmas (her birthday is a week and a half after), my mother listens, my mother-in-law does not. Or does, and buys "a few" of the biggest things she can find. We recently had a "fight" because my husband and I bought her for Christmas, a new little table to sit at (Disney Princesses of course!). Ours was $30 and she loved it. My MIL threw a fit because she had picked out a new table for her for her birthday. "But the one I was going to buy was bigger, and made of wood and had four chairs and cost $150!" - ya? Well one, what does an only child need with a four person table? two, she loved the new table we bought and doesn't care that yours cost $120 more, and three our house is NOT big enough for your fancy table. If you want it so bad, put it at your house!...sorry...rant done, lol...again, first world problem...but I totally get it!

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    3. Oh, even yesser! My dad is the only living grandparent that my kids have, and he feels the need to overcompensate and buy enough gifts to cover the 3 deceased grandparents. Fortunately, over the years, he has started to ask (and even, on occasion, honor) my requests to avoid certain types of gifts and focus on other types. I always feel ungrateful when I complain about the quantity and quality of gifts he gives, but I'm definitely of the more-is-less variety. Thank you for letting me know I'm not alone!

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    4. LOLZ!! My verification word was "amenson". How apropos!

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  2. I totally get this. Our gift-buying budget is tiny. It does feel weird to me, because one of my grandmas is SUPER thrifty and the other had too many grandkids to lavish piles of gifts on each one, meaning nearly any large gift I received as a child came from Mom and Dad. My kids have oodles of expensive gifts coming from both sets of grandparents. The partial solution I've found is to make gifts for my kids. Little kids don't understand cost, so sometimes they will love a simple little doll I sewed for practically nothing, or an item we found at a thrift store, more than a $50+ new toy.

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  3. We just celebrated my 2-year-old’s birthday. Due to some dicey weather, the ILs were not able to join us on Saturday for the party but visited on Sunday. I think they brought as many gifts on Sunday as the rest of the guests brought to the Saturday party!!! The ILs also brought a gift for my 3-year-old so “she doesn’t feel left out.” IT’S NOT HER BIRTHDAY!!! Drives me nuts.

    And I – Ms. Juggling-everything-and dropping-the-ball Mommy – forgot to wrap one of my son’s gifts. I’m talking to the hubs last night about THE GUILT of forgetting to wrap this gift. Hubs says “Well, he has so much other stuff – why not just save that present for some other time? Valentine’s or Easter?” I already feel like the little guy is getting gypped for having a birthday less than a month after Christmas. Suuuuuuure, let me “postpone” some of his gifts because YOUR parents freaking bought out Toys R Us.

    Hmmmm. I feel better now.

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  4. Oh Yeah! When I was a single parent struggling it sucked. I remember one year I bought a cute little doll bed for DD for christmas. The my mom said "Oh I bought her this great cool bed for christmas." And it was great. So i took my cheap little doll bed back and bought a cute little rocking chair, just her size. I wen home and my brother said "Oh BTW I bought her this great little rocking chair for christmas..." So I took back my cute but cheap rocking chair. I can't even remember what *I* bought her for christmas that year. It was pretty much spoiled for me. But Yeah repeat that for all gift giving occasions and you get my life for 16 years. sigh. It sucks.

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  5. My children will always value a gift hand picked by Daddy over dozens from anyone else. The gift of knowing that Daddy knows just what they like and went looking for it is worth more than the actual house. This is even more true when Daddy rarely buys gifts as is the case in our house and the one I grew up in (and yours too it sounds like).

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  6. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I struggle with the same. I want my girls to value the visit of family and not expect a present. It is so twisted on both sides of my girls family. The need to drown them in gifts. And in trying to tell them not so much, they are insulted.

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  7. We actually asked our family to "go lighter" at Birthday and Christmas because we value similar ideals to what you describe. Maybe they would agree to that? --PBG

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  8. Take all 3 of the previous comments and wrap them into one! That is my problem. Don't get me wrong, I'm totally grateful that my kids are "spoiled" by my IL's as well but COME ON! Totally not necessary at all. Very annoying too. My youngest had a birthday party and my oldest got quite a few presents so she wasn't left out also. Then, they were taking pictures of the oldest opening the presents! Although, it would be one thing if they bought out Toys R Us but they bought out the discount bargain store, so my kids get that much more stuff!

    Quick story. The lady at this store told my MIL that these stuffed animals were collectibles (webkinz...) so she bought 6 of them! Why? Why do my kids need 6 stuffed animals "because they are collectibles at a discounted price?" So annoying.

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  9. Wow I could have written this, every word of it, and the previous comments, all by myself. Yes it's totally a first world problem but I've lost my schmidt over it so many times it's not funny. At least now I can be "glad" I'm not alone.

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  10. My daughter is 2. She barely has any interest in presents at all -- but then her birthday is in December, and then we are Jewish so there is Channukah and a built-in-excuse to give her presents for basically 9 days in one month. Normally i don't think this would be a big deal --- but she has cousins. And grandparents who feel that if they aren't giving equal gifts of equal quality and expense to each child, that someone is going to flip out. It gets... RIDICULOUS.

    And it doesn't help that my parents are ridiculously competitive with my *sister's* in-laws. So they work EXTRA hard to give good gifts to my daughter's cousins to feel like they are just as good as my sister's in-laws, and then that transfers over to my daughter. I mean, my mom will give them presents (be it, small ones) for every possible real or imagined life-event, like first day of school, last day of school, making poopies on the potty, etc etc. My niece (6yrs) once threw a HUGE tantrum because it was her brother's birthday and she didn't get a present to open. It was ridiculous, and not altogether her fault.

    I know this is the DEFINITION of a first world problem, but I don't want my daughter thinking that everything she does deserves a present....

    *sigh*

    End Rant...

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  11. I found out one wonderful thing.. My kid isn't dumb. He knows he is loved and the difference between a loving gift and bribery. I think all kids have a great deal more wisdom that we give them credit for.No matter how big the gift someone gives him,it's his parents who comfort him when he is sick or sad. They don't forget that.

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  12. You just described my life exactly. My son turns 2 in a week and a half and as much as I truly appreciate everything, his grandparents (both sets) go completely overboard. I almost dread holidays because I just don't know what to do with all the stuff! I often feel like "why bother?" when it comes to my husband and I getting him gifts because my son doesn't even know to appreciate it yet. I like, you, will randomly buy him a book or little toy. Thanks for sharing!

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  13. Thank you so much for sharing this. My son just had his first Christmas, followed less than a month later by his first birthday. I had a small gift budget, but I put a lot of thought and care into choosing gifts that I knew that he would enjoy. My parents then bought out half of the toy store, and another half of the clothing store. I was eternally grateful that they could give him this experience, but I was also saddened that I couldn't give it to him. For me, the crowning moment was when my mother asked me to leave my gifts for him at home when we came to visit her for a week for Christmas, because I might not have room in the car to get everything back. Really? Perhaps you could have considered this before purchasing so much!

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  14. I can so relate to this post and the comments! For what it's worth, I have tried to channel the overgifting relatives into buying "experience" gifts: community theatre tickets, ice skating lessons, museum or zoo trips/memberships, etc., which grandparents may happily enjoy with my three (and give DH and I some free time.) It's worked most of the time; my kids get to do something I couldn't afford, and they have good memories of fun times with loving family.

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    1. Was coming on to post the same thing. I have the only kids on my side and my parents and sister are SO over the top with giving. I finally told them to only give experience gifts and as a result my kids have been to Broadway twice, the opera and on a fabulous vacation. And they still talk about all of them as very fond memories.

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    2. Yes, we did this for my 3.5 year old for Christmas this year. We asked relatives to give her activity-date gifts. This was a double gift because they get time with her and we can stay home with the baby. She has plenty of toys but not compared to her friends. We live in a "bubble" in the Bay Area (CA) and I'm trying not to compete.

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  15. I have felt the same way as you all...My Mom and Grandma would overload the kids at Christmas. With 8 Grand/Great kids, that is alot of paper flinging around. Plus these were not inexpensive items. I complained to my Mom every year and it fell on deaf ears. Two years ago my (I'm 40) Grandma passed away... My Mom is still buying gifts for the kids but not with the same enthusiasm she had when my Grandma was here. This Christmas my mom says to me, "you'll be proud of me, I didn't go all out this year." I got to thinking is it really that big of a deal? I mean they are the Grandparents! Won't we do the same? I look around my house at the things that have survived and I am glad my children remember that came from Gramma or Meme. I'd give anything for one more day with my beloved Grandmother and I would let her buy my kids whatever she wanted...

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  16. We have gotten some relief from this issue by using amazon wish lists. It helps provide guidance for well meaning grands and greats. Some of them however, insist on buying the expensive and sometimes DANGEROUS (oooh, extra fun!) toys. I kind of jokingly asked one how he wanted me to bill him for the ER copays when son inevitably breaks him arm. He kind of laughed. I didn't.

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  17. Take comfort in the fact that your child is oblivious to all of this. Do YOU remember the gifts you received as a child? Or who gave you the most? I certainly don't. I know now that one of my sets of grandparents were wealthier then the other and probably provided more and better gifts. But I don't remember more than a few of the things I received as a child and I don't remember who gave more.

    What I remember most was the fun outings I had -- and they didn't have to be expensive. The gift that 'sticks' is the memories of fun times spent with you.

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  18. My mom was a single mom and I still can't believe she did so much for me. My dad was much more comfortable and always bought bigger, more expensive gifts. Honestly, up until 5 or so I didn't get "it" and would rave about whatever big thing my dad had gotten me. However my mom was patient and reinforced her values and priorities and that is what stuck with me. I am not a "keeper" yet I still have several of the toys she bought for me for my kids to use. And in reality I know I played with the little care bears wayyyyyyy more than the huge involved playsets some other kids had :) It can be very hard when someone else is able to treat your children to material things and in some cases lines may need to be drawn. Hopefully in the end they will enjoy and appreciate things they are given if they are taught to do so yet not confuse things with Love. I was worried about my stinkers not grasping that concept. We were talking about how lucky they were to be given things by extended family and how loved they are. They mentioned an aunt who can't give them much materially and how much she loves them. I asked what made them feel loved and they said, "she is never to busy to cuddle us, and she remembers our favorite snacks, and she always offers us something to drink, and she kisses Bear goodnight too."

    Of course the next day my son was back to asking for most of Toys R Us for Christmas but it was nice to feel for a fleeting moment they "got" it.

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  19. I, too, could have written this exact same post. At my insistence, my parents try to keep the gifts to a manageable scale (although they still go overboard for my taste), but my IL's know no boundaries. They were very very broke while raising my husband and his sister, and now have a very comfortable income and spend like they're rolling in the dough. Two years ago, MIL bought my husband, his sister, and their dad EACH a flat screen TV and bluray player. Yes, she bought three of them. And that barely scratches the surface of what happens when she's shopping for her granddaughters.

    At Christmas, we've somewhat taken the holiday back by celebrating Epiphany. After all the hullaballoo of santa and travel and over-indulgent extended family, we do our own family gifts on Epiphany (Jan 6, the 12th day of Christmas) and each person gets only one gift for each other person in the family. That way we can get each girl, and each other, something special and it doesn't get lost or have to compete with the overload of packages they got the previous weeks.

    Birthdays we still haven't figured out. I'm taking suggestions.

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  20. We made a rule when we had kids because we saw this as a potential problem. Gifts from mom and dad should only be out done by Santa. And unless we ask for help. Grandma and Grandpa are not Santa. So for Christmas and birthdays the grandparents ask what DD and now DS need/want and are pretty good about sticking to the rules. If I say, "DD really wants a doll house and she needs more clothes" I tell them what size would work best and they go on the mission for it. It's less stressful that way.

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    1. Oh don't get me started on "sizes" for clothes. I told MIL that my girl-child is in "4T pants, but 5T shirts so go with 5T if you're getting an outfit." Little man "is in 3T sizes, but FAST pushing into 4T."

      MIL translated that into (for easy remembering for HER): 4T for girl-child, 3T for little man, and 2T (for other grandchild) siiiiiigggghhhhhh

      Girl-child gets (among other toys/clothes) a 4T outfit that I cannot button at the waist, and the boy-child has a robe/PJ combo that *might* get him through the winter. I thought one of the PJ shirt buttons would pop off and gouge me in the eye the first time I put him in it.

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  21. Same here...My dad and step-mother go "all out" at gift giving time (especially Christmas). The other grandparents (3 sets) either do not have the money or do not do this and having three children and bills, our gift giving is blessed, but still pales in comparison to this one set of grandparents. My step-brother and sister-in-law voiced the issue first and let's just say it did nothing and, in fact, caused a huge upset in the family. I am certainly not a gift prude, one of my joys in life is bringing a little gift home to my children when I go shopping or whatever. I absolutely love gift giving and I am grateful that they (grandparents) are so generous, but I have to say I have a big problem with what the excessiveness teaches my children. Much more is one gift that is specific to the person than a bunch of gifts just to have a lot.

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  22. I totally get you. We are blessed that family members are so generous with our daughter, and we can usually find a way to get her something *really cool* for a holiday, but we don't have as much expendable income as grandma and grandpa. And it shows.

    This past Christmas, I was really excited because we bought her a toddler chair with an ottoman. We intended that to be her big gift from Santa (because lets face it - she's 1 and we can get away with not buying her a lot right now). I have the chair shipped to Grandma and Grandpa's house for theft reasons, and, once they see it, they decide she has to have one at their house too!

    Thanks, guys. While we really appreciate that you are willing and able to spoil your 1st grandchild, it makes us look cheap by basically buying everything we get her AND THEN SOME!

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  23. I don't remember a single gift my grandparents bought me. Not one. What I do remember is the softness of Nana's hands, and that Poppop called me his "favorite redhead" every time he greeted me. I remember cuddling with Poppop on the couch, and playing dress up with Nana with all the fun clothes in her closet. I remember the songs Nana sang at bedtime, and that the only time Poppop ever raised his voice to me was when I disrespected Nana.

    Nana & Poppop were financially well off, and they did buy me gifts. They also bought the things my parents couldn't afford, like shoes and Easter dresses. And for years they ANONYMOUSLY paid half my parents rent -I didn't find out about that until after they died.

    They gave me the unmatchable gift of their love and their time. Those are the memories that I cherish. That's why I encourage my parents and inlaws to just play with my kids - because that is what my kids will remember - not the bags and bags of toys that are already forgotten 3 weeks after Christmas.

    Nana and Poppop died nearly 20 years ago, and I still miss them. A person doesn't miss presents for 20 years. I miss her hands. I miss the twinkle in his eyes. What I wouldn't give for 10 more minutes with them.

    -Trish

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  24. Keep going for quality. She WILL know the difference and appreciate it more. Trust me. I know.

    My parents divorced when I was an infant. My father quickly remarried and my mother eventually did when I was about 5. Mom never had a ton of money, but I was always taken care of. My father was never really much of a father, but he loved to do Christmas and Easter and Birthdays and any other gift giving holiday he could squeeze in in a BIG way. I mean, I remember stacks of gifts when I was a child that were taller than me. It was overwhelming. I won't lie, there was that greedy kid part of me that LOVED the huge amounts of STUFF. But when I came down to it, I didn't CARE about it. I knew it was just STUFF. It wasn't really bought for me with ME in mind. There was no emotion behind it. It was just a pile of gifts. When the electronic Battleship game finally died, I wasn't upset to toss it out. My mom's gifts, though. Those were the ones I treasured. I knew Mom carefully chose them because she knew ME. It wasn't about quantity, it was about quality. It was about who listened to who I was and what would make me happy. That was my Mom. So, though I didn't care that I had to toss the Battleship game when it broke, when the educational/quiz-me computer that my mom bought me... the one we stayed up until all hours playing together the week after Christmas that year because she took that week off of work to be home with us... yeah, when that broke, I SOBBED. It was way more than a toy to me.

    So, keep getting those spontaneous gifts. The little ones that don't cost much, but will mean everything to your Daughter in the end. If others want to shower her, let them... but NEVER think that will replace you and the from-the-heart gifts she gets from you. <3

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    1. I remember every time my dad would buy me a Teen Beat magazine, for no other reason than he knew I loved them.
      ~Gigi

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  25. This is totally a "first-world problem" - and I have it too. But I think the fact that we, as parents, recognize that very simple fact is SO important. It's not annoying us b/c it's stealing our thunder (OK, sometimes there is that...mostly b/c you KNOW that's what your mother-in-law is TRYING TO DO!), but it's annoying b/c we recognized the UNNECESSARY excess. My kids are LOVED, fed, clothed and well kept. We have family time and play games and read books - and talk about our days and what's happening in our lives. My kids don't need a Wii (though it is fun) and they don't need 8 million lego's (though they do enjoy them) - but these are things and cannot replace the feeling of knowing you are loved, above all.

    And as my kids have gotten older - we talk about that, as well. And they know love does not equal "things." That makes me one proud Momma!

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  26. A friend of mine had to tell her family "If you want to keep buying that volume of gifts for the kids, then you need to buy me a new house to fit it all."

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  27. Thank you so much for this post- I didn't know how much I needed it. I'm tearing up as I type. My husband and I live what I consider a modest but comfortable lifestyle and are able to do so because we are super thrifty. Like 5 year old jeans/sale shopping only kind of thrifty, but we eat organic food and live in a safe neighborhood in a large city. You get the idea. Our thriftiness may increase though because I'm a stay at home mom, and my hubby just got laid off. Our son is 8 months old and he is lucky to have a very generous and loving out of state family. Beyond that though, one of his grandmothers is a compulsive over-shopper, and he now has a wardrobe so big sometimes clothes don't even get worn. I grew up the child of an overworked single mother, and wore hand-me-downs until I had my own job and could buy my own clothes. We knew we couldn't have certain stuff, so we didn't ask. I struggle with how I'm going to balance the lessons of not taking things for granted/ Mommy and Daddy can't buy you that/Grandma buys you a gift every time you go to the store. Recently, My son had his picture taken professionally and it felt so good to go out and pick out a sweater MYSELF for him to wear. And to buy him a few select Christmas gifts that I put a lot of thought into, even though he probably didn't need them after all of the grandparent gifting. I am so incredibly grateful to have such generous family, but it can honestly be overwhelming, mostly because I wish I could do the same in return, or pay them back in some way. It's a crazy balance.
    Thanks,
    Shelley

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  28. My parents have always just bought the kids a couple of gifts and given them savings bonds. The kids don't understand the savings bonds now, but I know they'll appreciate them later on. My in-laws have been the ones to overwhelm the kids with gifts, but this year they finally got it. They bought my daughter horseback riding lessons for Christmas. Something she really wanted and we couldn't afford for her. Of course, they had to balance that by giving my 10 year old son a very expensive electric guitar. At least it wasn't a drum set.

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  29. Truly, it's the simple little surprises that she'll remember and enjoy. My grandmother (who I'm lucky to still have at almost 85) bought an expensive present for Halloween (?!) and made me feel like Mother of the Year b/c I didn't want her giving my 3 yr old candy, LOTS of candy. So, on impulse/out of guilt I bought an LED keychain shaped like a lightbulb that glowed all sorts of crazy colors for $1 while buying office supplies. My daughter LOVED it, to the exclusion of all else. It's the "I was thinking of you" impromptu gifts that she'll remember, not the big ones.

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  30. What a great post to get me thinking about happy memories, and also our current situation. We have some trouble with this, too, b/c we live in a small condo, believe in simplicity over clutter, and have a daughter more interested in playing with us than her toys.

    My parents are fabulous: they buy clothes occasionally- not @ xmas/bday, which is great- and have decided that a big start on a college fund is more important than more toys. This admittedly may get worse as my 2yr old get older,

    My in-laws buy stuff. They ask for our input, so we have ended up leaving them to buy all the toys and just not getting her much at all. I know this may change once she's more aware of who gets gifts and how awesome they are, but for now, we buy her clothing, shelter, health insurance, a great preschool, zoo and aquarium memberships, nutritional food, and swimming lessons. We love her and give her our time and energy- which she plays with more enthusiastically than any object so far.

    We also donate older toys (or ones we hate or she doesn't ever pick up) regularly to shelters/Goodwill, and just make sure a couple GP buys are prominently scattered when they visit.

    I remember gifts my GPs gave me over the years- but never the quantity. I remember the monogramed Eddie Bauer suitcase, because I used it for a decade. I remember the baseball cards and jelly bellies my not-well-off GM sent just because it was a Tuesday and she was thinking about me (much like the 29cent bear in the post- and these are truly the things that matter to me now!).

    And I remember the traditions I got from both sets, like a stocking of tangerines and walnuts at Xmas or silly socks and gilt at Chanukah.

    I don't remember all the enormous gifts, I remember the one big thing I desperately wanted: a Nintendo (split with my bros. for our birthdays when I turned 10), a couple years of the summer camps I really wanted to attend but we couldn't afford, and my college tuition. One big, preferentially experience-based gift is so much better than a ton of junk. Loving, caring family is better than all of it combined.

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  31. Seriously? You people are complaining that your parents are giving your kids gifts? Talk about a first world problem!

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  32. Right there with ya. My husband is unemployed and therefore a SAHD. We really appreciate our family's generosity, but does she really need 5 pairs of pants at 7 months of age? My husband also has a hard time with wanting us to be able to buy her more. It's a tough spot but I absolutely agree that less is more.

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  33. I struggle with this, as well - but not as much from a family perspective, but from a general-everyone-we-know kind of one. My husband and I are doing well in life - but we just chose to move to another state... and haven't sold our old house yet. We can pay our bills, but there is little extra left each month. We decided at Christmas time that we were not spending much on our boys (9 months & 2 1/2 at the time...). We figured they don't know the difference... and would get tons from family anyway. I saw someone's suggestion on a blog about limited gift giving - and this is what we adopted. "Something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read." (Plus we added something to share (aka donate)). This is what we intend to use as our motto for gifts each year at Christmas (and maybe birthdays, too??). I was all excited about it and feeling great. Then I got on FB the day after Christmas and saw the PILES and PILES of wrapped gifts our friends/family had for their kids. The train table that we decided was too excessive and we don't have room for in our current apartment... the kitchen set I knew my oldest would love because his friend has one and he won't step away from it when we play with them... ALL of it... ALL that I had convinced myself was too much/unnecessary. My husband wasn't phased by it (he prefers to live a frugal life.. unless it's some new technology for him ;) ). He took the "so what?" approach to my upset. I got over it and we still plan on the same rules for next year. First world problem for sure...

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  34. I would not get anything at all and save my $, knowing everyone else was going to buy her stuff anyway. She's not going to care. It's all in your own head, Dad. Grandparents are supposed to spoil them. It's their job. Being competitive over gift-buying/giving... that's already the wrong start to teaching her that things don't matter.

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  35. My sister was the first to have kids and set an awesome precedent for when my brother & I had our own. She MAKES A LIST for each of her kids for Christmas and birthdays and NO ONE is to deviate from the LIST. She explained from the very first Christmas that no one knew what she already had or what could fit in their house so she would make it easy for all of us. For each child a list is made by the parents (w/kid input if old enough), emailed out to G-parents & sibs and then we let each other know who picked what to buy so there are no doubles. My oldest niece is 21, my youngest niece 3 1/2 and we all still abide by this policy. Took a while to get my mom to stop making those calls - "what about this thing I heard about, saw in store etc" the answer is always "stick to the list". Hubby & I were even able to get his family on board when we had our kids. Works great!

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  36. Sometimes people give hand-me-down bikes and clothes because they are finished with them and want to see them reused. Sometimes grandparents buy gifts because they enjoy doing so. Sometimes people just plain enjoy giving gifts. And, yes, it is true, sometimes some people go overboard. But, dear navel-gazing parents of the internet world, ease your First World worries: your children learn by the way you live. If you are not materialistic, angry, resentful and self-absorbed, neither will they be.

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  37. We made a rule starting this year (my son turned 4) that birthday presents from Mom and Dad are an event or similar. Time spent together doing something cool, not a thing. I even went so far as to outlaw technology (no Angry Birds on the trip!). This year we went to the Academy of Sciences and the beach in San Francisco (2 hours away). It's not only more memorable, but it won't break, doesn't get old, and I don't have to find someplace in the house for it. All win!

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  38. Thank you for sharing! You made your point so well! I've tried to have this conversation many times, to no avail...so now I will just post this blog entry on my FB wall passive-aggressively, and hope people take the hint:)

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  39. The year my parents divorced, my favorite aunt asked what I wanted for Christmas. I told her I wanted a truck full of presents. When we celebrated, she wheeled a toy car carrier packed with little gifts across her living room to where I was sitting. I don't remember what any of those gifts were but I do remember the joy on her face as she cleverly presented my gifts.
    There are ways around the grandparent over-kill. Unfortunately, all fixes require at least one very uncomfortable conversation. You are still a child too. You are the father too. Let's face it, we all deserve to be the one getting the car carrier and wheeling the car carrier.
    So glad to see you on Rant again! Hope to be reading more of you here soon!

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  40. We had a talk with the in-laws this year about this exact subject, because they were burying us in mountains of stuff every single holiday. They took it well. We made a list of a few items the girls would really like and gave it to them, and that was that!

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  41. It used to tick me off that my stepmom would buy my son EXACTLY what I wanted to buy him for whatever gift-giving opportunity. Is it so wrong to want your child to have his favorite toy be extra special because Mommy gave it to him? I also find it unreal in an unrelated instance how a five year old can get **TIRED** of opening gifts - do you think that um, maybe...perhaps you've carried the child worship thing a wee bit too far at this point?

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  42. I have the opposite problem, being an older Mom. My Dad passed years before I even got married, much less before I had kids, my Mom is in an Alzheimer's unit and I feel blessed if she even remembers who I am, much less the kids. Both of my Hubby's parents passt before our oldest was born. My Stepfather sometimes sends a check for the kids at Christmas, but my Mom was the one to do that and they only married about 10 years ago so all their kids already were grown and his all had their own kids. I guess he sees them as his grandkids but not my kids.
    Basically my kids do not really have any Grandparents to spoil them with not only presents but also their presence in their lives. I have all these wonderful memories of my grandparents, but it is hard knowing my kids will have none of that. They do not notice now as they are 6 and 3 but I know they will as they get older.
    Be happy for the blessings that you and your kids still have, even though they may make you want to tear your hair out at times.

    Jrseygirl in VA

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  43. My quandary is similar; my son's father and I aren't together so we gift separately, PLUS I have three siblings PLUS his grandparents on both sides PLUS one of his father's sisters who buys him gifts almost out of revenge... Even if each person only bought one thing, that's still almost a dozen gifts. I don't have the income for one, and two, he doesn't NEED more presents, but I feel crummy for not being his main gift-giver and even worse that this "poor" kid had to be convinced to keep opening presents (though he was overwhelmed and tired) lest he seem ungrateful. Just... Way too much of a good thing and I feel terrible about it. With a family of this size though, I don't really know how to change it. :( I don't WANT him to get so much stuff!

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  44. One of the saddest things I have heard come out of the mouth of the 5yo that I babysit... "I know my Mum loves me, she buys me whatever I ask for" This is the same mother who has abandoned her child and moved to another country.

    Often the first thing this 5yo says when his father comes home is "what did you buy me today?"

    I don't buy him things and it upsets him. He knows I love him and can't understand why I wont buy him stuff. He thinks I'm being mean. I'm trying to get him to see that there are other things people do to show their love and it's not about material possessions.

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  45. Hello from Britan! The ideas in this story are sweet, and it's
    evident a heap of creative juice was used to write this piece.
    It made it real easy for me to find a gift!. My step cousin is hard to buy for
    cause his tastes is a tad weird, but there are many gifts here that that will look awesome
    in his man cave. So well done. This gift list was incredibly convenient as my
    boy way to much of a collector. BTW it would definitely be i'd love
    to see if a more updated edition of this article posted.
    :). Anyway Kudos.

    Also visit my page - Gift Ideas For Mom And Dad

    ReplyDelete

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