When Grandparents Go Overboard with Gifts

altLast year, the living room of our townhouse was filled to the brim with Christmas Gifts. From train tables and train sets to dolls and dress up clothing, my children got it all and it left me feeling frustrated.

After the chaos calmed down, I shared with my own mum, my concerns and frustrations and she promised from that point on, that  she’d limit her gifts to three per child, as previously requested.

I’m not sure if it’s because my mom couldn’t give me all the material things she wanted to when I was a child, or if it’s because she truly enjoys seeing the delight and excitement in my children’s eyes as they open their gifts, but regardless of the reason, when it comes to gift giving, my mum is nuts.

This year, Halloween was barely over and I had to travel for work. My mum was gracious enough to offer to drive me to the airport. On the way to her home, she called me and our chat went something like this:

“Before you get here, I wanted to tell you something so you aren’t mad. Promise you won’t be mad?”

“No, Mum. I can’t promise that. What is it?”

“I just finished wrapping the kid’s gifts and it took me 3 hours.”

“That’s a long time to wrap 6 gifts.”

“I bought 100 nametags and only have 14 left.”

“Where am I going to put all these gifts?”

“That is not my problem. Good thing you now have a bigger house.”

Frustration and feelings of disrespect flooded my heart. My mind raced with thoughts. We work really hard not to raise children who have a sense of entitlement. Our children really do not need to replace all of their current toys with new ones. We really do not want my mother spending this type of money on our children. We don’t want toys outside of the toy room.

As I was on the plane later that day, facing my anger, I realised a few reasons why my mum may give so many gifts and devised a plan for handling them.

1. Giving gifts is a way my mum expresses love. Have you ever read The Five Love Languages? If you have, clearly my mom’s love language is giving gifts. My mum loves shopping for the kids. She loves giving them gifts. To her, there is no better way to show love then by showering my children with things, as well as tons of affection and time spent while she is giving them.

2. Shopping gives her something to focus on during the holidays. My mum was always busy. As a single mum she worked hard during the day and umpired men’s softball at night. Now that she is retired, I think shopping must give her something to look forward to during the holidays. Her sister, my brother and I are her only family left. She’s no longer preparing huge holiday feasts or decking the halls with elaborate Christmas decorations. Shopping for her grandkids gives her something to focus on.

3. We can limit our shopping instead. Instead of having my mum adopt the 3 gift limit, we decided to limit our shopping for our children. While we didn’t stop at 3, we most definitely scaled back.

4. Ask for gift receipts. I encouraged my mum to keep all of her receipts in case the kids got duplicates or there was something we wanted to return. After seeing all the gifts together, it’s our hope she’ll agree some things we simply do not need or have space for.

5. Donate to charity. Our family has a tradition of “adopting” a family or two for Christmas. I’ve presented my mum with the information on the children we are adopting this year and have encouraged her to buy gifts for these children, instead of our own.

On Christmas morning, my children will feel loved. On Christmas night they will have memories that last a lifetime. Regardless of how many gifts that are under the tree, that won’t change.

Do the grandparents in your family go overboard with gifts? How do you handle it? I would love to know! Share your thoughts in the comments section below.