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birthdays, holidays, and gifts

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
MIL and I are trying to hash things out at the moment (at least I am). Somehow this involved her having a private coffee date with my husband about the issues (yeah, whatever).

Anyway, one of the big sticking points is family events and get-togethers. She reluctantly admits that holidays will be shared with other family and says we just need to say if we can't make one of her events (they are monthly if not more frequent). The latter isn't true, as there is always a long convincing session involved during which she explains why we really can make it. My argument is two-fold. There are TOO many family events. We celebrate every single birthday every year with a family dinner. Hers, her three sons, her other grandson, her sister (who thankfully has moved away). Now there are two new grandchildren. Then there's the yearly stuff like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day (she's divorced!), etc. etc. I think it's too much. I can't tell if my husband likes doing it all or if he does it because his mother wants him to. He doesn't like talking about it.

She had a great story/argument about how her family always valued being together when she was a child. Sounded great. She completely ignored that her divorce meant that her kids went back and forth from the time my husband was five. My parents, while having a bad marriage, stayed together through my childhood and most of my holidays, birthdays, etc. were spent as our small family unit. Seeing the extended family was a special treat. Frankly, I'm sick of packing up and driving the 45 minutes out to her place for all these little dinners that are just going to get more frequent as we start having more kids. How do I address this one?

What I got to thinking of today was birthdays. Her grandson (he's 11) always has a special party with cake and his dad/uncles at MIL's house. Every year. I don't know what he does otherwise. I know she will want to do this with my daughter. My problem? *I* want to host her party. Furthermore, the rest of our family (the three other sets of grandparents) live a half-days's trip and ferry ride away, along with aunts and cousins. We may choose to have her party there (if we haven't already moved, we may). I don't want to get into the habit of having more than one birthday party to appease family members who can't make a different one. As our kids grow older, I'm sure they will have parties with their little friends rather than older family members. I think more than one party will help develop a sense of entitlement and self-importance, rather than MIL's idea of "celebrating each individual and the time they were born." How do I go about explaining/insisting to a very pushy, passive aggressive person that this is how I want it to be?

I know, this is LONG, but I know a lot of families must have similar issues.

Further, once we do move, MIL and my husband's uncles are going to be the only family left over here. I'm not going to be wanting to do the travel thing every stinkin' year just so we can spend time with them. It's stressful and costly. My husband (and granted he was just frustrated at having to have the annoying talk with his mother) says fine, he'll go by himself and take the kids. Yeah, that's right - split up the family and make me look bad. Am I just being selfish and can't see it? Be honest. I don't think I missed anything as a kid with our quiet holidays spent enjoying our day(s) relaxing at home, and I want that now for myself and my children.

Finally, gifts. MIL bought Mary a "book" today. Elmo's Adventures in Dreamland, or something. It's a bedtime book with an Elmo doll. I want to limit character items, but fine. The kicker? It's got lights and music and buttons. How is that a book? And how is it supposed to help a 10-month-old get ready for bed? The real point here - how do I express to a strong-willed personality without insulting that we prefer more natural toys for our kids and don't want anything that requires batteries or has an electronic component? She's a 2nd grade teacher and will try to put her expert "spin" on it.

For the record, I can't just have my husband do the talking. He won't. He won't even stick up for our pets after the repeated suggestion that we get rid of them (he went with "we still have them" rather than "we are not getting rid of our dogs. please drop it.")

Sorry, long long long. I'm looking for advice, ideas, experiences, wisdom... any of that.
post #2 of 9
It seems to me that you have to figure out what you are willing to do (ie go to 4 family events but not 10) and where you can bend or not. We try to handle these things as honestly as possible. If you say you can't go to something because of X, Y, and Z, it opens the door for her to argue and find solutions to X, Y, & Z. If you simply say it too overwhelming for us to come to every family event and we have decided to join you for A, B, & C, that might be harder to argue with. Maybe even add "I'm sorry but that is our decision" as a broken record if she starts to argue with that. If dh doesn't want to get in the middle or talk to her about this stuff, maybe make sure that he is fine with you deciding and speaking for him.

As for your own child's birthday, YOU are the parent so what do YOU want to do? Plan what you want, invite who you want, and leave it at that. MIL can't dictate to you what will be done for your child's birthday. She should be asking if she can do something and you say yes or no. You don't have to do something she wants just because she always does or all the other grandchildren do it that way. On the other hand, if she wants to do something special with your dd, why don't you come up with a few ideas that work for you and let her choose from them.

I want to balance this with the idea that you might want to choose your battles and choose not to make too many things battles all at once. For gifts, instead of putting down what she got for your dd already, you might just want to say something along the lines of, "if you need ideas for what to get dd for her birthday, here is a catalog of stuff we think she would really love."
post #3 of 9
Thread Starter 
MIL has suggested planning holidays in advance, and I know this is probably the most logical, but I just can't wrap my head around Christmas plans in August. The rest of the family doesn't plan this early, and I'm not going to plan them out. Their approach is that if we can make their function, that's great. If we can't, we'll still see each other, just not at that particular time. I like that approach.

Life was so much easier when I was 12 and I had ONE family to think about. Now I have, like, five. My own, MIL's, FIL's, my mother's, and my father's.
post #4 of 9
Well, my family is in CA, my parent-in-laws are in FL, my BIL is in TN, and we are in NJ. We HAVE to plan holidays out (at least who is going where) 6 months or more in advance so we can get airfare, dh can put in for vacation time, etc.

I know it might seem weird to plan things that far in advance, but I know my parents, in-laws, and grandparents feel more comfortable when they know far in advance what is going to happen. Perhaps it is a generational thing. Maybe your MIL is worried that she will have too many or too few people to make it a "good" holiday? Is she worried about not being included if she doesn't host and insist that everyone come?

I'm a bit of a planner myself so I love to plan holidays and trips, but maybe other posters have more ideas for you.
post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Lil'M View Post
Is she worried about not being included if she doesn't host and insist that everyone come?
This might be a big part of it. My husband and his brothers have an agreement that they either all go or none. A bit part of the reason they go is so they can see each other, even though we all live in the same area. She also likes to see everyone together and gets really anxious if it's not going to work out. The "best" time for celebrating the publication of BIL's self-published book was right after we'd gotten off the ferry returning from a few days visiting our island family, because it's the only time we could all be together. I wasn't impressed. At least she's finally figured out (after a year) that my husband works on Sundays, and it's not a job he can just call in sick for. She started talking about her birthday party being on a Sunday, then realized all on her own that we wouldn't be able to make it (sadly, I work *with* my husband, we're a team).
post #6 of 9
family events - we have an aunt like this. on the one hand it drives me crazy. on the other hand is it really so much trouble to have dinner with them once a month give or take. i do better if I set a time to be gone by. I will stay an hour and thats it. i hate to eact and run but really. the TV is always on and there is no where to sit. and they just drag on and on. So we try to go when we can, we skip ifi really can't go with a good attitude, and we make it a point to leave by a certain time. it helps make them tolerable.

gifts - does she ask what yur child wants? if so be very specific. We want these books (list 3 or 4), we want thomas trains, we want little people, we want legos. it helps even more if you already have part of the set like a specific doll house, train set or block set and are looking for additions. My SIL and I do this and not only does it keep our mothers on track but it also makes it easy to get the other stuff we know they want, keeps us fromhaving a ton of random stuff and our kids have some really cool sets. for example, both the kids got train tracks one year and we asked everyone for cars or fun track sets. it was easy because there was something to suit every budget, enough stuff to choose from that people could shop without feeling like we were telling them what to buy and pick what they liked and they knew the child would like it. tehy also know if they don'e participate poor child will have tracks and no trains or a doll ouse without furniture, or a barn without animals. it encourages them to play along . of course this doesn't completely curb the unwanted gifts but whatever. My kids are going to buy and aquire things I don't like much. unless it is truely inappropriate it it really isn't my business.
post #7 of 9
We only have three families to deal with (DH's, my mom's, and my dad's), but I feel your pain. We put holidays on a rotating schedule: as in, "Sorry Mom. You got Thanksgiving last year." We are very strict about how many families we'll visit in a day (maximum of two, and that only on Christmas). I'm sorry to say, but I think that now that you have a family, you're going to have to start planning holidays if you don't want to alienate family or run yourselves ragged! I'm also really averse to planning--my side of the family is really impromptu. But what I found is that scheduling things helps us, because if we schedule some days/weekends for family, then we can schedule others for just us or for friendships.

As far as gifts, I agree with the previous poster who said to pick your battles. Something like a light-up Elmo book can easily be donated to a local charity or Good Will store. Or, you can just read it during the day and not at bedtime. (We read bedtime stories during the day often.) And as far as the lights and music go, Lucy outgrew her interest in those pretty quickly, so I don't know if I'd be too concerned about it.
post #8 of 9
I think for the gift thing, I would just be thankful and if she asks for ideas for gifts, then give her some that fit what you would prefer. I think this is one where it is probably better to say thanks and then use the toy as you see fit

As for the family visits, I think that you should definitely go to a couple here and there, but your family (you, DH and your kid) come first and I too feel that a birthday party for each family member is excessive. I don't think traveling once a year once you move is excessive, but once a month is. I don't know how far you will be, but I say you and DH decide how many events per year you want to attend and then tell MIL up front.

Also, I agree the you should be the one to host your child's main party, though having a friends party and a family party I think is ok, but again, you should be the one to host either or both if you choose to.

I think you just need to keep putting your foot down and not worry about MIL too much. I know my family is very into visiting extended family and once I got married, DH and I had to agree to compromise. We travel to see family way less than I would choose if I were single and way more for him if he were single, but we have found a balance that works for us and I have just had to talk to my parents about it. Luckily, they are pretty good about it unlike your MIL, but when we add kids to the mix it is going to just get harder I think since we will want to start our own Christmas, Birthday, etc. family traditions.

Perhaps that is a way to present it to MIL. You are a family now too and need to start your own traditions. While you will still visit extended family, your own family traditions are going to come first and she will have to learn that is the way it is, whether she likes it or not.
post #9 of 9
I'd try to get up to her place once a month or even better every 2 weeks if you can swing that. Don't compromise if you have a conflict, but do what you can to visit regularly if family togetherness is important to her.

You own your daughter's birthday party, and whether or not you have one. You decide where the party is and who is invited. So you make those decisions and invite her and whomoever else you want there. If she offers to host the party, it's your option whether or not to accept.

Don't tell her what gifts to buy, just accept what she gives, send a thank you note and then do what you want with the toy, even donate it if you hate it. (However, I personally would not donate a toy from grandma, and I have gotten some obnoxious toys from her that my kids love. I just have gotten over my initial horror about the offending items. )

I am having no gifts parties for my boys from now on because I cannot handle the stuff. I'll buy my sons a few toys of my choosing and ask everyone else to just come and enjoy the food and the day together.

Good luck! Try to stay calm and cool.
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