Sunday, December 7, 2008

When does it cross the line?

My oldest son (he's 11) asked the other day if he could send my MIL his Christmas wish list because she "always gets me knick knacks and I don't want knick knacky stuff." Of course, I was very proud to hear him say this, because I am not a knick knacky kind of gal and I can see I am successfully passing on that wonderful trait to at least one of my children. As soon as he said this, my brain immediately went on super fast rewind trying to recall if I had complained about this in the past and now he is taking advantage of it. Thinking...thinking...thinking...nope. I have not said this within earshot of him anytime in the not so distant past. I can't remember the last time I said I was tired of getting things that go in the trash as soon as my in-laws leave. And, yes, they have literally pulled out of the driveway and I have thrown some of our gifts in the trash. (Do you know, the Christmas Motorcycle Guy and I were engaged, she gave me some cleaner for cleaning French Corningware dishes? WTF? I love clothes, what about a gift card?) It has been a LONG time since I have complained out loud, I guess because I have gotten used to it.

So anyway, I thought my husband should handle this, so I said, "We will talk to dad when he gets home." Later that evening, I asked Big E to tell Motorcycle Guy what we had discussed. Big E told him and thankfully Motorcycle Guy agreed. He is going to call his mom and ask her if she would be interested in seeing and purchasing anything from Big E's wish list. And if she doesn't, then we will know to tell Big E she would like to pick out her own gifts for him. My husband thinks she will be more than willing. I have my doubts. She is one of those people who wants you to have what she wants you to have. She wants to talk to you only if it's something she is interested in talking about. One year Motorcycle Guy asked that she and his dad contribute to a larger gift we were saving for to buy our family. Her response? "Well, at least now I know what you want." What did we get? Crap that went into the trash. I think that was the year she bought us these really awful decorations and left that clearance tag of $1.99 on the box. (They do not have financial difficulties and this is not really about money.)

Now that I have whined and complained, here is my issue. At what point is it rude to let a person know what you would like to receive? I am someone who would rather get you something you want and know my money was well spent and the gift will be enjoyed than to buy something you have no desire for. I don't think she feels that way. Is it rude to "guide" her into getting the kids something they want or should we just keep throwing the gifts away? She had no hesitation in telling me what she wanted for Christmas. And I did get it for her.

I have mixed feelings about this. I do like to be surprised with gifts that I wasn't expecting. And I like to surprise others with gifts they weren't expecting, so I understand her desire to do this. And I think my kids like that, too. But someone has to know you really well to be able to pull this off succesfully. You have to be able to put yourself in the receiver's shoes and think about what THEY like, not what you like. And, in general, my MIL does not do this. Add to it she does not have very good taste. It all adds up to her wasting her money on my kids (and often, me and my husband). At what point has one crossed the line by asking the shopper/giver to review a wish list and make a purchase?


  1. this is a hard one and one I face yearly with both sets of inlaws...I have yet to find a happy medium...every year i am asked for the beans sizes every yr I give them with lil hints about their favorite stores etc...and every yr someone is hurt...and I know it's not about what you get but rather the spirit of giving...however it is hard to see what the other grandchildren get VS what my beans get I keep my mouth shut smile and hope that my beans realize the real reason for the season

  2. That's a tough one. Some people will never understand, and therefore never change. Maybe, instead of throwing her gifts away, you should keep them and regift them. To her. Next Year. She might get the hint then. Several people I know have started making picture wish lists. A picture of what they want, the color, size etc.. and/or from where they would like to receive a gift card.

    I have never had the problem of receiving cleaner for a present. I would feel quite insulted if I did.

    Hopefully you will be able to talk some sense into her. Most people are happy to receive ANYTHING... but come on now.. they can do better than dollar store crap!

  3. BTW.. I love your taste in music. New Order's "Ceremony" was on second ago ohhh and you have violent femmes.. you ROCK!

  4. My thoughts are that if you don't care for what she gives you, rather than throwing them away, donate them to Goodwill or something, because "throwing them in the trash," if the kids see that, speaks volumes that you might not wish to be expressing. Some cheap, tacky person is likely to LOVE finding that stuff. Better yet, leave the gift tags on; maybe your MIL will see them when she is shopping at Goodwill for you and will get the message. LOL. I really, really like the idea of your husband calling and saying, "Since money is pretty tight this year, I wonder if you might be willing to help make Jr's Christmas better by helping us with his wish list?" Another thought I have ... Do you write thank you notes? If not, maybe she's offended and paying you back? "They obviously don't appreciate my thoughfulness...blah blah blah..."

  5. Blogging Under the InfluenceDecember 7, 2008 at 5:53 PM

    Thanks for the feedback. My kids have not seen me throw my gifts away. And the kids gifts go into the toy box eventually until we do a clearing out. Some things have made it to Goodwill, but I will try to do better with that in the future.

    We don't send thank you notes. Though they don't either and never have. They aren't the type of people to be upset by that or to "get back" at us.

  6. My Mom always ask for a list of what my boys want for Christmas, and my Dad and my inlaws always give me money to buy something I know the boys would like. It makes things easier, and everyone is happier, either because they got what they wanted or because they didn't have to go out and brave the crowds to go shopping. Also, it helps me to keep the useless collections down. At your son's age (I have an 11 year old, too), it's just easier to know what they like or are interested in.

  7. We often deal with that. My mother in law doesn't know ANYTHING about my kids and used to get the most USELESS, HUGE toys she could find. About 2 years ago she surprised me and called me and asked me what they wanted (she doesn't ever get them anything they need, like me, but that's fine, I guess.)

    I am pretty excited that lately she has liked to get the American Girl Dolls (a toy that I would never pay that kind of money for, but my kids love). So it only took 12 years of crappy gifts.

  8. I just tagged you!

    This is a hard one. I don't know that it is immappropriate. I think I would rather give someone what they want, but it depend what she is like too.

  9. In my family, wish lists are due by Thanksgiving. Our joke is that if there is no list, you get cheese (It's gouda!) We would rather get each other something that will be appreciated because it is something truly needed, or something wanted. My MIL always asks for suggestions and will usually get something from the list plus some things she picks out herself.

    I love lists!

  10. A girl on a blog had to say
    Of the gifts she received Christmas Day
    "I'm not being funny
    'cause I know you've got money.
    Give me crap and I'll throw it away.