A letter to my family about Christmas, updated post 40 - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 50 Old 11-01-2006, 04:30 PM - Thread Starter
 
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This is a letter I am sending to all my immediate family (grandparents, and siblings). I would like your opinions on it, I don't want to offend, but we really need to get some control on this whole topic before the kids get any older. Thanks!!


Dear Everyone,

An e-mail from my mom this morning reminded me to get off my butt and send this out! So, here goes.

James and I have decided that this Christmas we really need to take things in a very low-key direction. Mainly I am referring to the giving and accepting of gifts. We would like to really cut back on the amount we spend and on the amount that is spent on us on your behalf. The biggest issue is the kids. The last couple years have been fairly overwhelming in the gift department. Now we have the addition of another child who also has a birthday at Christmas-time. We are having lots and lots of issues with Gracie being kind and sharing with Ian. Because of this we are asking that any gifts you give are addressed to both the kids. This will cut back on the amount you feel you should buy as well as cut the over-all number of gifts recieved. We are also asking that you give just one or two gifts. That is all. Gracie is going to be terribly excited over the new things that will be in the house and we want to promote as much good-will towards her brother as possible. She is having a terrible time letting him touch anything in the house right now, and we would like to cut down the number of things she feels the need to protect. He will have a birthday a few days later and we ask the same for that also, just one or two gifts, please. Between all of the family we have, our own gifts, and Ian's birthday there will be more than enough new things in the house to keep the kids occupied. If you would like to put money towards educational things, like memberships to various places we can take the kids, or just stick it in an account for college, that is fine. If you don't want to give anything at all, that is fine too. We would much rather that you spend your money on the needs of your particular family than add to the clutter of toys in our house!

Finally, we would like to ask that you also don't worry about giving gifts to James and I. Christmas is about so much more than gifts and we would much rather focus on traditions and family time than on presents. We will be sending out holiday cards, but otherwise we are not planning on doing gifts for anyone outside our little family of 4. The consumerism and focus of Christmas is just so overblown and overwhelming, especially for such young kids. We are going to do our best to help keep that in check.

Thanks so much for understanding.
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#2 of 50 Old 11-01-2006, 04:33 PM
 
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I think it sounds great, now hopefully they follow through with it.
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#3 of 50 Old 11-01-2006, 04:36 PM
 
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We would much rather that you spend your money on the needs of your particular family than add to the clutter of toys in our house!

.
All together I liked it, except this part. Maybe just take out the part about "clutter".

It's very well written.

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#4 of 50 Old 11-01-2006, 04:36 PM
 
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Can you say this in a casual conversation to each person? I think that comes off a little more polite than the big group e-mail. I know what you're getting at, and I think your reasoning is sound, but I just can't get over the etiquette factor with respect to telling people how to give gifts.

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#5 of 50 Old 11-01-2006, 04:40 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Well, we don't live close to anyone and rarely have casual conversations. That's actually part of the problem, I have a very distant relationship with my family, and James is only slightly better. Yet everyone goes insane with gift giving at Christmas.

And, on a side note, James family all exchanges wish-lists via e-mail, so this is not unusual.
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#6 of 50 Old 11-01-2006, 04:40 PM
 
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Can you say this in a casual conversation to each person? I think that comes off a little more polite than the big group e-mail. I know what you're getting at, and I think your reasoning is sound, but I just can't get over the etiquette factor with respect to telling people how to give gifts.
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#7 of 50 Old 11-01-2006, 05:24 PM
 
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How about suggesting a gift to charity in your names in place of a gift if they still want to do something. Pick one or two you like - maybe find one that will send a card to you so they feel like you're getting something. Are the kids old enough to participate by choosing their own charity or cause they believe in if you offer them choices like environment, animals, etc.?
I've done this with my family and it worked out great.
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#8 of 50 Old 11-01-2006, 05:34 PM
 
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I agree with the people who suggested that you do this in person if possible. I think you are presenting yourself well, but be prepared for dissent. We tried the "low key Christmas" thing last year, but MIL still went wayyyyy overboard. She flat out told me I was being ridiculous when I said I didn't want them to expect huge extravagent Christmases, because if it weren't for my MIL, we would not have been able to afford much. She thought that was silly. This year I am trying a different angle, and saying we don't have room for gifts. Whatever they get will be replacing something else, so for every new gift, they have to get rid of something. You may want to try that angle if the other one doesn't work, because you can't argue with no space.

Good luck!

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#9 of 50 Old 11-01-2006, 05:37 PM
 
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Personally, I'd make it short and positive. Something more along the lines of...

"Christmas is a time of giving and we are so appreciative of the generosity of our family. This year we would like to focus on the gifts of the season that don't come with a bow- family, friends, and the spirit of peace and good will. We'd like to ask that instead of lots of large presents for the kids, you spread the Christmas spirit with a charitable donation to an organization of your choice on their behalf. If you really want to send a personal touch, a small present for both of them would be welcome, but don't feel obliged. We also hope that our gift to you of a card (and maybe some cookies or something hand made by the kids?) expresses our warm feelings of the true meaning of Christmas. We hope that the holiday finds you safe, content, and with peace."

How does that sound?
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#10 of 50 Old 11-01-2006, 05:43 PM
 
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Like alexsam's post. Short and to the point, but also very polite.

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#11 of 50 Old 11-01-2006, 05:43 PM
 
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Personally, I'd make it short and positive. Something more along the lines of...

"Christmas is a time of giving and we are so appreciative of the generosity of our family. This year we would like to focus on the gifts of the season that don't come with a bow- family, friends, and the spirit of peace and good will. We'd like to ask that instead of lots of large presents for the kids, you spread the Christmas spirit with a charitable donation to an organization of your choice on their behalf. If you really want to send a personal touch, a small present for both of them would be welcome, but don't feel obliged. We also hope that our gift to you of a card (and maybe some cookies or something hand made by the kids?) expresses our warm feelings of the true meaning of Christmas. We hope that the holiday finds you safe, content, and with peace."

How does that sound?
Ooh. I like that.

My grandmothers have decided they have enough stuff, so last year we gave in their names to Heifer International and "bought them" some farm animals. They got a real kick out of "their" rabbits and goat.
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#12 of 50 Old 11-01-2006, 05:47 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I agree with the people who suggested that you do this in person if possible. I think you are presenting yourself well, but be prepared for dissent. We tried the "low key Christmas" thing last year, but MIL still went wayyyyy overboard. She flat out told me I was being ridiculous when I said I didn't want them to expect huge extravagent Christmases, because if it weren't for my MIL, we would not have been able to afford much. She thought that was silly. This year I am trying a different angle, and saying we don't have room for gifts. Whatever they get will be replacing something else, so for every new gift, they have to get rid of something. You may want to try that angle if the other one doesn't work, because you can't argue with no space.

Good luck!
Yep, the no space things is actually a huge issue, we literally are out of space. And we are hoping to move soon, another reason to keep things to a minimum, less to pack!

Honestly, we tried the kind, direct conversations last year, and they didn't do diddley squat! The baby, who hadn't even been born yet, recieved an obscene amount of gifts, much of which wouldn't be appropriate or fit for a year or more!! It was just insane.

I'm actually hoping the angle of "Gracie is having a really hard time sharing and we want less for them to fight over" will have effect. Because it's true, she doesn't need anything else to protect and yell at him about!
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#13 of 50 Old 11-01-2006, 05:48 PM
 
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I know where you are coming from. I think it's right to address the concern you have to your family, but maybe tell them in casual conversation. It will come across so much better than an email sent to everybody. You don't want to make a big deal out of it and you don't want to be the subject of conversation among other family members. So when the subject comes up, maybe just say, "You know, we've been thinking about this and it would be great if.........."


This is an interesting topic because my husband and I just had this conversation last night. Basically every year we spend, spend, spend and it's all toy-box fodder in two days. We are sick of it because it IS clutter and the children turn into greedy goblins by the end of the day. SO, we are limiting the gifts the children get this year, maybe one big thing and a couple (no more than three) small things for each child. Plus, since we are practicing Christians we really want to emphasize the day not the gifts. I was beginning to dread Christmas because of all the in-fighting that goes on and I really want to turn the focus around and hopefully it will make for a brighter, less stressful holiday.

 

 

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#14 of 50 Old 11-01-2006, 05:52 PM
 
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Personally, I'd make it short and positive. Something more along the lines of...

"Christmas is a time of giving and we are so appreciative of the generosity of our family. This year we would like to focus on the gifts of the season that don't come with a bow- family, friends, and the spirit of peace and good will. We'd like to ask that instead of lots of large presents for the kids, you spread the Christmas spirit with a charitable donation to an organization of your choice on their behalf. If you really want to send a personal touch, a small present for both of them would be welcome, but don't feel obliged. We also hope that our gift to you of a card (and maybe some cookies or something hand made by the kids?) expresses our warm feelings of the true meaning of Christmas. We hope that the holiday finds you safe, content, and with peace."

How does that sound?
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#15 of 50 Old 11-01-2006, 05:55 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Personally, I'd make it short and positive. Something more along the lines of...

"Christmas is a time of giving and we are so appreciative of the generosity of our family. This year we would like to focus on the gifts of the season that don't come with a bow- family, friends, and the spirit of peace and good will. We'd like to ask that instead of lots of large presents for the kids, you spread the Christmas spirit with a charitable donation to an organization of your choice on their behalf. If you really want to send a personal touch, a small present for both of them would be welcome, but don't feel obliged. We also hope that our gift to you of a card (and maybe some cookies or something hand made by the kids?) expresses our warm feelings of the true meaning of Christmas. We hope that the holiday finds you safe, content, and with peace."

How does that sound?
This may work, however I am afraid it may not be direct enough.

And is it wrong that I know the kind of charity they would choose and I really don't want them to spend the money there either.: Their idea of charity is not quite in line with mine.

I know, I know, I should just let it go and let them decide.

I really wish they would just use the money to buy plane tickets and actually get to know my children, but I think that might be asking too much.
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#16 of 50 Old 11-01-2006, 05:58 PM
 
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I'm actually hoping the angle of "Gracie is having a really hard time sharing and we want less for them to fight over" will have effect. Because it's true, she doesn't need anything else to protect and yell at him about!

(with a tentatively raised hand and sheepish look...) I actually think you really SHOULDN'T use this line. It does not relflect your children in a positive light. At this point in their young lives their image in the family is dependent on your statements about them and they would benefit in the long run from a more favorable depiction to family who don't see them often than of "unable to share and fighting". We as parents have an important and frequently understated role of being our children's cheerleaders and defenders within the larger family. It is very easy for extended family to categorize them, especially if they have little contact with the child. Don't let them conjure up an image of your kids being greedy or fighting or out of control or un-willing to be generous with their siblings. If it's true (at least for this moment in time!) just don't mention it.
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#17 of 50 Old 11-01-2006, 06:02 PM
 
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I like alexsam's email. I think it should be shorter and more to the point. And I agree with the PP who said not to say your children are having a terrible time sharing and are fighting over things.
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#18 of 50 Old 11-01-2006, 06:06 PM - Thread Starter
 
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(with a tentatively raised hand and sheepish look...) I actually think you really SHOULDN'T use this line. It does not relflect your children in a positive light. At this point in their young lives their image in the family is dependent on your statements about them and they would benefit in the long run from a more favorable depiction to family who don't see them often than of "unable to share and fighting". We as parents have an important and frequently understated role of being our children's cheerleaders and defenders within the larger family. It is very easy for extended family to categorize them, especially if they have little contact with the child. Don't let them conjure up an image of your kids being greedy or fighting or out of control or un-willing to be generous with their siblings. If it's true (at least for this moment in time!) just don't mention it.

Humm.....

I kind of see it as painting her as the toddler she really is and helping them understand the stage of development she is in, since they never see her and don't know her at all. I don't see it as a negative depiction, I see it as an honest depiction. It's the reason we are not giving them individual presents this year. My children are not perfection. They are human. (And because I am AP and no one else even comes close they have already labeled my children as naughty and spoiled. Even though they are not even school-age yet.: )

Well, now I shall have to think on this....... I think the whole problem is that the issues are so much deeper than this one topic. :
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#19 of 50 Old 11-01-2006, 06:11 PM
 
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With my family I am taking the approach of initiating a conversation among all of us. I have talked to my sister and I just sent this note to my stepmother:

On the topic of Christmas, we have wondered about whether we should do something to make Christmas gift giving more downscaled. Thoughts? One idea I had was for everyone just to bring small stocking stuffer presents for everyone. Maybe that is too radical. The other idea I had was for the sibs to all draw names. I am not sure how that would work since DP and I have kids and no one else does. Or maybe we could put a price limit on presents or say they have to be hand made. Don't know if people have the time for that though. Or maybe people could make Christmas lists of small items they would like. I liked (my sister)'s amazon list last year. Maybe I should send an e-mail out to everyone and see what they say.

I love buying/giving Christmas presents, but at the same time I am wondering if there could be a way to simplify.


Okay, ZM here again. I already got a response back from the above e-mail and it was positively received. OP, my situation is different in that we are close with our extended families, but I wonder if initiating a conversation and getting their ideas would be a way to build your relationship with them?
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#20 of 50 Old 11-01-2006, 06:18 PM
 
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Yeah, the fact that toddlers don't share is an unquestionable fact! I don't disagree with you on that one bit, and I have a 2 year old that will prove my point . I know where your coming from, and I bet so does anyone who has children- including your relatives.

What I am saying is that your words can create different images. The way that you phrased it and the ideas you've chosen to focus on are just plain "not complimentary" to the children, no matter the truth of it all. Even if you said soemthing like "Like most toddlers, Gracie is learning the fine art of sharing, so we'd like to encourage that by giving gifts addressed to both children." it wouldn't sound so negative. I'm not suggesting to lie, but maybe not mention it or focus on something else. Or if you feel that this is your absolute only issue that will turn the tides, to use more positive ways of discussing their behaviors.
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#21 of 50 Old 11-01-2006, 06:19 PM - Thread Starter
 
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With my family I am taking the approach of initiating a conversation among all of us. I have talked to my sister and I just sent this note to my stepmother:

On the topic of Christmas, we have wondered about whether we should do something to make Christmas gift giving more downscaled. Thoughts? One idea I had was for everyone just to bring small stocking stuffer presents for everyone. Maybe that is too radical. The other idea I had was for the sibs to all draw names. I am not sure how that would work since DP and I have kids and no one else does. Or maybe we could put a price limit on presents or say they have to be hand made. Don't know if people have the time for that though. Or maybe people could make Christmas lists of small items they would like. I liked (my sister)'s amazon list last year. Maybe I should send an e-mail out to everyone and see what they say.

I love buying/giving Christmas presents, but at the same time I am wondering if there could be a way to simplify.


Okay, ZM here again. I already got a response back from the above e-mail and it was positively received. OP, my situation is different in that we are close with our extended families, but I wonder if initiating a conversation and getting their ideas would be a way to build your relationship with them?
It's kind of funny, because what prompted this whole note in the first place was my mom sending an e-mail asking if we wanted to do a name exchange this year, which we have done in the past. The problem with the exchanges, and the gift giving in general, is that none of us know eachother, none of us live by eachother, and so it's a gift plus shipping across the country that you have no idea if the person will like or not. It makes as much sense as exchanging $20 bills. We have gotten so much useless junk in these exchanges...... And then still everyone usually proceeds to get everyone something anyway, which totally makes the exchange pointless. Last year we did this with Dh's family, and so we bought our name gifts and everyone came to our place to celebrate Christmas. Well, we ended up feeling like crap, because everyone got us something and we only got stuff for our name people. It was embarassing and infuriating. Like we are the cheap ones, when our understanding was we were just doing a name exchange. Ugh..
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#22 of 50 Old 11-01-2006, 06:22 PM
 
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As an aside to the last post, I try to have little things handy- a nice loaf of bread, a cake, some cookies, some potporri, etc. as a "last minute gift" if someone gets us something and we hadn't prepared. The worst that happens is that we eat it!
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#23 of 50 Old 11-01-2006, 06:23 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Yeah, the fact that toddlers don't share is an unquestionable fact! I don't disagree with you on that one bit, and I have a 2 year old that will prove my point . I know where your coming from, and I bet so does anyone who has children- including your relatives.

What I am saying is that your words can create different images. The way that you phrased it and the ideas you've chosen to focus on are just plain "not complimentary" to the children, no matter the truth of it all. Even if you said soemthing like "Like most toddlers, Gracie is learning the fine art of sharing, so we'd like to encourage that by giving gifts addressed to both children." it wouldn't sound so negative. I'm not suggesting to lie, but maybe not mention it or focus on something else. Or if you feel that this is your absolute only issue that will turn the tides, to use more positive ways of discussing their behaviors.

OK, I like the way you worded that sentence. That makes sense to me! Thanks!
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#24 of 50 Old 11-01-2006, 06:24 PM - Thread Starter
 
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As an aside to the last post, I try to have little things handy- a nice loaf of bread, a cake, some cookies, some potporri, etc. as a "last minute gift" if someone gets us something and we hadn't prepared. The worst that happens is that we eat it!

Yeah, I might have thought more clearly last year if I hadn't been bursting with child!
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#25 of 50 Old 11-01-2006, 06:30 PM
 
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Been there. Done that.

We just often get Christmas presents from people that we hadn't expected. We're Jewish, so we tend to assume that people who know us and know that wouldn't give us a Christmas present. But, inevitably, someone does! The thought is nice, but we are often caught off guard. Now I have my cookies all packaged up with a pretty tin and a bow and say "Oh, that's so nice of you to think of us. Here are some cookies I baked. I hope you like them!" :
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#26 of 50 Old 11-01-2006, 06:33 PM
 
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I am in the middle of writing a similar letter. We are making a room for the big boys and want Christmas to be about getting the room all set up.

Good luck!!
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#27 of 50 Old 11-01-2006, 06:35 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Wow, you are really good!! (This is to Alexsam, the other post snuck in there!)
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#28 of 50 Old 11-01-2006, 06:38 PM
 
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Believe me, I understand what prompts you to send this email. And I do think it's pretty good, although I think you could make it shorter, and definitely separate it into paragraphs.

What's really missing, as I read this, is an acknowledgement of your family's generosity in the past. I think you need to stress that you are so appreciative of the time and effort they have taken in years past to select gifts for your kids, and that you are counting on that same generosity of spirit in them to understand why you'd like to scale back this year.

More phrases like, "It would mean a lot to us if..." etc.

Also, as pp have suggested, lose the part about cluttering up your house. It's offensive to suggest that you regard your relatives chosen gifts as clutter.

I like the suggestion to contribute to college funds, but you need to phrase this in a more polite way. Don't tell them they can "just stick it in an account." That would get my back up!
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#29 of 50 Old 11-01-2006, 06:41 PM
 
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I'm sorry, but I have no suggestions. I just wanted to say that I'm sorry you're in such a situation. I can't quite imagine it, as my family do only buy one gift for each child. Well, my mom gives them each two, but that means one outfit, and one toy, so I don't object!

I hope this all works out for you.

Lisa, lucky mama of Kelly (3/93) ribboncesarean.gif, Emma (5/03) ribboncesarean.gif, Evan (7/05) ribboncesarean.gif, & Jenna (6/09) ribboncesarean.gif
Loving my amazing dh, James & forever missing ribbonpb.gif Aaron Ambrose ribboncesarean.gif (11/07) ribbonpb.gif

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#30 of 50 Old 11-01-2006, 06:46 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by zinemama View Post
What's really missing, as I read this, is an acknowledgement of your family's generosity in the past. I think you need to stress that you are so appreciative of the time and effort they have taken in years past to select gifts for your kids, and that you are counting on that same generosity of spirit in them to understand why you'd like to scale back this year.
I know what you mean. But it's not generosity. It never has been. It's guilt that buys all the crap. They don't spend a lick of time with us, or even really attempt to. And they buy inappropriate gifts. Like last year, Gracie was 19 months old, and my mom got her a cork board with push pins, and a package of pencils. We opened it and we were like "Seriously?? For a one year old??" I guess it's good the gifts come in the mail, then we can at least react without offending.
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