Monday, December 27, 2010

A little rant about gifts

So my last post about my complicated family and was brought on because of my thoughts on presents at Christmas time. The boys have always spent Christmas morning at home with me and since the divorce, they've spent the rest of the day with their dad and grandparents. This year they didn't get to see their grandparents until boxing day and from what they came home like, it was obviously different from previous years. After talking for awhile I found out some things that are both good and bad.

They've always been really spoiled by their grandparents and received waaay too many gifts, most of which weren't overly exciting. They'd get a lot of clothes and things that they had a vague interest in and maybe a toy or two that they'd be happy about. My problem was always the amount of gifts they received that would rival their lot from Santa and Mommy. If the gifts were things that they had really wanted or needed, I would probably still have had a problem with the quantity.

This year though, there was a celebration on Christmas including the other grandchildren (Chris' two daughters and his sisters' kids). My boys were left for the following day. So first of all they were left out of a normal Christmas celebration. Then they received clothes (Ive been led to believe one outfit each) and a toy each. They also received gifts from their aunts and dad but there was a drastic reduction from previous years. Which you would think would make me happy.

Im not though. I feel like my boys are being treated differently because they're not really part of the family anymore. Im glad that I don't have a huge amount of crap that I have to find places for (more on that below) but its still sad to me. Couldn't there have been a happy middle ground? The boys still didn't enjoy their gifts and on top of it, they've lost the spoiled/special treatment they used to receive.

Micah actually cried over his gift from his aunt. He had put on a brave face and thanked everyone accordingly (according to him) but when he came home and was with me, he was sooooo sad that he didn't like the gift. He was worried that he would hurt his aunt's feelings. I told him that as long as he was polite to her, than it didn't really matter. He was allowed to feel disappointed in the gift but being polite to the gift-giver was the appropriate response. There's bound to be different opinions for this, so please keep that in mind.

Chris' family has distanced themselves so far from these boys that they just have no idea who they are anymore and that was really reflected in their gifts. Most of what they received was just put up in my closet to re-gift when the boys are invited to birthday parties. If they had no interest in it or already had it and I KNEW they would never play with it, then up it went. There's at least 6 things in there, maybe more.


So that brings me to our gift giving practices. Im not stupid enough to believe that I've never given a present that someone didn't like. That's inevitable. But with 28 people on my list this year, not including my children, I seriously put a lot of work and thought into giving the best gifts that I could think of while sticking within my budget. It seems that some people just give for the sake of giving and don't give a thought as to if the person will actually like the gift or not. What's the point in that?

I made a point to buy things for Chris (also known previously as "The Ex"), Patti and their girls simply because it's the right thing to do. The boys picked out most of the gifts and they were really from them, not me. I ordered Patti a parenting magazine subscription with my airmiles and as a mother of two, I assumed she would like it. I have no idea if she does or not, but I certainly tried. This is a magazine that I've enjoyed for years and currently have my own 3 year subscription. The boys picked out pjs and candy for their dad. When I knew him, he was in pjs whenever he could be and the boys knew he loved all types of candy. I was buying pjs for other people at the time and so it just kind of worked out. The boys' first choice was a $50 game, but that wasn't going to happen. Thought was put into these things, is my point.

Another example is that I gave pjs to three of my brothers (with other things) but I knew for a fact that another brother would absolutely NOT wear pjs and so he got something else. I could have sent generic chocolates to everyone and called it a day, but I tried. It really bothers me when people don't about the person they're giving to. I think I'd rather get nothing than something they didn't even think about. I may be reading too much into it, but it's like the gift-giver is saying that you don't really matter enough in their lives for them to know what you'd like.


I had decided this year to buy only things that the boys had asked for and only a couple items each. I didn't set a budget for each child but aimed for an equal number of gifts. For example, Noah got a Dsi XL that cost $200, Micah's big gift was a $50 cell phone...both are equally happy. I didn't want to deal with useless things that the boys would never play with. Unfortunately I couldn't completely eliminate those items (see above) and so I came up with the idea to put them away to re-gift. Class birthday parties are usually a stab in the dark anyway, unless your child and the birthday child are fairly good friends. There's also a couple of items that they probably will play with but already have enough of; like trucks for Owen. Those are put up as well but Ill probably bring them down in a couple of months when they're bored of what they have.

A guess an advantage of having extra gifts to put away is that now my boys will be able to go to more birthday parties. Though it doesn't happen often, there have been times when we get an invitation with very little notice and can't make it because there's simply no money for a gift.

What are your strategies for dealing with unwanted presents? Or maybe you're a grin and bear it kind of person?

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