The Christmas Wish List

by admin on December 1, 2010

Every year my mother-in-law asks for, no, she DEMANDS I provide her with a list for my children of ideas for her to buy for them for Christmas. Every single year her behavior reminds me why I HATE this tradition of “The List.” It also sucks the last bit of joy I had for this holiday right out of me. We painstakingly come up with a list of ideas (always referring back to her previous gripes about “The List” so we can make her life easier) and she continues to complain, no matter what. Her issues are: she doesn’t like what they have chosen to want or need, she thinks everything is too expensive (or too cheap!), it’s not “nice” enough, it’s not what SHE wants to buy, it’s too hard to find (she likes to wait until the last minute), it’s not “normal” for people to want such things and again, it’s not what SHE wants to buy….and on and on and on. After giving her the list I am bombarded by endless phone calls and complaints about “The List” and I am sick of it.

I have spent my last Christmas listening to her whine about what her grandchildren asked for, whine about how hard it was to shop from the list and whine about how the stuff they asked for isn’t what she wants to buy. Isn’t the idea to give people something from the list that they might actually want or need? My children are not Gimme Pigs either, they ask for things that are reasonable and affordable. They know that cash and gift cards are out because this particular grandmother refuses to do that for them (even though she does it for her other grandchildren) so they are required to come up with list after list after list only to hear her complain bitterly every year. The joy of Christmas is being killed for them, too.

So, we have decided to boycott the list. Cast us off to e-Hell if you must for being rude and not playing nice with a family member, but if we continue to play her sick manipulative game it will make us hate Christmas. Are we horrible for taking this stand? 1123-10

I generally think that Christmas Wish Lists should be treated like wedding registries, i.e. the “Push/Pull” rule comes into play.  One should not  “push” a wish list on any potential gift givers but rather the information should be “pulled” from the recipient.  I have kept a personal wish list Word document on my family’s shared server for decades.  It’s there to access as they wish but they are free to ignore it, too.  I know where their wish lists are as well, but I rarely base my gift giving on the lists.

In the OP’s case, I suggest supplying a wish list that be accessed at any time online (such as, direct Grandmom to it  when she asks and then ignore all future whines about the content of the wish lists.  Grandmom is under no obligation to shop from the wish lists or give gifts she is not happy giving.  Children should be taught that wish lists are not mandatory shopping lists, to not expect that others have any obligation to fulfill their desires and to be grateful for what they do receive.

{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

PrincessSimmi December 1, 2010 at 6:42 pm

Well, as someone who is slightly nutty and… erm… ‘quirky’… my family have had problems buying for me for many years. Also, I have a fear of suprises (thanks to a brother who’s idea of a suprise was to jump out of a wardrobe an punch me in the face) so a wish list works for me.

For the past two years, my Mother’s side of the family have bought me cat toys (I luuuurve my kitties) and Dad’s side give me gift vouchers. This works fine for me. This year Mum wants to do something different – rather than giving me cash, she’s going to deposit money into my bank account, and I’m going to put it onto my mortgage as an extra payment. This also works fine. 🙂

I suppose that the best thing is to know your family well enough to be able to choose something. If you can’t, ask. If you don’t want to ask, think about their ages and buy appropriately. I bought my brother a DVD, and the other brother and sister a copy of Twister. The cousins got various kits (they love building things) and the toddlers got books/night lights/toddler-friendly toys. You don’t need a list to do shopping. You just need a lot of time and patience, and a little bit of common sense.

Good on you, OP, for standing up to the Outlaw.


PrincessSimmi December 1, 2010 at 6:43 pm

Sorry, by a ‘copy of Twister’ I meant I bought them the game.


babs December 1, 2010 at 6:48 pm

I’m thinking that the OP lives close to Grandma, that’s why her kids get gifts where the others get gift certificates and money, that she sends out of town. It was like that when my kids were growing up. My MIL sent her out-of-town kids and grandkids a very generous check, but since we lived in the same town, we got whatever she felt we wanted or needed. My kids are in their 30’s now and didn’t have all those electronic gadgets. Toys were not as expensive when they were growing up. Everything it seems now has a very pricey pricetag. I’m afraid Grandma is stuck back in the 80’s-90’s when she was raising her own children.

As for us, we get the usual “Big Toy Catalogue” each year from toysRus, and one from Target and another from Kmart. I give them to my grandkids, each with a different colored marker and let them go at it. Of course they circle just about everything age/gender related in the books, but they really look forward to it and it gives ideas and I can see a theme (like Disney, Barbie, etc.). Then I just buy what I want to buy, what’s available and in my price range. Seems like everybody’s happy that way. The catalogues come out around October and by December, they don’t remember exactly what they circled. I leave it to the parents to hunt for the hard-to-find presents. Grandmas are not to fulfill all the children’s fantasies, we just the gravy on top of all the good stuff!


Sharon December 1, 2010 at 7:05 pm

I would like to add that the MIL reaction has nothing to do with the actual list, giving gifts, nor anything else about making anyone else happy.
Some people thrive on chaos. The more drama, the more alive they feel.

OP, people like your MIL just suck all the fun and life out of every situation. I have a family memeber who does things like this. Passive-agressive people can just litterally wear you out. My solution was to just decline when asked to do the little “passive-agressive” dance. And, keep on declining. My own sanity was at stake.


karma December 1, 2010 at 7:32 pm

In my small family (parents, sister) we ask each other what we’d like. We each give a few very modest suggestions, and that is what we get each other. No harm, no foul, no guessing, no returns, and no harassment! 🙂
About the holiday spirit sucking: I don’t think others can suck the joy out unless you let them. The whole mantra of “commercialization” is only a problem if you let it be. Gift giving can be sane, fun, and edifying if you keep it that way. You can’t control what others do, but you can control what you do.
Give the cranky grandmother a very generic, very short list: purses, barrettes, teddy bears, and Nancy Drew books. Don’t add or subtract, don’t engage.


Cooler Becky December 1, 2010 at 8:15 pm

My parents thought I was lying when I said I was allergic to peanuts at the age of 4. ((Somehow I had learned the word allergic and equated them to peanuts somehow.))

I would be violently ill everytime they told me that a certain something (candy, raw peanuts, salads) had peanuts in it. Thinking that it was a psychological response to being told that there were peanuts in the food, they tried hiding it in my food during a dinner at an expensive restaurant.

I ate the food and was immediately violently sick… all over the restaurant’s new plush carpet. From then on, it was never tried again and my parents fully understood that I was actually allergic – not just putting it on.


LilyG December 1, 2010 at 9:03 pm

Two suggestions:
1. Ask for something in the kids’ name. A donation to Heifer INternational is my favorite gift when I have NO idea what to get someone.
2. My family stopped getting assigned gifts and now we have a mystery gift/white elephant exchange. (The presents are nice, not ‘ugh, let’s get rid of this POS”) You bring as many bags as participants in the family and then one by one, you choose the bag whose outside strikes your fancy. You can steal one from someone else if you like; they can then steal someone else’s or choose anew. It’s great-no one complains and you don’t have to worry about being rejected as a giver.
Some of the faves last year were a funny DVD, box of microwave popcorn and bag of M&Ms; a set of pirate fridge magnets with magnetic clothes to dress them in; Polly Pockets and travel Uno in a felt owl bag; 4 dozen homemade spritz cookies and a pound of really good coffee and 2 decks of cards, euchre scorecards and a fifth of Jim Beam.


Jillybean December 1, 2010 at 9:04 pm

A thought about lists…

When my siblings and I were little we would each make a list for Santa – that was passed off to Santa by my mom. Each year we wouldn’t get everything we asked for, of course, but enough that we were pleased with what we did. But, each year there would be one all important/had to have it type gift that we wouldn’t get from Santa. We’d be mildly disappointed, but with all the wonderful things we did get, it would be no biggie. In the afternoon we would head to my grandparents house for family dinner, and each year, amazingly enough, my grandfather would have gotten each of us the exact thing we’d wanted so much but that Santa hadn’t brought. Grandpa (for whatever reason the gift always came from him, not both he and my grandmother – weird now that I think about that, lol) would be the big hero of Christmas – though he was our hero most other days, too. I stopped believing in Santa long before I realized my mom shopped for him. The magic of getting that one gift, the thinking he was brilliant for always knowing, and the later discovery of what a great lady my mom was for letting him get the credit all those years are some of my fondest holiday memories. None of that would have happened without a list. 🙂


LilyG December 1, 2010 at 9:04 pm

I have to add it’s more fun with a lot of people. Our exchange involves 7 sibs, their spouses, all their children and my mom and stepmom. The house is pretty full.


The Cat Whisperer December 1, 2010 at 9:06 pm

The grandma in the OP’s story sounds like a real sour old biddy, so this particular suggestion probably doesn’t apply to her. But there are lots of grandmas and grandpas who aren’t like her, and may I make a suggestion for a gift they can give?

Back-story here: my grandfather on my mother’s side died suddenly when I was 12, and my grandmother developed Alzheimer’s in the years that followed. My mother died suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 59, when I was in my thirties. This was all before my own daughter was born.

She’s 18 now, and she is starting to take a real interest in these family members she never knew. And I’m very, very, very sorry to say that my answer to many of her questions has to be “I don’t know,” because I never got to ask my grandparents or my mom some of the things my daughter wants to know.

Absolutely priceless beyond any treasure: an account by the grandparents of who they are and what some of the major events and experiences in their lives have been. Particularly for grandparents who came over from “the old country,” whatever country that was. Why did they come here? What was it like in a new country? What about the family that remained behind?

Every detail that gets set down on paper (or recorded on video or audio) is a direct link to people in the family. Maybe little Johnny or little Suzy doesn’t care right now about things like grandpa’s service in the Army in Vietnam or grandma’s experiences in college, but you can be absolutely certain that there will come a day when that information will be valued by someone in the family.

Artifacts are even better. I have my mom’s high school graduation program and my dad’s group school picture from sixth grade. I have my grandmother’s “green card” and my grandfather’s contractor’s license. I have a letter my mother wrote to her mother-in-law when my mom was a newlywed and didn’t have any children yet. Things I can hold and touch and think about, that make the memories of the people involved as real and solid as if they were just around the corner in another room.

FWIW, toys get broken and outgrown; books get read and then put away; clothes wear out. But memories and things that pass on personal family history are ageless, timeless and never wear out. So my suggestion is to ask grandparents for the gift of themselves, for them to pass along history and memories to the younger generation.


Katy December 1, 2010 at 9:40 pm

BOYCOTT THE LIST! Don’t give in to her attempts to manipulate you and your family. It may be tough for awhile but it will be well worth it. And the great thing about phones these days is Caller ID. Screen those calls so she doesn’t have an audience to whine and complain to.

My family has exchanged lists in the past but never is it required. Usually I use it as a basis for what the person’s interests are at that time. Even with close family members we can get in a rut and need a refresher. My sister was really into butterflies as a teenager and most everything in her room had butterflies on it. I don’t think the pink butterfly bedspread would go over that well at 29.

My go-to gifts for kids are boardgames or magazine subscriptions. National Geographic for Kids makes a great gift that lasts all year. Even my 2 year old nephew likes looking at all of the pictures in both the kid magazine and regular National Geographic.


MOB December 1, 2010 at 9:47 pm

@Cooler Becky
My daughter is allergic to chocolate. Since she did not react violently to it, we didn’t make the connection until she was about 3 or 4. She was always sick after the candy holidays….Valentines, Easter, Halloween and Christmas. After eliminating it from her diet her reactions were more obvious. She could eat a very small amount, but if she ate too much she’d have a headache, bloody noses, and eventually gastro-intestinal issues. I always knew when someone snuck her the forbidden food because of those symptoms. Because of that and the fact I have my own food allergies, as well as being a former teacher who saw some very deadly reactions out of children with food allergies….I don’t mess around and try to sneak food in on people to test them. You are so lucky the little prank your parents played on you didn’t go terribly wrong. I am glad they finally believed your allergy was real!


Sharon December 1, 2010 at 9:56 pm

@ karma, you are right when you say that people cannot take your joy unless you let them.
But, dealing with this kind of personality is very frustrating. It is wrong to let someone else make us feel miserable. It is not that simple. Realizing where the problem is and dealing with it in a positive way takes time and skill. And, dealing with someone like this can actually be hard to do when others enable that person. You get heaps of guilt piled on you because you have DARED to nicely not go along with the lunacy.
I am sorry if I implied that the “holiday spirit” sucks… I honestly love the Thanksgiving through Christmas holiday season.
Our family has one family member that sounds like the MIL of the OP. It was hard to deal with her, but we learned over the years. Slowly and surely we learned. Things are so much more happy now.
It starts with little things… like boycotting the list.


Elizabeth December 1, 2010 at 11:31 pm

OP- Glad I could make you smile. I really do hope your holidays are filled with joy.


Tori December 1, 2010 at 11:38 pm

I write ac Christmas list for my parents. I usually have about 10 items I would like and they chose several so I don’t know exactly what I am getting. This also shows them the sort of things I like so sometimes they get me other gifts that have something in common with something on my list. Most of what I ask for are books. I list some that I have read and enjoyed and would like to own. This makes it easier for them. I also keep my list contained to what I know they can afford. My list this year would cost about 100$ if they got EVERYTHING on it. My little sister however gets a toy catalogue and circles everything she wants. Her Christmas this year is easily about 2500$. The cheapest thing on the list is about 70$. And on Christmas morning she will be wondering why there are less packages with her name.


Simone December 2, 2010 at 12:26 am

“I would be violently ill everytime they told me that a certain something (candy, raw peanuts, salads) had peanuts in it. Thinking that it was a psychological response to being told that there were peanuts in the food, they tried hiding it in my food during a dinner at an expensive restaurant.”

And they really didn’t see any way in which that could end badly?


Angela December 2, 2010 at 4:56 am

I do not like list! What ever happen to putting thought and time into gift giving? A list is easy but to try to learn and know a person takes time are we just not taking the time? Personally nothing thrills me more than a surprise gift that I did not ask for but really the person knew me so well that it was a “perfect gift”.
When someones states what do you want for Christmas, birthday’s etc I shudder and feel yuck. I wonder if what I ask for is too expensive, etc. This does not seem very fun.


Jessiebird December 2, 2010 at 6:08 am

I think it is telling that the MIL seems to treat her other grandchildren differently than the OP’s children. Distances should not influence whether or not a college fund is contributed to. I frequent another site called and you’ll see stories like this all over the place. (My MIL is great…it’s my own FOO that’s the trouble, but there is room there for everyone’s stories. And it helps me see that some people are just mean to family members for no apparent reason. Very sanity and self-esteem saving. If you like etiquette stories. you’ll love reading some of the egregious stories there.) Anyway, I think it is right to step off the List game. It sounds like it is a way for the MIL to get ammunition to criticize and belittle you for some reason. She perhaps feels safer doing it with you than others, but she must get some great superior pleasure out of it. It is a crazy game. The sad news is that she’ll complain when you step out of the game and try ever more creative ways to get you back in probably, so you get to figure out which complaining you prefer to deal with, rather than avoid it altogether. I’m sorry you have to deal with such a person, but it’s a credit to you that you tried to be kind and accommodating as long as you have. I hope you find a way to keep your spirits up about Christmas. Those memories are too important to let a inexplicably bitter and petty person damage them.


Giles December 2, 2010 at 7:43 am

My mother had a holiday tradition of gathering all the kids at her house for a baking party to make cookies and other sweets, and in between she’d have them look through the good old Sear’s catalogue to see what they were interested in. That way she knew they wanted the toys they were getting but it was still a surprise for them. Plus, she got to spend time with them and we all got a day to shop and wrap presents without the kids!


LilyG December 2, 2010 at 7:55 am

@ Cat Whisperer: What a great idea! I’m going to do that for this Christmas!


weegee56 December 2, 2010 at 9:33 am

In defense of “the list”, my husband and I find a list invaluable. With grandchildren in their early teens we would be lost without one. We ask for and recieve lists, pick what is in our price range and buy it. We both are lost when it comes to pop culture and a list makes shopping so much easier. I wouldn’t whine or complain about the children’s choices. No drama.


DGS December 2, 2010 at 11:16 am

Re: allergies – some less common but more deadly allergic reactions to food can include (as they do for me): anaphylaxis. I sure hope that no one would think that I was trying to get attention or be dishonest about an allergy and sneak discreetly or shove disrespectfully said food into me, as they would basically, kill me. If someone says that they or their child are allergic to something, take them at their word.


Xtina December 2, 2010 at 11:20 am

First, I don’t think giving gifts at Xmas is “commercialization”, as long as one doesn’t go overboard, or do as the OP’s MIL has done here, make it all about lists and degradation. My family tries to do lists, but I’m particularly bad about not knowing what I want–but everyone is cool about it and if there is no list, then they’ll just get you something they think you’ll like (which is, by the way, what I think the true spirit of gift-giving is, someone giving you something “just because” they thought you would enjoy it). I have to agree with people who’ve said that absolute refusal to provide a loose gift list of some kind can be annoying for the buyer, but I think a general, a “I like things with horses on them” kind of list is perfectly suitable.

@CatWhisperer–I love that idea of a story or memento from relatives. I love it when my relatives gift me with something sentimental or historic to the family; those are the ones I treasure!

@not one of us–I think there is probably a good EH story with your Jehovah’s Witness mother! How rude she is!

To the OP: good luck. It really sounds like your MIL takes a perverse pleasure in being difficult to you and your family. I don’t think you can do much to change her, but boycotting the gift list is the first step towards bowing out of the drama. If she threatens you with no gifts, then that would probably be a blessing in disguise.


Lizza December 2, 2010 at 9:52 pm

Every year, right before Thanksgiving, my Dad’s side of the family starts e-mailing “We want lists! We need lists! Christmas lists!” and calling my dad if we (my brothers and I, the only grandkids/nephews & niece on that side) haven’t sent them yet. It was so much simpler when we were little – aunt and uncle would take us to a few different stores sometime in Oct./Nov., note what we liked, and get us that or something similar.

I personally hate making a list – there’s not a lot that I want, and even less that I need. I try to keep an Amazon list, but there’s not always a lot on it. I usually just ask for gift cards to the grocery store, gas station, Target, and the place I buy bras – practical and helpful! I’m told that’s “boring,” but it’s the only thing I can guarantee I will use!


enna December 3, 2010 at 6:54 am

It does sound unfair the way MIL gives money/vouchers to one set of grandchildren and not to the other set – makes me wonder why she is treating her grandchildren differently (does she not like her daughter in law or her son?). Wish lists are useful because they give the giver a better idea about what to get – hundres of millions of £/$ get wasted every year on unwanted gifts – think what that could do for charities.

She is being over fussy and rude about what she is prepared to buy and give what the point in asking for a wish list then? Charities often have “Christmas gift lists” where you can buy a goat for an African family, buy food for a local animal shealter, or shealter and christmas dinner for a homeless person – these can be really cheap too. Maybe the OP should give this to her Mother-In-Law! I’m amazed at her behaviour.


OP December 3, 2010 at 9:42 am

Enna–MIL hates any outsider to the clan. For whatever reason she refuses to do the same for our children that she does for others. Hubby is the youngest child, but first to bring grandchildren into the mix. When I mentioned contributing to a college fund rather than load the kids up with stacks of toys MIL had a meltdown. “I will NEVER give you money! I am not going to be the money grandma! Kids don’t like money, they like toys!” Imagine my surprise, a dozen years later, when I found out she was sending money and toys to our nephew. I was even more stunned, earlier this year, to find out one of our nieces got a large sum of cash placed in her college fund as well as a bunch of toys. Yet when I mention my teen/adult children might prefer cash or gift cards to anything else she has that same meltdown she had years ago when I first brought it up.


chechina December 3, 2010 at 1:59 pm

@ JillyBean: what a great story!

The problem here isn’t the concept of a wish list, it’s the relationship between OP, her partner and her mother-in-law. Good for you for boycotting the list, OP, but unless your mother-in-law is just this nasty to everyone, there’s something going on here that you need to look into.


UK Helen December 4, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Thanks to the OP and the commenters. I have someone like this is my family, and it’s heartening to read about other peoples’ experiences and ideas, because such people are not easy to deal with: they’re running an unfair agenda of their own, with no thought for the effect on other people. Cheers, guys, and good luck to the OP.


UK Helen December 4, 2010 at 2:54 pm

Oh, PS: my husband says maybe the MIL wants her SON to do the list & talk to her…


Aislinn Lujan December 4, 2010 at 5:22 pm

I think that the OP’s point is that the Grandmother demands that they make a list, and then complains about the items when they do make one. No, Grandma is not under any obligation to get anything on the list. Likewise, the mother is not under any obligation to make a list in the first place. Tell grandmother to get you what ever will make her happy. If she asks for a list, tell her that she would know better what to get her grandchildren. Don’t spend any time arguing with her. She is going to get whatever she wants anyways, so give her the give of carte blanche this season.


Aislinn Lujan December 4, 2010 at 11:01 pm

The *Gift* of carte blanche.


OP December 6, 2010 at 2:41 pm

Chechina-MIL is just pure evil.

UKHelen-She wants to own him, control him and his children and make me get so sick of her antics that I divorce him and go away, far, far away.

Aislinn Lujan-Yes! You understood perfectly. The only thing I disagree with is her ability to know better what to get her grandchildren. She’s a socially inept, nacissitic control freak who only wants what she wants. She doesn’t care about anyone else’s likes or dislikes and she’s so hampered by her self-centeredness that she wants to buy adult grandchildren little girly junk that they haven’t wanted for nearly 10 years. Cutesy pie teddy bear earrings, pink bead bracelets, t-shirts that say “Whatever” or “Daddy’s girl” This is the sort of thing you buy off the children’s jewelry rack or in the little girl’s clothing section of the department store. They wear adult sizes, but she’d try to get them to cram their bodies into a little girl’s size 10. That’s why I say she is incapable of knowing better. 🙂


Wink-n-Smile December 7, 2010 at 11:01 am

OP – YIKES! Worse and worse.

OK, I get how YOU might be considered “outside the clan,” so she wouldn’t give you good gifts, compared to her own children. However, your children are her grandchildren, and they are not “outside the clan.” Unless she figures you cheated on your husband and the children aren’t his?

Ask her, sometime, why she doesn’t want her son’s children to go to college, while she does want her other grandchildren to go to college. Ask her what your children ever did to her to warrant her anger against them. If she can’t/won’t answer, then you’ll know there’s nothing you can do about it. If, however, she does answer, then that gives you something to work from, and maybe make some improvement. And it MIGHT (might not) make her think about her actions. Maybe. Kinda. It works in the movies.

Good luck, OP. I hope your Christmas is otherwise happy and joyful.


HateTheList December 7, 2010 at 7:31 pm

My husbands family (Mom, Dad, Sister, and Husband) does “the list” thing. I should point out there are no children in the mix, and my husband , SIL, and I are in our 30’s. Husband and SIL (especially my SIL) have a lot of credit card debt and jobs that are not secure. This does not stop MIL from putting down expensive designer items on her list. I suggested we set a cap on gifts, you would thought I was the antichrist. SIL breaks the bank every year, parents awe about how “generous” she is, then pay her rent/credit card bill in January. They ask me for my list every year, I say I’ll get to it but never do. I think the whole thing is ridiculous and materialistic.


OP December 8, 2010 at 1:36 am

@Wink-n-smile The point is she has favorites among her children and favorites among her grandchildren. She won’t contribute to our children’s college fund, but will for her favorite son’s kids. Her solution to a question about our children not being able to go to college would be that instead of raising them for all these years I should have been working a minimum wage job and saving every penny of it for them. What she fails to understand is if I worked for the last 20 years some or all of my kids would have been in daycare and that would have eaten every penny I earned while they were in daycare.

Going back to the issue of the list, it’s all a power play. She wants to complain. She wants to control. When I say NO to all of her ideas (the girly junk for adult women) it means I have control and know better what my kids need than she does. She can’t have that because in her mind she owns them, they are her trophies and I am lower than dirt.

P.S. She did call for the list. I did refuse. She tried everything in her power to get me to write out a list. I am still refusing. I hope my adult daughters like the Teddy Bear earrings they are going to get. 😉


IzzyforRealz December 8, 2010 at 11:04 pm

I’m from a list family. Each child makes a list of things they like and emails it to my mom, who has it in case our relatives ask her for ideas for gifts. I’m on my own now, and I find it useful to know what kind of things my siblings are into so I can get them a gift they don’t all ready have or won’t end up throwing away. I’m a college student on a shoe-string budget, so the idea of throwing out things I (or other people) spent money on rubs me the wrong way.

My fiancee’s mom hates lists. She refuses to tell him what she wants. This year we were fed up with her lack of direction and he told her that if she didn’t give him some idea of what she wanted he would buy her a disposable pie tin. She grudgingly gave us the name of a couple stores that had stuff she enjoyed. It is possibly to know someone very well, but be uncertain of what they want or need.

Unfortunately MIL isn’t really concerned about the list, she’s concerned about power. I’m sorry that she’s crazy, and I hope y’all have a good list-free Christmas. 😀


penguintummy December 9, 2010 at 11:59 am

I am in favour of the lists, but only for my immediate family, as we are all living far apart from each other. A list means that I can have some idea of what my mum or dad might want, or the latest thing my sister has seen. As we don’t see each other more than once or twice a year, I don’t know what they might want. At least this way we can email the lists to each other and post suitable presents back. Also helps that they get want they want as interstate returns to shops are a bit difficult!

Also I don’t think there is anything wrong with Grandma sending money for a present. My grandparents would send $5-10 in a card for birthdays and Christmas and it was always very exciting to save the money in the money tin until you had enough to buy something for yourself.


--Lia December 9, 2010 at 7:55 pm

I agree with those who have said that it’s time to say no to lists, but I have an idea on how to do it: The list says “the kids need and would love nightgowns– or anything else you’d like to get them.” That’s it. Nightgowns or anything else. If the grandmother chooses to get a nightgown (or nightshirt type pajamas for the boys), the kids get something they can wear at night. If it’s hideously out of fashion, it doesn’t matter; no one needs to see it. If the kids refuse to wear it, no big deal either. If they like it enough to wear it some time, it’s win/win. If their grandmother doesn’t want to get them a nightgown, she’s on her own– which was the whole point in the first place.


Aje December 11, 2010 at 10:27 pm

Growing up my friend and her siblings always had a wish list posted on the refridgerator around Christmas. Apparently a lot of families do this- or at least a few of my other friend’s parents made them write up lists as well. Call me old fashioned, but I kind of dislike the idea. I think not knowing what you’ll get is half the fun. I mean, it certainly makes shopping more difficult, but if you’re buying a gift for someone, then you should know them well enough to be able to tell their likes and dislikes. Actually, my friend G and I buy each other ‘thinking of you’ gifts all year long… which I think are much nicer than obligatory holidays. 🙂


Moi December 16, 2010 at 2:55 am

hmm… does your mother in law want some cheese and crackers with that whine? Plus, it’s a wish list. not a you-have-to-get-this-for-me-list. and apparently ur MIL doesnt know that


OP December 20, 2010 at 7:31 pm

Update: MIL is still trying to manipulate me through the gift giving process for my children. I stated very clearly 1 idea for each child, which she immediately complained about. I contend you don’t ask what the children like/want, then insult them by saying their ideas are “Stupid!” I have stopped her obsessive phone calls to me and she’s not happy about it. Frankly, I don’t care. When I realized her true motivation for doing this little game of hers every. single. year, I knew it was time to stop the nonsense.

It’s not about her thoughtfulness, it’s not about her wanting to buy the right thing, it’s just alllll about her, and only her, and what SHE wants to give. Insulting people’s hobbies and favorite activities is not an indication of someone who is trying to find just the right gift.


lkb December 21, 2010 at 7:45 am

OP, maybe I’ve missed it, but I wonder where your husband is in all this. Has he spoken up to his mother? It’s his mother after all, maybe she wants the communication to come through him.
Have your teen/adult children said anything to you about their feelings in this whole mess? (Some kids just blow off the ‘grandma gift” anyway or don’t know that the giving is not equal.)

I know it’s frustrating — just reading these posts and comments had me sorely tempted to print off the whole page (post and comments) and use it to wrap dear MIL’s gifts. (What the etiquette on THAT, I wonder?)

I hope you and your family can find some way to obtain real “Peace on Earth” this Christmas.


OP December 22, 2010 at 2:26 am

DH supports me. He tried to speak to her about it, tried to say she had enough ideas and to just do what she wants and she still tried to call ME again. I am no longer taking her calls. It’s not worth it. She *should* know what to buy these children, since she seems to think she’s better at everything than I am anyway. 😉

My children know very well what a game player their own grandmother is. Quite frankly they’d be happy with nothing compared to the nonsense she usually gets because she either complains so bitterly about the list the children came up with that I cave in and tell her “do what you want” which means she buys her idea of what they *should* want. Or she buys what is on the list then complains about what she had to buy in front of them. MIL. is. never. happy.

I like your idea about the wrapping paper. Used to wrap a book on etiquette, as well as a book on how tio properly treat the people you claim to love.


lkb December 22, 2010 at 7:52 am

Sigh. Now I feel very badly that the mention of my temptation (which I would never have the guts to carry out) may end up really blowing up another family’s Christmas sky high. I’m very sorry now that I mentioned it. I was wrong, please forgive me.


OP December 23, 2010 at 10:05 am

No apologies! I certainly don’t have the guts to follow through. I just thought your idea was funny. Imagining the look on her face gives me reason to smile. I’ll remember it while I stand in return lines or as I drop off yet another bag of “stuff” at the local charity.


Aislinn Lujan December 30, 2010 at 12:49 pm

I didn’t say that she knows better. I said to SAY that she knows better. Big difference. She already thinks that she knows better, and ignores the list after she bullies you for it. The gifts are for her, not for you or your children. Pretty much the idea is let her do what she wants, smile and exclaim how thoughtful she is, and then as you have said, pass along these “gifts” to a local charity. I have heard this saying before on ehell, and I have liked it: Don’t wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and the pig likes it.


CosmopolitanFarmer June 23, 2011 at 10:18 am

My large family hasn’t ‘big-gifted’ for years. We each draw one name on Thanksgiving, so we know who to shop for. The kicker? The gift MUST be UNDER $10. Thought, care, humor and personalization really goes into each gift, since you know who your [one] recipient is. We open each gift by turn to share with all. Sometimes it is a handmade coupon: “June 16th and we share the afternoon over an ice cream sunday at icecreamland”. Or for the animal lover: “$10 bag of pet food for the recipient to bring on a shelter visit”. OP, you may want to make a simple list of kindness-based wishes your children have. It’s been good for all the kids to learn this giving behaviour. (Kids being four generations of us at each holiday.) BOOM! No money stresses, no so-many-to-go-broke-for gifts, no credit card debt in January and February, etc. And everyone learns a little more about each other and true giving from the heart reigns. Bless all 😉


Bettie December 12, 2012 at 5:13 pm

My step daughter who is 33 sent me a wish list for Christmas on November 1st. She did not include her husband or step daughter in the list. I usually ask them what they want and they give me some ideas. Please let me know if I am making more out of this than I should. I don’t think a 33 year old should be sending their step-mom a Christmas Wish List.


Jen September 2, 2015 at 11:22 am

Where is your husband in all this? He needs to lay down the law to his mother, not you!!!!


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