Originally Posted by crunchy_mommy
IMO, part of the problem is that the nature of gifts has shifted. It seems like years ago, gifts were occasional, inexpensive or homemade, and not expected/required. But now, it seems like it's become an obligation to give gifts on certain holidays, and they are often expensive. From the giver's perspective, if I'm obligated to give a gift, and even often obligated to spend a certain amount
on the gift, I'd much rather know what the recipient would like. If I'm going to spend $50 of my hard-earned money on something, I'd like the recipient to want/need it... I don't want it to just end up in a pile of donations or something, otherwise I'd have just made a donation in their name. And when often everyone sets certain price ranges for holiday gifts, it does set you up to feel like you should expect something in return. It drives me crazy when I carefully select an item from someone's wish list and they totally ignore mine, and it drives me equally crazy when someone insists on buying something off my list but refuses to provide their own list. If gifts hadn't become obligatory, none of this would matter much, on either side of the equation.
I would never put up with an obligation to spend a certain amount on a gift. Every time I hear about that kind of thing, I cringe. It's just another variant on demanding gifts, imo. I just don't get how stuff like that works.
FWIW, my family has an "obligatory" gift exchange at Christmas. For several years, my sister bought very cheap gifts - one year was bookmarks (and we loved them - she put thought into finding the perfect bookmark for each of us - "gone fishing" for my brother, whose hobby was fishing, "get your nose out of my book" for me, as I was a bookworm, etc.). She simply had very little money. Now that we're only gifting the kids, she gets one gift for all three of my little kids, and either does or doesn't throw something in for my oldest, if she can swing it. She spends less on all my kids combined than I spend on any one of her kids. Nobody cares. I wouldn't care if she didn't get my kids anything. They know she loves them. They know she has four kids of her own to shop for. They know she has no money. But, she wants to get them something, so she gets them something. There were years when I spent half what I spend now. Nobody cared. I made candles for everybody one year, and everyone was happy with them...even though I was a total beginner and some of them didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped they would. I love the "obligatory" exchange, but I wouldn't particpate if it went down the way I hear a lot of people describe gift exchanges. I simply wouldn't be involved.
It wouldn't be a big deal to get a $2 trinket that you may or may not want your child to have (but fits easily into the big bin of misc. toys) but it kind of IS a big deal when you end up with a $250 power wheels car that you have no room to store.
I don't get the issue with the "too big" thing. "Thank you so much, but I'm afraid we simply have nowhere to keep this. Can dc keep it at your house (presuming it's a close relative), to use while he/she is visiting? Otherwise, we're going to have to return it. I'm sorry. It was a lovely idea." Done.
There's just a whole lot more 'at stake' and it's much more obvious if you end up donating the item and it feels like much more of a loss or an insult or something to donate something someone spent $250 on rather than just $2. I guess I'd personally prefer to do away with gifts completely, because of what it has become around here, and just be able to give small, thoughtful, and/or homemade gift whenever you feel compelled to do so, without any obligation of making sure you've spent a similar amount as the other person spent on you & all that other drama. That's basically what we're doing in my household already (no/minimal gifts) but it hasn't yet worked with extended family -- if we don't give gifts, we look selfish or greedy or something, and if we ask people not to give gifts, they roll their eyes or whatever. OK I may have gone off on a tangent there a bit, not sure, I guess I just feel like since the gift culture has shifted, it should follow that more people make wish lists and other specific requests. But yes, they need to be gentle requests, certainly not demands, and gratitude & graciousness should be expressed.
If I were dealing with your extended family, I'd simply accept that they're not going to like the way I do things, and then do them the way I want to do them. This is another thing I don't understand, though. I see lots of people here roll their eyes at people who spend too much, overgift, etc. (I can relate, actually.) But, these same people will get upset if they try to do things differently and people...roll their eyes. There are two different styles at work. I'm not a minimalist, but I'm also not about "hey - these kids need 30+ gifts each, and they each have to cost at least $25, but preferably more!!". If someone became overbearing with gifts, or tried to set an amount, I'd opt out, and let them roll their eyes. I'd probably be rolling mine, after all. I can't expect to have them jump on board with my ideas - I'm certainly not going to jump on board with theirs.
Gifts aren't obligatory. Yes - they're expected, in certain conditions, but I look at "expected" in two different ways. One is an expectation, in the sense that I expect my children to treat each other with courtesy - a demand of sorts. The other is an expectation, in the sense that I expect that my children will not always treat each other with courtesy - a recognition of the way things usually work. I expect that my kids will get gifts from extended family at Christmas, because that's what happens every year. I have no expectation that it will happen, in the sense that I won't be upset or put out if my brother and SIL realize their budget is short, and they choose to spend what they have on their kids, or my sister can't get anything this year, or whatever. Getting gifts because a person feels they have to buy them feels...icky.