Friday, November 21, 2008

Sent

For almost a year, now, I've been thinking about wanting to "lighten up" Christmas, especially for my little boys. What I mean by that is I want them to get fewer gifts. For them, getting so many packages all on one day can be overwhelming. And I believe that having too many toys takes away from the pleasure of the toys they do have. I've noticed that they play more creatively and longer when they have fewer toys from which to choose.

So I contemplated the idea of writing a letter to the relatives asking for no toys. And now, here we are in November, and I've done it! (I feel so relieved).

Ken really helped me with the language. I didn't want to sound high-falutin' or "holier than though" in the least--that's not where I'm coming from. So I explained that our boys seem to play better when they have fewer things (it's true!) and that we have issues of space in our home (very true!) and asked for an alternative to sending toys--like to contribute to one big toy for the boys (with us), or send only clothes or books, or just a card. Hopefully, no one will take offense. I'm quite excited by the thought of a simpler Christmas. Ken pointed out that it's not just about our side, the "getting." It's also about the giver wanting to give something. So whatever happens will be good. I just feel happy that I followed through with my plan.

38 comments:

Suzanne said...

I hope your relatives are open to your thoughts and wishes. I have been trying with my Mom for years and each year gets a bit better but oh boy! what a drag
sometimes:-)

Meg said...

I love the idea, and I love that you actually sent the letter. We struggle with the gift issue, too. With my sisters-in-law, we've agree to spend $10 per kid (there are 8 kids among the three of us). I know my one sister-in-law was going to look for thrifted items like puzzles. I'm trying to make homemade gifts.

I think the stinky economy is really going to help simplify things for us this year--we won't be piling on the plastic toys! We're going to try for one big gift for all three of them (hopefully a Wii) and then supplement with some homemade gifts and some books.

hsing3kinder said...

I think that is brilliant and wish we'd done something similar years ago.
~Kris (my blog is now public, stop by if you can!)

Kelli said...

and with the economy the way it is, really if they were going to spend 20 $ on something, then wrap and postage it could come to ver
30+$ so they can save a few extra dollars also. I am sure your realtives and friends will understand your a great mom and knows whats best. We are scaling way back also this year. I love the toys we have so really we dont need more, maybe a few brain fun games to play as a family.

Sarah said...

Good for you. It has taken us years to get my parents to the point where they understand that less is more.

caraandco said...

Well done! It's a wonderful idea and one we managed to crack this year on our son's 9th birthday. He doesn't actually want anything and I hated the thought of relatives spending just for the sake of it. We ended up receiving money and gift vouchers - which we can use through the year on him/for him and it's not such a glut all at once too. We're hoping for the same to apply at Christmas, Joe really fancies the idea of learning to ski, and now we'll be able to afford lessons for him. So much more worthwhile - for everyone!

Lina said...

Good for your Mary Beth. I really, really would love to do the same with my husband's side of the family who insist on buying awful plastic rubbish that falls apart and the children simply never play with. It's hard to get out of the cycle of buying for the sake of it sometimes. I can manage my side of the family but don't feel that its my place to organise my husbands!

Peggy said...

Good for you. I have been wanting to write that same letter for years now. I tell family every year but they never seem to hear and the piles of stuff still roll in - stuff that we just give away for the next 12 months. I hope your letter finds its way to understanding recipients.

Gretchen said...

I tried this route a few years ago and well the family took offense. oops! So now I ask for "experiences" for the kids. Tickets to a children's theratre, season pass to a science center or zoo, swimming lessons, rec. classes. You get the idea. So just in case your family doesn't like what you are trying to do there is still hope for what you want to accomplish. My MIL told me that she gets great joy shopping for the boys. But for her it doesn't have to be toys, it can be swim suits paired with swim lessons. all the best to you!

Its_Lily said...

I said early on that I wasn't going to buy my grandchildren toys for birthdays and Christmas. I try to design handmade gifts specific to the child, but their favorite gifts seem to be tickets to an event or show where they get to spend a special day just with me.

Rachel said...

Good for you! I know exactly where you're coming from. We cut back on Christmas presents some years ago - at one point were were buying presents for about 15 children (and receiving gifts from all their parents too) so we all made a joint agreement to only buy gifts for birthdays instead. I still find it hard to find the right balance though - you want to give them a magical Christmas, but they don't actually NEED any toys as they have so much already. I hope you get the simple Christmas that you want.
:)

Yvonne said...

Of course the giving is important, but my kids stop enjoying the gifts when there is too many. We don't exchange gifts with friends (just grandparents and my sister), but friends can bring gifts when they are visiting at other times. Then they can see the giver and really appreciate the gift as well. Maybe that can be an alternative - personal delivery at another time than christmas?

Yvonne
www.fjellvang.no/quilt

Julie said...

What a great idea... and so rewarding to follow through with your plan! I can relate to wanting a simple Christmas with fewer gifts. We've tried to stress this with my in-laws many times.

Barbara said...

What a great idea and well done for doing it. If my girl was still little I think we would do this too but as it happens the gifts get smaller - thankfully - as the children get older. We, like many others, have cut back this year and really feel all the better for it - and not just in my purse.
Sounds like your wee boy had a lovely birthday party too. Bx

Beth said...

We did this after last Christmas (it was overwhelming for *everyone*), but must not have been clear. We asked everyone to restrict themselves to one toy per family and consider books, clothes, etc. instead. What we ended up with was one GIANT present from EACH sibling and grandparent. I've tried to be more clear this year...

Sarah said...

Great idea! My parents totally "get" this and they give our kids savings bonds every year for Christmas, along with a tiny gift just so they have something to open. I hope your letter is well received!

Leslie said...

sending a letter to family is such a great idea. my kids also get pretty overwhelmed on christmas, but i had never thought about the connection of how well they play to how many toys they have. what a great reason to clean out some of the clutter and not bring more in.

fiona said...

Well done for being brave enough to do this. Hopefully your efforts will be rewarded.

MoziEsmé said...

Yeah you! This is always a dilemma. I've contemplated sending out a wish list so people know exactly what would be appreciated, but that seems so pushy. Our situation is a little different, but I'm proud of you for sending that letter!

Anita Ann said...

I've never had luck on this front. I hope it goes well for you.

LobotoME said...

we did the same thing too - except we {nicely} suggested contributions to the kids college funds instead of more toys!!!

Sarah said...

i found this post via simple mom. several years ago, i asked all the grandparents to send money instead and we would pool it and buy annual passes to a theme park. we have done this every year since. no toys, no clutter, a gift that we enjoy all year as a family, and easy for the grandparents. hope your letter works!

Sarah said...

ooops, i came here via small notebook!

Jenny said...

I did this many years ago. Sat down and wrote what I thought was a beautiful letter telling the family how much we appreciated all that they did for our three children but explained how after much thought we were requesting that the grandparents/aunts/uncles etc not purchase toys. I thought my inlaws were going to kill me!! Christmas came and the kids had almost triple the amount of toys from the inlaws...guess she showed me! lol

Hugs,
Jenny in Maine

Dawn@Embracing the Ordinary Life said...

I would be curious to find out how your relitives responded to this idea. I have tried this in the pass...explaining to them that 'stuff' isn't as fun as experiences...but it always falls on deaf ears...even when I say...this is specifically what they want, I got more "stuff"...ugh.

se7en said...

Oh! this is such an ongoing battle! I cannot stop one granny she is sheer madness! One Christmas she brought so many presents that my kids couldn't open them all on the day (plastic and instant breakables). The other granny spends so much on one gift for each kid that it is embarrassing. In a country where there is so much poverty it is just ridiculous. What we do is make sure that we spend our christmas together as a family and do our own family thing. We spend time with each granny one the day before and one the day after - time is more important than gifts. And my kids know I will exchange expensive gifts for something nice for all of them (one time we exchanged for a big box of zoobs)... and the other granny well we donate all except one item and they each get to choose the one item that they want to keep. I know I expect my children to behave like adults - I have tried and tried to get the adults to behave like adults!

Beth said...

I hope all goes well and your relatives respect your choice. I am sure if they all pooled together it would be something better anyways.

Amber said...

I so *totally* agree with you & have tried to ask our family to simplify this year also.

Today, my sister-in-law mentioned on the phone that her son had outgrown his bike, that it's in really good condition & that my littlest guy could have it which is great as we were thinking about buying him one for Christmas. We rang back after thinking about it & asked if they would give it to him as his Christmas present. She hesitated at first but eventually came around to the idea, said she actually didn't have a gift for him yet... he's going to be *thrilled* especially because it belonged to his cousin!

I so want to move past that silly thing that it has to be "bought" to be a worthy gift.

Can't wait to read some of your other comments. Rock on!

CC said...

I guess I families got this note somehow without us even asking... We give them not much for the holidays, but neither does anyone else. Oh well, luckily the kids don't know any different!

Annie said...

I wish I was brave enough to write a letter like this. I've tried to drop hints but that doesn't work. My MIL would be supremely offended if I asked her not to get DS anything.

I'll be interested to see the response you get! I hope it is positive!

hanna said...

Good on you! the EXACT same things have been going around my head. Fortunately the one relative who normally goes overboard with toys has already bought them clothes. By the way I'd love to hear your present ideas for the kids, I'm searching for good wholesome simple ideas.

Anonymous said...

I think this a great idea. Would you mind (obviously removing anything including names that would be personal) posting this letter that you wrote? Especially if you receive a positive response from your family, it would be nice to see the wording you used as a model for writing our own letters. Thanks! Brittney

Rach said...

A great idea and I am sure you worded it beautifully - I am sure your family will not be offended.

Limey Lover said...

I only wish my sister would send a letter like that. She has three kids who have three sets of grandparents and four sets of aunts and uncles, so her children will never want for anything.

I am hoping to next year take the two oldest (ages 7 & 5) with me to church to select a tag from The Giving Tree. Each tag lists a requested item and the age and sex of the recipient (like teen boy). Then I thought I'd take them with me to help shop for the item to make it more meaningful.

So as to not deprive them of a gift altogether, I thought maybe I'd give them each a voucher to spend a little quality time with me to do something like go to a movie or out for a meal or something.

This may not be less exhausting than shopping for them, but I think it's a lot more meaningful than contributing to the orgy of greed that is Christmas morning at their house.

Siri said...

You are my hero! I can't tell you how long I've wished to do this but never have had the guts.
(Although in a bolder moment a few weeks ago, I finally had to threaten to block my FIL's emails if he didn't keep spamming us, forwarding all sorts of emails about his political beliefs onto us. He's finally come around to talking to us again on the phone after that.)
Most years we barely give anything to the boys because of the glut of gifts from three sets of grandparents. Fortunately, this is the second year that the will be pooling together to pay for ski passes and lessons, and we'll cover the difference. Hooray!

And, this year we've decided to give the boys only thrifted and handmade gifts. I'm sewing cat and owl pillows and my husband is making them stilts. Our 5 year old will get a $5 thrifted bike for his birthday in a couple of weeks.
I'd love to hear how your letter goes over!

gardenymph said...

This is a subject that is near and dear to my heart. I could go on and on. We are having a similar conversation with my in-laws. It's very tricky. I hope that they understand and respect our wishes and the things that we are trying to teach our children.

I would love to know how things turn out for you in this matter. Good luck, and way to go for taking a stand. :~)

Saver Queen said...

I think it's a great idea and actually, I think people will respond well to it. Please let us know what kind of response you get!

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