Christmas lists where you're TOLD what you can/cannot ask for?


**Oh, I just have to vent, and ask for what you all would do in this instance.

Ok, so every year my MIL insists on spending crazy amounts of money on our kids for Christmas. Every year I’m told to come up w/ about $200 a piece to spend on EACH kid (we have 4 kids). Then come up w/ another $500 to spend on DH and I. Sounds nice and all right? Wrong. We have nothing we can think of that we need or want. The kids have so many toys (good toys, nothing that is junk or needs to be pitched) that I have some boxed up in the basement, mainly Little People stuff which we rotate out w/ the stuff that’s in the toy room), train table, etc… So about two years ago (she pulls this junk every year w/ us and she always starts pushing us in Sept. to come up w/ ideas, personally I think she’s a shopaholic since she does this for each family of her kids). Ok so we couldn’t think of anything we had to have, except for a vacation or getaway of some kind. If you add up the amount she spends, that could really amount to hotel stays at least, right? Wrong. Her response to me two years ago: " I will not buy you a vacation (I didn’t ask for a ‘vacation’, I specified gift cards to hotels, restaurants,etc) or gift cards to restaurants, hotels, etc. You guys are on your own for that" :eek: Oh ok, then so you don’t wanna see your son and his family get to spend time together?? :confused: Reeally??? Instead you want to go on your shopping sprees and fill my house w/ more material things that are NOT needed?? Alrighty then, we know now that family time isn’t important to her but THINGS are.
So now this year, I talked w/ DH and we decided that since we can’t ask for gift cards that we’d ask for things that we can’t afford to buy, fair enuf right? Wrong.:frowning: Our son has severe asthma and allergies. So she just instant messaged me literally 5 seconds ago, and says to me, “I need Christmas lists, now please!” Ok, so I reply w/ “we’d really like an air purifier for DS’s room, we can’t afford to buy one ourselves. DD needs a set of sheets as she only has one set for her bed and they are tearing apart on the corners.” Her reply to me: “SORRY, but I want Christmas to be fun for them, I won’t buy those items” Ok, so what the H *&^, why are you asking me for ideas when you are just gonna buy whatever the heck you want to anyway??? Just go to the darn store, stock up your cart at Walmart and give me the dang receipt and I’ll return it all and get what we NEED. For crying outloud, seriously, does anyone else see this as her wanting to buy more junk that my kids DON"T need?? Am I the only one that sees this?? The whole gift card idea 2 years ago, everyone thought was a great idea, however NOT her. She doesn’t want to see her son (who works 2 jobs for the past 5 years) to spend much needed time away w/ his family that we don’t have the money for. She’d rather buy junk! AND then when we DO find stuff to ask for, it’s not good enuf for her??? Whatever.

So I asked oldest DS (11) last week to come up w/ ideas for her. HE said, “well I’d really like a gift card to Great Wolf lodge, will she buy me that?” I had to say, "No, she won’t. Gma will only buy ‘things’, not gift cards. sorry."
One year, we wanted her to donate money to adopt a needy family instead of buying us gifts (not a lot of money, just a small portion), she didn’t like that idea either!!

So does anyone else have a MIL like this??? Tell me I’m not alone?
What would you do if everything you asked for is shot down because ‘‘it’s not fun.’’ I’m not asking for more toys, it’s ridiculous, the ones we have are in great shape, the kids love them and they DO play w/ them (like I said, we rotate them out). I thought about donating them and then asking for new ones but seriously, I’d be asking her to buy toys that we already have here. Why is an air purifier not good enuf/unreasonable to ask for when our son NEEDS that to breathe better???**


You are not alone.

Personally, I am not crazy about being asked what they should buy. I would rather let them give what they really want to give. I might give guidance like, our space really imited and I don’t want something with a lot of little parts that will just end up scattered all over the floor, or something to that effect.

I do know people, my sister for one and my boyfriend’s brother and SIL who get really upset about what grandparents buy their kids. My sister gets mad because he MIL buys her kids really expensive things that she thinks aren’t worth it. My boyfriend’s brother and his wife get upset because my boyfriend’s mom buys too many inexpensive things. In either case, these gifts are genuine expressions of love. I think that shouldn’t get lost in all of the criticism. I know my boyfriend’s mom really looks forward to giving these toys to her grandchildren and it really hurts her that her son and DIL seem to try to put a stop to it.

I think when it comes to Christmas, it is important to let go of your sense of needing to be in control and just accept what really is a gesture of love. For a lot of people buying gifts really is the way that they express love.

And to be honest, my kids would not be happy to get an air purifier or a set of sheets for Christmas. Some Christmases I have told my parents that what they really need are some new clothes, and believe me, it has been a disappointment to them.

Since we know Christmas is about giving and not receiving, I think it really is important to be gracious and thankful for what we are given. That in itself is probably the best gift you can give to your mother in law.


I can understand someone who enjoys shopping for toys and gifts for the kids. That’s one of the reasons I take a card from the giving tree in my parish. I enjoy looking for just the right doll or game or whatever it is and knowing that some child will be happy opening the present on Christmas morning.

The part that seems to be missing here is that you’re not enjoying the process. Can you opt out? Have your husband deal with his mother.

Or, tell her to go ahead and get whatever she thinks the kids would like. No drama at all. If she repeats that you need to give her a list, tell her again to buy whatever she thinks the kids would like. Like water on a duck…just shake it off and don’t become engaged in her demands. “Buy what you think the kids would like…they’ll love it because it’s from their grandmother.”


ug. my grandmother is like this. less so now that she’s getting too old to be able to shop much, but still…it’s all about her getting what she thinks people SHOULD want, not what they need. :rolleyes: She likes the idea that she can get things other family members can’t, and she likes to gloat about it too.

Every year I get clothes for my kids…which is GREAT in theory, but they are not the right size (she purposely gets smaller sized for my DD b/c she thinks she’s overweight…way to make a kid feel good right), and it’s not everyday clothes for school etc. it’s fancy dress up stuff that we really never need!!

It’s the day to day useful clothes we need, but she wants them to have extravagant dresses etc. These dresses are too much even for Church…that’s how over the top they are.

She also refuses to give me receipts so I can’t exchange anything that doesn’t fit. So, last few years SVDP has gotten some reaaaaally nice and expensive brand new dresses to sell.:shrug: Hopefully someone can make use of them.

Dr Ray once talked about his family members that do this…insist on lots of toys and gifts for kids that they don’t need…he keeps them wrapped and gives them right to charity.

I think it’s VERY odd that she won’t get your son an air purifier…I can’t quite wrap my head around that one…:shrug::confused:

What does Mr. MM say about this?


I am not sure how your MILs gift giving got turned into your project.(Like you don’t have enough to do already?) I think it is time you and your husband (and by that I really mean your husband :D) just tell your MIL that although you know that she means well, you would much rather she skip the gift asking and either get whatever she wants (since she wants it to be so “fun”) or get all of you tickets to something fun that includes her being there for the fun (tickets to a show or concert or amusement park, etc.) or she could just skip the gifts.

Hey, at least she’s not asking you to go shop for them too…:whistle:


*Is my sister your mother in law, mamacita? :rotfl: haha Wow, she does this also. I have learned to just tell her a few things, and then let her buy what she likes. If that is what makes her happy, so be it. I agree with dulcissima, she probably doesn’t want to buy something like a necessity for a child. Children don’t have the same value perceptions we do…your son needs it, but he won’t appreciate it the way you do. She could buy him that though, and other things. $200 per child is quite generous. But, yes, my sister does this with my son and daughter. And the strange this is, after all is said and done, she buys them things that make no sense. (like that are not their taste at all) So, why ask me? :shrug:

But, over the years, I’ve grown to appreciate that she wishes to buy them things…and I’m sure you do, also. Maybe just leave it at that. Don’t let it disrupt your peace, or cause angst between you and your MIL.

I hope it works out. :hug1: *


My mom does that.


I think you should be grateful for the money she spends on you. Sure it might not be exactly how you want it spent, but it’s not really appropriate to get upset over gifts because they’re not exactly what you want.


My first thought is getting alot of a really high-class building toy…knex…legos…etc. Like the roller coaster or robotic things.

Perhaps an investment in a high-class doll house? Those can run into $$$ but will last forever.

At $200 a kid with a yard you could get some really incredible toys. Would MIL get a swingset? A “zip” line? Would she get a trampoline? Trampolines and zip-lines last years and years and years. The trampoline was one of the best things my parents EVER baught as far as playthings. We’re in our mid to late 20’s and we get together each spring to put it together and use it whenever we visit home.

There are “build your own fort” kits that run about $600-800. Forts/playhouses are also things that are used for years and can be used in all seasons. If it were me I’d probably go the playhouse route…and MIL could have name plaques for each of the kids so they had something to open.

As a side note, do you homeschool? If so perhaps asking for a netbook or laptop that the children can share? Alot of great resources are available to HS’ers over the computer and when you have four kids needing to watch vid’s it can get hairy.

As far as you…instead of little things thing big-ticket items…perhaps a down payment on a chest freezer…or a new table.

And to be really honest young kids don’t remember who a gift was from. Worse case scenerio I’d do just a stocking from “santa” and let MIL buy the rest.


Are there any really nice things/toys that you’d like your kids to have (like a play kitchen or vanity or train table [oh wait, you already have a train table]), that you can’t afford, but would like to “go half-sies” with your mother-in-law on? My husband and I discovered this is a great way to cut down on all the stuff we didn’t want our kids to have. We would phrase it like this, “Hey, Mr. Beloved and I would like to get Toddler Beloved a little girly vanity, but the one at Pottery Barn is a little out of our budget. Would you like to go in on it, with us? We’d each pay half, and then have a little extra leftover for accessories like the stool, brush, comb, hand mirror, etc.”

Play kitchens have tons of accessory potential, too… Food, dishes, personalized aprons, oven mitts, table/chair sets, etc. Good dress up stuff is expensive, too – I’m thinking little princess outfits, firefighter suits, cowboy sets, etc. I’m a big fan of “community” toys that the kids can all share, and $800 would go a long way in shared toys!

Ooooh, what about bikes? Does everyone have a bike, so that y’all can go on family bike rides? The babies/toddlers can go in one of those caboose things that attach to the back of an adult’s bike. I have no idea how much any of this costs, but I figured that $800 could be spent quickly on stuff like this.

Outdoor swing sets are a blast, too, and quite pricey (even at Costco).

I know you weren’t really asking for ideas on what to ask your mother-in-law to buy, but this kind of thinking is how I’ve coped with the excessive stuff. :smiley: If you can’t beat 'em, join 'em.


How about giving the gifts you receive but don’t want to the homeless and charities?


I do get this- and my advice to you is to have her speak to each of the kids - if your kid asks her for say the thing to go to the Spirit lodge or whatever, they’re more likely to get it than you asking, (I believe). I’m not doubting you, but I find it really hard to believe that if she asked each kid individually what they wanted, privately on the phone or in an e-mail that they couldn’t come up with some toy or electronic item. I had every toy in the universe almost when I was a kid and I still always had a list. My advice to you is to ask for something to wear but make sure she knows that your “size” may change often and to include the receipt - that way you can take whatever it is back to say J.C. Penny or wherever and get what you want (the sheets or whatever). It is her money and it is her perogative on what to buy for Christmas. I’m not saying I’m like her (because I will listen when say the parents of our god children or our inlaws tell us a lands end gift certificate for them and whatever for our nephew), and I know I’m going to sound like I’m playing devil’s advocate, but my husband and I love shopping for our God Children(all 8 of them so far) - and our Nephew. I get that she doesn’t want to give gifts that aren’t “fun” and I’ll tell you why - I bet she’s thinking that if you’re asking for sheets for one of the kids, then what else are they going to be getting? She’s going to think(maybe)," if she’s telling me buy sheets, I can only imagine what other “fun” gifts my grand children will be getting from her - I better get them enough fun gifts so they get everything the wanted for Christmas…" I have NEVER known a child who had so many things that when asked what they wanted for Christmas (away from the parents) that they couldn’t find about 10 things they wanted. I know Christmas is not all about gifts, but this is the time in the kids lives where they can say they want fun things and it only comes once a year (granted, I go all out for Birthdays too - so I bet she does - so lets call it twice a year)-so what’s the harm in letting the kids get frivilous stuff they want. Don’t you get a lot of joy when you see them get a game or toy or IPOD or Playstation or whatever? I know I love that time and I hope that my parents will spoil our kids as much as we love to spoil others. Let each kid have some private time on the phone with frandmaw and tell us if that doesn’t solve the problem. And not to sound mean or anything, but if this is the biggest problem you have with your mother-in-law, than I think you should consider yourself very, very lucky. Also if it’s really stuff you guys don’t want, put it on ebay and then buy whatever you want (seriousl - if you can’t return it ebay or sell it) Good luck with this!
God Bless


Oh, Mamacita (and others) how difficult this kind of thing is. I keep analysing the gifts I get for my granddaughter, hoping I don’t fall into the trap of buying way more than she needs. I don’t want to be the granny who is causing grief one day down the line, but I also want to be able to give the gifts I may have wanted to give my own childen and couldn’t afford to buy.

My mother used to send me money in the second week of December with which I was supposed to buy presents for my daughters, my husband and me for Christmas (never mind that by then I’d fiished with present buying and was working on food for the holidays). One year I thought I’d be clever and buy gifts to the value that she usually sent while I was doing the rest of my gift buying and then use what she sent to make up the grocery money…of course that year she sent gifts and I had to work on an uncomfortably tight budget and keep my mouth shut too.

How about your 11 year old telling granny himself what he would really like? Maybe she’ll take it from him?

I’d suggest that you tell her what you want: air purifier, new sheets, gift cards, whatever…then when she refuses that say (nicely, through gritted teeth :wink: ) well I gave you the list of what we wanted, so if it’s not suitable you will have to get whatever you want to get. - Much like SuscipeMeDomine suggests, but at least you have given her a list of what would be suitable from your point of view.

I do think you have to stop playing her game and find a way in which you can give her you list and if that’s not what she wants to give then she must come up with alternatives. Mothers have quite enough to cope with at this time of year without tiresome grannies giving them more grief (note to self: do not become a tiresome granny!!!).

It must be so hard to accept her gifts graciously when there are so many ways in which you and MM could have used that money for your family together.

BTW pitched the right way an asthmatic child could well appreciate an air purifier more than some toy or other - my girls were given ceiling fans one year (Christmas is in summer where I live); new sheets…why on earth not? The new bedroom curtains, which replaced the threadbare ones, were also a present and envied by their friends. Sometimes “necessities” have to be gifts, and it does children no harm to learn this.


We do what my mom did, send a check each year and ask DDs to spend it as they wish, but simply to let the kids know whatever they buy-do-enjoy is a gift from Grandma and Grandpa. DD1 usually saves this for their vacation, DD2 usually spends it on clothes. The also get individual cards from the grandpa with a personal note, story, some fun content and a $5 or so. My card is usually in the form of a puzzle or game, sometimes one for the whole family–they have to put their cards together to get the clues, for instance.

They also get birthday cards, and cards with no occasion, from time to time. We have our family get together in the summer, our Christmas in July, and for that we exchange names, but the gifts have a theme related to our vacation spot, and can be no more than $10. We don’t do birthday presents for adults except for fun stuff, gag gifts etc, and usually only if we are actually going to be together at that time. We have asked the kids and grandkids not to buy anything for us and they respect that, but when DH has a parish project going on sometimes they donate for that. When I visit in the summer I buy an annual membership for their families to a museum they like, which is usable in like institutions in several cities, and something they get a lot of use from.

The problem parents describe here have more to do with the personalities of those involved, and unrealistic expectations, than they do with gift giving etiquette.

There is the shop-a-holic giver who just has to buy and buy on impulse
the I-wish-I-had-one-of-these-I-will-buy-it-for-somebody giver
the control giver–if you don’t wear-display-eat-use my gift it means you hate me and I will cut you out of my life forever (you wish)
the game-playing giver–grandma 1 loves you more than grandma 2 because her gift is bigger and cost mroe
the veiled insult giver–the caftan 4 sizes to big, or alternatively, the diet book

when these people are in-laws the problem escalates.

my only advice is to let it go, and periodically unload toys, clothes etc as they get in your way. When MIL asks, “where is the garage play-set with 1000 pieces that takes up the entire family room?” you can say the truth, “the kids were not playing with it [because I kept it in the garage for 2 years] so we gave it away to a pre-school.”


Some pretty good advise and comments here so far.

The only thing I can add is that you need to stop letting this woman bully you and causing so much stress in your life.
She insists you give her a Christmas list. You have done so. She may now choose to purchase the items on that list, or not - That is up to her - But this list you sent her is the only list she is going to get.
You could also say that you are sorry that she feels Christmas should be more about what she wants to give instead of what is asked for. It sounds like she is more interested in making Christmas fun for HER than for your children, especially her asthmatic grandson.

Phrase it kindly, but firmly and then drop the subject.
I realize it probably won’t do any good and she’ll keep pestering you, but just don’t get drawn in. If she is a shopaholic, She’ll probably go out and buy a bunch of stuff anyway which you can then sell and buy what you want. After all you won’t be selling anything that you asked for.

That’s my 2 cents worth.



That’s funny, my future mil is like that except she doesn’t want lists she wants to give them what she thinks is best for the kids! LOL My 10 year old daughter last year got from my fiance’s mother a 16 year old item, I was like HUH? She was like Well she’s getting to be older! I was like What in the world??? And teen clothing as well, and stuff like make up and lots of glitter! Now I like glittery stuff but still you know?! Believe me I am grateful then she considered my children and myself part of the family and all but some of the things were a bit too much?

Or like my sister this year, “send me Christmas wish list because I want to see what I can get the kids!” I was like get them whatever you’d like!? Because they will get the Christmas wish list and then mail them something that has nothing to do with what they wanted?! LOL :shrug: I just think that it’s great when the family gives we give what we can as well, but I don’t go asking anyone what do you want because I can’t afford much and I know my family is pricey!

So I think the best thing to do is to give to those in need and to loved ones a little of your love without going over your budget, you know?!


Frankly the crass material I see this time of year sickens me. The stores putting out decorations earlier each year but refusing to acknowledge Christmas by it’s name, the ever present pressure to buy buy buy, the media harping on the number of shoppers and sales receipts…I don’t listen anymore. I’ve had a rough year financially and may not have money to pay for essentials let alone gifts that will most likely be tossed aside and forgotten anyway. I have a budget of $20 per person…if that’s not good enough tough…my family is in the same boat none of us have money to throw out. I’d rather have my dad cook me a good meal (I live mostly on sandwiches since it’s just me I hate to cook) then waste money on junk I can’t use. I would remind you’re inlaws of the real meaning of Christmas. If they insist on spending a certain about take cash instead and give it charity or use it for a worthy cause…heck save it for a rainy day…you might need it when you least expect. :shrug::rolleyes:


Ok, this needs to be addressed. It’s not that we are ungrateful, it’s that we have a TON of toys, junk, clothes, shoes, etc. SHE ASKED what we wanted, so I told her what we’d like, and she responds w/ “Sorry, I won’t buy that.” Well then why the hell is she asking what we WANT??
WE don’t need more junk. We (well DH will since it’s his mom) are going to tell her that whatever she gets that is not a NEED is going to the St. Vincent de Paul society the day after Christmas. Seriously, this is all about her wanting to buy THINGS, a reason for her to shop her heart out basically. :rolleyes:


She will not give us cash, that WOULD be a dream come true. :wink: I am with you on the materialism of Christmas, hence why one year we wanted her to take some of the money and adopt a family instead of spending it on US. I was in the car today and heard Christmas music on the radio. I was shocked! :eek: I mean I know the displays have been up in stores since last week here where we live (yes, they were up WITH the Halloween stuff, separate tho), but seriously, Christmas music before Thanksgiving is a little too much (but at least the radio stations jingle was “the CHRISTMAS station” instead of “holiday station”) we’ll be tired of it before Christmas even arrives. :rolleyes:


I kinda get that she wants to buy the things they get excited about… but when it is obvious (through you telling her) that it makes your life difficult, then I’d start to wonder, like you do, why, why, why…

Anyway - here are some ideas, maybe they will work, maybe not…

How about new fun curtains and comforters for their rooms? That would be useful AND fun. Can she be convinced of that? Also - since it is soooo much money per kid, how about something that is FOR a trip, but not necessarily the trip? What comes to mind is ski clothes for the kids (that they will grow out of in a year, and I don’t even know if you live near snow…) and then maybe she’ll be more inclined to throw in the lift ticket?

How about beach towels and buckets and shovels? Things you are going to buy anyway that are fun to buy for people. I know - towel sets with their names embroidered on them… they are really cute… a beach bag for each kid…

I will try to think of more…

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