Unwanted Gifts, Requesting Specific Gifts
Berkeley Parents Network >
Holidays and Special Events >
Unwanted Gifts, Requesting Specific Gifts
Last year as a Christmas present my father offered to take me, spouse and 2
kids on a weekend break (Monterey, Tahoe sort of thing). He made a
suggestion in Feb, but we were booked with other arrangements for two
months. I mentioned it in July. He had forgotten. Here it is almost December...
Do I remind him again?
Background: My father is very solvent (he goes on cruises frequently) and has
treated other family to trips (Hawaii, Disneyland, Tahoe). I never ask my father
for anything, and yet he frequently forgets my birthday (not even a phone call)
and also forgets to give gifts to my children. But also in the mix: his second
wife who I have been unsuccessful in establishing a relationship. I don't
particularly care to spend vacation with her, but I do want my children to
spend time with their grandfather.
Also worth noting: There is a trust and I know that the assets my parents
accrued together (my mother died some time ago) will be fairly distributed
between me and my siblings. But is it selfish/greedy of me to feel I'm not
getting a little extra ''treat'' now since everyone else is? Especially since I
not had steady employment for several years and we've had to forego a
vacation for 2 years? What would you do?
No, it is not polite to ask about a forgotten gift, no
matter the capacity of the giver to give it. Just let it go
and forget about it.
Given everything you said:
If you want the vacation, accept in a timely manner. In that
first conversation at least know and book the future dates
no matter how far in advance. Rather than dragging the
subject out for half a year by procrastinating. He probably
senses it's more about the wife or your hurt feelings and
doesn't want to deal with those undercurrents. Do not lump
those issues in with the gift he is offering. Take it on its
own terms, with wife and all & whatever else. In good humor!
You say you haven't had steady employment in 2 years, and
you're complaining about having to forego vacations because
of that, yet in the same breath you're too booked to confirm
in Feb? OK, OK, there's some explanation, your spouse was
working, whatever. How about, ''Hey dad, we're available
first week of July.''? I detect a little bit of a victim
Therapy wouldn't hurt because it seems the feelings are
bleeding into a simple gift offer. Deal with his
forgetfulness of you and your hurt feelings separately, at
another time. After the va-k. Privately with him.
You blew this one and may not have even wanted it,
subconsciously, so let it go! Do not nurture ideas of
yourself as the forgotten daughter, he did not forget you
with this gift offer or in his will.
Accept the next one graciously or decline it within a week
of the offer.
- you're a big girl now
since this is your dad, he probably has forgotten. You
said this trip came up in February and you guys were too
busy? so yes, you should bring it up, lightly and nicely,
maybe jokingly, lightweight.
I suspect a lot, if not all, people in your situation
would feel at least a pang of resentment. However, I
personally would never bring it up. In my opinion, this
was a nice gesture on your dad's part, but you are
certainly not entitled to his largess, even if other
family members have benefited from it in the past. One of
my favorite quotes of all time: ''You should never ask
anyone for anything. Never - and especially from those who
are more powerful than yourself.'' Although, I must add,
it then goes on like this: ''They will make the offer and
they will give of their own accord''.
I need the collective's advice on whether I am being petty or
justified. I gave my in-laws a digital photo frame for Christmas.
This photo frame connects to their wireless internet and I can
control the slideshows that appear from a website. Its a very
nifty way to share photos that the recipient can enjoy in a frame
(and not just in their email in-box).
My mom-in-law, whom I love, asked if we could add some photos of
my brother-in-law's kids to the frame. I added a few, but wasn't
happy. I really felt pretty possessive of the frame and wanted it
to be only for photos of my daughter. My brother-in-law takes
zillions of photos of his kids and is good about sending grandma
framed prints which she has all over her house. I didn't think I
would ever get it together to make framed prints of my daughter
to give to grandma, so the digital photo frame was my way of
I totally understand my mom-in-law's request, but isn't it kind
of akin to her asking my brother-in-law to put some prints of my
daughter into picture frames he has given her? We'd all agree
that would be a very wrong thing to do. How does this etiquette
and custom work with digital picture frames? Should I explain my
feelings to my mom-in-law? Or should I just can it? After all, I
can control the pictures that appear on the frame.
This really hit a nerve with me...
If your mother-in-law wants you to add pictures of her other
grandkids, it sounds like she likes looking at the pictures &
from her point of view would enjoy seeing all her grandkids.
You are taking it as a criticism when you should take it as a
Don't turn the picture frame into a gift with strings..''I'll
update the pictures but only the ones that I want to send
you.''...If I was your mother-in-law I would be insulted that
you want to totally control what I am viewing...it kind of
sounds like she is on to the competition between the two
families & feels a little manipulated...
Anyway, this was a great idea for a gift!! Make your mother-in-
law happy & throw in some other pictures if it's not too
difficult. Don't say anything to her, save it for when some
really important issue comes up!!! I am writing this from the
point of view of a grandkid who had to deal with the fall out
from my mom & my aunt competing over my grandmothers
The gift etiquette is once you give the gift, the recipient can
do whatever he/she wishes with it. It's no longer yours. So you
shouldn't be ''controlling'' it at all. Your MIL should be able to
display any pictures she wants with the frame. She should be the
one controlling it.
Stop being petty. Go frame some pictures of your own daughter for your
Gift etiquette says that if you give someone a gift, they have
the right to decide how they use it. I think it's wonderful that
your gift is appreciated so much that your in-laws want to put
all of their photos on it, not just photos from you.
If it will make you feel better, the next time you put your
brother-in-law's photos on the frame, you can also add more of
your own. You could also print your digital photos at
Walgreens.com, so you really have no excuse for not giving your
in-laws framed photos like your brother-in-law, if you really
To answer your last question, I would not explain your feelings
on this to your MIL. You will make her think that you have a
Befuddled, let it go. I just purchased and loaded up a photo
frame for my own mother-in-law for Christmas, and put in as many
photos as I could of her other grandkids, my husband's sister and
brother, my father-in-law, even her dogs. I want her to enjoy
lots of photos on it. I'd feel selfish and childish only putting
on photos of my own kid. In fact, I dug hard for other photos to
If you gave her a DVD player, would you insist she could only
play DVDs you approved? Would you say she could only watch home
movies of your kids on it?
I don't really get what the problem is here, but really, don't
compete with your other in-laws. There's nothing good to be gained.
Befuddled as well
Well, one huge red flag that you may get a lot of response about is
your own use of the word ''competing'' when referring to your
gift. That you -on some level - see the giving of gifts as a form of
competition between you and your in-laws is concerning in of
itself. After all, the sharing of gifts between family ceases to be
fun or an expression of generosity and love when it turns into a
competition. In that circumstance, we are giving from a place of fear,
instead of love: fear that we will not be seen as ''good enough'' to
be loved, ourselves.
But you wanted to know if you were being ''petty.'' That's a pretty
judgmental way to see yourself, but that's a whole other issue.
Here's a way to look at what is being asked of you from another
You wouldn't ask your brother-in-law to frame pictures of your
daughter because that would be a request of him to spend effort and
money putting something together, and you have a sense that that
wouldn't be an appropriate thing to ask, that's the kind of thing some
one offers, not the kind of thing we request of people. When it comes
to digital photos, however, I think that Grandma has a sense that
there is not as much effort involved when you download a picture into
a frame, as opposed to actually framing a paper photo, and it
certainly doesn't cost any money (whether it is actually any less
effort is debatable, but that's the perception, I'm guessing).
When you think of it in those terms, there *is* a difference between
thee two things (framing a paper photo and downloading a digital
one). As for wanting the frame to have only pictures of your daughter,
I'm guessing that this harkens back to the ''competition'' thing: do
you, perhaps, unconsciously believe that you must compete for people's
love? I put to you that Grandma loves all her grandkids equally, and
just wants to be able to see pictures of all of them in her new frame,
because she thinks it's cool. What matters here is what makes *her*
happy, because that's the whole point of gift-giving - pleasing the
givee, not the giver.
You'll get a bonus for adding in pictures of your niece-in-law: you
will have done something generous and loving for your mother-in-law,
and doesn't that feel a whole lot better (to YOU) than the
Giving Generously Feels Better
I think once you gave her the frame as a gift, it became hers to
do whatever she pleases with (even if you do control the
photostream), and it doesn't seem unreasonable to want pictures
of all her grandkids on it. For comparison's sake, if she got
tired of your BIL's prints she could put photos of her dog in
those frames if she wanted to, because they're her frames now.
Take it as a compliment that she likes your gift and is using
it. Then take a deep breath and realize it's not a competition
(easier said than done, but will be a big boost to your sanity,
trust me). Grandmas almost always have enough love for all
their grandkids, whether there are 2 or 20 of them.
Life's Too Short to Sweat It
This sounds like a battle you don't want to fight. Sounds to me
like your in-laws love the gift and want to show off their
grandchildren. Sounds like the gift was a hit. All good news!
Why be possessive about it? I think it sounds kind of weird for
you to have had the intention that only pictures of your
daughter should be included. I also don't think it would
be ''very wrong'' for your in-laws to put a picture of your
daughter in a frame your brother-in-law gave them.
Why be so competitive? Be glad that they value your gift, and
pictures of all of their grandchildren. I make my mom a photo
calendar as a stocking-stuffer every christmas (well, the two
so far that my daughter's been around) and I always make sure
to include photos of all my siblings' kids. (Granted, many of
the photos of the cousins on my digital camera also have my
daughter in them, or were taken when we were all together...)
My mom loves it.
Don't be a scrooge! It will only make you look petty (and, not
to be mean, but honestly, aren't you being just a little bit
petty?) Put lots of pictures of everyone in the frame for them.
Make sure to include pictures of them--the grandparents--with
the kids. That's always a hit.
You asked - you're being petty. Photos of your kids is not a
competition point, nor should it be. Have your daughter call her
grandma several times a week and establish her relationship that way.
Was your intent to give your MIL a gift she would enjoy? Or to
rent advertising space for your kids in her home? I think
the ''I control the pictures from afar'' thing is a little
creepy, though I get how it can be a help for the tech-phobic.
I can't see that you have any choice but to do as she wishes,
and I don't really think you have a reason to feel bad about
it, either. She appreciates and uses the gift you gave her.
Those backlit, changing electronic photo frames really grab the
eye, much more than old fashioned framed photos -- so she wants
to see all of her grandkids together in this wonderful new
medium. Don't explain anything to your MIL -- your feelings are
petty, and will sound that way. Just keep some balance in the
number of photos of each family, and mention space constraints
if you need a reason.
Befuddled--I can absolutely empathize with your feelings--and I
would ask you to consider: 1. the frame is now your in-laws.
You gave it to them; it is theirs, not yours (whether or not
you control the content); 2. your mom-in-law has not asked you
to put in gazillion photos of your sister's children, but just
a few (her request for photos may very well continue to be for
just a few, on occasion). Don't assume her request will grow to
reflect the number of pics taken by your brother-in-law; 3. the
digital frame is a very cool aparatus--unique, fun, intriguing--
something that guests etc. will pay extra attention to. It's
not unreasonable that your mom-in-law wants all her
grandchildren represented in the frame; 4. you divide the
grandchildren into ''mine'' and ''theirs'' (ie., your
sister's/brother-in-law's) and want your kids only in your
frame. Your mother-in-law probably doesn't divide her
grandchildren up like that; they are all hers and she logically
wants them all represented in her frame; 5. it's pretty cool
that your mom-in-law loves her gift so much as to want to
expand its content to all her progeny; it's a reflection of how
great and successful a gift it is!
I would recommend letting it go, including all the
grandchildren as requested by your in-laws,and taking pleasure
in the success of your gift. Good luck!
Wow. You answered your own question - reread the line about this
being your way of 'competing'. Of course it is petty. Why do
you need to put your kids up to ''compete'' with your brother's
kids? Do not share your feelings - they are your issues. Your
mother-in-law thinks its a great gift and would love to enjoy all
her grandkids on this cool gift you chose for her. Don't be a
weird baby about this.
As an aside, my dad's brother has kids the same age as me and my
sister. My uncle always tried to create a competition between
his kids and us. Luckily for us, my parents always thought this
was silly and didn't give into it. 30 years later, and a mom
myself, I am grateful they had that insight. Don't you hope your
kids can say the same about you in 30 years? Or do you want them
to see you as someone who was petty and silly, creating
controversy and drama in the family unnecessarily?
Although I can see how you would initially be hurt by your mom
wanting to include her ''other'' grandchildren in the digital photo
frame, I think you need to let this one go. Try seeing it from
your mom's perspective, they are all her darlings. I also
disagree about the photo frame analogy. She should be able to put
whatever she wants in those too.
Life's too short
In my opinion I think you don't need to be so possessive of the
picture frame. The gift to your MIL was a great idea, but it's a
gift for her, not something for you to control. Would you still
have given her the gift if you couldn't control what she put on
What is the harm of adding photos of her other grandkids and
even her friends and vacations. She will enjoy seeing the
pictures and you will still get to provide updates via the web.
I say share the joy and make your gift one that meets her needs
and makes her happy!
My vote is to share
Can it. This one is not worth taking on. We gave those frames
to all the grandparents and have strongly encouraged our other
siblings to post the pictures for themselves. Empower your
brother in law to use the frame. Over time the thing becomes a
burden and they are most fun when the pics change. If he
starts filling it up too much - they usually show 20 or so at a
time - just go in and dump them and then resend the cute ones
of your kid. We used to all do it and now its really slowed
down. I'm grateful that the burden for reloading is shared.
My mother even cancelled her's because we didn't fill it up
enough (only two of us to fill it up on that side vs. 4 on the
This one is not worth taking on. It will be more stink than
its worth. Just gloat in the fact that your mom-in-law is
enjoying the gift you gave her so much.
Excuse me, but, why would you want to ''control'' the pictures that go
in the frame? The gift is theirs and in their house for them to do
with as they like. AND- It's not like sending a paper photo in a
frame. (btw, they can pull any paper photo in a frame and replace it
with another one anyway). It's like giving them 1000 photos! Why
would they want 1000 photos of your daughter? It sounds like there's
alot more going on here than just the frame. I gave both sets of my
parents the same gift for Christmas. I made sure that not just my kids
are in the pics, but each and every one of their - kids, grandkids,
neices, nephews, family friends, etc.... Think about it. You are
telling them ''here's a gift, it's a cool new piece of technology. You
can plug it in and it shows 500-1000 pictures. Now, you can't add your
own, not of your other family or friends. I'm just going to add
pictures of your grandaughter as I see fit.'' That's silly. I'm sure
they love their grandaughter to pieces, but I'm also sure they have
other people they love just as much.
Why not add some photos from other family members if it makes
the grandparents happy, which is the goal.
I think that, once you give a gift, it is the recipient's right
to do with it what they want. You cannot attach strings to a
gift, otherwise it is not a gift. The wrinkle here is that
what the recipent wants to do involves you and it's not what
you want to do. Nevertheless, you should go along with your
MIL's request. It's not worth the pain you will cause your MIL
and BIL to object to her request. After all, you do have
control over the content.
It sounds like you have serious control issues! There is
nothing polite or socially acceptable about giving a gift and
then mandating precisely how it is used. It sounds like your
good intention of sharing photos has gone sideways and that
you're more attached to controlling the use of the gift than is
normal. Are you sure there aren't other more significant
issues wrapped up in this particular gift.
no gifts for me
I can see understand where you are coming from, especially since
this is a very recent gift. However, as someone who gave her
parents a digital frame a few years ago, I *assure* you that in
no time you will be so grateful to have pics of others to send to
that frame! At first we were good about always sending photos to
it soon after an event, but short order we were getting nagged by
my parents (''been a while since we had any new pictures, cough,
cough''), and I was so relieved when my sister or brothers would
forward me some pix of their kids to keep the thing fresh. And
do keep in mind that even though you bought the frame, perhaps
they are paying the monthly subscription on it? So they should
have some say?
In any case, try not to let it get to you, and rest assured that
you will be sick of it soon unless you are a real shutterbug!
IMO, I think it's not the same as asking your brother-in-law to
put printed pics of your kid in his frames. It's a slideshow,
not just one photo that hangs there. Since you can select and
add a variety of photos, I think it's just asking for drama and
conflict from your MIL and possibly your BIL if you refuse to
include some pics of his kids in your slideshows too. And since
you can update and change it out via internet, you can always
add a few new ones of your kid and throw them a bone.
Your mother-in-law, I'm sure, loves all of her grandkids and
probably thinks it's a super-cool gift that you gave her and
wants to show off all of her little gems to her friends and
visitors in her new digital frame. Throw them a bone!
Digital frames are a different medium than regular picture
frames. I do not find it unreasonable that your MIL would want
pictures of her other grandchild in the frame. In fact, I've
usually seen digital frames displaying pictures of different
members of the family. You gave her the gift, and it seems
presumptuous to me to try and control how she uses it. If you
really want pictures of your child all around her house, I would
frame pictures and give them to her. Yes, it's time consuming,
but you shouldn't expect her to follow your unwritten rules about
how to use the digital frame. For what it's worth, I understand
how it can feel sad and/or frustrating to see so many pics of her
other grandchild around the house. I would pay attention to those
feelings and explore what's going on there for you. If it really
irks you, and you feel your MIL would understand and respond
compassionately, you could gently bring the subject up to her. It
doesn't seem like she is trying to intentionally hurt you here,
so I would probably let it go.
not worth stressing about
You know what? I'm going to advise that you rethink talking to
your brother-in-law about taking pictures. If he takes really
good pictures, tell him so and ask that he take some of your kids
next time you're together. I bet he'd be flattered. It's easy to
buy a frame for a 4x6 photo, and you can just slip in the print
he gives you, then give that to your mother-in-law. And let her
slip a few photos of the cousins in the digital frame. It may
not feel so encroaching if you do so with reciprocity.
Happy to have photos of the whole gang
You are being silly. Your MIL did not need to ask you about doing
anything with the frame after you gave it to her. We just gave
digital frames to 3 grandparents and specifically told them that
our other relatives can bring over their cameras and put on more
pictures. The ones we gave hold ONE THOUSAND pictures. So I think
it's ok. It's not the same as taking paper pictures out of a
regular frame because your pictures are not being erased or
moved. It just means a few more cute scenes of cousins before it
clicks back to your cute pictures. Relax.
Actually, I don't agree that frames given by me as gifts should be used
pictures of my kids. When I give a frame, I assume the receiver, even
my parents or
in-laws, uses it for whatever s/he wants. The frame is theirs to use as
Please let it go.
I would honor your MIL's request. It would make her very happy.
And, isn't that the point of the gift -- to make her happy?
A few years ago, at my Grandmother-in-laws 90th birthday, my
husband's cousin gave my GMIL a calendar with a photo on each
month. I'd only met this cousin once -- four years prior, but
she kindly included two or three photos of our family in the
calendar. I know that my GMIL was thrilled to have pics of all
of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren on a calendar. I
will forever think kindly of this cousin. As I am sure that your
extended family will think of you.
Another way to look at this is that your MIL loves all of her
grandchildren, likes your
gift, and wants to use it for photos of all those she loves. Can you pat
yourself on the
back for coming up with such a great idea, make her happy, and get over
Life is Too Short
My two cents is that because the photo frame is akin to a slide
show with the potential for a variety of photos and is quite
different than a regular framed photo, I can see why the request
was made to add pictures of your daughter's cousins. Since the
digital photo frame is probably a very new thing to your
Mom-in-law, she may feel that the other kids (or their parents)
will feel excluded from the family image rotation in the digital
photo frame...or she may just be fascinated by the potential to
showcase a whole bunch of family photos. I would not make a big
deal about it, but it might be best to be honest about how you
feel and perhaps explain what your intentions were with the gift.
However, I would not take it too personally. I think it is very
likely your Mom-in-law loved the idea of highlighting a whole lot
of family photos (like an album) and may not have understood that
you intended the gift to show photos of your daughter.
My two cents
It's a gift; they can do with it what they want. I can see how
you might be annoyed, but you sort of set yourself up for this
one... I don't see a way out without looking petty and rude.
since you asked, yes, you are being petty. once you give a gift
to someone it is theirs to do want they want with it. gifts
should be given with the best interests of the recipient in mind
with no contingencies.
It might soothe your hurt feelings to consider how they might be
using the gift. Maybe they take it places with them, and love
showing off pictures of their grandkids, and want it to have all
their grandkids in it...if I were a grandparent and this were my
portable photo album, it would feel incomplete without pictures
of all my grandkids. Also, consider the basic etiquette rule that
a gift given belongs to the recipient to do with as he or she
pleases. Gift givers aren't supposed to know or inquire how their
gifts are later used and/or disposed of. You're making this a
gift with strings attached, which is unfair and, as you have
experienced, can cause pain to both giver and receiver. Can you
relinquish control the website to the grandparents, maybe with
you retaining guest privileges to upload new photos of your
daughter? Then it's a win-win: you give them wonderful photos,
and they can also add pictures of their choosing.
gifts are not for controlling
You will probably be happier if you suck it up and include your
kids' cousins in the digital frame as your MIL requested. Make
sure that your MIL knows you have asked your spouse's siblings
for digital photos to include -- then it's on them to email you
their photos. We make photo calendars and often ask my
husband's siblings to provide photos if we don't have any --
making it clear it's optional. Often we just don't get around
to asking. Yes, it's inconsiderate of her to ask you to do this
(she didn't think through the whole thing), and yes, it's petty
of you not to do as she asks. I've always regretted being petty
with my husband's family, even when they deserve it, and I
usually don't realize it's petty until it's too late. So count
your blessings that you hesitated to object.
Obviously she likes the digital photo frame and puts it in a
different catagory than the regular photos of her other
grandchildren. However, I will not make the same mistake and
buy a digital photo frame that requires any after-Christmas work
on my part!
Hope this helps
Yes, you're being unreasonable. You may have thought of it as
giving her pictures of your child, but she saw it as digital
frame for seeing pictures of anyone. You gave the gift, now
it's hers to decide how she wants to use it. Ideally, she would
have direct control over which pictures get displayed, but since
you set it up for you to have control over the content, you need
to follow her wishes. And the comparison with a framed printed
picture isn't a good one--in this case the whole point of a
digital frame is that the a variety of images can be displayed,
and it's reasonable those include more than just images of your
don't sweat the small stuff
I side with your mother-in-law. No, framed pictures and a digital
picture frame aren't the same. The former is static and the
latter is always changing... your mother-in-law sounds like a
loving grandma who just feels the need for some more parity from
her fancy new gizmo.
My sister-in-law makes one of those Snapfish calendars for her
parents every year. The pictures lean heavily towards her child,
but she always includes at least one picture of all the other
grandkids. To exclude anyone would just be weird.
slacker with the pictures
I would suggest not turning this into a big issue. You're not
going to come out looking good. You could agree to pop in a photo
of the other kids once in a while, but not all the time. You can
plead the issue of time. Say you barely have enough time to keep
your own photos on there, but you'll try to do it when you can.
Your brother in law could gift his folks with his own digital
frame. That could be a good gift suggestion for the future.
She should be able to show whatever she wants on the frame, its
hers now. You're controlling the stuff she sees mostly for her
ease of use, correct? If you're not up for giving her the
photos she wants, then you should teach her how to select
photos to display.
Befuddled yes you are being petty and controlling. I gave my
parents one of those wirelss picture frames and then set it up
so anyone (including extended family) can send a picture
directly to the frame using FrameChannel. I have no control and
they can decide what pictures they want on the frame. They love
it and think I am wonderful for bringing all the family photos
into their living room. I say let it go or I predict that next
year there will be two wireless picture frames at your mother in-
laws, a nice shiny 24 inch one with lots of pictures and videos
(with cool music)of your brother in-laws kids and yours
collecting a layer of dust. Make it a competition and that is
what it will become.
Life is way too short
As someone who has, at best, a tenuous relationship with her own
mother in law, I can see how you might feel a little odd about
your MIL's request. However, I think the problem is actually
yours and not really hers. I do not think it's like her
asking your Bro in Law to put a picture of your daughter in a
frame he gave (as you mentioned in your post) because those
pictures don't rotate. The new digital ones rotate, and I think
it's great that she can see all of her beloved grandkids in one
place... no one gets displaced permanently, the pictures all
just... well, rotate.
I think it would be helpful to try to stop competing and accept
what you are, and can do, for your M-I-L. You've picked a gift
for her that you thought she'd like and wow! were you right. She
liked it so much in fact that she wants ALL of her special family
members in it. Waaay better than her saying ''uh, thanks'' and
tossing it in the back of the closet (or trying to give it back
to you, which is what MY m-i-l tries to do with gifts I give her
digress!) I think your gift was a very creative, GREAT idea and
it's wonderful that the entire extended family can share it.
Sorry it's caused hard feelings, though... like I said I can
sympathize b/c my MIL relationship is weird. :/
A gift is a gift, and you do not decide how the other person choses to
use it. You have
to give it up.
Before our one-year-old was born, I thought we would have all
natural toys, no battery-powered stuff, etc. But I was pretty
overwhelmed by the reality of taking care of a baby, so I let
this slide and he did seem to enjoy the copious amount of plastic
junk that came our way (esp. at Christmas and his birthday). But
now that things have settled and he is interacting more fully
with the toys (ie not just gumming them!) I am looking around and
realizing that I don't really like all this plastic junk, I don't
like all the stuff that sings and lights up, I don't like the
stuff that is interesting only because it has a TV character on
it, (that my son doesn't recognize), and we definitely don't want
any more DVDs, all of which we have yet to open, as we don't let
our baby watch TV. So--what to tell the inlaws who (generously
and with much love)provided the above? They already think I am a
bit of a loon, as well as a snob, I think, and I am embarrassed
to ask for particular gifts. But, the fact is, I am going to give
away any more of the types of toys they have been sending, and I
don't want them to waste their money. I am thinking of providing
a list of cheap to moderately priced things I would like my son
to have (from crayons to CDs to books, etc.) Has anyone dealt
with this without insulting their family? I hate to imply that I
don't approve of their choices, but, frankly, I don't. How to be
tactful and kind about this?
No plastics or Baby Einstein, please
I went through this a bit too. First, from an etiquette standpoint, except for a
bridal registry and a baby registry, you should not ever dictate what ''gifts''
people should get you or your family. However, that said, when it comes to
parents (in our case, it is my mom that buys the plastic and character stuff) or
inlaws, you can probably figure out a way to make suggestions. However, that
doesn't mean they will pay attention to it. Around September, I create a list of
things that would be great for our kids. I send it to my mom, my husband's mom,
and aunts and uncles...any of the people who normaly buy gifts. I tell them they
were merely suggestions.
Do I still get all the plasticky stuff? Yes. Do I have to cull the herd, so to
Is it a waste, yes, but not worth creating bad feelings over. Babies, remember,
change a lot in the first few years so any interest in most toys will be
fleeting...even the expensive ones YOU want your kids to have.
That said, etiquettely, you should accept all gifts graciously (it's the thought,
not the gift that counts). Say thank you, send a thank you note (a lot of times,
the in laws seem to like the thank you note most of all). After that. it's all up
You'll find as your baby gets older, he/she will be making their own decisions
about what they like and don't like and it may not agree with YOUR ideas of what
Here's another antidote: Before I had kids of my own, I wanted to be this way
cool Aunt so I'd make a big deal about getting gifts for my niece and nephew that
were not the cheap plasticky stuff. I'd do research and choose carefully. I got
them some cool stuff, I think. things that would last. I would get polite thank
yous and when I went to their house, I never saw them playing with the stuff i
got them. Then, one year, I was lazy so I got my nephew a talking bowling set
that was totally loud and plasticky and I got my neice some Barbie doll thing.
They were the cheapest most base gifts I ever got them and they called
me...CALLED ME... just GUSHING over the toys and I got these lovely thank you
notes. I was kinda miffed. But, they have their own ideas. Showed me up!
Don't worry, you aren't condescending or a snob. You are a first time Mom, doing
her best to minimize the impact of marketing on her child. It is okay to exert
some control over what your child experiences -- and Christmas presents is one
way to do it.
First off, it sounds like your in-laws are very well meaning.
Could your husband approach them with a casual 'we are trying to keep Christmas
(birthday, Halloween, Veteran's Day) really low key this year...' then after
'reading' them, launch into maybe a contribution to the 529 would be in order (my
in-laws like to buy savings bonds) or purchase one of our preselected gifts? If
they aren't interested, then they aren't interested. You can't control what
someone chooses to give your child, but you can try to influence it.
My husband and I each had this conversation with our own parents after our older
daughter turned one. Now, my in-laws don't get the girls anything except for
savings bonds. My parents are gift buyers, but will run their ideas for the
'big' presents by me first. There is usually a little 'junk,' but I don't really
care. The girls are usually interested in 'raccoon' toys (bright shiny objects)
for about 15 minutes before they move on to Mr.
Potato head (it is plastic, but does a great job developing fine motor skills and
stretching the imagination.) I don't even worry about what my other relatives
send. I can get away with opening these things when they come in the mail six
weeks late (it's the thought that counts) If I don't like it, I re-gift it to
someone who appreciates different things or send off to a charity sale.
Hope this helps.
Here's what I do: I send an upbeat email to my inlaws saying ''Can't wait to see
you this Christmas! If you are looking for gift suggestions for little so-and-so,
here are a few things she would really enjoy:...'' Then I list some fun things
that I feel good about. (Of course this family has a tradition of circulating
''wishlists,'' which makes this easier.) After that it's up to them. If my child
receives gifts I don't feel comfortable with, they are acknowledged with polite
thanks then put in the closet to be re-gifted or donated to Toys for Tots, though
this may get more tricky later as my daughter gets older. It can be frustrating
but hey, as an adult I sometimes receive gift I don't particularly care for, and
I just grin and bear it
Accept the gift. Say thank you. Then sell it and put the money in an account
for the kids. Or even better, donate the gifts.
Choose your battles
Before birthdays/holidays say something short and positive such as, ''we'd really
love ...(board books or whatever it is).'' Do not give a list of do's and
don'ts, because that is offputting and snobby. My daughter recently received a
presents do's and don'ts list on a birthday party invitation and it was so snobby
that I thought I would fall over laughing, and couldn't believe the other parent,
while seemingly well meaning, was so far off on her own planet
-- at some point you will get over this
I have similar concerns, tend to buy more natural/Waldorf type toys for my child
and try to stay away from the plastic noisy toys. And my parents and in-laws
know that. Despite that, they still buy the plastic stuff for my child, and I am
totally okay with that. I do not think it is okay to request that people buy
certain types of toys for your kids. After all, these are GIFTS and I think it
is actually bad-mannered to request certain types of gifts in lieu of others. If
you don't like what you receive, keep them, return them or donate them but do not
express disatisfaction with the giver. Yes, we have a bunch of plastic toys
given to my child from my mom and no, I don't care for them, but it does give my
mom a lot of pleasure seeing my child play with them, which is what is most
important at the end of the day Diverse values are what keeps the world
I guess when I told my family no plastic toys, etc. they just assumed it was more
of my wierdness. My partner held similar views on clothing and toys for our
daughter and his family held the same sort of views of him that parents seem to
hold when one of the offspring steers away from the conventional path. So with
the inlaws it was not coming from me, but from him. Thank goodness. What an awful
bind to be put in though. Can't your partner talk to his/her parents, or is
he/she not supportive or like minded on this issue.
If the request does have to come from you just do it as respectfully and
non-confrontationally as possible.
No matter what requests you do make, though, you are likely to still get some of
the plastic junk, movies etc. At that point, don't press it. Return what you can
for trade or $. Give the rest to Goodwill or to friends who wholeheartedly
embraces Baby Einstein, etc. for thier kids.
We solve such sticky situations in our family by providing each other with wish
lists. It took my in-laws some time to get used to the idea, but now they like
it. I find an online store I like, sometimes Amazon (childrens books, some good
toys) or a store that sells toys I approve of (like Brio) and make a standing
list for the kids. You can tell the in-laws that you made the list for yourself,
to help you remember nice toys you've come across that you or your child really
likes, and if they'd like to take a look at it, they're welcome to. My in- laws
appreciate it now because they know from experience that their gift is guaranteed
to bring immediate joy to their grandchildren. They live out of town and do find
it hard to keep on the pulse of the kids' latest interests. I also keep the
lists long with lots of items so there is lots to choose from. Good luck anon
I know exactly what you mean! My inlaws also very thoughtfully and generously
give my son a lot of stuff I do not like or want in my house. My son is almost 4
now and although pre-baby my husband and I talked about what kinds of toys we
would like in the house, the message never got fully conveyed to his folks and so
now we are reeducating them. Actually, he is reeducating them, not me, which in
our case is the best route to take. Maybe your husband should be gently giving
his parents hints, or not-so-gently, if they need it really spelled out for them.
Setting the ground rules sooner rather than later will probably help you.
I also think it's your house, and as such you have a right to decide what's in
it. I used to feel bad about being sensitive to noisy toys but besides not really
liking them as much as more creative types of toys (that sounds more judgemental
than it should--my kid has lots of fun with loud plastic toys at his friends'
houses, and those kids are certainly nice, imaginative kids) having them around
makes me feel irritable and crazy and like a worse mom. It's just the way I am.
So, when last Christmas we got a toy that was so loud no one could carry on a
conversation, my husband told his parents that that toy needed to live with them
and be a special ''visiting grandparents'' toy. Now it's special, my son still
gets to play with it, I don't have to live with it, and it helped the
grandparents understand a little bit more about our ''house rules.'' Yes, they
most likely think it's crazy and probably snobby but oh well. And I have given
them lists of gift suggestions, which they have appreciated. I send out ideas for
everyone in the family, asking for ideas from them at the same time. It's just
easier than pretending to like the stuff they've given, or keeping my son from
opening things that I definitely want to return. It felt a little weird at first
but I think everyone really wants to give and receive things that will be
appreciated and used, so it's worked out fine.
Don't Tickle Me Elmo
You might try refering your family to www.backtobasicstoys.com if you like the
stuff yourself. I love this catalogue and have never regretted anything I got
from it. the few electronic toys they sell are at least educational simple toy
I think it is excellent to tell the grandparents (and whomever else is
interested) what you think would be good gifts for Junior! I have created a list
on my computer of gift ideas I have for everyone, including myself, so when
people ask I copy the pertinent portion of the list and email it to them.
The more you can emphasize what Junior's habits are (loves trains and balls,
doesn't watch tv and dvds, for example), what he's doing developmentally
(learning to walk so push toys are good), and things you DO like (wood toys)
rather than what you don't want, the better
I bought my sister-in-law a purse for Christmas at Nordstroms.
She is notoriously hard to shop for, which is part of the
reason I bought something from Nordstrom - they have a great
return policy; if she didn't like it, she could get something
else. Not surprisingly, she took the purse back. The only
problem is that Nordstorms credited MY credit card. I'm sure
they/she meant to credit one of her cards. Do I pretend I don't
know that she took it back? Should I send her something else?
I was thinking I might send her a gift certificate to
Nordstroms or the only other place I know she likes
(Starbucks), ''just because'' in the exact amount of the credit.
Is that too passive-aggressive?
not usually a fan of gift certificates
I can't believe Nordstrom would do such an embarrassing thing!
I would call that a bad return policy. You get much better
service at Target! If you return something there with the gift
receipt, they would automatically issue you a gift certificate
in the amount returned without letting the buyer know. That's
what Nordstorm's should have done. And yes, do buy gift
certificates. I don't like receiving gifts I didn't choose,
unless the person is completely tuned into my taste. Get gift
certificates from stores that sell books, music and movies.
Can't go wrong that way.
When you chose to buy the gift at Nordstroms so she could
return it, you effectively bought her a gift certificate. Tell
your sister-in-law you saw the credit come through and get her
a gift certificate to replace the original gift.
I hope you don't mind, but had to laugh when I read your post.
Every gift my mother has given me in my adult life has been
prefaced with ''and if you don't like it you can take it back.''
It's become a standard phrase now--in a joking tone--between my
sister and me at gift giving time.
It really can be hard to shop for some people. The key phrase in
your post is that you bought the purse at Nordstroms so she'd
have an easy time returning it. I'd suggest you try to laugh
about it with your sister-in-law. She must know she's hard to
shop for, and there's really nothing wrong with that (unless
she's insulting about other people's choices). Anyway, call her
up, have a good laugh, then send her a gift certificate. Maybe
you should make it an American Express gift card so that she can
shop anywhere she wants!
---in line at customer returns
I'm interested to know what do you give people that do not
appreciate your gifts? They either re-gift, or put them away
and never use them. I always try to make the effort to think
what is it that they will probably like, but it seems to me
that they don't care. For that matter, I'm curious to read your
ideas for gifts for a 60-ish year old woman who is into organic
and earthy things.
My sister-in-law tends to exchange gifts (choose something
different). It bothered me initially, but I decided it would be
more sensible to accommodate her tendencies than to be
frustrated by them. So now we usually give something
easily exchangeable (Old Navy clothing is a big hit, because
the family likes that store and exchanges are easy), or
something consumable (e.g. gift basket of fruit and other
goodies from Harry and David). We've started giving her
kids gift certificates at a rather young age (for birthdays),
partly because they live far away and we don't know what
they already have, and partly because we know the ''burden''
of choosing will not necessarily rest on them. All of these
measures seem to have been received well.
Does this happen to you all the time or just with one person in
particular? Gift giving, at its best, should be most fun and
exciting for the giver. Like when you've chosen just that right
thing and can't wait to see the look on the face of the
recipient. Sounds like you're not having that kind of fun with
this person, maybe you've even reached the point where you're
feeling obligated to give gifts. You sound like a generous soul,
nevertheless, and have decided to make sure you've given the
right thing. While you don't HAVE to give anyone anything, give
something that allows the recipient to choose for his/herself
what they want. Gift certificates from a favorite store or movie
theatre are great. Take or take them out to lunch or dinner -
they can't re-gift that. Giving money, on the other hand, is not
only no fun it's also thoughtless. You don't sound thoughtless to
me, but if you are angry at this person why not just give a nice
card and wish them well.
May I suggest some gift options. Make a donation in the person's
name to either: a charity (ie, guide dogs for the blind, Cystic
Fibrosis...); research (Cancer, MS...); or perhaps a Lobbying or
activist group (Green Peace, Save the Children, World Wildlife
Fund...). How about a gift certificate (Discovery Channel, REI,
etc), or maybe even a personal ''gift certificate'' for some of
your (or your family's) time. Something like ''good for 1 FREE...
car wash, dinner and a movie, or 2 hour house cleaning service.
Even one afternoon together. Maybe your picky gift recipient
doesn't want the material THING, but rather something more
precious - your attention.
I have a number of friends that age or older who are more into
simplifying their lives that accumulating more posessions. I've
found that food gifts are great. I make up baskets of homemade
items like quick breads, cakes, candies, fruits, etc. I also
make up store-bought baskets with chutneys, jams, chocolates,
lemon curd, scone mix, nuts, tea, coffee, etc. Most people love
Another great option is gardening items like: seeds, pruners,
trowels, pretty pots, plants, etc. My older friends particulary
like the long handled gardening tools which make gardening more
pleasant for them.
If all this fails, there are always gift certificates at places
they like to shop. Even movie theaters sell gift certificates
and these are often very appreciated.
The other option is
if you feel you must bring a gift then maybe a food item
would be good. you could just make a pretty salad of
organic vegetables and flowers with a simple dressing on
the side. I find food to be a very thoughful gift and if
she still feels the need to give it away maybe you can
eat it during the visit. in that case you could throw in
an organic baguette and some cheese, yummy!
I have a 5 1/2 month old daughter and a mother-in-law that lives on
the East coast. Despite the fact that she knows and has acknowledged
numerous times that we have tons of clothes for our daughter (most of
it was inherited from a cousin) she continues (even though she says
she is not going to get anything anymore as she has seen the extensive
wardrobe) to send clothes. It's not that I like or dislike the
clothes, but she send things that we can never wear, i.e. sends
summer things that would only fit her in the winter or inappropriate
for our weather in general, or sends clothes that are clearly the
wrong size (she just sent a bunch of stuff sized 3-6 months even
though my daughter is 5 1/2 months old) or sends Christmas clothes
even though we have told her we are raising our daughter Jewish (I'm
not even going to address this one).
I have tried to be very gracious and thankful, and in the very nicest
way possible try to explain the issue with the size and ask her if it
is OK to send them back so she can get another size (what I'd really
like to say is take this crap back and send a check for her college
fund - but I don't). I should add she also shops exclusively at a
department store we do not have here, and spends a lot of money, and
it is money she really doesn't have. I have also tried telling her
that we would rather her take the money and put it towards a plane
ticket so she could actually spend time with her granddaughter. My
mother and sister-in-law think I am being offensive and I should just
say thank you, squeeze her into the ridiculous stuff, take a picture
and send it to her, and then get rid of the stuff. This seems so
wasteful and phony to me I can't bring myself to do it. My husband is
mostly annoyed that she really can't afford it and we don't need
it. He has spoken to her as well, but not as directly as myself (he
comes from a family where they never return stuff - they just chalk it
up to another gift they'll never wear). I am so frustrated I can
barely contain myself. I would love some suggestions as to what others
have done in similar situation or advise.
What should you say to your mother-in-law when she gives your
daughter a gift? "Thank you."
Why do you think your mother in-law continues to send that stuff? She
loves the shopping experience! She translates her money into love for
her grandchild and gives herself a wonderful reason to spend a nice
chunk of time to go shopping. You'd punish her if you asked her to
simply send the money. First of all, you deprive her of the
meaningful experience and second, you're showing her that she can't
even shop right. (Can you tell that I like to shop?). I suggest you
redirect her shopping efforts to products she can't go wrong with,
despite being a poor listener. Tell her how much you guys could use
beautiful children's books for years to come, and you don't have the
time to research them all. Shoppers love to be asked for help! She
could have so much fun browsing in bookstores, reading and selecting.
If she gets the age group mixed up, just store them until your kid is
ready for the text and subject. That's what I do. (Of course, you
could extend the offer to toys, but that is much more complicated than
books and more expensive too). If she is really hooked on clothes,
let her buy them for the future only and be specific, such as "one
year ahead in size and only T-Shirts or no-sleeve dresses that can be
worn with a T-Shirt underneath." Still, I don't suggest the clothing
route, eventually your kid will develop their own preference for
clothing, mine did it at 2 years of age and she won't wear anybody
else's taste, only her own.
Anonymous shopper :)
I, too, have a mother-in-law who buys too much stuff for our son, and
she does not have the money to do it. I have struggled with this for
one whole year, and finally realized that SHE WILL NEVER CHANGE. It
does not matter what you do or say; at her age, she will keep doing
things the way she always has. Continue to be gracious, say thank you,
sell the clothes thru UCB Parents network, and try not to have a heart
attack from the frustration she is causing you. It will offend her if
you tell her the clothes are inappropriate. She is a million miles
from her grandbaby, and this is the only way SHE feels she can be part
of her life, that is, to be a "good" Grandma. If you want to discuss
this more, I would love to share my frustration with you at
Wow -- you've got to get this anger in check! I, too, have a mother-in-law
that is a "shopper" and lives on the East coast. Although she does send lots
of beautiful clothes, she sends WAY more than we can ever use, and often
sends toys that are too babyish for my daughters. We would much rather have
them come out for a visit instead, but we know they won't, so we let them
send the gifts, write a nice thank you with a follow-up phone call. We've
tried to tell ask them to send less or to clue them in on more appropriate
toys. You don't need to be phony about it or take pictures, but for heaven's
sake, suck it up and be GRACIOUS that she takes the time to pack all of
that"crap" up and send it to your daughter. In some bizarre way, this is how
she feels connected to her. Yes, maybe she's clueless, but if you have
already tried to tell her that, keep your mouth closed about it and move on.
How she spends her money is not up to you or your husband to decide. Why not
take the items to a secondhand store where you can at least get something
for them and buy something more appropriate for your daughter? Or better
yet, donate it to someone who could really use (and appreciate, I might
add!) the clothes. THIS IS NOT YOUR PROBLEM -- LET IT GO!
If I were you I might try this:
As soon as a gift from your mother in law arrives, write a very
nice, genuine thank you on nice paper, thanking her for the
feelings the gift expresses ("thank you for thinking of our
little one" or similar), and thanking her for whatever is good
about it (if it happens to be the right size, or a nice color,
or whatever you want to encourage). Then I'd be honest and say
that it's such a shame it is a little too small (or too wintery
or she just has too many already) but that it will make a very
nice new jacket (or whatever) for a less fortunate baby, so you are
donating it to a shelter (or charity of your choice) in your daughter's
That way she knows you realize the gift is an expression of her
love, she may learn which things you like/can use (or she may
not), and she knows what happened to it. If she doesn't like
spending her money on gifts that go to charity, she can chose
to do something different. I would under no circumstances say
anything about her ability to afford these gifts.
Another approach you could also try is to suggest ahead of time
what type of thing your baby does need, giving the excuse that
you feel so badly when she so lovingly choses something so very
nice that you unfortunately can't use and that you want her
generous gifts to be things your daughter can get the most use
Just a thought... I hope someone gives you the answer that works for you!
Here's my advice:
Assume that your mother-in-law is mildly loony and don't bother
trying to deal with her rationally. Just say thanks and move on. Sell
the clothes at a used-baby-clothes store (someone who can really use
them will LOVE finding cute, brand-new clothes!) Put the money for
the clothes into your daughter's college fund.
My mother was not quite that bad, but I do sympathize with you; being
ignored in this fashion is so frustrating and so
disrespectful. HOWEVER...as the saying goes, you cannot control her
behavior, and she clearly has some issues around clothing, nurturing,
and god knows what else. I would try to accept her offerings as
graciously as possible, keep a few around on the off-chance that she
visits, and give the rest to some kids who actually need clothing.
Good luck! Melanie
We also receive a lot of things we don't need from my husband's
family, i.e. loud electronic toys, clothes with annoying pictures and
decals, stuff that my child has no interest in. I just give it all to
Goodwill. I figure I can't change these people, and they are giving
this stuff more for themselves than for us (or they'd actually ask us
what we need/want.) I have also found that speaking to them is a
waste of time b/c they are just living on a different planet and tend
to interpret things in a way that makes me look like the bad guy. (a
very pleasant family dynamic!) Have you tried contacting customer
service or the web site of this dept. store? Maybe you could send the
stuff back yourself and do an exchange based on their catalog or web
site. It would be time consuming but you could get things you need.
I share your frustration, especially when I think about all the
practical things I need and how much money is being wasted! Good
We had a similar situation to yours. I finally spoke up, rather directly
and undoubtedly hurt some feelings. Anyways, now instead of gifts, there
are lots of little comments "I know you're particular about things..." or
"give me back what you don't use" when she does give the occassional gift
(I once gave her back everything -- like your situation, they were not
weather appropriate, and our daughter outgrew the size before ever wearing
the clothing). It's a solution wrought with its own tensions, but I'd
rather live with the little verbal jabs than the extra stuff ... Like you,
I wish she'd just ask us what we need, but I've also learned that
worrying about the mother-in-law is more often than not a waste of energy.
I have the same problem. Other than being tacky and writing "no gifts
please" or "savings bonds appreciated" I don't know what to do
either. My husband has many in town relatives and so my children have
many aunts and uncles and cousins. Our oldest child has enough clothes
through age 7 (she is 6) and our baby has many handme downs from lots
of familiy members. We try to hint around not to get them toys -
especially stuffed animals -but it doesn't seem to have sunk in
totally - luckily Toy's R' Us still gives Geoffrey Bucks and you can
take toys from there in and get something you really need like
diapers, but a lot of other stores (i.e.Target) will not even give a
store credit any more without the receipt. Every year I wind up giving
new toys and clothes away because my child grew out of them too fast,
didn't like them (because they were "itchy") or just had too many
toys. I feel good about giving these things to children who have very
little, but when the people who bought them do not have that much
money themselves, it really creates a lot of guilt. (Maybe that is the
subconscious intention). The only thing I have come up with that sort
of works is to tell people who are mailing packages that "it just is
so expensive to mail a package now, that it would fine if they would
save the money they would otherwise save on postage and just mail a
check." Then you pick out a gift for the child and put their name on
it. That way, you can buy a needed item and maybe have something to
put in the piggybank?
I would not squeeze my baby into the inappropriate clothes for a
picture, but just give the clothes away to a non-profit with the tags
on. That way you turn your frustration into something nice for a needy
family. OR sell on e-bay and put the money in a college fund
yourself. You've already told her and it didn't work... Deborah
Since both you and your husband have tried to clue in grandma and it hasn't
worked (big sigh of release), then I'd suggest moving on to what you do
have control over-the clothes you receive. How about taking the clothes to
the consignment shops that pay for baby clothes (like Hannah's on Solano in
Berkeley, etc) and then putting that money in the bank? You could use the
money for you daughter's college fund or for grandma's plane ticket, or for
your family's visit to her or just let it sit in the account until
something comes up. Selling the clothes is a great form of recycling for
families with little children. You could also donate some/or all to
charities that need the clothes like women's shelters, etc. It doesn't
look like you can stem the stream of "lemons" you're receiving from the
east coast, so just take them and make "delicious, nutritious lemonade" for
the west coast to enjoy! (Also, maybe referring to her as "Grandma" when
she does clueless things instead of "mother-in-law" might take the edge off
of it for you personally-try it.) Good luck!
Sorry, I'm with your husband on this one. A gift is a gift -- you
don't get to tell her what to give your daughter. I'd continue to
suggest that you'd rather she come visit, and I'd (maybe) send back
what's too small. She seems to get enjoyment from shopping for your
daughter. With my kids I had to accept that my mom-in-law would send
fancy clothes...and I learned to cope by NOT duplicating her effort.
Once you've told her, be polite and find a consignment store that
will sell the clothes for you.
ps I'm curious, why isn't your husband the one handling this -- its
his mom and you sound like he's less upset by it.
Since your mother-in-law lives far away (and maybe hasn't been around babies
for a while?) she may not have a realistic view of your daughter's actual
size. She also may by struck by the cuteness of some clothes that she doesn't
reason (or remember) that the clothes are inappropriate.
There are many homeless shelters and organizations that donate to people in
need that would welcome new baby clothes. I agree with your mom and
sister....take a few pictures to send to grandma and give the clothes to
someone who needs them.
You may just have to let go of your issue with your mother-in-law. It doens't
sound like she's going to change. Good luck. Anonymous
I don't think you are being offensive. No one is benefitting by this
behavior. You should send them back so she can get her money back or perhaps
you can start giving these things to someone you know who can use them and
let your mother-in-law know you are doing this. Tell her how sorry you are
that they don't fit, but at least her gifts are not going to waste and
someone else is able to make use of them. Sometimes reverse psychology
1) Your husband should deal with her since it is his Mother. When my wife
was having problems with my mom, I dealt with it. Because it is not my
wife's problem, it is our problem.
2) If you know which store it is, maybe you could return them anyway
without a receipt. On-line return/exchange/shopping?
3) Save them as gifts for other friends, or if you will have another child
someday. Used clothing stores probably do trades with you if your stuff is
4) Her money is hers: Unless she is dependent on you financially, stay out
Sometimes it's better to let things like this go. You and your family do not
need the stress it brings. Here's my two cents: Send a gracious thank you
note, and know she meant well. Then, find a family that can really use the
clothing and give it to them. Perhpas this would be a small mitzvah and you
would feel good about it. And, when you can afford it, send your mother in
law some round trip air tickets for a visit. You'll never change her. Just
try to enjoy what you love about her and let the rest roll off your back. I
know this is hard. Hope this helps.
You are not alone! My mother-in-law in Chicago used to send us all
kinds if clothes for both my gals. Not only were they in the wrong
season, wrong size and not like anything I'd ever buy, I'd go to
Sear's or JC Penny's to try to return something (couldn't do anything
with the items from Kohl's) but would find that it had been marked
down so many times, I'd only get .99 for an outfit!
This used to drive me crazy. My husband didn't really want to say
anything to his Mom. She means well. Her other grandkids live near
her and I think she just wants to keep things equal. Plus, she's a
very stubborn old woman and I doubt that our suggestions would not
change her behavior.
So I'd just send a thank you note and try to sell what I could at a
resale shop or donate it. Now that she is 81 years old, she doesn't
get around like she used to. The last few years she has written me a
card with a check enclosed and asks if I would mind shopping for her.
She's always apologetic and thanks me up and down for helping her. I
love it now that I can get my kids some things they really need and I
take pictures of them wearing or playing with what I buy. The kids
think Gramma sends it!
I guess my story could boil down to picking my battles. I'd rather
not fight with my kids about what to wear, but will try to get them to
understand why they need to send a thank you note when they get a
present. I never told my mother-in-law what to send as a gift but
when we visit her in Chicago and she starts mouthing off her
prejudicial slurs about race, religion and ethnic varieties in the
neighborhood, I tell her we teach our children about diversity in the
world and please don't use that language in front of them or me. Hope
this helps. I sure feel better!
While your frustration with your mother-in-law is understandable to a
point - I truly believe tht you really don't "get" the real issue
here. Without meaning any offense - I feel you are reacting in an
egocentric and somewhat spoiled manner . You have a mother-in-law who
is generous enough to acknowledge the existence of her grandchild -
even though she clearly has a different world view than you about how
to demonstrate her interest and affection. You are being judgmental
and preachy to expect she should conform to your value system in order
to show love for her grandchild - which is what gifts are about - not
practicality. Clearly you have made a reasonable effort to let her
know what you want or need for your child. If she chooses to
disreagard this - for whatever reason- you need to let go of it and
move on. I speak from experience when I say you should be grateful
she has a giving spirit - even if misguided in your eyes. If you are
critical - you can expect she will become bitter - feel rejected, and
will refrain from being generous over time. I can only guess that you
are still getting used to the first months of being a mom - and not
seeing the "forest for the trees." Count your blessings, get a
catalougue from that east coast department store and use the returns
as a credit. Postage is cheap. Here are a few other suggestions:
Tell her her grandaught is growing fast/slow and what she sent is
toobig/small, but you appreciate the thought. If you can't return it,
take the item to a good consignment store or used kids store like
Lauren's Closet on Domingo in Berkeley - and exchange for something
you need or like, or get cash and put it in a savings account. Donate
it to Good Will - someone else will appreciate your generosity. Your
relationsheip with your mother-in law needs reassessing - she is not
there to be your benefactor or personal shopper!!!
My "credentials" in this matter - Our family is Jewish, my in-laws are
Christians. After 14 years and a bar mitzvah, we still get Easter
baskets and advent calendars and find them amusing and sweet. My own
father has never sent as much as a bithday card to any of his 8
grandchildren. Once, when I was a "starving student" and didn't have
my rent, my mother sent me her not-so-old mink jacket as a "gift." I
sold it and had enough left over for groceries. I told her about 15
Please post anonymously (for the sake of the grandparents....)
I have the same problem with my mother (i.e., sending out mountains of
clothes that we don't need for our two children). So many "care" boxes
arrive at my door, in fact, that I sometimes feel overwhelmed and depressed
by the sheer amount of stuff I have to put away. I have struggled with this
issue (and, sometimes, with extreme resentment) for four years, but in the
last few months I've had a change of heart. I've realized that my mother
lives very far away (East Coast) and that this is the only way she can
express her love to her grandchildren--or rather, it's the only way she
feels she can express her love, since she doesn't see them often. (My whole
family is very reserved, as well, so gifts are a big part of their self
expression.) It's also very hard for her to know what my kids need or what
our weather is like or what, now, my four-year-old daughter will wear and
And while I , too, would dearly love those checks to go to my kids' college
funds, or special field trips when we visit, I've just decided to work on
being grateful. I felt this most poignantly during Christmas, when the piles
of boxes began arriving from the East Coast and I realized that my parents
could very well be dead in ten years. So I've been trying to acknowledge
their generosity--and the love behind it--both to myself and to them.
As for the STUFF--I keep what is useful and I consign what is not. I use the
money from the consigning to buy what we really need or some little dolly or
toy I think my children would appreciate. What I can't consign, I donate to
charity and consider it a gift from my mom.
The other sad fact is that as our parents age, they often become clueless. I
suspect I'll be clueless in thirty years, too; I hope my children will be
kind to me.
I was in exactly your situation and frame of mind 3 years ago, but it
was my own mother sending the polyester boys' school uniforms with the
clip on tie for my 6 month old. Three years later, I wholeheartedly
agree with your mom and sister in law. In trying to figure out why
the change, a few things came to mind. 1. For the first 6 months,
our parenting was all about feeding, diapering and dressing, and
dressing was the only fun part and therefore inordinately important.
3 years, twins, preschools, a move, a few trips to the emergency room
later and we couldn't give a flying fig what our kids are wearing, we
are too busy with other parenting issues. 2. My Dad died, and now I
would give anything for one more cheap plastic Kmart toy that he'd
send for birthdays - even the most clueless gift at least lets a kid
know somebody out there is thinking of them. 3. Inter-generational
communication is extremely hard, and getting harder with the
increasing speed that the world changes. It scared me to think that
my son and I might (probably would) have the same trouble
communicating as my Mom and I do. I decided modeling compassionate
and generous behavior towards her would probably benefit everyone,
including 70 year old me. In 30 years I am bound to be at least
somewhat clueless about what it's like to have babies in 2032. I can
hardly remember what it was like to have a baby in 1998. My Mom is a
terrible communicator, but I know she spends all this time shopping
for my kids because she loves them (and loves baby clothes), not to
aggravate me with her choices. One practical thing that did help was
that we turned her on to second hand stores. It wasn't easy, but once
I got her to Salvation Army on Solano and showed her a few never or
hardly worn gymboree infant outfits for $1.75, she was hooked. Now
she still gets to show she cares by spending time shopping and buying,
but it's a lot less money and a lot less pressure. I sympathize with
you, this was a big issue for me -- but it is now a complete
non-issue. We laugh about it. Good Luck.
I've just finished reading the MANY responses to "clueless
mother-in-law," yet I can't resist adding my own two cents. I too had
a mother-in-law who was extremely frustrating in many ways, and often
felt myself being driven almost crazy by her doings. She passed away
last year, and I now find myself thinking almost fondly of her prickly
behavior. I know this may be being dramatic, but it is does provide a
lesson in perspective. I agree wholeheartedly with the others who
responded that "this is NOT a problem."--or if it is, count yourself
I realize that you have already gotten moutains of responses on this,
but I wanted to comment on another dimension of the problem. I agree
that how a person spends money, even if they don't really have it to
spend, is not something that you can alter. However, I question the
many assertions that this spending is a way of showing love and
connection. How connected is it to send a 6 month old outfit to a
toddler? My feeling is that a lot of compulsive shoppers are working
out their own issues and the recipient of any resultant gifts is sort
of peripheral. In my own experience, weird and inappropriate and
excessive gifts do not deepen connection, but underline emotional (and
sometimes geographic) distance. I wonder if that is part of what is
bothering you. One of my relatives consistently sends me hot pink
t-shirts which I would NEVER wear. I am resigned to the fact that her
gifts signal how little we know each other. That can be very sad.
On a practical level, though, I have had some success with the
strategy that was suggested by "anonymous shopper." This Christmas, I
cut out pictures from newspaper ads and toy catalogs and mailed them
to the less in-touch relatives. They seemed to enjoy the challenge of
tracking down the toys, and my kids got gifts that they liked and
which were age appropriate instead of yet another mechanized piggy
This topic sure has pressed alot of buttons. I agree with the "let it
go" side. Don't have this be a control issue with your mother in law
and instead try to appreciate what she's doing. For many people,
giving gifts is their main way of showing love and attention (even if
they also get enjoyment from the shopping) and by criticizing her
gifts you're questioning her love/hurting her feelings - and I don't
think its really worth it . For folks of a different generation,
climate, lifestyle it is hard to know what to give a child of today's
Bay Area (many manufacturers still use outdated sizes, in the US the
concept of two basic seasons is totally alien for eveyone but us, and
for the older generation, clothing "gifts" were given for dress up or
school use - ie much more formal/special wear than the play clothes
most of our kids wear ALL the time). Donate or consign what just can't
be used. Tell grandma thanks and maybe let her know that you'd
really appreciate clothes that your child could wear NEXT year and
indicate the preferred sizes (that way she can also shop the seasonal
sales). I like the idea of suggesting picture books as well.
If you can stand to read another posting on the subject of the clueless
grandma... I had the same problem with my in-laws. In fact, my
husband's grandmother was an expert seamstress with no color sense and a
taste for polyester. She went to a lot of trouble to make some really
ugly clothes for me and my daughter. I never knew what to do with these
things except thank her with as much enthusiasm as I could manage and put
the clothes away for a decent interval before giving them to Salvation
I think what really "gets" me is this: What I really want in a gift is
to know the giver cares about me. An ideal gift is something that
reflects both the giver and the recipient. That means the giver realizes
that we are different individuals and finds something that shows they
thought about the recipient. When I used to get a box full of useless
clothes, I felt like I was receiving the products of my in-laws' egos
being gratified without any reference to me or their grandchildren.
Time has solved my problem. My husband's grandmother died, and I do miss
her. His parents are getting very elderly and have moved into the
sending-a-check stage of gift-giving. I do hope I remember all this when
I am a mother-in-law and a gramma. If I can't manage to find things they
really will want, I'll send a check.
Just to chime in one more thing on this issue. First, I am with you on the
frustration part! And I think you are right to try to set some limits. Our
crisis came three holiday seasons ago. My mother in law sent 8 presents (or
more) to each child for Hannukah. My mother went overboard on the kids too
on Christmas (b/c of the following event in the next sentence), and she
REALLY cannot afford it. I had just contacted my birthmother and she sent
small presents for the girls, for both Hannukah and Christmas. Her parents,
newly found great grandparents, sent presents too. It was completely and
totally ridiculous, they had a total of something like 50 presents, when you
count in aunts & uncles. So I told each grandmother that the limit was one
present each (knowing they'd send two, but at least not eight). I also
encouraged them to save their money for an "experience" type thing...a trip
to the ballet, a shopping trip to Mervyn's (which I would go along with to
help edit selection), in which they could show their love and have a special
memory together instead of another outfit. The last two suggestions were
great, and worked best with my mom. My mother-in-law was definitely
disgruntled by my approach, but I explained all the reasons clearly and she
eventually accepted them. (I also had the full support of my husband, who
underlined the message clearly.) In a nutshell, the message on presents: 1)
our values 2) the space they take up 3) bad for the kids to get so much 4)
undercuts her objective of being closer...she might be seen through the eyes
of greed, not as a special grandmother.
It is hard to be long distance, and it seems that giving presents is their
way of dealing with their frustration about being so far from their precious
grandchildren. I think it helps to deal with the real issue, distance, not
the symptom, the expensive presents, and find ways to overcome the distance
barrier so that presents don't become such a loaded thing. The other
interesting thing that came out with my mother-in-law was the competition
thing. It was clear she felt she had to compete with my mother for the kids
attention and affection and time, and presents were the way she was going to
do it. (And I know she feels like she has to compete with me for the kids
attention...she used to get offended when the kids, as babies, preferred me
to her!) But that's another story...
Overall, it has improved...my mother in law will contribute to a big present
(e.g., bike) and send a smaller one separately, my mom does something with
the kids when she's here, and my birthmom sends small presents, usually
consumables like art supplies. When the occasional bad one comes through, I
just move it along and don't worry about it as much. At least I've tried to
create a better space for everyone around this issue.
(P.S., when cleaning closets last week, I found an old present from the big
year hidden away...oops! Just donated that one too!)
this page was last updated: Nov 23, 2013
BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are building a new website!
Read more, and see how you can help:
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2014 Berkeley Parents Network