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Inlaws, my 3 yo, and Barbie

post #1 of 40
Thread Starter 

So, my in laws and I have a peaceful relationship but I know that there are many things about our parenting that they disagree with simmering under the surface (my dd "still" nursing, our choice to not have TV in our house, our desire to simplify toy amounts).  Mostly I smile and nod and then do what we choose to do anyway.  But...  DD just turned 3 and they sent her a Disney princess Barbie.  Pretty much everything I am against in society wrapped up in one toy: body image, materialism, corporate and tv character, needing a prince, etc.  They know that we do not have or promote toys like this yet they sent it anyway.  It seems so passive-aggressive.  In the past I would just take the toy away after a brief playtime and DD would not know the difference, but she is 3 now and getting on to my tricks eyesroll.gif.  Luckily this time I opened the box on the counter and the barbie was not wrapped within it so I was able to put it away without her seeing it and getting attached.  But I know that this will happen over and over as we move into childhood unless we clearly state our stance but I am hesitant to threaten this peaceful relationship that we have with them and it feels so rude to insult their gift.  Yet, it is a big deal to me... I had a close friends suffer severely from eating disorders and it is important to me and DH to not have toys like this in our house.  How can we bring this up with them yet keep family harmony?

 

 

post #2 of 40

Subbing... my dd is only 18 months at this point but I feel your pain. It's MY mother who does this though- dh's mother sends books and wooden toys cuz we asked her to. Curious what other people do... especially with the Barbie.

post #3 of 40

(can't find the vomiting icon) When is Barbie going to go bankrupt? Geez.

 

Same rules in our house. DD is only 23 months so I'm instituting a no parent surprise full toy disclosure policy prior to gifting. Mommy is the new toy checkpoint. Start making an amazon wish list and share it with those that are likely to buy gifts. Just treat it like you would being a vegetarian and explain that you don't allow gender charged or violent toys like guns, barbies, etc. The less shy you are the more everyone will get it. Don't make it into a bigger issue than it has to be and don't offer any explanation unless someone singles you out. If they do ask just speak you beliefs without apology. I mean you wouldn't give a child a soda ... why poison their mind for life with an inappropriate toy?

 

 

post #4 of 40

I have a son, but I'd feel similarly if he was given a gun or some other violent toy.

I agree with making a list and forwarding it to them so they can't say they didn't know what to get her. Also good idea to make sure all toys are pre-approved by you.

If, after doing those things, they still give her inappropriate gifts, you will have to be clear and firm in setting limits. Just like with your child, be firm yet kind, and don't go more into it than is necessary.

 

Good luck!

post #5 of 40

Well, your kids need to learn the use of a barbie!  We have a barbie cemetary in our back yard.  Lots of barbies lost limbs and sometimes their heads when being catapolted across the fence to the neighbors yards.  Your girls will learn how to play with barbies sometimes by how they're taught.  Since my IL's loved giving barbies, even when I asked them not to (I did win on junk food and candy)  I took a page from my older brothers handbook and we turned Barbie Divas into warriors with shaved heads or explorers and periodically barbie would be the victim of a dog attack and amputations were necessary!

 

I call it repurposing!  If they find out how they're being treated they'll stop sending them!  Worked for me!

post #6 of 40

We have a few rules about toys, and my in-laws have disregarded them on numerous occasions.  At this point my in-laws do not give my children anything that we have not approved first.  When we lived closer, my husband would ask them what they got.  Now that we live elsewhere, I open and rewrap the presents before the children see them.  I do feel like the surprise-stealing ogre opening their presents before them, but I can't trust my in-laws to give gifts that the children can have, and now that DS is older, I don't want him to open a gift that I then have to take away from him.  Wrapping up the gifts inside the box to hide the stuff that we've said no to was an especially cute trick.

 

I may sound a bit hostile on this subject, but I assure you, way back when, my husband very nicely explained what sorts of things we don't want.  The time my in-laws brought DS a present that was almost every item on the list of qualities we don't want in a present was when we instituted the rule that we had to know what presents were going to be before they were given.  Even with that, my in-laws still try to give him things that aren't acceptable.  Also, a warning to all, if you're asking what presents are, make sure you get a specific definition.  "Oh, I got him a little toy vehicle." could mean, "I got him a noisy, battery-operated tank with realistic gunfire sounds and pellets." from someone who wants to get around rules they don't like.

post #7 of 40

Hmm, looks like I am going to be the sole voice of dissent here.  I totally get that there can be tension between how parents choose raise their children and how the in laws and extended family passively interfere.  That is an issue that needs to be dealt with in whatever way will 1: allow the parents to raise their children in the way they deem best and 2: minimally interferes with the familial relationship with said inlaws and extended family.  

 

Here's where I respectfully disagree - barbie is not the devil.  I was raised by totally conscious thoughtful parents.  They were "attachment parents" before there was a name for it. My parents coslept, my mother breastfed me until I was 2 1/2, and my parents were totally responsive to my needs at all times.  I am the oldest child and my parents encouraged me to follow ANY path I wanted to.  I was athletic, so I played a lot of sports.  I was artistic, so I participated in art classes. I was adventurous so I did a lot of climbing and exploring.  I also had a powerful imagination and lots of toys.  I played with star wars guys, he-man guys, barbies, fisher price, playmobile, and other random dolls that my mom picked up at tag sales. Barbies were my favorite. I loved them deeply and played with them secretly after I thought I was too old (12ish?). 

 

I know that women are degraded and dehumanized by some people in our society.  I also know that barbie can become the symbol for the sexism that so many women experience.  Every parent has to do the best they can with their kids, and I do understand why barbie can be hated and feared. I would suggest that before Barbie is identified as a source of conflict though, that you think about how your daughter feels about barbie.  Perhaps she would love nothing more than to play with one. And perhaps as long as her parents raise her to know that she is powerful and capable regardless of her physical appearance, that little girl will grow up just fine even if she had a few barbies.

 

I feel strongly that as long as little girls and boys aren't raised in an environment that values physical beauty, materialism, and subservience to men above all else, that barbies won't make any difference at all.  Even with the best of intentions, parents can be so rigid that they stop seeing the nuance and only see the principle which they must fight against. I happen to believe in everything that the OP does, but as a child, there were very few things that I enjoyed more than Disney World and Barbie.  I grew up to a be an independent strong woman not because of the influence of Barbie or Disney, but the values my parents taught me.

 

All that is to say - if you care that much, your child is going to be just fine because you are a thoughtful involved parent. Barbie has nowhere near as much power over your child as you do.

post #8 of 40

I keep a blog for long distance loved ones to keep up with the kids (though some nearby read it as well). I usually make a brief post about once a week with a run down of what the kids have been up to and a few cute pictures. Clearly displayed on the sidebar are links to the kids' Amazon wish lists.The posts and pictures make it pretty plain what the little ones are currently interested in doing and what they actually play with, and I keep the wish lists pretty long so that loved ones have plenty of wiggle room to find something they really want to give. We got a puppet theatre recently that had been buried 3 pages in and the giver was just as excited as the receiver. It's worked out pretty well so far. The vast majority of our gifts come from those wish lists now.

 

When we do get something that I'm not thrilled about, how I handle it depends on just how far past the line of acceptable it is. If it's a rinky dink plastic thing, I usually let the kids play with it for a bit, they get bored, then it goes and hides in a box destined for Goodwill. If it's something I'm in no way willing to tolerate (like a toy gun or a Barbie), I intercept it, no if's, and's, or but's. DD got a large number of Barbies last year from someone, and they went directly to Goodwill. She was nearly 6, and unfortunately I wasn't able to get them before she saw them, but it turned out to be okay. She already knew how I felt about Barbies as I make a point of talking with her on a regular basis about why I make the choices I make, and she was fine with seeing them go. She had gotten other gifts she liked way more anyways, and I'd already ordered a more appropriate set of dolls that she had helped me pick out. The only time we've ever had a problem is when I don't make my reasons clear to her. As she's gotten older, getting DD on board with our family lifestyle choices has proven to be more helpful in avoiding problems than anything else, whether it's toys or food. She's been reading the nutritional facts on prepacked foods offered to her since she was 4 (mostly just looking for sugar content in the beginning, since she wasn't a strong reader yet). She made more than a few jaws drop back then when she looked at a food item's nutrional label, opened her eyes wide, and handed it back saying "No, thank you. That's waaaaaay too much sugar for me." She's also pretty good at explaining why we make certain choices. DD understanding my values and being interested in adhering to them has cut down on the sneaking from certain people drastically.

post #9 of 40

How often are they around to witness their gifts being opened?

 

While my mom has never sent anything I explicitly said not to (I never bothered telling her those things, since it would ensure we'd get them), she is kind of a mild hoarder who with every packages sends all kinds of weird old stuff (from unopened paper cocktail napkin packages from the 1970s to old candy bought on sale the previous year to ugly old outfits from me as a kid that I refused to wear, ect.).  Talking to her about it would be useless and would only get into a huge dramatic fight (which upsets me and excites her so I try to avoid those).  Instead, as annoying and grumbling as it made me, I just made a policy of opening everything at the garbage can/recyling bin.  Salvagable/unopened stuff that I think would NOT be a burden to Goodwill (don't send ancient TJ Maxx soap-and-hand lotion sets that are so old even the price tag has yellowed and cracked, it costs them a ton of money to dispose of the garbage people bring to them) I put directly in my trunk in a box and when the box is full I bring it to the store.

 

Peace and harmony reign.  I can "release" the resentment by not even having it enter my house.  My mom can release some of her pack rat stuff by sending her garbage to me.  I don't need to feel that I have to take that junk into my house and clutter it up.  I'm never going to be able to prevent her from sending ancient stickers from the 70s (so old they don't even stick to the paper anymore) "for the kids".  So I just deal with it on my end.

 

My parents live a continent away though, so it's easier than if they lived in the same town.  But, when they've visited and mom drags out her junk (there's less of it when they visit because my dad prevents her from packing the suitcases with it I think), I smile and nod, and it all goes away after the holidays (they go overboard on everything, so the kids never get attached to yellowed formal gloves or squishy balls with imprints from real estate title companies, in the post holiday shuffle).

 

You do need to be prepared for some awkward situations.  My mother once flipped her lid because she saw a really ugly shawl (in my most hated color, which she knows) she gave me in the dress up box (it was soft, DD loved it) because she said it cost $70.  I just said "oops, sorry", took it out, and when she left I put it back in the dress up box.  She asked about some keychains (more logo giveaways from her business) and if the kids liked them, and I said that they didn't really play with them.  She did buy DD a barbie and a barbie kitchen playset (for the barbies, not kid kid sized) when I was in my "Barbie is the Devil" phase, for Christmas when they were visiting--I had to bite my tongue, but really my DD lost interested after grandma left because really only grandma wanted to play with it, and later on I passed it on to a friend whose daughters loved barbies who didn't have a problem with them.  Keeping my cool got easier every time.

 

So I guess, before you have some Big Discussion, you really need to be honest with yourself.  Do you think there is any chance of the inlaws changing their behavior?  If so, then by all means, have a kind discussion with them.  Wouldn't hurt to ask them not to get that stuff, right?  But if you know in your heart of hearts that their behavior isn't going to change, then don't waste your time trying to get them to do anything.  Spend your time coming up with an action plan, and getting yourself ready to carry it out with no fuss and no drama.  :)

post #10 of 40

I can completely relate to your situation, and so can many of the mothers in our playgroup (Waldorf). For the most part his side of the family followed our wishes for her last birthday and Christmas, but the in laws still failed to follow our no plastic rule. And just to make this conversation more relevant, i must admit that my mother in law called today about Christmas presents (it's our first Christmas living in another state) and she wants to get Audrey a doll house, from wal mart, and my husbands only response was "she (as in me) doesn't like plastic". I feel your pain, my mother in law has no consideration for anyone else and only focuses on her own needs or desires.

 

So this year I did go out of my way to make a Wishlist on amazon and put the info on our Christmas cards I ordered and all our family should be getting them on Monday or Tuesday, so we'll see how that goes. I would just keep the gifts I'm the car and return them later, I myself dot shop at wal mart, so we'll see how that goes, I may just end up buying whatever organic food they have.

 

post #11 of 40

People keep buying my son these awful "educational" toys, VTech and that sort of thing. I actually work in the education industry, and I understand enough about pedagogy to know that 90% of that stuff is crap. Well, one day, my son was playing with one that had just been given to him (we had just opened it and the giver was there). He lost interest and started playing with something else. After 30 seconds the "educational" toy said, "Hey! Come back! Don't you want to play with me?" He burst into tears.

 

So I've been telling my friends and family that he's terrified of toys that light up and make noise. It's not quite true--this was an isolated incident--but no one wants to be the grandma who gets baby a toy that makes him cry! 

 

PS those go to goodwill pretty much immediately, but he's only 1, so he doesn't know enough to miss them.

post #12 of 40

I see so much anger towards people who are buying your children gifts. I understand that they are not buying you what YOU want, but they ARE buying a gift for your CHILD.  Are they really such horrid self centered people when they are trying to reach out and give a gift?  Sorry, but all of this seems kind of petty when there are REAL problems that separate families forever and lots of children grow up never knowing their grandparents. In laws need to respect parenting decisions, but why the intense resentment? Would you all rather that they just withdraw and never give a gift again?  My mom died 2 months ago today.  I'd be happy with ANY gift she gave ever again.

post #13 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by 1stTimeMama4-4-10 View Post

I see so much anger towards people who are buying your children gifts. I understand that they are not buying you what YOU want, but they ARE buying a gift for your CHILD.  Are they really such horrid self centered people when they are trying to reach out and give a gift?  Sorry, but all of this seems kind of petty when there are REAL problems that separate families forever and lots of children grow up never knowing their grandparents. In laws need to respect parenting decisions, but why the intense resentment? Would you all rather that they just withdraw and never give a gift again?  My mom died 2 months ago today.  I'd be happy with ANY gift she gave ever again.



I haven't spoken to any of my biological relatives in years. I've got firsthand experience with those "REAL problems that separate families forever." I don't get angry or resentful over inappropriate gifts from our loved ones (for clarity's sake, our non-biological family), because I know that they mean well and aren't intentionally going against my values (though thankfully we're close enough that I can guide them in the right direction without any offense or hurt feelings). However, that isn't always the case. With certain bio relatives, gift giving occasions were just another chance for them to show just how little respect they had for me as a mother (and as a person, really). They sought out ways to undermine me and make me feel worthless. The inappropriate gifts were a symptom of the bigger problems. Every loud, obnoxious, plastic piece of junk that showed up was another slap in the face and a reminder of the huge rift in the family, and yes, I totally resented that. I've noticed that to be the case in a few families, though not always to the same extreme. It isn't always about just not approving of a certain gift. Sometimes it's about what that gift represents. It hurts when your family knows your values and then chooses to completely disregard them. In less dysfunctional families (e.g. my non-bio family), parents still have every right to raise their children the way they see as best, and I just can't see the fault in looking for a kind way to help family outside of the household participate in the children's lives without going against the parents' values. Sure, there could be bigger problems, but at the same time, sweeping the smaller problems under the rug can build resentment and cause big problems.

 

I'm sorry for your loss. I never had a real mom to lose, so I won't pretend to know how you feel, but I imagine it must be pretty awful.

post #14 of 40

1st time mama, I understand your opinion, but in my situation, my husband and I have been together 6 years, 3 of which we lived with his parents, so they know me, even if I get a card from someone I am very grateful and keep ALL the cards I receive. I don't believe in material possessions, we are semi minimalists, and the gifts I've cherished most were made by My grandparents to my babe and theyve all passed away these past two years. Your post made me realize, she did call to let us know she wanted to get her a dollhouse from Walmart, but my husband and I already know she's already purchased it or is going to buy it anyways, regardless of our response, that's just how she is. Audrey could want a $5 book with frogs and she would still buy the Walmart doll house. With her it's not the thought that counts, it's what she would want to buy if she had a girl of her own because she had 2 boys. Aside from that the in laws taunt me and say "Audrey looks nothing like you and she'll look like Karen (my in law) for the rest of her life.", so there's always more to people's relationships than what we initially perceive.

post #15 of 40

1st time mama:  You have my greatest condolences for your loss.  Your argument is one that I particularly dislike, because it's a huge guilt trip.  Anyone can die at any time.  You cannot live your life based on what if that person died tomorrow.

 

In my case, I would prefer it if they just stopped giving gifts to what they do now.  It would be nicer not to send a gift than to send something that they know we won't allow DS to have and then to try to disguise what it was so that we wouldn't know it was an unacceptable gift until my son opened it.  What kind of a person specifically tries to bypass the parents to create a situation where a child will have his birthday present taken away from him?  If that is their idea of giving gifts, I can do without it.

 

Also, it sounds like you had a good relationship with your mother.  Not everyone has that with their parents or in-laws.  Do I think that it's sad that my in-laws won't be close grandparents to my son?  In the abstract, yes, because I'm told that that's supposed to be a loving and wonderful relationship.  In specific, I don't feel that my son is missing out by not being close to someone who is passive aggressive, manipulative, and has demonstrated over and over again that what's important is her and her desires, not anyone else.

 

It is sometimes difficult for someone who hasn't been there to understand that it's not just that one thing all by itself, it's years of things, of which this is yet another example of complete disrespect.

post #16 of 40

I agree w/ rosalinde

post #17 of 40

Self centered or more aware?  My mom told her mother not to buy us toys she felt were offensive.  I feel I have the right to do the same thing.  I learned it from my mama!  DH and I came from two different worlds,  I'm not letting my kids play with trash and I couldn't stand that his parents would send a box of candy for every holiday.  My kids don't eat that stuff.  Not just because I don't offer it to them but because they don't like it.  My girls destroy their Barbies, should granny and papa spend their money on something they're going to trash anyway?  They know what happens to dolls in this house, they're fine with not buying that junk.  And as someone who suffered from Anorexia... still do... I don't want that crap in my home anyway!  Self centered?  yeah maybe, but they're my Crotch Fruit!  I did the labor, so my rules RULE!
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by 1stTimeMama4-4-10 View Post

I see so much anger towards people who are buying your children gifts. I understand that they are not buying you what YOU want, but they ARE buying a gift for your CHILD.  Are they really such horrid self centered people when they are trying to reach out and give a gift?  Sorry, but all of this seems kind of petty when there are REAL problems that separate families forever and lots of children grow up never knowing their grandparents. In laws need to respect parenting decisions, but why the intense resentment? Would you all rather that they just withdraw and never give a gift again?  My mom died 2 months ago today.  I'd be happy with ANY gift she gave ever again.



 

post #18 of 40
Thread Starter 

I'm so sorry for your loss 1st time mama.hug2.gif

 

To clarify, I am in no way angry that they got gifts for my children and I am very grateful that my children have their grandparents in their lives.  However, what is hurtful is what the gifts represent: their lack of acceptance and respect of our parenting choices.  It is just one way that they try to insert their values into our home and disregard ours.

 

ITA with what tooraloora wrote: "It isn't always about just not approving of a certain gift. Sometimes it's about what that gift represents. It hurts when your family knows your values and then chooses to completely disregard them."

 

To update on our situation: No news.  We have not spoken with the ILs yet re: Barbie... For mailed gifts I will just check them first but we are around them once or twice a year for gifts so I think that I will ponder on this for awhile and talk with them in person when we next see them.  Thank you all for the ideas and support!

post #19 of 40

I am on board with the idea that if you set a boundary and a family member repeatedly crosses it, that is a significant problem and needs to be addressed. I think drawing the line at toys and gifts might be a little extreme. If it's a symptom of a larger issue, fine, but I see love in gift giving. Not everyone can afford wooden and hand crafted toys. Sometimes a gift is just a gift. I love this forum community, but I think there are times that it really becomes form over substance. 

post #20 of 40

Form over substance? 

 

I think if you choose a path in life that is an obvious path and others try and try again to make it hard for you than you have every right to be angry.  My 6 yr old played Call of Duty at my sisters house. Really?  She's 6!  I asked that she didn't play any of the games they had.  That was my only request!   My dad brought alcohol into my house right after we had a heart to heart about how me and my siblings were effected by his alcohol abuse.  He didn't care.  I didn't want that around my kids and he still brought it.  My concerns were relevant.  It's more than a barbie, it's the fact that our wishes for our kids are disregarded.  DH's dad sends the kids a box of clothes on Christmas and it all smells like smoke.  Should I just accept it?  Can't take it back even with the tags on them.  Yeah I can wash them but they're always too small or too big.  They ask sizes and they forget I guess. 

 

 

 

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