MIL will not stop buying for DS - WWYD? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 41 Old 02-12-2008, 11:25 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My MIL really means well, but she is something of a shop-aholic. She has no money, very unsteady employment, and chronic health problems. She feels like she needs to buy our two year old DS something every time she sees him, which is quite often.

Most of the time, it's junk, a duplicate of something he already has, clothes that don't fit him, or just really odd things, like a decorative pillow from Pier One, that I guess he is supposed to keep on his bed?? She refuses to buy anything "practical" that we suggest, like if he needs more bibs or sippy cups, because she wants to see him play with her gift.

Tonight she called to ask what he's "into" so she could get him something for Valentine's Day. DH told her that he needs nothing, that we are trying to simplify and declutter before the new baby arrives, and to please not buy him anything. She brushed him off and said she would look around for some small token thing to give him, so she clearly missed the point. He re-emphasized, please, do not get him anything, and she replied "I'm the grandma, I can do whatever I want."

It's frustrating for me because I hate to be wasteful. If she gives us something we don't like or can't use, we donate it to charity, but she just keeps it coming. She is also the type of person who likes to tell you what you should do with the gift she gave you, like where you should put it, or how it should be displayed, which is really irritating.

How would you handle this situation? Knowing that she is my husband's mother and that she lives close by requires us to keep the relationship intact, but I don't know how much more of this I can stand.

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#2 of 41 Old 02-12-2008, 11:41 PM
 
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Since the 'reduction of stuff' argument obviously hasn't worked with her, what about approaching it by saying "we don't want ds to come to expect a gift from you every time he sees you, we'd rather that your visit be the gift".
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#3 of 41 Old 02-12-2008, 11:58 PM
 
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BTDT. I gave up. Chalk it up to 'Grandma's perogative(sp?).

Now, almost 17 years later, she's changed her ways. It was an awkward adjustment for the kids but they made it through. Hopefully, the littles won't have to grow up that way.
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#4 of 41 Old 02-13-2008, 12:20 AM
 
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What about a book for valetines day?? I know it's still "stuff" but books can be so pricey and I know my little one loves them.
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#5 of 41 Old 02-13-2008, 12:32 AM
 
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You will probably not be able to change her ways. It sounds like your DH has tried to make your values clear but she's not (capable) of listening.

So...I would just let her do it, since it seems to make HER happy, and just return, toss, or donate the stuff as it comes in. Yes, it's a hassle and it messes with your values. But sometimes...well, sometimes you need to let these things slide.

Your DS will be fine, he's got you both emphasizing your values.

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#6 of 41 Old 02-13-2008, 12:36 AM
 
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naking

can you guide her towards consumables like art supplies?
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#7 of 41 Old 02-13-2008, 01:02 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Everybody here has such good advice... and such a variety of it, too!

This problem of her buying has been going on for years, and it's starting to feel like something has to be done. We let her because it seems to make her happy, but it's incredibly frustrating for us at the same time.

Last time she bought him one of those horrifying gorillas on a cardboard platform, where you press the button and it plays music and the gorilla spins around with congo drums. It will probably be Big Mouth Billy Bass next time.

I hate that natural resources are being consumed to produce these things in foreign countries, likely with underpaid, exploited workers, and no standards for safety in the materials that go into them. I hate that they clutter up my home and require me to buy endless batteries. And I do hate the idea that my son will soon learn to expect something every time she comes.

And as for consumables like art supplies - he has too many of those too, unfortunately. This is a child who could go without another toy his entire childhood, and never want for anything!

Maybe I will try sending her an email with the "your visit is your gift" approach, and maybe steer her to something like tickets to the children's museum or something like that.

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#8 of 41 Old 02-13-2008, 02:08 AM
 
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My IL's are like this to some degree, as well as my mom. I've tried, and tried, and tried to get them to stop. Now I just accept whatever it is, and most of the time it is donated very quickly. If they later inquire where it is, I'm honest, and say it didn't work for us.

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#9 of 41 Old 02-13-2008, 03:21 AM
 
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Can you guide her towards a (small) collectable type thing like matchbox cars, the little playmobile figures, the small lego or duplo sets, trains, etc? Maybe if you emphasise to her that when he grows up he will know all his X came from special grandma instead of random singing gorillas (sorry had to at that one)!!!! How old is he? Maybe she could buy him one puzzle a bit hard for him, and ever time she comes they work on it together (and you slide it under the bed between times) and then you can frame it and put it up? (or just take it apart to do again).

Good luck!

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#10 of 41 Old 02-13-2008, 09:54 AM
 
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If you're already getting rid of the things she's giving you as it is, could you possibly *encourage* her to buy at someplace like Wal Mart with a good return policy and then take the money and put it in a fund for your son? Backwards, perhaps, but in the long run she'll be doing him some good. Good luck!

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#11 of 41 Old 02-13-2008, 09:58 AM
 
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My mil does this, too. Every (and I mean EVERY) single holiday she gives each grandchild a bag full of JUNK that she bought on clearance the year before. She spends probably $30 on this junk, so you can imagine how much she gets buying clearance!

The little toys, stuffed animals, and other such things go either in the trash (they generally break within hours of receiving them) or in the donation box within a couple of days. Even the coloring books go. My children would much rather draw their own pics. We usually keep the pencils and holiday socks, though!

My mil gets very angry that we don't keep her gifts, but doesn't get the hint. Dh and I have told her that it is a waste of money and resources, but she doesn't care. I have asked her to spend the $30 on museum tickets, books, art supplies, etc., but she will not listen. I can't stop her from being wasteful... I have just given up!

Jennifer :, blessed wife to 4/00 and joyful mother of 6/03, 2/06 and 3/10.
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#12 of 41 Old 02-13-2008, 11:49 AM
 
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i think you are on the right track with your idea of sending her an email. however, i would consider writing an actual letter (even better if both you and dh can write to her about this). don't just tell her her visit is the gift. be very explicit that, while you appreciate her affection for your son, it's not appropriate for her to continuing piling on the gifts. explain (again!) why it sends the wrong message to him. explain your feelings about the waste of resources. if you think you can do it without hurting her feelings, you can even tell her that what she buys is unwanted, useless junk. tell her that all the crap she buys just ends up getting tossed or donated, because it's a burden to your household to keep it. ask her to stop buying, but keep visiting.
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#13 of 41 Old 02-13-2008, 11:54 AM
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My MIL is a shopaholic, too...and so is DH's sister. Plus my mom is a pack rat who digs out nasty mildewy crap from my infancy to give to my baby, and she travels often buying piles of useless souvenirs along the way. I am grateful for the gifts, but my baby does not need 6 different winter coats, and my 1st grader does not need 12 striped button-down shirts for church...returns are a PITA, often impossible. NOTHING can stop the impulses of these women! The best I can do is redirect their behavior by telling them specifically what my kids want/need. "Johnny wants to dress up as a police officer for Halloween, but I don't have time to make his costume." "Baby Joey has such big feet for his age, maybe you could find some soft-soled shoes in sizes 6 & 7?" My mom and MIL love being given a shopping mission like this. When my mom wants to unload crap on me, I try asking for something specific -- "Johnny loves those vintage view-master reels from the national parks, do you have more of those?" But the unusable, unsalvagable crap goes straight into the trash as soon as she leaves our house!

For the mountain of clearance items that are unreturnable and still have tags, I go to my local children's resale shop about twice a year and get store credit for the stuff. I've use the store credit to buy a sling, birthday gifts and special occasion outfits (we go to a lot of weddings in our extended family).

I also use the MDC swapping forum to post packages of leftover gifts. The reverse swap format is perfect for this. If you have a local mother's group, you could swap locally and save on postage.

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#14 of 41 Old 02-13-2008, 12:23 PM
 
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Leave the stuff at her house. My MIL has a whole room full of stuff for us to take home "when we have room in the car" We do live far away though, and I'm sure that makes a difference. Maybe bring over a little basket or something and say it would be perfect to keep all of the little gifts she gives in at her house for your child to play with while he's there.
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#15 of 41 Old 02-13-2008, 01:13 PM
 
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Maybe you could suggest she buy a piggy bank, then she could bring a couple of coins each time she visited.
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#16 of 41 Old 02-13-2008, 03:13 PM
 
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Just keep doing what you're doing. Either she will quit eventually or she won't. If you keep giving away what she gives you, she may finally realize that she's wasting her money and stop. If not, well then, you can't control other people, so... I know exactly how this is, as our families do the same thing. It's annoying as hell.

The piggy bank idea is an excellent one.
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#17 of 41 Old 02-13-2008, 03:49 PM
 
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My MIL is also a shopaholic and by that I mean that her buying habits are so excessive that it is more like a mental illness than an attempt to make the kids happy. My pop-psych analysis of her behavior is that she's afraid the kids won't love her unless she bribes them with stuff. If I ask her NOT to buy something (i.e. Disney logo products, skanky baby clothes, electronic toys that make irritating noises..) she deliberately goes out and buys exactly those things. I think her hope is, the kids will love her best because she gets them things that their mean mama denies them.

I shovel the stuff out the door as fast as she buys it. If I hadn't there wouldn't be room in the bedroom for the kids to sleep-- literally the whole room would be piiled floor to ceiling with stuff.

I tried and tried to direct her buying to something we could actually use, and it never worked.

Finally I decided that I would just grit my teeth and get rid of the stuff as fast as she buys it. I give it to my church with distributes it to refugees. I wonder what those Somalian refugees think of the skanky baby cothes?

--AmyB
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#18 of 41 Old 02-13-2008, 03:54 PM
 
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Sounds like MIL. She was giving us about a garbage bag full of stuff a week and it eventually got to the breaking point. I was intimidated by her so I didn't dare say anything, but I would always bring up how we were getting rid of so much stuff, going through clothes, toys, ect... Things started slowing down. I recently wrote a blog entry where I revealed all :http://mcveinot.blogspot.com/2008/02/800-pounds.html

I just realized the compact part didn't show up in the entry so I just fixed it. I knew she would read it and I think that finally hit her. She still gets the kids a little treat here and there, but it has slowed down a lot. She brought some sweaters for DH and made sure to mention she knew we have just gotten rid of a lot and he doesn't have to keep them if he doesn't want to. She is even on board for reducing holiday gifts.

My mom is the same way but there is no reasoning with her, lol! Fortunately (or not) her life circumstances have changed so she can't buy them as much any more. I am grateful for that blessing.

Other than this, I just say bless other people with her gifts. That is what I have been doing
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#19 of 41 Old 02-13-2008, 03:55 PM
 
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My MIL is also a shopaholic and by that I mean that her buying habits are so excessive that it is more like a mental illness than an attempt to make the kids happy. My pop-psych analysis of her behavior is that she's afraid the kids won't love her unless she bribes them with stuff. If I ask her NOT to buy something (i.e. Disney logo products, skanky baby clothes, electronic toys that make irritating noises..) she deliberately goes out and buys exactly those things. I think her hope is, the kids will love her best because she gets them things that their mean mama denies them.

I shovel the stuff out the door as fast as she buys it. If I hadn't there wouldn't be room in the bedroom for the kids to sleep-- literally the whole room would be piiled floor to ceiling with stuff.

I tried and tried to direct her buying to something we could actually use, and it never worked.

Finally I decided that I would just grit my teeth and get rid of the stuff as fast as she buys it. I give it to my church with distributes it to refugees. I wonder what those Somalian refugees think of the skanky baby cothes?

--AmyB
ok, THIS is my mom
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#20 of 41 Old 02-13-2008, 05:18 PM
 
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Donate donate donate. if she asks ask for books and art supplies. even if your kid can't use them shelters and schools would probably love to have them.

Some things she could maybe get that just have to replaced every now and then . . . underware (if they are hideous at leat you will only have to see them briefly), toothbrushes, hair accessries (this is more for girls ), expensive treats like cerry or pomigranate juice. . .I really like the piggy bank idea.

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#21 of 41 Old 02-13-2008, 05:21 PM
 
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If I ask her NOT to buy something (i.e. Disney logo products, skanky baby clothes, electronic toys that make irritating noises..) she deliberately goes out and buys exactly those things.
Tell her you don't want any handmade wooden toys or clothing made from natural fibers.

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#22 of 41 Old 02-13-2008, 06:14 PM
 
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Leave the stuff at her house. My MIL has a whole room full of stuff for us to take home "when we have room in the car" We do live far away though, and I'm sure that makes a difference. Maybe bring over a little basket or something and say it would be perfect to keep all of the little gifts she gives in at her house for your child to play with while he's there.

This method helps us -- and my MIL only lives 8 miles away! We've told her from the beginning: If it's not something we "approve" of or want at our house, it stays at hers. She has more toys at her house than we do here, I think

But, it's only part of the problem. She still buys and buys and gives and gives and it is TOO MUCH. For her, EVERY holiday is a gift-giving occasion. We need to remind her quite often to stop.

We even suggested that every time she wants to buy something, she should look at the price tag and put that amount of money into an account for DD. She said, "Yeah" and still buys junk :
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#23 of 41 Old 02-13-2008, 11:45 PM
 
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My mother does this. We just ignore it. I throw a fair amount of it or donate what I can. If there was any way to direct my mother I would. At least it sounds like you have the ability to direct a little since your MIL actually asks. Thats a good thing. I am sorry I do not have better advice.
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#24 of 41 Old 02-14-2008, 12:00 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Another load of great advice here!

Thank you LaughingHyena, for the piggy bank suggestion. He actually already has a piggy bank, but DH asked her to bring along any loose change she had so she could watch him put it in his piggy bank, and she was quite delighted at that idea. Maybe that will steer her from feeling like she should buy some token piece of what DH calls "future garbage."

The other suggestion of art supplies did spark an idea for one thing he doesn't have - fingerpaints - so we asked for those too. I hope that's enough to keep her on track.

She definitely would never buy underwear or toothbrushes because they are "too boring" and far too practical, even though I would much prefer she did. She would also never buy any type of food, even if it is a rare treat. I am still trying to figure out exactly what her parameters and reasonings are for what she will and will not buy. I probably will never crack the code.

And thank you bwylde for posting the link to your blog, which subsequently led to the "stuff" video with Annie Leonard. It was very good - any exactly what I'm talking about with hating the process of using natural resources and sacrificing people all along the way to bring some cheap toy into my home, just so it can end up broken and in a landfill within weeks. It drives me crazy! That video explained the process very well.

I hope the crisis is averted for this one minor holiday - and I hope to avoid disaster in the future by applying some of these ideas. Big thanks to all!

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#25 of 41 Old 02-14-2008, 12:17 AM
 
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Are you sure we don't have the same MIL?

I have had to do the "leave it at your house" thing. Even if my dd wants to bring it home and I don't want to argue with her, I will sneak it back over there. Eventually she realizes how much stuff she has and ends up getting rid of her own stuff. It doesn't stop her from bringing things over- and yes, we've had the "we don't want our dc to assume that she's going to get something every time..." talk, but to no avail. My kids are #19 and #20 in the grandchildren list and all the grandchildren get the same treatment- seh just sees mine more.

I also do the specific asking thing- she likes that although we still get the junk too. Her heart is in the right place but I agree with teh pp about her feeling like the kids will love her more if she brings them stuff. In my MIL's case, she also grew up in the poor hills of MO so having things is kind of a sign of how far she's come- even if it is junk!

How about a stamp collection? or a coin collection? It wouldn't have to take up much space and would be specific. :d Might be worth something someday!
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#26 of 41 Old 02-14-2008, 03:52 AM
 
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Here is another suggestion: My DS always loved stories on tapes (books on tapes) .... He has loved them since he was only 2 years old and now has a great collection. They don't take up too much room and its far better than watching tv.
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#27 of 41 Old 02-14-2008, 05:21 AM
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Oh man, do I hear you. I totally understand. I mean, I really, really get it, and you have my deepest compassion. LOL

I have this problem with my kids' grandmother (my ex's mom).

She is a terrible shopaholic. I mean, BIG TIME.

She is forever buying clothes and trinkets and just STUFF for my kids. Gadgets and candles and STUFF for our household.

She is empty inside and the only way she knows how to show love is through things.


I have tried talking to her, asking her please not to buy so much stuff. Being appreciative for all of her help (I haven't had to buy clothes for my kids in years), but asking that she not overdo it on the amount. I've tried "Tough Love" and insisting that she not buy one more thing for the kids without my permission. When that took a nose-dive, I changed it up, requesting that anything she purchased for the kids be kept at her house...clothes, trinkets, junk, etc.

Because she associates things and giving them (because she had NOTHING when she was a child--no things, no love, no loving family), it hurts her feelings when I suggest to her that she stop buying. It is as if we're telling her to stop loving us.

I accept that this is who she is. I understand that there is nothing I can do to change her. I have learned that the only person I can change is myself, and that I am simply wasting my time trying to change her behavior--which has taken her a lifetime to turn into personality and habit.

So, instead, I simply accept who she is. I accept what she sends home with a smile. I use what we need. I store what we might need in the near future (clothes that are maybe a bit too big, seasonal shoes that were on sale). The rest, I pass on...I give it to friends and other family who need or could use it. If there is no one in my immediate circle that can use it, I donate it o charity...local womens/childrens shelter, homeless shelters, etc.

Like I said, I can totally empathize with your situation and your frustration, truly and hoenstly, I totally get it...and I wish there was some way you could change your MIL, but I know, know, know from personal experience that that's not going to happen, and so do what you can actually control and figure out the best management system in your house for moving the stuff through...
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#28 of 41 Old 02-16-2008, 12:44 AM
 
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I think some people just really love to shop! And buying for the grandkids is an easy way to shop without feeling guilty. And there is a lot of inexpensive (and/or crappy) and cute things in the stores for kids. And they are on Sale!

Also, some people do show their love by giving things. It is one of their "love languages" (according to a book I read awhile back - "The 5 Love Languages" or something like that). If you aren't that into gifts, you probably have a different "love language" (a different way of showing someone you love them or wanting people to show you they love you). You may prefer spending quality time with someone or having long talks.

If it is a "love to shop" situation, you may not be able to do too much - especially if they aren't swayed by what your preferences are. Maybe there is something you would like that would still seem like "spoiling" them. Like something you couldn't afford to get them all at once, but she could get piece by piece (like wooden animals or wooden playfood).

If it is a "love language" thing, then she will always want to give something, but it could be a book or a special pencil or some blueberries or stickers or a special note. The piggy bank money idea is very cute!

I've seen this issue come up a lot and I don't remember anyone ever finding a solution!
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#29 of 41 Old 02-16-2008, 12:47 AM
 
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I didn't read all the other replies. I have also given up for the most part. I let my kids play with it for a few days then put it in a Freecycle box and give it to someone that wants it
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#30 of 41 Old 02-16-2008, 12:55 AM
 
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Tell her you don't want any handmade wooden toys or clothing made from natural fibers.
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