The Tradition Of Too Many Gifts

My son turned 12 yesterday so we spent a big chunk of the day celebrating. The not so little man has a list of “birthday traditions” he wanted to experience again and so we did our best to make it happen for him.

It was fun but I have a confession to make:

Some of these traditions make me freaking crazy.

There are family members who give him too many gifts. To be fair they spoil his sister this way too but it still makes me crazy.

It is a sore subject for me because part of me loves that they are spoiled but another parts of me has a serious dislike for it. I don’t want the children to think of worth being tied up in what they have and sometimes I worry that so many gifts send the wrong message.

All these gifts create other issues because I think some family members feel like it is a competition and that drives me crazy too. Everyone knows better and the thing is individually we are all on the same page about possessions and self worth but it doesn’t change how it all shakes loose.

So the tradition is for me to enjoy everything up to the gift giving part and then I slip into the corner of the room and try to not to fume. It is a stupid thing to be upset about, but sometimes it just grates on my nerves.


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  1. Jennifer Devitt January 2, 2013 at 11:15 am

    Sigh, this is a ongoing dilemma in our house as well. For years my parents tried to compete with us or even with Santa on giving the kids the item they desired the most…no matter the cost! From Valenties Day to Christmas and everything in between our kids were being given gifts for everything! Finally…we said enough!! Candy/little treats from Grandma was acceptable on Valentines or Easter. Gifts for Birthday or Christmas only. Also, we started providing the “list” of what the kids were asking for – after I scaled it way down to what we could live with!

    At Thanksgiving my brother-in-law takes the kids down to give food to the homeless in his area as a way of giving back. That to me helps buffer the greed. They are also fully aware that we set limits on what we will and will not get them for Christmas/Bdays (and they know its a matter of principal versus financial means) no matter what the haul their friends get. When I hear of my 14 yr olds friends getting over $1000 worth of gifts for Christmas, I get nauseous!! No reason for that, come on!

    • Jack January 2, 2013 at 12:54 pm

      Hi Jennifer,

      We have had a thing with grandparents and a couple of uncles that sounds similar. The kids got gifts for every holiday and I just wanted to scream. It was too much.

      The kids know that every year we are going to go through their stuff and give away things they don’t use to people who need them. I really want them to understand how lucky they are and why they need to give back.

      We have similar deals with friends of theirs getting ridiculous gifts, but my kids know better than to expect me to care about what others do. Limits and structure are important.

  2. Gina January 1, 2013 at 6:21 am

    I get what you’re saying. It’s so gluttonous. I feel the same way about Christmas gift giving more so than birthdays. Happy birthday to your big guy! Sounds like my guy broke his wrist on your kid’s birthday. Always something…

  3. Betsy Cross December 31, 2012 at 2:31 am

    What I learned over the years is that it’s what happns in te home that matters in te long run. They get the reality-check there. Will I buy them a phone? Pay for a plan? Nope. If they want it they have to work. They know who the go-to people are and how to play the game to get what they want if they don’t feel like working. But I’m giving them something different. And they laugh and walk away after trying to get me to give in. Now, many years after many extavagant gift-giving events, I look forward to other people spoiling them. It’s fun! Like a breath of fresh air.

  4. a.eye December 30, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    Perhaps you can make a new tradition of giving away some of the items (new or old) that the kids won’t use – certain number in, certain number out. Then, maybe you won’t feel as bad and they will feel good about helping those in need.

  5. Jamie December 30, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    ” I slip into the corner of the room and try to not to fume. ” That made me laugh. With our first, I was always so upset when I felt upstaged at birthdays and Christmas by the grandparents. But with more children, I now enjoy the fact that they purchase some of those “big ticket” items. Though, they have many more grandchildren now so the wealth has to be distributed and it doesn’t seem like they go as overboard these days.

    • Jack December 31, 2012 at 12:51 am

      Hi Jamie,

      It is a funny thing. Part of me is really happy that the grandparents spoil the kids. Mine did to my sisters and I and I don’t remember it making a difference in how I thought about my parents.

      But I don’t know, something still chaps my hide a bit and I am not sure why.

  6. Julie Barrett December 30, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    I have spent more of my adult life trying to deal with all of the “stuff” than you can imagine. Traipsing it from room to room, trying to make it accessible and inconspicuous at the same time (impossible), corralling it, and often just re-gifting the brand new stuff to other kids at class birthday parties because there is Just Too Much. Ironically I got angry with my inlaws for bringing nothing to Christmas…pretty much the same way I felt about my Dad in prior years for bringing 105 gifts. Which just goes to show I am nothing if not inconsistent! I guess they call that mixed emotions 🙂

    • Jack December 31, 2012 at 1:05 am

      Hi Julie,

      Accessible and inconspicuous sounds like the kind of instructions we might hear an actor playing a director yell during the “play” they were directing in the movie they are starring in.

      Nothing wrong with being inconsistent, it just proves you are human.

  7. Hajra December 30, 2012 at 11:51 am

    I am an aunt of two lovely kids and I spoil them rotten with gifts, always. My sister gets a little upset about it (the one gift rule- whatever that meant) and says that I am making parenting a little tough for her. But then, I want to be their favorite person (after parents!) and their favorite aunt! Yes, it is a competition… 😉

  8. Greg December 30, 2012 at 10:42 am

    I believe much as you do
    The problem comes as you mentioned by being spoilt kids grow up not really appreciating and valueing property
    This can affectt kids as they do not really learn what working for things is and so in later life can have disastroue effects
    W e see it in the Newspapers every day

    • Jack December 31, 2012 at 12:53 am

      Hi Greg,

      It is a challenge that parents face. I won’t let my kids forget they have much to be thankful for, but I try to do it in a way that doesn’t make them tune out.

      There is no point if they don’t get the message.

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