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Presents! How we handle them ~ Part 2

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Chasing Babies... Growing in Grace: Presents! How we handle them ~ Part 2

Friday, December 16, 2011

Presents! How we handle them ~ Part 2

Yesterday I talked about how we handle gift giving at Christmas time. 

Today I want to tell you a little about how we handle receiving gifts for the children.  And this applies to both Christmas and birthdays.

First I should tell you... I've very hands on!  The. whole. process.

Before the gift receiving event
I start out by making my own list of what the children "want".  Now... take note.  I don't always worry about what they may say they want (not that they say much at this age).  We try to keep things very simple around here.  We don't have a lot of space, so toy space is at a real premium.  We avoid plastics for the most part (other than a few we've checked out and deemed "safe") and electronic toys too.  And best of all, we aim to avoid "twaddle" (not normally a term used for toys, but we've begun to use it across all sorts of things in this house referring to something that will dumb down our children instead of grow them up as we wish.) 

Overall, we aim for the things the children have and play with to be quality, imagination inspiring, long lasting toys (think passed down to younger children) and usable by more than one age group at a time.  A few great things to play with are better than a bunch of "junk" as the case may be.  (Sorry "junk" lovers!)

So... this past summer I had an idea.  It was inspired by my complaint that grandparents would request a list and then not follow it and their complaints that they didn't want to be buying a duplicate of one of the other grandparents looking at the same list.  So what's a picky mom to do?  I'll tell you!

I make the list (we'll talk about what's on the list another time) and I give it to one set of grandparents.  That's right... only one.  A few days later I hear back from said "lucky to be first" grandparent with the item/items they would like to purchase.  I remove those from the list and send it on to the next in line.  And so on.  And it works.  Everyone was happy when we did it for Little Man's birthday in August.  Everyone was happy when we did it for Tornado's birthday earlier this month.  And everyone seems happy now.

Downside???  Of course there are some of these.  First... it just feels weird.  I don't like the "asking" part of making a list in the first place, let alone the demand of "pick and tell me what you're going to give us."  Ewww.  But, that said, these people are asking for a list of what the children would want or could use.  They are planning to send gifts regardless.  And... they all seem to feel better knowing that no one else is selecting the same thing.  So I just need to get over it.

The other downside is that not everyone is jumping for joy about this (ok... disclaimer, not everyone liked the lists I was sharing in the first place, so I haven't even shared this new method with them).  So, we just leave these people out and deal with them in the next step.

Gift receiving time
When it's time and the gifts start rolling in I can, for the most part, rest easy.  I know that we approve of most of the gifts that arrive.  Some come direct from the company and I do the wrapping, others come gift wrapped.  Either way, I already know what is in them and that they are ok for our family.

But what about the other times?  What about those gifts that come that I don't know about???  And there always are some.  There are loving, well meaning people who want to send the things they want to send.  There's nothing you can do about that.  And we appreciate them and their desire to make our children happy.  Sometimes you can just keep them quiet.  No one has to know.  They disappear and no questions will ever be asked.  But then, sometimes, you also can't always do something about that one rouge gift giver who announces on the phone to said child that a package is coming.  There is no sneaking this one out of existence.

So what do I do?  I peek.

I do... and I don't feel bad about it.  I know the track records of various people.  I know they are going to send things into our house that we aren't going to let stay.  So I look.  Sometimes it's ok... sometimes it's not.   Sometimes part of the gift stays and part doesn't.  If we can exchange something, we will.  If we can't, we just let it go.

And for those times that the child sees it before we can get it out???  We've started explaining to our oldest (he's the only one to notice so far) that there are certain things that we don't want them to have, read, play with, etc.  We explain the reasons for the particular item, help him understand, and he seems to do pretty well with it so far.  Perhaps because he's never known any other way.

Sometimes there is disappointment, but we've most recently been blessed with such a teachable gift.  One of the gifts that came to us this month wasn't our first pick, but we decided to let him have it.  Nothing really wrong with it, just not one we wanted in the house.  Then when the batteries die, we'll say good-bye to it... like a disposable gift.   Turns out it was even better than that (this sounds terrible).  The little items (more than one in the box) began to break and we were having to throw them away.  When Tornado would ask why they were breaking we had the opportunity to explain that some toys aren't made very well (took this chance to teach doing your best work) and that this is the reason why we don't like them to have all the toys they see in stores.  That when we say no to something, it's because it is this sort of toy.  (Secretly hoping this will help with future explanations.)

Is it worth it?  What's the big deal?
We (ok... sometimes it's me that cares the most) think so.  Yes, it's more work.  Yes, it can be a pain.  But when I think about the work and the pain of keeping toys, books, and videos we do no want our children to have, it's well worth it.  

So there you have it... you now know my shameful secret!  Anyone else have tips and ideas of how you handle the receiving of gifts for your family???  Any other "peekers" out there?

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