We still think this is the polite way to go…

DC2 had another birthday.  The in-laws were extremely generous again.

Unfortunately, with DC2, unlike with DC1 (who is the oldest grandkid), they’ve been getting hir (grandkid #5/6) a lot of what we consider to be inappropriate stuff or just stuff zie doesn’t want.  When DC1 was younger, there was always too much, but it was generally appreciated.

We think this is because DC2 has a same-gendered cousin who is about a year older whose parents have, without going into detail, very different viewpoints about uh, bringing up children.  So DC2 has started getting things that DC2’s cousin loves but that DC2 is either completely uninterested in because zie’s not into that kind of tv show, or that we are not interested in because we teach the opposite of those values.

Initially we were just giving the former to DC2 because we were often wrong about what we perceived to be DC1’s interests, but in DC2’s case, we were right–those toys would be opened and played with once and then never again.  The latter we’d send back to Amazon if we could or put in the gift closet for future birthday party gifts if we couldn’t or if it wasn’t worth sending back.  Last Christmas they gave DC2 4 different versions of the same toy (all of which were displayed prominently on hir cousin’s amazon list) and all of which we gave to toys for tots because DC2 wasn’t playing with the figure zie already had.

This birthday when MIL asked what DC2 wanted, I made an amazon list.  DH told her that DC2 is really into Batman and My Little Pony and Powerpuff Girls and Bubble Guppies.  (But did not explicitly say, no, zie is really not into the shows that hir cousin is into.)  And some of those items made it into DC2’s haul this year, but so did unwanted items, and this time a couple of really expensive such items.

Since we make a lot more money than we used to, it no longer bothers me to get a $45 toy that is both age inappropriate and our-values inappropriate.  It just gets saved up for toys for tots come Christmas time.  [It used to get saved for birthday parties (though I’ve always felt a little embarrassed about that since these are things we would never buy for someone), but there’s been a lot fewer of those lately, and when they do happen they’re “no gift” or “give to this charity” parties instead.]

On top of that, when we remove the unwanted items from the gift pile, DC2 is left with a much more reasonable number of gifts.  So it’s not like we want replacement stuff instead of the expensive unwanted stuff.  Just, you know, less stuff.

We don’t know how to bring this up to the in-laws, so we don’t.  Beyond saying what DC2 actually wants, putting together an amazon list, highlighting gifts zie’s enjoyed and not much mentioning the rest, I don’t think additional feedback is really wanted.

How do you deal with extraneous or unwanted gifts?

31 Responses to “We still think this is the polite way to go…”

  1. yuppiemillennial Says:

    I would bring it up with MIL next time she is buying gifts for DC2. Something along the lines of reiterating how grateful you are to have MIL be so generous but you are concerned some of them are going unused because they don’t fit DC2’s interest. Bring up an example if there is one show MIL keeps buying memorabilia from that DC2 doesn’t like. If you don’t want to seem like you are criticizing MIL’s present picking, maybe say DC2 is failing to play with gifts because there are just too many, so let’s reduce to a small manageable number. That might help her stick to the Amazon wishlist which I think is more likely to be her main source of ideas if there are only 1-2 gifts versus, say, 4+.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Yeah, I just don’t think that would go over well.

      • Frania Says:

        Yes, it’s not easy. I think you’re doing as much as you can. Some people don’t like being told what to buy, or want to buy things that they enjoyed or think the child should experience, regardless of the child’s interests.

  2. hollyatclubthrifty Says:

    It sounds like we have handled it similarly. I always gave “excess” gifts to holiday toy drives when my kids were babies. Now that they’re older, they’ll voluntarily hand over duplicates when they receive a gift they already have. I feel fairly fortunate that my kids aren’t too attached to “stuff” yet. I don’t know if that will change, but I’m enjoying it while it lasts.

    My in-laws have purchased my kids some really awful gifts before (think: giant purple teddy bear bigger than my children’s bodies), but my mom is just as bad. She shops sales to get the best deal without any regard whether they want the gift or not. Whatever was 30 percent off in the toys section at Kohl’s is what they’re getting. I give up.

    • hollyatclubthrifty Says:

      To add to that, I also sold some of the new baby toys they didn’t need and added those funds to their college savings! Now that they’re older I’m more inclined to donate because I have less time.

  3. Nanani Says:

    Speaking as a former kid with similar gift issues (though without the awareness of an adult of course)…
    Maybe the problem will be less pronounced when DC2 is old enough to tell the offending relatives hirself what gifts would be prefered? “Grandma I LOVE BATMAN!!1” repeated enough times from adorable grandchild will probably be more effective than you could ever be.

    Apart from that, you seem to be doing it right :)
    I just hope your kid won’t get stung with realisation that they are getting cousin’s cast-offs.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      They’re not literally the cousin’s cast-offs– they are new toys. The cousin just is really into X, Y, and Z, so my in-laws assume that all same-gendered kids are into X, Y, and Z. Unfortunately X, Y, and Z don’t really fit with our family values.

      We live pretty far away, is probably part of the problem. Otherwise Grandma would know that both our kids love batman! (Specifically the “how it should have ended” version of batman.)

      • Nanani Says:

        Ahh OK. I misunderstood.
        Assumptions that all same-gendered kids like the same things need to DIAF.

  4. SP Says:

    It is a little surprising that they don’t get the idea, even if you give specific lists and such. I’d likely do what you are doing. If we were close, I’d find a way to tell them, but since we see our families less often than desirable, it just wouldn’t seem like something I’d want to bring up.

  5. chacha1 Says:

    I suspect this is a problem that goes with kids. The only unwanted/awkward gifts I’ve received in the past 20 years or so were from co-workers who didn’t know me well. Since if they don’t know me well, they’ve probably never been in my home and never will be, I feel no compunction about immediately turning around and donating the item.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We had a problem this year in which DH returned something right away (it was adorable but too small and was a substitute for what DC2 had asked for but not what zie actually wanted) and it turned out to be this Great Deal on Amazon Prime Day and MIL asked DH to hold onto it if zie didn’t want it so she could pick it up for one of the younger grandkids the next time she visited. DH didn’t even tell her that the reason we returned it was because it was the wrong size for DC2!

  6. Jenny F. Scientist Says:

    Ah, we have the same model of in laws: love stuff, can’t understand that we don’t want stuff and especially not random stuff, don’t listen. I return what I can, and give the rest away if it can’t be present-closeted.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Is it wrong that I am super excited about dc2 getting invited to a birthday party just so I can get rid of stuff?

      Probably not this large $45 thing though…

      • Jenny F. Scientist Says:

        MY parents, who LISTEN, give our children their time and affection, and art supplies, and sometimes custom sewn (by my mom) pajamas.

        That reminds me of the bday party coming up this weekend!

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        My in-laws also give a lot of time and attention. They just give a lot of stuff too!

        My mom buys books. :)

      • Jenny F. Scientist Says:

        Well, then you have an upgraded model of in-laws from the one I was issued!

        (I ended up making the birthday kid two star wars pillowcases because I didn’t want to add to their toy collection, lest it cause woe.)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I found hidden caches of unopened toys I had completely forgotten about while going through the gift closet looking for a (duplicate) book I knew we had about going to kindergarten (turns out we had TWO duplicate books about going to kindergarten), since the birthday girl just graduated preschool and when else am I going to have an opportunity to get rid of that book. Toys kept hitting me on the head. We currently have FOUR SHELVES of excess toys because we didn’t clear out before going on leave. Mostly small gendered toys. That’s not counting the big $45 thing or the other stuff in the “donate” cabinet. Toys for tots is going to get a huge haul from us this year unless DC2 starts getting invited to more parties.

        Our gift bag cabinet is also overfull. I think our tenants added to it while we were gone.

  7. Debbie M Says:

    They seem to really enjoy shopping. And it probably makes them feel good to give things away. And they are actually looking at your Amazon list and giving you things off of that. This all sounds great.

    Whatever the cousin likes is probably super popular, so it’s probably highly appreciated at the toy donation place. So I think your responses are already perfect–except for the feeling bad part!

    To answer your question, I try to tell everyone that I don’t want gifts at all, and before they started listening so well, I tried to keep my Amazon wish list updated. When I get some anyway, I thank them and bring them home. Then I try to find a good home.

    Except I still get home-made jewelry, which I keep on my necklace rack (really a tie rack) and try to think of things to wear it with. :-( I’m trying to figure out how to tell people I admire their work even if I don’t want to actually own what they are making. I think I need to say, “That’s not my style, but …” or “I don’t love those colors, but …” And the other day, I did tell someone, “Don’t ever throw that away. If you ever are thinking of doing so, please give it to me instead.”

    (I don’t have kids or other dependants, so I don’t have to figure out what to do with unwanted gifts for them.)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Yes, they definitely enjoy shopping! And they can afford to do it (they’ve come a long way since DH was born and don’t live someplace expensive), so it’s not like they’re endangering their retirement. If they couldn’t, then I would have forced DH to have a talk with them a long time ago.

      Though I think they enjoy it a bit less with 6 grandkids than they did with 2. That’s probably part of why they’re just giving DC2 what the cousin enjoyed, though there’s probably also some elements of fairness there.

  8. gwinne Says:

    I’d use similar strategies.

    Of a toy Tiny Boy received from his uncle/aunt with a same age child, I’ve said that either my brother (a) doesn’t know me at all, (b) is actively trying to punish me, or (c) is completely clueless that not all parents want these sorts of toys for their children. I mostly hope it’s not B. Unfortunately once this particular toy made it into the house, Tiny Boy loved it. It lives in the basement now until one day I can sneak it out of the house…

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I’m sure it’s (c)– their kid loved it so they assumed yours would too.

      My in-laws did a lot better job picking gifts for DC1, probably because there was no older cousin with completely different tastes. (Now they ask what zie wants and there really aren’t any surprise gifts for hir, which is a huge change!)

  9. Ana Says:

    My MIL has gotten MUCH better with this, she mostly brings art supplies and Lego kits—things that aren’t annoying/loud/big. But really they have more than enough colored pencils, for example, she brings them new sets every 6 months or so…it is impossible to stop her from buying things. IMPOSSIBLE. so i’m just choosing to be happy she is not buying anything that goes against our values, for example. (and when she leaves we give away whatever is not being used)

  10. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    I actually inherited a handful of nice things from my friend whose friends and coworkers don’t seem to know her at all, though they’re well intentioned (?) For example, a beautiful heavy yarn weight baby blanket, but she is single with no children and none expected or intended. She’s in her 40s.

    But our family who is heavy into highly priced gift-giving absolutely would not take well to any hints or suggestions or requests that they gift in a way we’d enjoy so we just quietly regift or donate or resell as appropriate. As long as I can resist having to reciprocate, I will resist the urge to try and stop it because, for some of them it’s no financial burden and for some it’s absolutely irresponsible spending, but none of them will respect our wishes without first taking offense. And sometimes not even then. So it’s not worth a battle over it since we aren’t close enough for them to see if we use the Thing or That Other Thing.

  11. Kellen Says:

    What you’re already doing sounds good–specifying where possible so DC2 gets some things DC2 likes, and donating the rest. Sounds like the grandparents feel they should buy more gifts than they have ideas for, so they will probably still want to buy the same quantity but will be more work for them if you try to give feedback on choices. And I’m sure the kids who get them as donations really love them.
    It also sounds like the grandparents have gotten better with DC1 over time too, so may just naturally start to ask DC2 more specifically as DC2 gets older?

    Side note, my aunt still gets me gifts that are not my style at all, and my sister and I will enjoy an evening shrieking with laughter about how ridiculous we look the flower-print nighties that she has bought us (when aunt is not around of course), and then we’ll politely thank her for sending them, and promptly donate to goodwill.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:


      (DH donates a lot of clothing gifts to goodwill as well. Mostly it’s just a “too much” of the same kind of thing problem. Though she also will often assume that he looks good in the same things his younger brother looks good in, which is not true at all since they have completely different color palettes. I often nab those shirts for weekend casual wear since I am also a Spring and never did outgrow Grunge.)

  12. Rosa Says:

    We tried so many strategies, and then we just gave up. We donate a lot of things. They ask us for specific lists and then buy not quite the thing on the list.

    I’m sure Toys for Tots enjoys the donations. Last Christmas I asked for things that were on the wish list of the local homeless shelter and we just stopped there to drop stuff off before driving home from Christmas.

    And I gave up on the “not our values” stuff. If they give it directly to kiddo, and he likes it, he gets to have it. Whatever. He’s old enough to either have or not have our values at this point. But he’s a lot older than your DC2.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We try to avoid things that, for example, demean women.

      Our kids also get stuff that is given directly, but since we live so far away usually we can screen first. When we were in Paradise and MIL was visiting and had brought something that goes with a toy DC2 had left back where we normally live we just let DC2 keep the duplicate toy that MIL immediately went out and bought at Walmart. If she’d mailed it, that wouldn’t have happened. (So now DC2 has two since we were unable to convince hir to leave any toys back in Paradise and didn’t want to fight about it. I don’t think zie has played with either since getting back.)

      • Rosa Says:

        we haven’t gotten demeaning stuff (I think. I can’t keep up with the books he’s reading anymore. Nothing obvious, at least) but I had to completely give up on my quality standards and not wanting cheap disposable plastic crap or pointlessly noisemaking things. And our anti-gun rules.

        And the volume…we had this idea we were going to keep the gift pile smallish, keep the focus of holidays on being with people. But after a number of years when we didn’t get him any presents because other people got him so many, i just said screw it, I like buying him stuff too (and making sure he gets at least one thing he really wants – I know from experience how incredibly frustrating it is to be asked to make a list, make a very specific list, and then not get the things you wanted & asked for. It’s way worse than just not having any input and not getting what you want). Like you, I just don’t want to fight about it and after many attempts at varied levels of directness I know the grandmas just are not interested in feedback.

  13. Thoughts on the children’s Xmas haul this year | Grumpy Rumblings (of the formerly untenured) Says:

    […] problem of DC2 getting the same gifts as hir slightly older same-gendered cousin is getting worse.  And we couldn’t just confiscate those gifts either (for the most part) […]

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