Being grateful for something you don't want. - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 15 Old 12-28-2010, 03:53 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I don't know what else to title it. I'm sure from reading other threads lately that I'm not the only one with this problem but I feel like I'm taking it too personally or something. I'm posting it here because I need to figure out how to cope, how to grow with this rather than let it get to me so much.

 

I went through a ton of work to declutter DS's toys, get rid of plastic/noisy/flashy toys, etc. and since then our house has been so much more peaceful and DS has been playing much better (I suspect he has sensory issues and the toys were overwhelming him).

 

Sooooo you know where this is going, right?

 

Christmas gifts.

 

My mom was wonderful about sticking to our 'wooden toys' request (a lot of made-in-China stuff but she really really tried), and even mostly stuck to the wish list I gave her. She still bought way too much, but I guess that's her perogative as a grandma...

 

MIL... well... I told DH I was kind of anxious about what to expect for Christmas gifts, & I asked him to talk to his mom about the no plastic and how DS really seems to prefer wooden toys & play better with them, but he didn't feel comfortable talking to her about it I guess. Or maybe he forgot, I really don't know, but he never talked to her. So I tried to drop hints, sent his Amazon list over... I know she got the list because she told SIL how DS likes wooden toys. OK but then she herself gave DS all plastic, noisy toys!!! I feel so frustrated. 

 

We do 12 Days of Christmas so DS still has a big pile of gifts to open, and I can tell (by shape or peeking through the paper) that they are all plastic Walmart toys. I don't even feel like most of them are safe, and I REALLY don't want him playing with them. Every day I end up feeling really depressed when it's time for DS to open his gift from MIL, even angry. I think it's out of proportion with the situation but at the same time, I can't seem to get over it.

 

It bugs me that I worked so hard to make our house an organized, peaceful place where DS can be happy, even thrive, and now it is all ruined. Too many toys. Too much plastic. Too much noise. It's making me so tense. I'm annoyed that the inlaws haven't gotten to know us well enough to understand our preferences -- or even worse, that they do understand but they choose to ignore them. I'm annoyed that my parents ignored my clearly stated request that they stick to just a couple nice toys rather than 20+ cheaper things. I'm annoyed that DH says that he agrees with me & with our choices regarding no plastic etc. but then doesn't talk to MIL about it & doesn't enforce it within the house. I'm just mad all around. Maybe I'm crazy. I don't know. I want to feel thankful & grateful... and I AM glad that everyone loves DS but I just wish they didn't show their love with STUFF.

 

I guess this is half a vent & half a cry for help. I know this is a disproportionate reaction & I'm sure the other issues life has thrown at us lately are making me focus excessively on this one thing but I just can't get myself into a more positive place.


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#2 of 15 Old 12-28-2010, 04:17 PM
 
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It's OK to be angry, mama. I would have a talk with your DP about your feelings. If he was willing to be on the same page with you about your DS and have some awkward talks from time to time with his mom, this sort of thing would not happen.


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#3 of 15 Old 12-28-2010, 04:17 PM
 
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Sigh...I totally understand.  But I do not agree that one has to be thankful for having your home sanctuary destroyed by the clueless and thoughtless actions of people who are supposed to love you.  It makes me angry too, and I too have been giving it lots of thought.  Figuring out why people do the things they do helps me.  Especially when I realize that it is usually not because they don't respect me or love me, but that their own issues make them blind.

 

In my case I specifically asked my mom not to get anything that made noise because noisy toys bug the crap out of me.  I was not subtle about it either.  She tells me that I'm going to just have to get used to it since its not about me.  At least in your case you are looking out for the welfare of your child (not just expressing your own selfish preferences lol).  I know that one reason my mom can't/won't understand is that annoying noise is foreign to her...she wears hearing aids and has trouble hearing even with those.  So the idea that something so "benign" as a child's toy will grate on my nerves makes her eyesroll.gif.  I suspect she sees it as purely a control issue on my part (like the fact I "wouldn't let her" buy an exersaucer/swing/bouncer/insert big unnecessary thing here for the baby).  She is also a hoarder and a shopaholic with anxiety issues and power issues.  Her hobby is shopping and the better the deal the better the gift.  She is certainly one who believes twenty crappy things will always be better than one great one.

 

But these are all her issues.  She is a prisoner in her own house because she has so much crap that she can't even walk around.  She feels powerlesss over her own stuff...cleaning it or moving it, much less getting rid of it.  And because of her anxiety issues she cannot even begin to admit she has an inner issue to deal with...everything happens to her so she cannot ever, ever change her circumstances. 

 

Because I know all of this the fact she ignores my requests (and got my child this) makes sense.  Its not that she doesn't love me, or that she was trying to piss me off, but that she cannot see past her own baggage to even begin to try and understand why I wouldn't like such a "great" toy.  Surely once I see the thing I will realize how great it is.

 

Thank goodness it at least has an on/off button. 

 

But yeah, I get it.  And I think that the idea we should just say thank you and suck it up is a relic of a less consumerist age. 

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#4 of 15 Old 12-28-2010, 05:13 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Oh man. That ride-on fire truck? I don't think I'd let it cross our house's threshold. :( Sorry that you are in the same boat, Chamomile Girl.

 

I'm glad at least not everyone thinks I'm horrible/controlling/selfish for feeling this way. Lillitu, you are totally right & I think that's what bugs me the most. I get very frustrated when he wimps out, at our expense. I need to talk to him but need to calm down a bit first I guess. I don't know.

 

Oh and my mom just called to ask which magnetic puzzle DS already has because she wants to get him another one for his birthday. faint.gif


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#5 of 15 Old 12-28-2010, 05:28 PM
 
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Oh, mama. I hear you.

We have a strong preference for wooden or natural-fiber, not-battery-operated toys and have made that preference clear since before DS was born. For a long time, certain relatives kind of ignored our preferences and I foolishly let it slide because I didn't want to rock the boat. So our house filled up with talking puzzles, plastic toy cell phones, even talking BOOKS that tell the story for the child as each new page is turned. I tried to keep on top of it but the clutter kept piling up and DS didn't even want or play with most of the toys anyway, so I started donating a huge pile of them every time we went to the dump (our local garbage drop-off has a charity table where people can leave bags of toys and clothes and whatever).

Then DS was turning two and a relative told us off-handedly that they were taking it upon themselves to introduce him to a certain commercial children's character. And something inside me snapped.

DH and I take great care not to bring commercial franchises into the home. It's not something we're comfortable with or that meshes with our values as a family and the gift-giver KNEW this, because we've been painstakingly clear about it from the beginning. The cavalier way in which we were told, not asked, that DS would be introduced to this highly marketed, extremely made-in-China-prone line of toys and TV shows and movies infuriated me. So I put my foot down and said no.

And the person didn't like it at all, and threatened to stop giving our children toys forever because we were "taking the fun out of it". And DH and I gently responded that we were sorry this person felt that way, but our rule was easy to follow and non-negotiable and that while we appreciated the gesture, they were of course under no obligation to get our children anything. And then the person seemed a bit shocked, almost immediately calmed down, and later got DS something appropriate for his birthday and everybody was (mostly) happy.

But my reaction was completely over the top (even if I only stewed privately to DH behind closed doors) and I realized it was not about the toys, but about my boundaries. This person was, and had been, deliberately pushing against our very clearcut boundaries since the very beginning, and it made me incredibly angry.

I think in your case this is about your MIL's and mother's lack of respect for your boundaries. You've told them what's acceptable and they've chosen to ignore it. So now you have to decide what the consequences of ignoring that boundary will be. I don't know how old your son is, but if he's young enough you can probably get away with "disappearing" (donating/selling) objectionable toys before he even sees them. Or after he's played with them and gotten bored with them after a few days.

If he's old enough to know how many wrapped gifts he has or notice the absence of a toy, you're in a tougher spot. irked.gif I don't see anything wrong with removing the toy and being clear about why you're doing it in an age-appropriate way. "Oh, it was very thoughtful of Grandma to give you this but we don't play with toys like this in our house. Let's see if we can share some Christmas spirit by giving it to a family in need!" It might even be a good teaching moment (depending on age, of course) for explaining your values to your child.

My new rule is that we immediately donate all unwanted toys and gifts without comment if the person refuses to respect our boundaries, and I'll have no hesitation in explaining why the child isn't playing with or wearing the gift if they ask. There's no reason to be rude about it, but being given something doesn't obligate us to accept it or use it. The consequence of not respecting our boundaries is that inappropriate gifts will be properly disposed of. I don't make a big scene or anything, and I still send a polite (if bland and vague) thank you note, but the gift is out the door before DS even sees it.

Some might not agree with this approach, but this is what works for our family. And so far we've been able to be tactful enough about it that only the most die-hard control freak gift-givers have taken offense. (And even they've come around, with time, because really it's not hard to find awesome, inexpensive toys that aren't loud beeping flashing plastic made-in-China schlock.)

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#6 of 15 Old 12-28-2010, 06:18 PM
 
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I think the best way to react to this in a positive manner is to make sure that you are getting everyone in your life the exact gift that they desire. Make sure to find out exactly what your MIL wants for her birthday and Christmas. Make sure it's the right brand, color, material etc... and try and make her happy. Do this for everyone in your life. I've found that I expect quite a bit from others, but I don't always do it in return. I'm not talking about buying them what you think they want; I'm talking about searching and asking around, how you can make their time special. Another thing I would strongly suggest is to buy your child all the toys you want him to have with your money. All the toys that you don't want him to have, sell them on ebay or craigslist and put the money in a college account. A good idea may be to only ask others for books. I hope this helps; maybe a little anyway. : )

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#7 of 15 Old 12-28-2010, 06:57 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Good idea on selling them & putting the money in his college account. I really like that.

 

I actually do go above & beyond to find out EXACTLY what someone wants for Christmas, bdays, etc. -- asking them directly or husband/wife/etc. and trying to get a wish list from everyone. I think the hardest part of it is getting people to tell you what they want. If I can't figure it out, I just get them a gift card to a place I know they frequent. Of course I'm sure they think, Oh how impersonal or something... you can't make everyone happy. But I just feel like if you give someone a list (and the list has very affordable, easy to obtain items) that it would make more sense to either stick to the list or find something similar to it, not something completely opposite. I hate feeling 'wasteful' when I have a pile of donations after Christmas/bdays.

 

Peainthepod, I guess it would be better to nip this in the bud! DS is only 22mos so I can still usually get things out of the house somewhat easily but I imagine it will get harder over the next year or two. I guess I will have to really be firm & upfront for his birthday (next month) about what our feelings are. It's hard because I absolutely don't want to make gift-giving a burden on the giver or take the joy out of it... Ughh you know what, my head is spinning right now, I will have to stew on this more.


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#8 of 15 Old 12-28-2010, 07:13 PM
 
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Originally Posted by crunchy_mommy View Post


Peainthepod, I guess it would be better to nip this in the bud! DS is only 22mos so I can still usually get things out of the house somewhat easily but I imagine it will get harder over the next year or two. I guess I will have to really be firm & upfront for his birthday (next month) about what our feelings are. It's hard because I absolutely don't want to make gift-giving a burden on the giver or take the joy out of it... Ughh you know what, my head is spinning right now, I will have to stew on this more.




 



It's a tough situation! You don't want to seem ungrateful and demanding, but at the same time it's annoying for you and silly for them to keep wasting money on toys that won't be used by the intended recipients.

The person I mentioned above who wanted to get DS the children's character franchise toy was not happy about being stood up to, but DH and I weren't going to budge on this and they calmed down quite a bit when he very reasonably asked if they'd prefer us to stay silent about our wishes and just pitch their gifts immediately, or tell them our parenting decision and let them find something that our child(ren) would actually use and enjoy? We made it clear that it wasn't personal (and okay, that might have been a small fib because as I said before, I was quite peeved) but that we felt very strongly about this and our decision wasn't going to change, and we of course understood if they no longer felt comfortable getting gifts for our DCs.

I think it's very rude to presume that someone is going to give you or your family gifts. But it's equally rude to give a gift to someone else's child that directly goes against the parents' wishes, and no one gets to dictate what a recipient does with a gift. It's not a breach of etiquette to toss, sell, or donate an unwanted gift (although discretion is probably advised unless the person asks and you feel comfortable being honest with them).

Just my $0.02. It was a rough conversation but I'm SO GLAD we spoke up when we did. hug.gif

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#9 of 15 Old 12-29-2010, 08:27 AM
 
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If your ds was allergic/sensitive to walnuts, would you feel guilty about donating brownies to a shelter or even just throwing them in the trash? Then why feel guilty about donating or tossing the toys that have noises that make him react just like a kid with a food reaction?

 

And just as you'd warn friends and family that your kid can't eat xyz, you'd warn them that he doesn't do well playing with flashing beeping toys.

 

Just as you'd read the label on the treat a clueless relative gives before letting your kid even know it exists, I think it'd be fine to open and reseal gifts from people who show they don't "get" what sort of toys are okay for your kids.

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#10 of 15 Old 12-29-2010, 09:07 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crunchy_mommy View Post

 and I AM glad that everyone loves DS but I just wish they didn't show their love with STUFF.

crunchy it has always helped me immensely to see the world through others eyes. 

 

i hope you understand you are asking A LOT from your inlaws. 

 

you are asking them to go against their conditioning. what 40 - 60 years of conditioning. everyone has been taught to show love with stuff. plus as a gparent you long to see your child playing with stuff you give now - which is watching the joy NOW as opposed to a later college fund. they have been conditioned coloured and many cheap instead of one expensive is best for kids. 

 

plus really it isnt their fault. they have not really been informed. 

 

it really helps me to connect with the underlying emotion greatly than the actions. 

 

you dont have to keep the stuff. that might clue them in for next time. 

 

do the inlaws hang with you guys. why not invite them on your next zoo or museum trip. let them see the joy that it brings your son. perhaps they will see how much better a membership is. 

 

i would talk from the heart from ds's point of view. but make sure you give them an alternative. choose a local play store you like so they have a tangible place to go look. and be kind. it may take years. its hard to go from many toys to a few toys. much  harder at an older age when its your gson involved. 


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#11 of 15 Old 12-29-2010, 11:54 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I definitely know I'm asking a lot of them, and that's why I posted here in Personal Growth, because I know a big part of this is ME learning to deal with it more positively. 

 

What I don't understand is, they don't get joy from watching him open & play with everything. They hand us the pile of gifts & he opens them at home, and they only visit several times a year so they really don't see him play with any of it. It just makes no sense to me. But I do get your point & I know that my views are so far from mainstream that they seem entirely incomprehensible to them. 

 

Oh and sapphire_chan, I like your allergy analogy, I guess I'm reluctant to share DS's issues with others but maybe I need to be more open about it. It's hard to explain how even though he looks like he's enjoying playing with something, it's not a good thing for him to do on a daily basis -- it's hard for others to see how he could possibly get upset by something he looks like he's enjoying, you know?? Also I am admittedly bad about that kind of thing, I am gluten-intolerant (possible celiac's) and twice they bought me a special vegan meal since I'm the only veg in the family, but it wasn't gluten-free, but I felt horrible telling them I couldn't eat it so I just ate it anyway. And yes, regretted it...  *sigh


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#12 of 15 Old 12-29-2010, 06:57 PM
 
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For us and ILs openly talking about what we prefer and why has helped. I actually only got two plasticy things for DS from people I've talked to and one was a bath toy so really only one annoying please don't enter my house thing, which of course DS loved and opened right then and there, but hasn't played with since.

 

Walmart lets you return 3 items per 45 days without receipt. I'd return the items, buy something else there or use the money to buy like toilet paper or whatever and use the toilet paper money to buy something for him else where.

 

Honestly you can't blame them unless you've told them clearly. I don't know, but maybe if they knew those toys wouldn't make him happy (which is the card we played and usually happens to be true) they would buy him something he enjoys. More than likely they are just going based on what they think kids will like. AND if they have tried before in the past (regard to veggie meal) they are likely to try. BUT I would complain about previous toys, just recommend or comment often on what he enjoys or doesn't or comment on what ped or therapists have mentioned are best to avoid or get. (like "It really stinks DS loves X toy, but it gets him so overwhelmed and hyper. I feel bad, but I know its not good for him"...that's commiseration rather than judgment)

 

Don't feel bad about returning or exchanging or even unwrapping and switching out. What they don't know won't hurt them


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#13 of 15 Old 12-29-2010, 10:00 PM
 
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Oy.  We are so much in the same boat.  For my son's first birthday, Grandpa and Grandma got him a bouncy horse (among other things).  For his second birthday, they got him a full-frame riding horse because he was "starting to outgrow the other one".  When my daughter's first birthday came along, they got her a rolling horse.  I knew it was coming (her cousin is six weeks older, and so far, they get them the same things).  I tried to persuade them otherwise. "Look!  See her riding the bouncy horse!  We don't really need another horse, and she could really use some new winter clothes!"  Now we have THREE horses for two children.  And the last two times Grandpa and Grandma visited, they made comments about how the horses weren't in the playroom downstairs.  They were in the bedroom, as we just don't have room downstairs for three horses.  But I guess next visit, I have to lug them all downstairs to "show" that they get played with.

 

I have tried subtle hints.  I have tried the direct approach.  Grandma asks for a Christmas list each year, and I include options of clothing, books (lots of books!), music CDs, art supplies, etc.  But she's stopped getting stuff off the lists, and just gets what she wants.  It's important to her that each grandchild has the exact same number of gifts to open, and that the same dollar amount was spent on each child.  And that means we end up with tons of toy clutter in our house that I CAN'T get rid of because they get upset and feel that we're undermining their grandparental rights to spoil their grandchildren. 

 

And every time we visit their house, Great Grandma also comes to visit and brings a gift.  For each child.  And we visit once a month, since it's important to us to have our children know and love their grandparents.

 

Is it bad that I get this overwhelming desire to purge the house every time we get home from a visit with them?  I am more upset this year than most, simply because Grandpa and Grandma are going through a bankruptcy and are losing their house.  They do NOT have money to spend on grandchildren - at least, not nearly as much as they did spend.  I would much rather they spend the money on gas and come visit more often than spend it on so many cheap toys that end up in a closet.  And now we're running out of closets.

 

I know they're being generous to their grandbabies, and I know they're trying to shower them with love.  But their approach is so vastly different than my parenting that it's infinitely frustrating.  The best I can do right now is explain to my son that we do not need so many toys, and help him sort through them all to figure out which ones to part with.  That, and some just quietly disappear... :o)

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#14 of 15 Old 12-30-2010, 06:16 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks all for working through this with me  & sharing your experiences!!

 

I am feeling better about things now...

 

I talked to DH and he claims he DID tell his parents about the preference for wood toys etc. I know the way DH talks that he likely wasn't very clear or firm about it, but it seems since they made the "he likes wooden toys" comment on Christmas, that they did get the overall message. So it seems they consciously chose to give him tons of noisy plastic -- which I feel frees me up a little more to do with the gifts as I wish, because it's not like they were totally clueless (although we definitely need to explain better for the future!)

 

So I opened all the remaining gifts and made a pile to return/sell/donate. I think most of them came from Walmart so I can probably get a gift card & buy clothes or something for him or do what the pp suggested. I did keep about half the gifts, even though they were still objectionable, because I wanted to compromise a bit & figured they can be designated only for certain restricted uses. DH was shocked that there were NO wooden toys in the pile & only one gift from DS's list (a baseball glove). It was like they chose the exact opposites of what we suggested. I was also shocked to discover lots of commercial toys in the pile -- Nemo & Spongebob & others -- they know DS doesn't watch TV & has no clue who those characters are... I think they just looked for things my (6mo younger) nephew would like, and got both grandkids all the same items. So that's a little frustrating, but like I said, it frees me a bit, I don't feel like these were things carefully chosen for DS specifically, taking in mind his interests & preferences, you know? Although I know they WERE chosen out of love.

 

Anyway. I told DH he needs to be more direct about things, and he agreed, because he says he really does agree with the choices we've made. I also told him HE will need to explain why all their gifts are missing from the house, should they ever ask (hopefully they won't!) I think part of my problem was taking on too much responsibility for the whole thing. We actually laughed quite a bit about things (and about the Spongebob tennis balls, which are in the 'return' pile!) which felt good, I'm just happy to be on the same page as DH, it makes me feel a bit less crazy. :)


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#15 of 15 Old 01-01-2011, 07:49 AM
 
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Be grateful for MIL's love and presence.  Don't be grateful for the toys.  Tell your child that you are going to return them and then buy him toys or items that are even better.  Or, let the child play with them for a week or two until they are forgotten, and then start removing one per night until they are all gone.  At the very worst, you'd end up with gift cards for WalMart that can be used for groceries or household necessities, and then use that part of the budget for good toys.


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