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Multi-spinoff - Gifts, a sign our culture is "sick"? - Page 7

post #121 of 255
Quote:
Originally Posted by North_Of_60 View Post
I just don't understand why people continue to be a part of something that is stressful, and subsequently, unenjoyable. Going to a gathering out of obligation, and thus accepting the gifts, seems to perpetuate materialism and consumerism in and of itself.
Deciding to opt out of family gatherings is a huge, huge decision. It's one that my family has made, and it's one that makes me sad. For us it is a combination of things, not just gifts. My family of orgin is truly nuts. None the less, it's sad that my kids see their only grandparents very, very little. It's sad that they barely know their cousins. It's sad that they have little long term connection to people outside our immediate family.

It's one thing to be frustrated with the way that other people connect with our kids (buying them too much stuff) but it is quite a leap to lessening or breaking that connection.

For the rest of the extended family to get together than to opt one's children out of it has a BIG impact on all those relationships, no matter how politely one goes about it.
post #122 of 255
Quote:
Originally Posted by madskye View Post
Someone mentioned that the aggression/resentment factor might have something to do with relationships where there is no real connection or connection is lacking. I agree--I think a lot of the issues that come up around holidays and gift giving in general have more to do with the substance or lack of, in a relationship, than the actual gift. "You don't know me!" "You don't listen to me!"

And the other thing is having too much...being lucky to have too much stuff. I've been rich and I've been poor and there have been some times when the gifts I was given at Christmas or my birthday made me cry because they were so generous! And there have been other times when they've made me cry because they were such a waste of money and harked back to the whole not feeling understood or listened to. Not because I asked for a certain thing and didn't get it, but because the gift was so outside of my lifestyle and who I am, if that makes any sense.
: Nicely put.

Quote:
Originally Posted by madskye View Post
Gifts can sometimes be more about what/who someone wants you to be than who you really are.
It's so true.

That's one of the things that always puzzles me about gift etiquette threads. I mean, don't get me wrong, I am genuinely grateful for gifts. The time, the thought, the cost ... these are not trivial offerings, and I truly appreciate them.

But not all gifts come from a place of generosity and love. It can be much, much more complicated than that.

As for this issue being self-inflicted, I'm going to quote myself:

Quote:
Originally Posted by ~pi View Post
Not everyone is willing to risk completely jeopardizing family relationships by addressing this problem head-on.
When we addressed this in my family, we did so VERY carefully, and we still had to be willing follow through on the ultimate consequences that we laid out.

It wasn't fun. It was worth it in the end, but it was painful at the time. It was hard to cause pain to people who love us. (And FWIW, I did this long before kids came into the picture, partly because I knew that once that first member of the new generation arrived, all heck would break loose, and it was better to address this problem first.)

If I hadn't trusted that the relatives in question would be able to get past their own issues and come to an agreement with us, I might not have been willing to risk the entire relationship over Christmas gifts, no matter how important the issue is to me and no matter how much it was also about underlying issues.

So to a certain extent, I agree that it's self-inflicted in that, if you are willing to risk completely ending the relationship with the people in question, you can almost certainly stop the issue. The key thing that all the, "It's self-inflicted! Just stop!" people seem to be missing is that that is a big risk to take.
post #123 of 255
Quote:
Originally Posted by Linda on the move View Post
Deciding to opt out of family gatherings is a huge, huge decision.

[...]

For the rest of the extended family to get together than to opt one's children out of it has a BIG impact on all those relationships, no matter how politely one goes about it.
post #124 of 255
Quote:
Originally Posted by a-sorta-fairytale View Post
My inlaws didnt get it. they would ask what she wanted then get a million tons of things that she didnt and it stung because she KNEW they didnt know her and felt they didnt care. When she is into karate, science, math, art, and music and they give her a bunch of barbie stuff she felt sad.
A bit of a tangent here.

But why would a girl being into karate, science, math, art and music mean she wouldn't like barbies?

I was into that kind of stuff (sub in soccer and skiing for karate and remove music) and I LOVED our barbies. It's one thing I remember is that I only got 1 of my own. People assumed that since I like sports and science that I didn't want to play with girlie stuff. That sucked.
post #125 of 255
Quote:
Originally Posted by JL83 View Post
A bit of a tangent here.

But why would a girl being into karate, science, math, art and music mean she wouldn't like barbies?

I was into that kind of stuff (sub in soccer and skiing for karate and remove music) and I LOVED our barbies. It's one thing I remember is that I only got 1 of my own. People assumed that since I like sports and science that I didn't want to play with girlie stuff. That sucked.
I don't see where i posted that girls who are into those things don't like barbies??? I assume you would say "i am into soccer, skiing, art, science, math, and barbies" right?

DD had all those things she liked and barbies was not one of them.
post #126 of 255
Quote:
Originally Posted by a-sorta-fairytale View Post
I don't see where i posted that girls who are into those things don't like barbies??? I assume you would say "i am into soccer, skiing, art, science, math, and barbies" right?

DD had all those things she liked and barbies was not one of them.
It's how your post came across.

I wasn't "into barbies" but I really liked playing with them, and I wished I'd had more than 1 of my own to play with.

How do kids expand their interests and likes if no one ever gives them something not on their current list?
post #127 of 255
Quote:
Originally Posted by JL83 View Post
It's how your post came across.

I wasn't "into barbies" but I really liked playing with them, and I wished I'd had more than 1 of my own to play with.

How do kids expand their interests and likes if no one ever gives them something not on their current list?
Um, playing at other peoples houses. She has had ample opportunity to play with close to 30 other peoples toys and barely has a mild interest in any sort of doll.

My point was, if someone asks what she is into and is given a broad list of many things she likes and then they go with their idea of the gender specific toy that she doesnt like it is dismissive to the child.
post #128 of 255
Quote:
Originally Posted by North_Of_60 View Post
If you're still reading and thinking to yourself "easier said than done".. ask yourself why you continue to take place in holiday/family get togethers if you are worried about the outcome (which is coming home with too many of the wrong gifts) and yet continue to do so, especially when you're trying to send a message to your kids that less is more. Is it a sense of obligation? Not wanting to hurt people's feelings by not attending? Why the need to spare feelings in one respect, but not in the other (in terms of addressing the issue of their choice in gifts)?
Is it really so difficult to understand that (a) people might value the relationship and (b) celebrating the holidays together is a major aspect of family relationships across cultures?

We don't go to family gatherings out of obligation; we go because we want to spend time with these people. We also want to nurture the relationships between DS and his extended family.

When we were dealing with absurd quantities of gifts (nothing to do with the "wrong" kind ) part of the problem was that it took away from what we and everyone else said was their priority: spending time together as a family. So we took deliberate steps to re-align our collective practices with our collective priorities. I totally disagree with those who think this is rude. It took some difficult conversations, but in the end, it has done nothing but good things for our family.
post #129 of 255
Quote:
Originally Posted by a-sorta-fairytale View Post
Um, playing at other peoples houses. She has had ample opportunity to play with close to 30 other peoples toys and barely has a mild interest in any sort of doll.

My point was, if someone asks what she is into and is given a broad list of many things she likes and then they go with their idea of the gender specific toy that she doesnt like it is dismissive to the child.
I guess that's one way of looking at it.

Not the way I'd look at it, but oh well.
post #130 of 255
Quote:
Originally Posted by JL83 View Post
People assumed that since I like sports and science that I didn't want to play with girlie stuff. That sucked.
So clearly, you understand what it's like when your priorities are completely overlooked.

Do you think it would have been rude for your parent(s) to tell a relative, "Hey, JL83 already has lots of soccer, skiing and science stuff, but she would love a Barbie as a gift?"
post #131 of 255
Quote:
Originally Posted by JL83 View Post
I guess that's one way of looking at it.

Not the way I'd look at it, but oh well.
Guess we just see differently. Which is fine.

When they give 1 y/o ds a toolbox kit full of tiny screws and nuts that says "5+" because he is a boy i find it dismissive.

When they give dd who is not into dolls at all a barbie with a ton of accessories because she is "our little princess" to me and to her it felt dismissive.

When they gave me dishtowels for xmas "because you are a wife now" it felt sexist and dismissive.

But, i guess i am lucky that my mom/dad/stepmom all enjoy the people my kids are and are okay with not pigeonholing them according to gender stereotypes. And I *LOVE* girly stuff. I just got 2 pettiskirts for dd. She likes them a bit mostly because one is blue which is her fav color and she likes to twirl. DS is absolutely stunned by them - anytime music comes on he puts on the magenta one and flounces around the house.

I respect my daughter and her choice to shun most of the stuff i dreamt of getting for my girl. I think it is adorable when my son wears a tutu. I love who they are and i would hope that as they are the only grandkids my inlaws would *want* to know them and show they care. Not stop at TRU on the way to a party and pick the "appropriate" toy for their gender.
post #132 of 255
Quote:
Originally Posted by ~pi View Post
So clearly, you understand what it's like when your priorities are completely overlooked.

Do you think it would have been rude for your parent(s) to tell a relative, "Hey, JL83 already has lots of soccer, skiing and science stuff, but she would love a Barbie as a gift?"
I think you missed my point.

I don't think you can get a complete picture of what gifts a child would like simply based on their interests.
post #133 of 255
Quote:
Originally Posted by JL83 View Post
I think you missed my point.

I don't think you can get a complete picture of what gifts a child would like simply based on their interests.
No, I got your point. You disliked the assumption that affinities for sports and science and affinities for Barbies must be mutually exclusive. I think you're right.

I think that a-s-f is dealing with similar assumptions, i.e., that being a girl and having affinities for "girl toys" are inseparable, and the overlap may be assumed.

You didn't answer my question: Do you think it would have been rude for your parent(s) to tell a relative, "Hey, JL83 already has lots of soccer, skiing and science stuff, but she would love a Barbie as a gift?"
post #134 of 255
I think there's a difference between "dismissive" and "clueless" -- especially for people who haven't a child that age for years or do not know you (the new daughter-in-law) well, it can be hard to figure out what to they might like, and they end up giving dishtowels to you and choking hazards. It doesn't sound like they are picking out "insult" gifts.

My in-laws gave some odd baby gifts, and now they just send cash. It's not because they are dismissive or don't love my daughter madly -- they just don't have any idea what she might like and aren't big gift people anyway.
post #135 of 255
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yooper View Post
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.

I was thinking about this part of the OP's question, too. I think it gets worse when you have children because it's all magnified and multiplied per person in your immediate family times the people you need to buy for plus the holidays can just be stressful. 12/25 is a deadline for getting it done. Most of us are strapped for time these days. Many of us are strapped for cash. The pressure to give magnifies. When you're single, no one is depending on you. Your stressors are generally fewer.
post #136 of 255
I want to briefly re-focus the question on the givers and why this happens and provide a more generous perspective. Again, in our family I would say gifts get moderately out of hand, not terribly so, so it's not as bad as some of you are dealing with. But I've been thinking about my ILs and what motivates them and why they end up giving weird stuff and too much of it sometimes.

My ILs are lovely lovely people and I adore them. I had my MIL at my birth when I would not have wanted my own mother there so you can see that these are special folks. If we give them a list, they will follow it, but also add to it. They also give bizarre unwanted things sometimes. My DH has had those hurt feelings of receiving a gift (from his own parents) that does not match where he currently is in life, even though they know him well. How does this happen?

I've been pondering it and here is what I'm coming up with. My ILs are lovely but they are a bit insecure. Their kids are MUCH better educated than they are, for example. The ILs graduated high school, barely. DH has a PhD and his brother is nearly done. Both boys make more money than the ILs ever did. Both boys move in "worldly" circles, which the ILs largely do not. Yet, the ILs are the family members that opened those worlds to their sons - and that's important to remember.

My MIL in particular has a complicated family history that means that she often feels unwanted. She is terrified of being a burden, a ridiculous idea since you could hardly imagine a more lovely person. She is afraid of not being good enough - so the gift problem is echoed by the meal problem, for example. All meals at her house, but especially festival meals, have way too much of everything. One Easter we didn't even cut an incredibly beautiful and probably tasty homemade rabbit cake because there were also cookies, pies, and probably ice cream and the rabbit just got forgotten.

So, I think the gift giving thing is similar. She is deeply afraid of being unwanted and not being good enough and she knows that her boys are in a different world from what she's used to. She has a window to that world, but it is not her world.

The result: Some gifts that are spot-on fantastic, others that from our perspective are cheap and horrid, and way too many overall. We have told her very gently to cut back, but of course, she is ready to feel unwanted at the drop of a hat so we have to proceed with caution. When your dad made you feel like you weren't as good as your sibs, when your older brother copied your dad, when there was at least emotional abuse and perhaps worse - well, we can't really "fix" that by telling her that she's great how she is and that 1-2 gifts per kid are fine.

I go into detail here to portray a case where the love is very real and in fact, she also knows us and our children very well. We are talking to her about cutting back but again, very gently. And we are living with some stuff that we don't like in our house. This gift-giving really is a complicated business and rather than break off the relationship over it, we are working slowly toward some kind of sustainable solution - and so are the ILs. We're human and we're family and imperfection is to be expected.
post #137 of 255
Girlprof, your situation sounds similar to ours. I totally agree that the mountain of gifts can come from a desire to please and that it can be difficult to convince someone who has issues in that area that they really *are* pleasing, and that the over-the-top-ness is not necessary.

In our case, we built up to it gradually and then were finally able to deal with it once and for all by having an explicit discussion about priorities. I.e., We want to spend *time* with you. You want to spend time with us, too? Great! So here is the problem that we're seeing. We are spending all day opening gifts while you are off cooking. Can we talk about some ways we might free up some of that time? etc.

We do occasionally have to do maintenance. This year, because of where we will be on Christmas morning (we rotate, and this location has been more often the site of over-the-top gift-giving) we had a gentle "reminder" discussion which included an explicit mention of our feelings about how many gifts are appropriate. I think that especially when you are dealing with people for whom the source of the issue is a desire to please, shifting the expectations for what is considered pleasing can be very helpful.
post #138 of 255
Quote:
Originally Posted by North_Of_60 View Post
This is what I mean about some of the problems being self inflicted. I just don't understand why people continue to be a part of something that is stressful, and subsequently, unenjoyable. Going to a gathering out of obligation, and thus accepting the gifts, seems to perpetuate materialism and consumerism in and of itself. And furthermore, the idea that the way to deal with this is to actually dictate what other people buy and give, rather than opting out of the whole process together, is even more baffling.

If society has become sick in our materialistic consumerist ways, and we're imploring ways to heal that and teach our kids differently, why do people continue to do things (or go to functions/activities) where this very thing is perpetuated by giving gifts? Wouldn't that be the first thing to go, rather than picking off individual "things".

It seems more logical, to me anyway, to opt out of the process rather than dictate how people operate within that process. It's like everyone wants to have their cake and eat it too, and that's what comes off as pretentious and rude. That everyone wants to get together with people who are obviously different in their beliefs and then tell those people how to behave. I think it's made worse by the fact that you're essentially judging people's generosity and, perhaps inadvertently, calling it inadequate. Regardless of anyone's personal beliefs on toys and clutter and the environment, it never feels good to find out that what they bought for someone is not good enough or not appropriate or not appreciated. The fact that we're having a discussion on how to broach that subject without hurting people's feelings is proof of that.

So, if making someone feel inadequate for their choice of gift is the ONLY way to deal with the situation (short of putting up with it and being miserable and stressed out every year), I would have step back and carefully examine why I want to be a part of that in the first place.
Because keeping my son away from his grandparents and aunt during the holidays would have absolutely HUGE ramifications. I'm not sure why that is so hard to understand?

So I will continue to try to find ways to kindly ask for less stuff. To occasionally refuse the stuff that comes our way on any random visit - a box of stuff that is presented as "I thought you could use some of this". I am learning to say no, I can't (this is usually stuff retrieved from basements, attics, garages, not stuff purchased specifically as a gift).

I will politely accept things that are presented to us in the manner of "well, I almost didn't bring you this because I know how you are, but here you go". And then they will go in the goodwill box.

Even though I am finding ways to deal with it, it does not mean it isn't stressful or unpleasant. My dh and I both come from dysfuntional family situations. I wish we had the rosy happy thoughtful families, but are surrounded by major drama all the time. I distance myself as best as I can, but not at the risk of cutting my son off from his beloved grandma.

So, long story short, why don't I opt out? Because at the end of the day, my son having a relationship with some (not all) of these people is more important. I am an adult - it is my job to figure out how to handle it to make it better. Not separate my young son from people for reasons he won't understand.

I don't know what's so hard to understand???
post #139 of 255
And I won't even get into the fact that my Mom, when she was alive, definitely equated gifts with showing love and put herself into major credit card debt. My father is now trying to deal with that debt and may have to file for bankruptcy to do so. It's not the most pleasant way for him to spend his golden years and incredibly stressful for all us kids.

YES, this is a problem in our culture.

Think of how many people put themselves into financial stress over the holidays. And for what??? The people who love them, the recipients of the gifts, do not want to see these people in financial hardship.
post #140 of 255
Quote:

I don't know what's so hard to understand???
I had like 4 paragraphs typed out, and to be honest, I don't think I could explain it if I tried. Suffice to say, I'm starting to wonder if a lot of the environmental and political concerns aren't thinly veiled control issues. And I say that as a person who came to MDC and fretted over my DD's first Christmas and how she was going to get buckets of plastic battery opperated crap. Once I stopped caring about the stuff and refocused on the people, and really sat back and gleaned a bit of perspective (about the fact that we HAD people willing to shower her with stuff), life became so much more pleasant.
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