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Multi-spinoff - Gifts, a sign our culture is "sick"?

post #1 of 255
Thread Starter 
I have been on MDC for over six years and I have noticed something that has me questioning some things about our culture. This is more of a "discussion" than a "what should I do?" thread but it does lead me to wonder what I should do I put this in parenting because I want to discuss this topic specifically as it relates to children and parents.

The thing I have noticed is that every year there seem to be more threads that relate to gifts. And they come earlier and earlier every year. The threads are all over the place:

People worried they cannot buy their kids enough.
People worried about what to do with the "too many" gifts their kids get.
Kids getting the "wrong" kind of gifts from relatives.
Relatives buying gifts to purposely irk parents.
Brag threads that include the long lists of gifts people are getting for their kids.
Arguments about whether it is OK to ask for no/less/small gifts.
Decluttering threads about where to put all the stuff we have.
Arguments about environmental impact
Commercial/consumeristic worries
Threads declaring the giver should have more "rights"
Threads declaring the receiver should have more "rights"
Love languages

I am sure I am missing many other themes here.

I gotta wonder...... Is this a sign that we have gotten altogether too privileged? Does etiquette really trump all else?

Full disclosure - I am one of those people with a tiny house, a loathing of all things Disney/plastic/loud/insert-your-typical-crunchy-gripe, a kid (6.5 yo) who does not know about or care for licensed stuff, an immediate family that is very concerned about environmental impact, worker's rights, and clutter, and a HUGE extended family that loves to dote on the one child in that family (my child).

Before dd was born, it never ever occurred to me that gifting would be an issue. It was a complete surprise. As one children among a sea of cousins, holiday gifting was almost exclusively from my parents and "santa". We maybe got one small gift from one side of grandparents. My parents did go overboard and I felt that way as a child too. Nothing stinks more than overhearing your parents fretting over the cc bill a week after the gift orgy that left you feeling overwhelmed and a little scared. But, I figured, since I am the parent now, there would be no "overboard". I would be able to largely control the amount of stuff in my house, what type of stuff it would be, and what messages my dd would be getting about our values. At least until she was old enough to form her own values and manage her own stuff.

This has been largely true. But only because I have stepped WAY out of my comfort zone and broken many an etiquette rule. And frankly, I am glad I have. Yes, there has been some hurt and yes, there are probably people out there that think I am a jerk. I am OK with that. If you do not know me and my family well enough to respect our values, then I guess you do not know me well enough for me to care if you think I am a jerk I have no problem writing "no gifts" on invitations. I have no problem sending my mom a list of things that are not OK to give dd as gifts. I am even OK with limiting the number of gifts relatives are "allowed" to give dd. Despite this, I still feel we end up with too much stuff. Way too much.

I have seen it written on here over and over that we should always accept gifts graciously. No matter what. It does not matter if the gift was given specifically to tick off the parents. Or if it is a gift that goes very much against your family's values. Or if there simply is not enough physical space in your house for it. Etc..... Some will then concede that it "might be OK" to rehome it after awhile, leave it at grandma's, say it "broke", etc..... while others say no no NO, the gift was given to the CHILD and it does not matter one bit what impact it might have on your living space, personal peace, values, etc.....

Why?

Now, I know that we here at MDC heavily lean to the crunch. We are likely to give far more thought to things like environmental impact, marketing to kids, brand loyalty, etc..... So, I think most of us would agree that there is simply too much crap being created, wasted, and tossed in our lifestyle. So, why is it not OK to address the gift issue?

People sling the "extremism" word around the minute someone posts that they do not agree with a certain type of toy or that perhaps little Johnny can have a no gift birthday party instead of the family trying to come up with a place for 20 new things that came as gifts from said party. The possibility of a party without loot bags is unfathomable to some on here. It seems that even the most earth-caring people here say we should leave our ideals behind when thinking about gifts.

So again, why? How did gifts and STUFF in general get so much power over us? Is it getting worse in the recent past (I seem to feel that way)? Or has it always been this way? Why is this so emotional? Does it seem silly and a little scary to anyone else that I am really not "allowed" to have any control over the messages and values my dd is getting from THINGS or the amount of STUFF that is in my living space?

This is a general discussion. I would love to hear what others think about this. Why it is the way it is and useful ways to navigate our families and children through it so that maybe when our kids are on here in 20 years it won't be such a combative issue.
post #2 of 255
Well, I have been thinking about this.

DD and I are reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder series right now. In every book there is a Christmas story of some sort, and Laura and Mary get so excited about the presents, which were generally things like: a tin cup, a penny, and a stick of candy; a rag doll and mittens; an apron. The family scrimped and saved to get them, and it was a BIG deal... I mean, the fact that a child would get ONE rag doll at age 8, keep it in a special box in her room until she gets married, and THEN write about it in a book 40 years later-- pretty amazing.

So I don't think that the gift-giving itself is bad, and I think (even in the case of the Ingalls) there is an element of stretching oneself to buy the "best" that one can.... and the more money you have, I suppose, the more of a temptation it is to buy a LOT of stuff.

The frustrating thing (for me) is that we teach our children to want/expect certain things. This year, for example, Dh and I are giving DD a wooden doll cradle from goodwill ($4.50!) and some books from half.com. I was pretty excited about all of these things-- then my (really wonderful) MIL called to tell me that she had purchased some things for DD at Target-- a eureopean style "pram" and a 6 piece set of baby gear (so DD will have three strollers, 2 pak-and-plays, a high chair, three baby carriers [all plastic, of course].... madness!). I feel bad saying "no" to MIL, because I know she gets so much joy out of buying these things for DD--- but what am I teaching DD? It seems like I'm teaching her all sorts of lessons I don't agree with: baby care= buying lots of stuff. Love=buying you lots of stuff. Christmas=buying lots of stuff.

But it's hard to break the cycle of giving stuff. My MIL grew up very poor. I know that she is happy to have enough money now to buy my DD lots of nice clothes and toys, and I understand why she feels that way... but it's getting to the point that we DO NOT HAVE SPACE for any of this stuff.


One of my biggest struggles as a parent is trying to make my daughter momentarily happy at her own/our own long term expense. I really think the Christmas gift-giving is a symptom of that.

If it were just me and Dh, it would be a lot easier. Trying to get the doting grandparents on board (and DD is the ONLY grandchild on either side right now) is really tough.
post #3 of 255
post #4 of 255
I think, in general, we are a generation of parents with the idea that we can create the perfect environment for our children and we can control everything and everyone in it and if we do it just right we will produce exactly the results we are hoping for. EVERYTHING is such a big deal. What did your parents do if you had too much stuff? Either they told you to deal with it (keep it in your room, clean out your closet) or they eventually did away with broken things. No big deal. They did not angst endlessly over the perfect list of ideal things (and the number of them) you would be allowed. They did not freak out over getting the right stacking toys at the right time (I myself had this very freak out. Really? A stacking toy? ON NO! Someone bought her a plastic one - my grandmother! We can never get rid of it! But I wanted the wooden chicken from Oompa! Christmas is ruined!).

It's a big subject but I think we have so much information that the end result is parents as control freaks - for all the right reasons, obviously.

There is a consumerist idea, underneath it all, that you can have perfect happiness if you have the right things and what you have says a lot about who you are as an individual. There is control in buying. The anti gift or gift controling is just the other side of that. You can have perfect happiness and the perfect environment if you don't buy all that stuff. The things you don't have (and really, it's also a lot about having the right things and NOT having certain "mainstream" things - like Power Wheels) say a lot about who you are as an individual. There is power in not buying - or just buying exactly the right things.

Essentially, one way or another, we've all been sold the idea that we can have perfect lives and I'm not sure it's true.
post #5 of 255
JMHO...

Two words- birth control- have changed the dynamic into a mass frenzy of indulgence. We have more $ resources and fewer people who *need* them. Like you said, you were a cousin among many and gift giving was primarily between immediate family members. I was too- my grandma had to save all year to give each granchild a nominal cash gift each year. Now the next generation, my mom, is the grandma and she has the same budget but instead of 20 grandkids she's got 1 or 2 or 3. And the Christmas Eve celebrations where 20 of us kids were running around eating Christmas cookies and doing the gift exchange (you gave a gift to the person whose name you drew out of a hat) has now become three familes (gps, bro with no kids and us with 1 or 2 kids) and the gift giving easily takes over. Now instead of having 3-4 adults getting gifts for 10-12 kids, we're now in a situation where there's 6 adults getting gifts for 1 child. Plus you factor in how "busy" everyone is and as a society we have been conditioned to think we show love by gifts. So harried grandparents are more likely to buy toys to show the grandkids how much they love them rather than spending a whole day baking cookies or going fishing.

Over time, as a society that has only one or two kids we direct more of our resources towards those kids and again it mushrooms. Ask some moms of many how many elaborate birthday parties at Chuck e. cheese or the American girl cafe they have (look at the Duggars) and you'll be hard pressed to find them because once you have more than 1 or 2 kids you just cannot do it or your life would be ruled by birthday party planning. Moms to many limit the number of gifts their kids can ask for (just like I'm sure many who don't have many do as well) but when it comes to the grandparents it becomes necessary for them to limit as well. If I have five kids and the gp's spend $125/child that adds up quickly! Many moms of many ask gp's for a family gift, one thing to be enjoyed by all.

I agree the gift giving has gotten way out of hand, but I do think etiquette still trumps.
post #6 of 255
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yooper View Post
This has been largely true. But only because I have stepped WAY out of my comfort zone and broken many an etiquette rule. And frankly, I am glad I have. Yes, there has been some hurt and yes, there are probably people out there that think I am a jerk. I am OK with that. If you do not know me and my family well enough to respect our values, then I guess you do not know me well enough for me to care if you think I am a jerk I have no problem writing "no gifts" on invitations. I have no problem sending my mom a list of things that are not OK to give dd as gifts. I am even OK with limiting the number of gifts relatives are "allowed" to give dd. Despite this, I still feel we end up with too much stuff. Way too much.
My thing is this... if you say your family is close enough and share similar values, why do you need to send a list of unaproved gifts?

My family doesn't all have the same philosophy about "stuff", especially about character branding, but it would never occur to me send out a list of stuff they can NOT buy for their grand daughter/niece. For this issue it's about respect. They know how we live and they respect that. Last year they all went together and ordered DD and wooden play kitchen off the internet without any involvement on my part. The idea of them buying something to spite me is completely foreign.

SO, having said that... my idea of someone being a gracious gift receiver is based on the notion that the gifts they receive will be pretty well thought out and if not the infraction would so small that it's not worth the upset.

And then I think of my sister and her inlaws, who really are nasty people. They would be the type of people to buy things to spite her or just compltely disrespect their wishes. But then I think.. if I were in her position, I wouldn't be giving these people the opportunity to give my kid a gift in the first place. I don't want to spend the holidays to with nasty people who don't respect me, let alone let them passively aggressively gift stuff to my kid.

But it's not that simple, I realize.

But I wonder what a kid walks away learning when gifts are not appropriate and they're giving away/sold/put in storage?

I'll put it this way. If my inlaws were passive aggressive and they gave DD something that I didn't think was ideal, she could keep it. At 3 years old I wouldn't want her to internalize why the gift was not kept. I wouldn't want her to think that throwing stuff away when we don't want it is Ok. I don't screen gifts and I wouldn't hide it when she was asleep, so yes, she would know something happened to it.

If you got a plastic coffee mug at a work christmas party, would say you didn't want it and tell the person you prefer stainless steel? No, you would probably graciously accept it. Perhaps give it away to someone, or store it away as a back up. So when it comes to kids, why are we so ready to stand up and say "That's Not Appropriate!"?.

And I think birthday parties are a totally different kettle of fish. For one, we don't do the whole kid party thing. We have family and close friend get togethers that really aren't about gifts. I don't ever see us having parties like that, but if I did, they would say no gifts. Many people often get cheap gifts for kids birthday parties just to save face and they're not about picking out the Perfect Gift. But if we did, we would accept them.
post #7 of 255
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by NiteNicole View Post
I think, in general, we are a generation of parents with the idea that we can create the perfect environment for our children and we can control everything and everyone in it and if we do it just right we will produce exactly the results we are hoping for. EVERYTHING is such a big deal. What did your parents do if you had too much stuff? Either they told you to deal with it (keep it in your room, clean out your closet) or they eventually did away with broken things. No big deal. They did not angst endlessly over the perfect list of ideal things (and the number of them) you would be allowed. They did not freak out over getting the right stacking toys at the right time (I myself had this very freak out. Really? A stacking toy? ON NO! Someone bought her a plastic one - my grandmother! We can never get rid of it! But I wanted the wooden chicken from Oompa! Christmas is ruined!).

It's a big subject but I think we have so much information that the end result is parents as control freaks - for all the right reasons, obviously.

There is a consumerist idea, underneath it all, that you can have perfect happiness if you have the right things and what you have says a lot about who you are as an individual. There is control in buying. The anti gift or gift controling is just the other side of that. You can have perfect happiness and the perfect environment if you don't buy all that stuff. The things you don't have (and really, it's also a lot about having the right things and NOT having certain "mainstream" things - like Power Wheels) say a lot about who you are as an individual. There is power in not buying - or just buying exactly the right things.

Essentially, one way or another, we've all been sold the idea that we can have perfect lives and I'm not sure it's true.
Interesting point of view. I can see where this was definitely a factor when dd was a baby. People trying to offload loads of baby gear that did not fit into my ideal. I did not think I wanted all of it. Turns out some of it (very little, but indeed some) was useful and I was glad to have it. Sadly, much of it ended up sitting unused and did not have much reuse value as the colors/style/opinions on it changes so fast.

But to defend myself a little here, there is the "ideal" of what I would like dd to have for playthings and reality. Because she gets so much stuff as gifts, I rarely buy her anything and therefore we take what we get. My main "ideal" here is to have the stuff FIT into her room. Sure, my parents told me to manage my own stuff. Which is how I ended up with an embarrassingly stuffed room, a lifetime battle with clutter, and extreme guilt over getting rid of cherished gifts. Not really helpful. Not to mention, my parent's house was roughly 3 times the square footage. There was simply more space for everything.
post #8 of 255
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by pjs View Post
JMHO...

Two words- birth control- have changed the dynamic into a mass frenzy of indulgence. We have more $ resources and fewer people who *need* them. Like you said, you were a cousin among many and gift giving was primarily between immediate family members. I was too- my grandma had to save all year to give each granchild a nominal cash gift each year. Now the next generation, my mom, is the grandma and she has the same budget but instead of 20 grandkids she's got 1 or 2 or 3. And the Christmas Eve celebrations where 20 of us kids were running around eating Christmas cookies and doing the gift exchange (you gave a gift to the person whose name you drew out of a hat) has now become three familes (gps, bro with no kids and us with 1 or 2 kids) and the gift giving easily takes over. Now instead of having 3-4 adults getting gifts for 10-12 kids, we're now in a situation where there's 6 adults getting gifts for 1 child. Plus you factor in how "busy" everyone is and as a society we have been conditioned to think we show love by gifts. So harried grandparents are more likely to buy toys to show the grandkids how much they love them rather than spending a whole day baking cookies or going fishing.

Over time, as a society that has only one or two kids we direct more of our resources towards those kids and again it mushrooms. Ask some moms of many how many elaborate birthday parties at Chuck e. cheese or the American girl cafe they have (look at the Duggars) and you'll be hard pressed to find them because once you have more than 1 or 2 kids you just cannot do it or your life would be ruled by birthday party planning. Moms to many limit the number of gifts their kids can ask for (just like I'm sure many who don't have many do as well) but when it comes to the grandparents it becomes necessary for them to limit as well. If I have five kids and the gp's spend $125/child that adds up quickly! Many moms of many ask gp's for a family gift, one thing to be enjoyed by all.

I agree the gift giving has gotten way out of hand, but I do think etiquette still trumps.
This is very interesting! I think this might be true for a lot of people!
post #9 of 255
Just a quick reply because I have to run, but would like to chat more about this.

Speaking for myself, we are surrounded by family who definitely think more is better. My parents weren't like this - I am mostly referring to extended family. Quality is not an issue, the extended family thinks Costco and WalMart are gifts from above.

OTOH, I do realize that I come from a place of privilege. I never thought so since we grew up lower income, but have recently opened my eyes to the fact that I still have advantages others do not.

But I still probably spend less on Christmas than many other, buying only a couple quality toys from the local store, than a whole cartful from a megastore.

It is a constant struggle for us, and I often feel we are in the minority with our way of thinking.
post #10 of 255
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yooper View Post
I gotta wonder...... Is this a sign that we have gotten altogether too privileged?
Wondering whether we have gotten too priviledged is another symptom to add to your list of "Is Our Culture Sick?"

Its kind of like nudity and sex. If people were completely healthy about it - if it was accepted as natural and good, if people didn't blush or make jokes to cover up their embarrassment of even accidentally seeing animals procreating, if nobody blinked an eye if half the world was naked during the summer, we'd be a lot healthier. It is this belief that something is wrong with sex, or that we need to place artificial boundaries around it to keep it contained and make it acceptable, that has made our culture so unhealthy around sex, and led to pathology around sex.

The secret belief that maybe we really don't deserve what we want, and the twisted ways we try to keep from feeling that very sad belief are what has created rampant consumerism and the backlash to rampant consumerism - which is the idea that somehow you are more holy and righteous if you choose a minimalist's life. Its fun to give and fun to receive, period. If people felt really and truly that they deserved everything good and that everyone else deserved everything good, we'd be way more relaxed and healthy around gift giving. Entitlement isn't our problem - the opposite is the real problem.
post #11 of 255
It's really odd to me how early these threads come now. We barely get through the Halloween candy threads and the Christmas gifts threads start.

For us, we've always been pretty mellow about what the kids played with. We lean more towards "non-cohervise parenting" than "natural family living", so while I understand the issues with plastic toys, etc. it's more important to me that my kids make their own choices. I have a hard time relating to some of the toys that people get upset about -- things that are open ended and can provide years of creative play -- yet are made of plastic.

When my kids were small, though, my mother would go buy them so so much stuff. It was the quantity. She would buy them enough new things that if they didn't already have any toys, they would be set. It struck me one year that if our house had burned down and we needed to start all over, the amount of toys that my mother bought would have been about perfect.

My Dh and I finally set some boundaries. Our rule is only one toy, but clothes, savings bonds, books, etc are fine.

I agree that birth control is partly to blame. Besides the fact that there are only a few children in my family, I didn't have kids until my 30s. By the time my mom got to buy them Christmas presents, she was making up for a decade of wanting to be a grandmother and not getting to because I was doing other things.
post #12 of 255
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by North_Of_60 View Post
My thing is this... if you say your family is close enough and share similar values, why do you need to send a list of unaproved gifts?

My family doesn't all have the same philosophy about "stuff", especially about character branding, but it would never occur to me send out a list of stuff they can NOT buy for their grand daughter/niece. For this issue it's about respect. They know how we live and they respect that. Last year they all went together and ordered DD and wooden play kitchen off the internet without any involvement on my part. The idea of them buying something to spite me is completely foreign.

SO, having said that... my idea of someone being a gracious gift receiver is based on the notion that the gifts they receive will be pretty well thought out and if not the infraction would so small that it's not worth the upset.

And then I think of my sister and her inlaws, who really are nasty people. They would be the type of people to buy things to spite her or just compltely disrespect their wishes. But then I think.. if I were in her position, I wouldn't be giving these people the opportunity to give my kid a gift in the first place. I don't want to spend the holidays to with nasty people who don't respect me, let alone let them passively aggressively gift stuff to my kid.

But it's not that simple, I realize.

But I wonder what a kid walks away learning when gifts are not appropriate and they're giving away/sold/put in storage?

I'll put it this way. If my inlaws were passive aggressive and they gave DD something that I didn't think was ideal, she could keep it. At 3 years old I wouldn't want her to internalize why the gift was not kept. I wouldn't want her to think that throwing stuff away when we don't want it is Ok. I don't screen gifts and I wouldn't hide it when she was asleep, so yes, she would know something happened to it.

If you got a plastic coffee mug at a work christmas party, would say you didn't want it and tell the person you prefer stainless steel? No, you would probably graciously accept it. Perhaps give it away to someone, or store it away as a back up. So when it comes to kids, why are we so ready to stand up and say "That's Not Appropriate!"?.

And I think birthday parties are a totally different kettle of fish. For one, we don't do the whole kid party thing. We have family and close friend get togethers that really aren't about gifts. I don't ever see us having parties like that, but if I did, they would say no gifts. Many people often get cheap gifts for kids birthday parties just to save face and they're not about picking out the Perfect Gift. But if we did, we would accept them.
In our case it is far more about quantity than quality. Luckily our friends and dd's friends have much of the same ideals so, we do not have nearly as big of problems as we could. However, my mother, for example, while we obviously love her a great deal and she has the best of intentions, she does not understand our ideals and/or constraints. This would not be a big deal if she sent one gift for each holiday. But dd is her only grandchild and she would buy her 50 gifts (I kis you not) if we did not have discussions about gifting. she also does things like attempts to order HUGE indoor play structures that would not even physically fit in any room of our house. So our "do not buy list" is more like 1. Nothing that cannot fit in dd's room 2. No more baby dolls (because dd has 14 of them, most of which giver to her by MY MOM), Etc..... We are very luckily in that with tactful discussion, my mom does now understand about our stance on environmental impact and commercialization. That is a non-issue at this point.

But really, I am hoping this discussion will be more about the issue as a whole rather than nitpicking my particular views on specific toys or issues surrounding my specific relatives. There are plenty of other currently active threads to have the who-is-ruder-than-who bashfest.
post #13 of 255
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by BellinghamCrunchie View Post

The secret belief that maybe we really don't deserve what we want, and the twisted ways we try to keep from feeling that very sad belief are what has created rampant consumerism and the backlash to rampant consumerism - which is the idea that somehow you are more holy and righteous if you choose a minimalist's life. Its fun to give and fun to receive, period. If people felt really and truly that they deserved everything good and that everyone else deserved everything good, we'd be way more relaxed and healthy around gift giving. Entitlement isn't our problem - the opposite is the real problem.
Hmmm.... I find this point interesting and I have never really thought of it that way. I gotta say that receiving is not really that "fun" to me. I have a hard time managing a lot of stuff so the more I have of it, the more stressful my life is. But that could be a byproduct of the feelings you are talking about above.

I know that guilt, entitlement, etc are complicated feelings. I certainly do not like feeling deprived. But I really hate seeing waste which is where a lot of my feelings about gifting comes from. To me, exchanging a bunch of *things* that do not fill any need and to not bring much joy seems very wasteful. Wasteful in money, resources, labor, effort, space, etc...... It seems like if we did not have this gift frenzy situation, the few gifts we did get would be far more cherished and far less wasteful....ala Little House on the Prairie.....
post #14 of 255
No, I don't really think it has anything to do with a sick culture. All of the cultures I've lived in, give children more or fewer gifts depending on what they can afford. Obviously the occasions for gift-giving do differ by culture. There was something I read (by Pinker maybe?) about how "excessive" gift-giving (by the standards of what would be "smart" economically) is one of the universal human traits across cultures. But those things that Laura Ingalls Wilder got for Christmas-- well, first of all, they were in fact a stretch for her family. And second of all, her husband grew up in a much wealthier family, and received more gifts than she did.
post #15 of 255
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Linda on the move View Post

When my kids were small, though, my mother would go buy them so so much stuff. It was the quantity. She would buy them enough new things that if they didn't already have any toys, they would be set. It struck me one year that if our house had burned down and we needed to start all over, the amount of toys that my mother bought would have been about perfect.
This is exactly our issue. We are also more CL than anything else, so ironically dd is very much involved in these discussions.

While toy type/material is not specifically an issue in our situation, I do feel for parents that do have this problem and do not want to dismiss their concerns in this discussion. It is one thing if your child gets one or two toys you would prefer they not. It is quite another when there are family members that insist on continuing to give gift after gift that goes directly against how a family feels. They might even have "good intentions" often wrapped up in the "I think my grandchild is being deprived" way of thinking. Are parents supposed to suck it up year after year and never discuss it in the name of etiquette?

There is just so much to say and think about. Keep it coming!
post #16 of 255
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by lolar2 View Post
No, I don't really think it has anything to do with a sick culture. All of the cultures I've lived in, give children more or fewer gifts depending on what they can afford. Obviously the occasions for gift-giving do differ by culture. There was something I read (by Pinker maybe?) about how "excessive" gift-giving (by the standards of what would be "smart" economically) is one of the universal human traits across cultures. But those things that Laura Ingalls Wilder got for Christmas-- well, first of all, they were in fact a stretch for her family. And second of all, her husband grew up in a much wealthier family, and received more gifts than she did.
There is "smart" economically and then there is "smart" resource-wise. Is it OK to use far far more than we need at the expense of other people and the environment, in part because gifting is a taboo thing to talk about? At least Almanzo mostly got toys that would biodegrade and did not involve a whole lot of earth-wrecking processing, shipping, and packaging. Many gifts, until recently, were largely made lovingly by the giver. A far cry from how much plastic crap grandma can afford to charge on her credit card.

Giving is a wonderful thing! I love to do it and despite this particular discussion, most gifts in this house are received graciously and thankfully. I make great efforts to put time and feeling into gifts I give. Many are handmade. I have also been told, "hey, I have too much stuff, can we come up with a holiday tradition that does not involve adding to it." I was not offended and pretty darn happy to know the next year that we were doing something we ALL appreciated rather than have a friend getting more stuff from me and not feeling good about it. I do not see anything wrong with discussing this stuff....even if the etiquette book says it is.
post #17 of 255
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yooper View Post
But really, I am hoping this discussion will be more about the issue as a whole rather than nitpicking my particular views on specific toys or issues surrounding my specific relatives. There are plenty of other currently active threads to have the who-is-ruder-than-who bashfest.
I think that's a huge part of it, though. What one person feels comfortable saying no to, another person doesn't have to say no to. I think that's a huge driving force behind some of these threads, but at the end of the day the issues are similar. It's not about nit picking, dang. I picked up one part of your post because that was the part that stood out the most, and all I meant to do was point out the differences in how the same situation is percieved by two different people, and how that may colour any particular thread. You have no problems saying no to certain things, while I don't have to. We have a common goal, however, which is to not end up with a house full of crap we don't need (or really want).

Clearing I've missed the boat on this one.
post #18 of 255
I think this is largely a dilemma between the natural, earth-friendly side of ourselves and the child-respecting side of ourselves. Etiquette comes into play, but more frequently, I think the call to keep items that we would not ourselves choose comes down to not taking things that the child has been given and associates with a relative. It's a balance all around.
post #19 of 255
I agree that gifting has gotten somewhat out of control, just like the overconsumption of ALL other things.

I understand having ideals about what you want your children to be exposed to but what I don't understand is how those ideals can trump caring and loving other people. To me, putting limitations on what gifts are allowed, sending out wish lists, etc., makes it ALL about the gifts and does take the fun out of it.

If we got things as gifts that did not fit in w/our ideals as a family, or were just too much, I would think it would be a perfect teaching opportunity. For a young child I would talk to them about having 3 baby strollers and how other children don't have any and have them pick out 1 or 2 to give away. For older children we could get more into a discussion of the whys.

You don't teach children your values by sheltering them from all other ideas, you use real life to discuss they whys and hows of the things important to you so that they can develop their own understanding and internalize that belief if that is what they choose.

That's how I see it anyway. The LAST thing I want is ungrateful kids. Ungratefulness leads to entitlement which leads to a disconnection to the world around you IMO.

BTW, I really don't judge any of the people on this thread or IRL who see it a different way. I am confident that most people make decisions that make sense to them out of a genuine love for their children and a desire to do what is best for them.
post #20 of 255
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yooper View Post
I know that guilt, entitlement, etc are complicated feelings. I certainly do not like feeling deprived. But I really hate seeing waste which is where a lot of my feelings about gifting comes from. To me, exchanging a bunch of *things* that do not fill any need and to not bring much joy seems very wasteful. Wasteful in money, resources, labor, effort, space, etc...... It seems like if we did not have this gift frenzy situation, the few gifts we did get would be far more cherished and far less wasteful....ala Little House on the Prairie.....
I agree that it is complicated. I did not mean to suggest that if we were culturally healthy, we would naturally give and receive more. I actually suspect we'd be giving and receiving less, and more thoughtfully... giving might shift from tangible things to gifts of service.

I compare it to eating. It seems to me our bodies know what they need to be healthy, but few of us naturally choose foods that our bodies like, and we've lost that ability to respond to what our bodies really want. Something is going wrong; something is creating a disconnect between what we think we want to eat and what we need to eat. To write if off as mere overconsumption or consumerism seems to me to miss an important opportunity for healing at a level that goes beyond nutrition. Same with gift giving and gift receiving. After all, its not really a gift if the person it is given to doesn't like it. Something else is at work here, and I suspect it involves a set of unhealthy cultural beliefs about the worth of the individual and screwy ideas about desire, fulfillment, emptiness, deprivation, and righteousness. If I had to give our culture a DSM diagnosis, I would say our culture has Borderline Personality Disorder - it constantly seeks to fill a "hole" in a way that causes the hole to get bigger, and it responds to this by trying the same maladaptive patterns harder.

I think people like the OP are realizing that this maladaptive pattern isn't working and want to find something that is more healthy. But overconsumption and underconsumption are just two sides of the same coin. There's got to be a way that the solution isn't merely reactive to the problem, but goes beyond that to address the issues that created the problem in the first place.
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Mothering › Mothering Forums › Mom › Parenting › Multi-spinoff - Gifts, a sign our culture is "sick"?