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Crying on Christmas! :-(

post #1 of 48
Thread Starter 

Are you all familiar with Unplug the Christmas Machine?  If not, quick look at the link will give you the gist of what it's about.  I still haven't read it, but maybe it would have helped this year.  Because the Christmas Machine attacked me today.

 

Before Thanksgiving, when MIL was pouring through all of the Black Friday ads and making her shopping plan, I told her that we were striving for a simple, minimalist Christmas.  This is due largely to our parenting philosophy, spiritual beliefs, and--most pragmatically--our lack of space.

 

I went shopping for special and thoughtful--yet amazing frugal!--gifts.  For example, I found DH an autographed photo of his favorite athlete. 

 

Fast forward to last week, when the ILs came to town with box loads of Christmas presents.  I should have said something right then.  But what?

 

Now fast forward to today.  I seriously felt trapped in a nightmare.  Present after present.  Toy after toy.  Box after box.  Plastic crap after plastic crap.  It just.  Wouldn't. End.  I mean, seriously!  Shouldn't there be some point when the kids run off and play with their new stash, and Mom and Dad pull up a pile of gift wrap and enjoy a glass of wine?  It was just too much.  This was the first Christmas I've broken down crying in front of the Christmas tree.  mecry.gif

 

What's more is that for every gift that I got, MIL bought a flashier version.  (I got DS a single Thomas the Tank Engine car, she got the whole train set).

 

Granted, nobody was forcing us to continue with the unwrapping.  We did take a huge break (this was before we'd even opened half of them!!)  We came back to them later in the afternoon, but the kids got bored after 10 minutes (they're 3 years old and 1, for heaven's sake!!!  Do you blame them???)  So DH and I just ended up unwrapping everything else. 

 

Then I pulled out a garbage bag and started loading it with the presents that didn't seem to interest DD and DS.  They are brand spanking new, but there are no gift receipts.  So on Monday, I'm hauling them into the local consignment store, and I'll either pocket the cash or use the store credit to get them some spring clothes.  I'm not even worried about what I'll say to them.  I can't think that far ahead.  I just want the %#$^$%^ stuff out of my house!!!!

 

If it's any consolation, they live 5 hours away and visit 2-3 times per year.  MIL is a compulsive shopper, despite their limited means, and she constantly forgets what she got people.

 

I know, I know.  I should be more tolerant.  My MIL has a good heart and good intentions.  I know all of that.  So please, no flames!  She's a dear, dear woman.  But I also don't think I'm in the wrong for feeling frustrated.   

 

But when I told her that I wanted a simple Christmas, I wasn't being coy; I was being serious.  And she chose to ignore me.  Maybe with all of her people-pleasing tendencies, she forgot to listen to people.

 

Because this involves so many personal and MIL-related issues, this post may not belong in this thread.  But I thought maybe I could reach out to some like-minded mamas for some empathy and advice.

 

Namely, how do you unplug the Machine.....when somebody keeps plugging it back in and attacking you with it?? 

post #2 of 48

Awh mama!  Maybe she didn't understand what you meant by a simple Christmas.  You could perhaps chat far ahead of time about it and let her know what you'd like to do for the holiday. If she likes to buy and give, maybe she'd not mind giving toys to Toys for Tots or something in your children's name. Tell her they are so generous, but the children can only play with so many toys. Let her know what they really need---clothing, etc.   Perhaps chat with her about a bigger single gift--outdoor play equipment or bikes or something for next year.

post #3 of 48

 

Re:
 
"I know, I know.  I should be more tolerant."
 
No, you should be less tolerant. Much less tolerant.
 
"MIL, we love you, and the kids love you. But I have a specific philosophy about toys and gifts, and I'm going to stick to that philosophy. From now on, you're welcome to give one gift per child per occasion, but anything else that you bring is going to go right back in the car, and I won't allow the children to open them." 
 
And then dig in your heels and stick to that. If they try to circumvent you by pulling the kids aside to give them gifts, or leaving gifts in the kids' rooms, or anything like that, get rid of those gifts.
 
Crayfish
post #4 of 48

I know it wont help but my mother sent us FOUR boxes of stuff (she lives across the country).  Most of what she sent has either been tossed or will be resale as well.

DS is 10, it never stops.  I stopped trying to stop it years ago and got a backbone on this end.

post #5 of 48


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Turquesa View Post

Namely, how do you unplug the Machine.....when somebody keeps plugging it back in and attacking you with it?? 


You say thank you, be grateful that they think of your kids(even if they choose to express it with stuff and it drives you crazy) and quietly nudge the extraneous stuff out of your house. I had to do this for years. I'm sorry you're overwhelmed, but you have a point...no one made you unwrap it all(it doesn't sound like ILs were present?), your kids are 3 and 1 you said, they wouldn't even notice.

 

Granted my view may be skewed by the fact that my MIL ignored all of the grandchildren this Christmas...she didn't even call....Rainbow.gif

 

 

post #6 of 48

(((HUGS)))

 

I'm sorry she went against your wishes.  I really am.

 

Next year if she does it again, allow her to take out X number of gifts to be opened on Christmas morning.  The rest can be set aside for another day.  When DS was 1-2 he had no attention span for that.  We don't even do a lot of gifts - between everyone I think he had maybe 8 to open?  He opened them over almost 2 weeks.  We just left them under the tree and he'd wander over every once in a while to check one out.  At 3 he would stop and play with something before continuing.  Which means it takes us 2-3 hours to open gifts.  But we all just sit around the family room and visit, snack, play, etc.

 

Before the shopping begins next year you may want to give her a heads up on what you are buying and ask her not to duplicate.

 

It is your house and your family, have the celebration you want.

post #7 of 48

Oh man. Our house feels flooded with gifts. We tried to keep it simple, made a point to tell everyone that DS was getting only 3 small, homemade gifts from us (in case they didn't understand what 'simple' meant) and directly stated that we would much rather they give DS one nice gift rather than 50 small ones. I love my parents, I love my in-laws, but I do NOT love this giant pile of gifts and I'm really struggling to come to terms with it while still being grateful. My parents at least stuck to our "wooden toys only" request... my in-laws (who we were less direct with but did send an Amazon wish list for ideas of what kind of stuff DS likes, and CLEARLY understood that he likes wooden toys) gave him a scary talking plastic robot as his 'main' gift. I can't even bring myself to open the box. And there are just SO MANY gifts. I don't know what to do with them all (and we haven't even finished opening them yet). We also had to open the gifts for DS because he lost interest quickly & everyone wanted to see him open & play with every single gift. We also talked a ton with DS to help him understand the real reason we celebrate Christmas but I can't help but feel like our religious celebration was completely overwhelmed by the deluge of gifts that followed. I had worked so hard to pare down & get all his toys organized and now I'm back to square one, with the added guilt of possibly getting rid of brand new gifts (and family lives close enough to notice!)

 

I am just trying hard to remind myself that they mean well & they love DS and for some reason feel that they need to give tons of gifts to show that love. I think next year I will try giving a strict limit on # of gifts but I'm not sure it will go over much better.

post #8 of 48

 

I don't agree with the "grateful" part of this. You've made a decision about your household and your childrearing philosophy, and these people are ignoring it.
 
If you decided that you wanted your kids to eat only healthy food, would you be grateful if their grandparents took them out for cookies and candy and mountains of ice cream?
 
If you decided that your kids weren't ready for pets, would you be grateful if their grandparents brought them a puppy?
 
If you decided that your kids weren't ready for scarey movies, would you be grateful if their grandparents took them to see the latest Halloween sequel?
 
What if they took them horseback riding, four-wheeling, dirtbike touring, swimming in an un-lifeguarded lake, or other activities that you'd declared to be dangerous? Grateful?
 
In all of these cases, the kids might enjoy it, the grandparents might be doing it to make the kids happy, it might cost money, it's a "gift", but that doesn't make it OK. And that's also true for these gifts. Yes, when adults give other adults gifts, proper etiquette is to ignore any flaws, express gratitude, and wait until the gift giver is out of range before giving the gift away. The same for the occasional problem with gifts given by adults to children. But this is, to me, bigger than a minor infraction; this is an imposition on your authority as a parent.
 
Now, let's say that the grandparents get one "they didn't know" pass, and then they're told that, no, the kids can't have this stuff. And they do it again, so that you have to take these things away from the kids and leave the kids sad and disappointed. At this point, are the grandparents even considering the kids' happiness, or are they being controlling, at the expense of you and the kids?
 
I'm sure that these grandparents love their grandkids, but ignoring their grandkids' parents' wishes is _not_, to me, demonstrating that love. It's demonstrating a need to control. It's not a good lesson or a good experience for your kids to see you demonstrating that, "If someone tries to pressure you to abandon your principles by being nice to you, the polite thing is to abandon the principles." They would be much better off seeing you gently, kindly, compassionately enforcing your rules and protecting them from this conflict.
 
These grandparents may be otherwise kind, sweet, good people. But if they do this even one more time after they've been told that it's not allowed, that is, to me, toxic behavior, and _everybody_ would be better off if you protect your kids by nipping it in the bud.
 
Crayfish
post #9 of 48

You must watch "The Middle" TV show episode titled "A Simple Christmas"  lol.gif  See if you can find it online, 'cause it's your story, only in a thirty minute comedy format.

 

If it helps, I have found that this particular brand of craziness subsides as the kids get older.  What they want gets smaller in size and more expensive for one thing.

post #10 of 48
Thread Starter 

I love, LOVE!!! you ladies. 

 

Teensy, I'll have to check that out for sure!  I'll try to find it online.  I'm not yet at the laugh-at-it phase, but I can't wait until that day comes.   Crayfish, we're going to be more blunt next year.  I can put up with some things, but this invasion of a deeply cherished family tradition was a bit much.  Princess Consuela B, it sounds like both of our MILs have boundary issues.  Mine is too enmeshed, and yours is too distant.  If only we could reconcile the two extremes. 

 

Beautiful advice as usual, ladies.  grouphug.gif

post #11 of 48

clap.gifbow.gif
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Crayfish View Post

 

I don't agree with the "grateful" part of this. You've made a decision about your household and your childrearing philosophy, and these people are ignoring it.
 
If you decided that you wanted your kids to eat only healthy food, would you be grateful if their grandparents took them out for cookies and candy and mountains of ice cream?
 
If you decided that your kids weren't ready for pets, would you be grateful if their grandparents brought them a puppy?
 
If you decided that your kids weren't ready for scarey movies, would you be grateful if their grandparents took them to see the latest Halloween sequel?
 
What if they took them horseback riding, four-wheeling, dirtbike touring, swimming in an un-lifeguarded lake, or other activities that you'd declared to be dangerous? Grateful?
 
In all of these cases, the kids might enjoy it, the grandparents might be doing it to make the kids happy, it might cost money, it's a "gift", but that doesn't make it OK. And that's also true for these gifts. Yes, when adults give other adults gifts, proper etiquette is to ignore any flaws, express gratitude, and wait until the gift giver is out of range before giving the gift away. The same for the occasional problem with gifts given by adults to children. But this is, to me, bigger than a minor infraction; this is an imposition on your authority as a parent.
 
Now, let's say that the grandparents get one "they didn't know" pass, and then they're told that, no, the kids can't have this stuff. And they do it again, so that you have to take these things away from the kids and leave the kids sad and disappointed. At this point, are the grandparents even considering the kids' happiness, or are they being controlling, at the expense of you and the kids?
 
I'm sure that these grandparents love their grandkids, but ignoring their grandkids' parents' wishes is _not_, to me, demonstrating that love. It's demonstrating a need to control. It's not a good lesson or a good experience for your kids to see you demonstrating that, "If someone tries to pressure you to abandon your principles by being nice to you, the polite thing is to abandon the principles." They would be much better off seeing you gently, kindly, compassionately enforcing your rules and protecting them from this conflict.
 
These grandparents may be otherwise kind, sweet, good people. But if they do this even one more time after they've been told that it's not allowed, that is, to me, toxic behavior, and _everybody_ would be better off if you protect your kids by nipping it in the bud.
 
Crayfish
post #12 of 48

I guess I have a differing view. She's their grandparent, and she can give them what she wants. You can strongly urge, suggest, recommend, and hope for a change, though.

 

Really, I'd keep the conversation open all year long. This is what I do with both my inlaws and my own parents. They know that we are overrun with toys, and I that I simply can't have more than we can fit. My inlaws sent each child two small things off their Amazon wishlist, and my mom sent each child a book and then a check for their college fund. I'm blessed that I don't have someone who wants to go all out crazy, but if I did, I'd accept it graciously (after politely urging change while beforehand) and then dispose of the excess in whatever way fits my life.

post #13 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by Turquesa View Post
 Princess Consuela B, it sounds like both of our MILs have boundary issues.  Mine is too enmeshed, and yours is too distant.  If only we could reconcile the two extremes. 

 

Somewhere in the middle would be perfect Turquesa. Mind you, my mil may be distant but my own mother is the one who drives us nuts with stuff(me and DH as well as the kids); not quite to the level of your inlaws...but at one point when the kids were  babies we had 15 (yes 15!) cheap, toxic, China-made electronic singing monkeys in the house. What's more perfect for the waldorfy child?biglaugh.gif (I promise, you really will laugh about it later)

 

Someone upthread mentioned it tapers off over time, I've also found this to be true.
 

post #14 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by Vanessa View Post

I guess I have a differing view. She's their grandparent, and she can give them what she wants. You can strongly urge, suggest, recommend, and hope for a change, though.


 

Well, I'd say that the grandparent can _offer_ anything she wants to the parents, with a request that she be allowed to give it to the child. No one has the right to give anything to a child against the parents' wishes.
 
Crayfish
post #15 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChristyMarie View Post

(((HUGS)))

 

I'm sorry she went against your wishes.  I really am.

 

Next year if she does it again, allow her to take out X number of gifts to be opened on Christmas morning.  The rest can be set aside for another day.  When DS was 1-2 he had no attention span for that.  We don't even do a lot of gifts - between everyone I think he had maybe 8 to open?  He opened them over almost 2 weeks.  We just left them under the tree and he'd wander over every once in a while to check one out.  At 3 he would stop and play with something before continuing.  Which means it takes us 2-3 hours to open gifts.  But we all just sit around the family room and visit, snack, play, etc.

 

Before the shopping begins next year you may want to give her a heads up on what you are buying and ask her not to duplicate.

 

It is your house and your family, have the celebration you want.


Did she know what you intended to buy (such as the Thomas-set engine) and just decide to one-up you by getting an entire set? 

 

But, yeah, we cut back this year, too.  We are not in any way "Waldorfy"--in fact toy-wise we tend to mainstream.  But, we have more toys than we have storage for--and with one kid 9 years old, one 7 year old developmentally disabled kid (try to pick out toys that have therapeutic value), and one 1 1/2 year old, it seems that as soon as one child outgrows a toy, the next child is growing into it.  Which means we have toys for three sets of kids.  And, they all play with everything--except some of the 9 year old's stuff, which is kept in her room.  The best thing that happened to us in this regard is my mom--who went overboard all the time--lost her job, and though she has one now, she took a paycut and is trying to pay off the debt she took on surviving.  Which meant she could only get the grandkids one thing each  (7 grandkids, and if there are great-grandkids...I have brothers 20 years older than me, but I don't keep in touch with them or their sons).  DH's parents bought them a few toys with creative play value, then a new wardrobe each. 

post #16 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by Crayfish View Post


 No one has the right to give anything to a child against the parents' wishes.
 


Sure wish my MIL knew that!

 

Over the years she has completely ignored my suggestions for what I knew the children wanted...and always been very firm about giving what she thought was a good thing for them to get...hence they ended up with things they had no interest in which just became clutter in their bedrooms.

post #17 of 48

Honestly, I think you just have to get over it. And I say that with kindness, as someone who often receives much too much. Some people just can't help themselves, but that doesn't mean you have to make their tendency to go OTT your problem. You have already shared your views and given your MIL the opportunity to save her money, so now there is no reason why you can't regift everything she gives you, or sell it on, or just donate it. They are gifts, and as such, you can do what you will with them without guilt or obligation.

 

I will say I "cured" my own mother by telling her my kids were done with some of the larger, noisier, plastic toys she had given them and told her that I no longer wanted to store them and would be passing them on, and she was so horrified to think she'd wasted all that money that she actually packed them all in her suitcase and took them back home (to do what with, I don't know!) She still has the need to buy big things for my kids, but at least now she asks what they need and doesn't just go buying big for the sake of it IYKWIM?

 

You don't have to hate your MIL and you don't have to be crying on Christmas. It's just stuff, and you are attaching too much importance to it. Just let it go -- back to your MIL, to a charity shop, a garage sale, whatever. :)

post #18 of 48

So they weren't even there? 

 

Seriously, I would stash the box away and just bring out one gift a day or until you feel done.  Make Christmas be about you, your DH, and your kids - ONLY - no intrusions, not even in gift format.  If your MIL sends a box of stuff, it doesn't have to be dealt with on Christmas.  I would spread it out over many days or weeks or months, and I might even preview what's in the boxes and retape before giving to the kids.  And I have done that.

 

Limit her to 1, or 2, or 3, gifts per kid, or whatever, and tell her if she doesn't, you'll pick that number at random and give the rest, wrapped, away.  If your MIL has issues with it, it will be a good growth opportunity for her.  If she doesn't grow, maybe even tighter boundaries are in order.  Are boundaries an issue with her during the rest of the year?

{{{Hugs}}}- it sounds very challenging.

post #19 of 48

Christmas goes like this in our house:

 

Unwrap.  

 

Squint at blinking, twirling, plastic gizmo.

 

Say thank you.

 

Play with it for a day or two.

 

Put it in box and take to Goodwill.  

 

Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat. 

 

 

Grandmas are sort of happy and I am sort of happy.  And when they ask me where the plastic, blinking obnoxious toys are, I am honest and say that they have gone to deserving children and have left my home quieter, calmer and more peaceful.  

post #20 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ruthiegirl View Post

Grandmas are sort of happy and I am sort of happy.  And when they ask me where the plastic, blinking obnoxious toys are, I am honest and say that they have gone to deserving children and have left my home quieter, calmer and more peaceful.  


What is their reaction to this? (Just curious... I did tell my mom this past year that we donated/sold most of the cheap plastic toys she gave DS but the end result was she bought him a bunch more cheap (at least wooden) toys, saying she didn't want to spend a bunch of money on something I'm just going to get rid of.... hammer.gif I don't think she got the point and I think she felt kind of hurt but I'm not sure what else to do, I'm not keeping a giant pile of toys just because they were gifts but both sets of grandparents see DS often enough that they will notice it's gone...)

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