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 Amazon.com), 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.

{ 98 comments… read them below or add one }

BeachMum December 1, 2010 at 10:18 am

I think a lot of people have completely forgotten what gift giving is about.

Each year my SIL tells me what to buy her kids. Some years she sends me a link so I don’t get the wrong thing. (Clearly, even though my children are the same ages and gender as her children, I’m incapable of purchasing gifts on my own.) I give her ideas about what to give my kids.

This year, she ordered one of the things DH and I had suggested for our kids. Because she had to order it, though, she had it shipped, unwrapped to my house. I wrapped it up and made it nice. However, it does seem to suck the life out of gift giving when I choose the present, wrap it and make the card. Of course, for her parents, she asks them to mail her a check and she buys the presents. I guess she trusts me not to mess up her order.

What’s worse is that I get annoyed each year because I carefully wrap the gifts I’ve been ordered to purchase for her kids. This year, I ordered them online, had them shipped to my house so I could wrap them and then shipped them to her house.

The final insult, she bought more jewellery for my kids. My kids don’t wear it. Ever. She’s been told that over and over again and continues to buy it for them. Each time I remind her that they don’t wear it (before she buys it or when she asks why they aren’t wearing what she bought) she responds, “But I’ve bought it for them before.” Yes, she has and it sits in boxes in my house, unused.

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DGS December 1, 2010 at 10:22 am

Sounds like the Christmas Wish List Fiasco of 2010 is more of a battle between Exasperated Mom and Whiney Grandmom, so rather than engage in supplying the wish list (Mom) and haranguing Mom about said wish list (Grandmom), why not avoid it all together by saying something along the lines of, “They are really into model trains/video games/cashmere scarfs/whatever else this year” and leaving it at that? This way, Grandmom can buy those items if she likes, or if she would rather purchase something else, she is free to exercise her creativity or lack thereof as she pleases. Subsequently, well-behaved and well-mannered children can accept the gifts graciously, write ‘thank-you’ notes promptly and return the gifts if they don’t them to the store/use them in good health if they do like them.

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Typo Tat December 1, 2010 at 10:28 am

I was very glad to hear that the LW decided to boycott the wishlist.

It sounds like MIL is a complainer, and she probably enjoys this yearly ritual immensely. Thing is, she’s making everyone else miserable. Do not play her little games, simply refuse to write a wishlist or discuss gift ideas.

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Lisa December 1, 2010 at 10:43 am

Does MIL live close enough that she would notice that the gifts were returned or exchanged? If not, I would suggest giving her a general suggestion, i.e. “DS would really like a new video game this year” and then she can pick the game of her choice. If DS doesn’t care for it, exchange it for the one he wants.

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Alex December 1, 2010 at 10:47 am

I have to disagree a bit with the response here….

the LW makes it clear that the grandmother repeatedly ASKS for a list, then complains about said list. I don’t think the LW is doing anything wrong here. In fact, I think she would be fine explaining to grandma that she should give them ‘whatever she wants to give them’ and refuse to engage. In fact, I might even tell her that her complaints about the list each year are unreasonable, and the reason there will not be any further lists.

I feel terrible for this LW

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Just Laura December 1, 2010 at 10:55 am

I agree with Typo Tat in that I’m proud of the OP for deciding to get rid of the ultimate “gimmee”: The Wishlist.

I lived across the country from my parents for about a decade. Every year they’d call and want to know what to get me. When I said “nothing,” they complained that I was taking away the holiday from them. Finally I told them I wanted a hard-bound history-related book of some sort. The subject/author/where to purchase was entirely up to them (plus books are inexpensive to ship). This has made them happy for many years, as books nearly always cost less than $50, and my parents get the joy of choosing the book themselves.

I’m sure the OP could do what someone else suggested – give a ballpark estimate of the kids’ interests. “Oh, Suzy really likes cute little purses, and Danny just adores everything with our local hockey team’s logo.”

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gramma dishes December 1, 2010 at 10:57 am

In defense of the wish list:

Although I don’t request it (at this point) for any of my Grandchildren, I do request wish lists from my adult kids and their spouses. I don’t live near most of them and only see one couple about twice a year (for several days each) and the other couple four or five times a year, but only two or three at their house. So I have no idea what they already have and would really like giving them something they actually would like. I’m very good about getting precisely what they have on the list — color, size, name brand, etc.

It’s reassuring to know that I haven’t wasted my money on something that will end up being given to charity or worse, being thrown in the trash. And it’s usually something that they probably would not buy themselves because it isn’t something they actually “need”, so it would be an extravagance for them to buy it for themselves.

The downside: not much in the way of ‘surprises’! ;-)

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Elfqueen December 1, 2010 at 11:01 am

This is why I keep an Amazon wish list. If someone asks, I give them the link but mostly it’s for myself so I can remember what I want when I have the money.

My exMiL was a “list” person. She wanted make, model and part number for everyone else, would never give us a list then complained she didn’t like what we got her.

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NyxErebus December 1, 2010 at 11:23 am

Why is everyone so obsessed with gifts and gift giving during the Holidays? Its become such a commercial period that all meaning has been sucked out of it. The Holidays aren’t about what to buy or what you’d like to receive. Its about spending time with family and friends. IF someone chooses to get you anything, whatever it is, you graciously accept it and let them see your delight at their thoughtfulness. Don’t EXPECT to get anything. For myself, I hate the whole frenzy of buying that comes with the season and instead of just buying a generic bobble or gimcrack for the people in my life I am grateful and appreciative of, I bake. I make them cupcake or cookies that I know they’ll love because so few have the time or talent in a kitchen to make some themselves. They’re always touched at the effort and thought that went into it. I don’t do it out of a sense of obligation for the Holidays, but because I LIKE making people happy and it makes me happy to see them happy.

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whoop December 1, 2010 at 11:25 am

My DH and I have something of a similar problem with my MIL and wish lists, but for a different reason. I am quite sure my MIL is a shopaholic. Each year she wants a list, but we are absolutely terrified to write anything down because if it’s not expensive or fantastic enough, she will demand that we change it. But, of course, we still do our best to be modest because we know that she is NOT rich (she can’t even afford to buy herself eating utensils, she just reuses plastic ones) and is in fact in a great deal of debt.

For example, this year we thought we would be safe and ask for some nice suit socks (we do really need them). Three days later there is a HUGE box on our doorstep, shipped priority, addressed from “Santa” and with my MIL’s street address. It is full of socks – I estimate a few hundred dollars’ worth, since they were all brand name and there were just so many. Plus a new pair of isotoner gloves for each of us. (And no, this was NOT after Black Friday. This was well before any sales).

She’s still waiting on a list from us, so I’m guessing our “sock request” no longer counts as it has been fulfilled. I do have a running google-doc wishlist online for my family’s use, but I will not share it with her as I fear that she may end up buying me everything on the list! I am terrified for when we start having kids…

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Elizabeth December 1, 2010 at 11:26 am

I don’t get someone who demands a wishlist and then complains about what is on it. I agree you should boycott the list. Maybe sit down with your spouse and work out a plan to keep as little drama as possible from her. No one needs that during the holidays.

@Beachmum- I feel for you. I really, really do.

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Onlyme December 1, 2010 at 11:33 am

Hi

Wow, I think my mom must have gone thru the same when my bro and I were younger.
But I don’t know what was worse that or the fact that she just ended up buying something, having my grandparents or aunts reimburse her for the cost. Although for me I at least got something I wanted.

As for our next generation down, they get asked directly or I tell the parents what I’d like to get the kids. And Gift cards are very popular with the boys and have been for years. This way they choose something they want and don’t really have to think til its time to shop.

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AS December 1, 2010 at 11:37 am

We never had the custom of exchanging gifts for Christmas (I am not a Christian). When I used to visit my grandmother, she’d take me to a shop and make me choose what I want. Usually it would be a dress as every child wears something (she died when I was 12). Usually it is the same thing that happens when I visit my parents now. My mother often buys some jewelery or tops that she really liked when I wasn’t around and knows that I would like too – she is my mother after all, she knows my taste.
I am dating an American half-Jewish half-Christian. His family is very close, and always gets together for Christmas and hence gift-giving is big there. I usually try to pick hints from his family members throughout the year to see what they want. (The thanksgiving get-together is the best time as the chances of the person buying what he/she wants before Christmas is low). If we can, we buy art pieces from my home country, which will be unique and everyone appreciates them. Otherwise, we buy gift cards – you can’t go too wrong with them apart from the fact that people would know how much you spent on it. I am glad no one pesters me with lists to be given to them or given to me. The OP’s MIL seems to be real hard to deal with. My bf and I have often asked each other what we want, but never got a good reply – in all honesty, what can we want that we can’t buy ourselves? It is always the thought that counts, and I think surprises in receiving gifts make it even more special. I can see how it would be hard for the OP and her children to supply lists to the grandma EVERY year!

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livvy December 1, 2010 at 11:43 am

Ugh, this is the worst of all possible worlds. Asking people to tell you what they want, and then berating their choices, saying it’s not what you want to buy? Why on earth doesn’t she just go out and buy what she wants to buy in the first place? Isn’t that supposed to be the point? I think OP is absolutely right to refuse. Only problem is, sounds like nothing is going to stop the MIL’s complaining, it seems to be what she enjoys doing. Hopefully, she’ll get the message, and maybe you’ll get lucky and wind up with some gift cards after all! :)

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Not one of us December 1, 2010 at 11:47 am

I want people to know it could be worse. My Mother In Law is a Jehovah’s Witness. They do not celebrate holidays or birthdays. She will never come to school or Boy Scout (nationalism) events.

If my children happen to mention any events that are against her religion near her, she gets mad and spouts Bible verses.

They have never received a present of any kind and they are 10, 6, 3.

I understand that they should have respect for her and her feelings, but there is none for ours. She even gets mad when she stops by our house uninvited and we have the nerve to have up holiday decorations.

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Lorie December 1, 2010 at 12:05 pm

My mother-in-law knows we keep a running list on Amazon and just goes there when it gift-giving time. I learned long ago to give her some kind of list or…oh boy…the stuff she has bought us! One year she bought me a skirted suit in a awful plaid thinking I could wear it to work. My company mandated work uniform at the time was docker-style pants and either polo shirt or oxford shirt with the company logo. She had bought the suit on sale and didn’t keep the receipt so it went to Goodwill with the tags on it. Oh yeah I let her know what I did so she wouldn’t waste her money like that again.

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Numa December 1, 2010 at 12:10 pm

My mother taught me that when people ask what you want for a gift the appropriate response is, “Anything that you give me will be fine and appreciated.” When this same woman asked my 11-year-old daughter what she wanted for Christmas, she responded with that comment. My mother’s response was to call me back and tell me that she thought it was pathetic that she could not think of anything she wanted.

You can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your family.

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Margaret December 1, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Good for you to boycott the list. Why on earth would that send you to e-hell? Are you planning on being snippy and rude about anything the grandma does purchase?

BeachMum — take a page from OP — boycott the SIL’s suggestions! If she tells you what to get — reply, “Oh, we’ve already bought/chosen the gifts.” What’s she going to do , buy something your kids like even less than jewelry in retaliation? I can’t imagine my SILs ORDERING gifts from me, although I do appreciate suggestions. I could see them telling us NOT to buy something (e.g. no toy guns or no more stuffed animals or something like that). Usually, the ideas we send back and forth are things like — so and so loves this type of train set or I’m buying my kids this item this year, so they could use any accessories for it.

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Louise December 1, 2010 at 12:21 pm

If grandma is going to complain whether she gets a list or not, I’d save myself the trouble and not make a list. I think DGS’ idea of providing ideas is great, maybe followed up with, “I’m sure they’ll love whatever you get them.”

I hate making Christmas lists because I really don’t need more stuff, but I love buying from them. I’m really bad at picking out presents, so I’d rather get someone something I know for sure they will like. I agree with Miss Jeanne that it’s OK to have a wish list as long as you don’t push it on people. And I wouldn’t dream of presenting a list to someone out of the blue and insisting they buy from it.

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Wink-n-Smile December 1, 2010 at 12:24 pm

“They’re allergic to peanuts. Other than that, the sky’s the limit!”

Alternately, you can give her a wish list, with ONE item on it. “Fun time with Grandma!” Let’s see her complain about that.

And really, wouldn’t you rather your children had memories they can treasure forever than stuff they’ll break, lose, or never use in the first place?

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Shalamar December 1, 2010 at 12:24 pm

Sounds like my MIL is moonlighting, because this describes her to a T. Every year, she demands a list for my two daughters. Every year, she ignores it completely because she doesn’t like what they’ve asked for (and, like the OP’s kids, my kids are not greedy. They’ll ask for $10 books or $20 DVDs). Instead, she buys them things they didn’t ask for and don’t want – for example, a makeup kit for my 15-year-old who never wears makeup. It’s very frustrating, because MIL ends up spending a lot of money on things that just end up being given to Goodwill. Oh well – our loss is Goodwill’s gain!

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Calypso December 1, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Why not call her on it? Not answer rudeness with rudeness, but just calmly state the facts “MIL, every year I give you a list and every year you complain about what’s on it. I’m sure the children will appreciate whatever you get them, so we’re not doing lists this year.”

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Hal December 1, 2010 at 12:26 pm

We really must get away from this gift giving obligation. My family is ruined by it. They do not see the worth of any person until they see him through the “gift filter.” If there is no gift, that person literally disappears. I stopped the gift exchange one year. I sent letters and cards. I received nothing. This has been several years now. Not even a birthday card is sent to me. I send them cards and letters.. I think we have melded self worth and gifts. My nieces and nephews think I don’t like them anymore. I do like them and miss them. I have explained. I live alone. My wife died at age 56. I have recovered from cancer. I had an operation and all. Nothing. There has never been a scene. It is no gift giving that caused this. Please think. If your children are like my nieces and nephews do something about it now.

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Chelsey December 1, 2010 at 12:33 pm

I would tell my MIL that she is always unhappy with it and that she should buy what she wants to get them. I understand how the OP’s children are feeling about this, too, as I was also not a Gimme Pig as a child but was still forced to make a List. It’s frustrating as hell for all parties involved. So I fully support OP’s decision to boycott The List.

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Shannon December 1, 2010 at 12:48 pm

This is the point where you throw up your hands and say, “Little Timmy has a college fund. Beyond that, I don’t care.”

I personally think specific lists suck all the fun out of holiday shopping. I like to have gifts be a bit of a surprise. So I ask for general suggestions, and give general suggestions, and leave it at that.

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Shea December 1, 2010 at 1:05 pm

I agree with having a list that’s accessible, but not forced. I’ve always felt uncomfortable with lists, even when asked. I do keep an Amazon list that’s easily findable, if needed (and will tell someone about it, if pressed). It’s mostly for my own use, but it has a range of items, price ranges, etc.

My most favorite part about gift giving is finding something personal and perfect for the recipient that he or she may not even realize is wanted, but will be useful and/or appreciated. Honestly, I love being surprised, so would rather not know. Sure, lists are helpful if you don’t know a person, but in those cases a little investigation goes a long way.

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ferretrick December 1, 2010 at 1:13 pm

“I’m sorry you feel that way. Feel free to purchase whatever you like.” And change the subject. Ad nauseum. “I’m sorry, but I have no more to say on this topic, so I’m going to hang up now” if necessary. You can change the procedure or not do lists or whatever, but at it’s heart what this issue is is that Grandma likes to you-know-what. No list/suggestion/arrangement will be ever be satisfactory, because its more fun to complain, and there’s nothing you can do to change her behavior. The only thing you can do is choose a polite way to say, “I will not listen to this anymore.”

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MaryFran December 1, 2010 at 1:40 pm

Honestly, this kind of behavior is beyond the pale. You can ask for ideas and you can reject them, but don’t go around complaining about it to the person you badgered into giving you the ideas in the first place. If grandchild asks for Disney DVD and you don’t want to spend the $25, maybe some merchandise from the movie at the Disney Store would answer too. It’s an idea, a jumping off point, not a demand. And the other half is to make sure the kids sincerely (as possible) thank her for whatever she gives them. Like a PP said, if they don’t REALLY like it, their loss is Goodwill’s gain.

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Jessyy December 1, 2010 at 2:11 pm

See, in my family we’re awful at getting presents to people on time (except the Christmas ones) so now when it’s birthdays we phone and ask what my cousins want. If they don’t know, they get a dinosaur game or something messy (they’re boys aged 6 and 10) and if they do, well then they get that.
No quibbles and everyone is happy.

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boxy December 1, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Just as I was wondering why the OP was such a door mat she finally says she’s not going to do the list anymore. Isn’t that kind of the obvious answer? Why feel guilty or rude? All she has to do is give the MIL the same reasons she posted here for not wanting to do the list. It’s not that complicated and maybe it’s time to just get back to the real meaning of Christmas. It’s not about material gifts, is it?

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Kimbubbley December 1, 2010 at 2:34 pm

I know how the OP feels and, if it’s any consolation, I will be opting out of the “wish list”, henceforth, as well.

My wasband lives with his parents and as he has the children twice a week and every other weekend, my former in-laws are blessed with far more time with their grandchildren than most, perhaps even more than they’d like as they are young and rambunctious boys. :)

In October, Wasband asked me for a list for the boys as everyone (namely, my former MIL, who ALWAYS asks for a list) was “bugging” him. I mentioned that, perhaps, he could provide them with one as he should know as well as I what the kids would like. He insisted that it had to come from me. I’m a pushover and I did it. I e-mailed it as requested and the items on it were all either educational or “family fun” sort of stuff like board games. The first three items on the list had been the items that our older guy had been most keen on for months.

This past weekend, I brought the boys to a local animal farm for Christmas shenanigans including a visit with Santa Claus. Our older guy made a list to give to Santa – the first in his own hand EVER. On the list were three items for himself and three items for his little brother. The same three items that topped Daddy’s list in October.

I called Wasband later that night to be sure that those items would be under a tree, any tree, on Christmas as they were educational, inexpensive and, obviously, what he REALLY wanted. The response was that no one ended up shopping from the list that I sent and it didn’t occur to him to let me know.

From this point on, I will tell everyone, “you know the boys…get them whatever you think they’d like and I’m sure that they will be pleased as punch!” If that doesn’t work, the follow-up will be, “ask their father.”

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Psyche December 1, 2010 at 2:49 pm

It must be an old person thing, because my father does the same thing but with buying groceries instead of presents. When we get low on food, he asks me to write a list. I write the list. It’s the same things every week: pork chops, chicken, two milks, apple juice, rice, green beans and cat food. He gets two things on the list and the rest is treats for myself and him, like potato chips and fifteen steaks (no wonder he has Type-2 diabetes). He’ll even say in a condecending tone, “Did I get the things you like?” So, since he rarely gets the things I ask for on the list, I’ve boycotted the list. But then he whines about me not writing a list.

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LurkerWisp December 1, 2010 at 2:59 pm

Sounds like my FMIL. Second year running she’s pestering me and FH about what we want for Christmas like I’m expected to produce a shopping list. FH doesn’t see anything strange about this, and expects me to shop for gifts for his family members from their shopping list style wishlists.

That’s just not how my family does gifts. We talk about suggestions in person, not for written lists. And suggestions are a more general thing – like “socks” instead of what FMIL wants – “X socks.” Surprise is the best part of getting gifts. A specific list ruins that. :(

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The Letter Writer/OP December 1, 2010 at 3:02 pm

I’d like to clear up a few things.

DGS–She does not like what her grandchildren are interested in. In her opinion books are boring, music is on the radio, so why would you want to own any of it and video games are stupid.

Wink-n-Smile–She likes to buy whatever food they are allergic to because she believes we are lying about it! Still, I am planning on the one idea verbal list and that’s it. If she doesn’t like that, then I am sure she will go “off list” as she usually does and we will graciously accept whatever junk she unloads on us, smile, and deal with it. It’s what we do.

Shalamar—Our local charities benefit yearly too!

Calypso—That is the plan. When and if she demands her list, I will tell her “I am no longer doing a list. In the past you have not been happy with what we put on the list, your complaints have been duly noted, so this year we are boycotting the list. Feel free to buy whatever makes YOU happy!”

Shannon—She refuses to contribute to a college fund for our children, but does contribute to the funds of other grandchildren.

To everyone–She’s a control freak and the list is just one more way for her to manipulate us. I no longer want to participate in her sick game, so this year I am opting out. I do like the idea of setting up an online wish list somewhere and I may do that for everyone else in the family, but after so many years of dealing with this woman and her games I know that she would never tolerate the idea of looking online at any sort of wish list. It’s her way or the highway.

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Simone December 1, 2010 at 3:19 pm

I wouldn’t give her a list in any format, online or otherwise. She’ll complain about that of course.

At this point it is obvious that she is going to complain no matter what so I would be thinking; if I DON’T give her the list, she will complain about how unhelpful and selfish I am. If I DO give her the list, she’ll complain that my CHILDREN are greedy/ weird/ have poor taste/ want the wrong things. So I would NOT give the list, take her whinging on the chin, and consider it a Christmas gift to your children that you might shield them from their personal share of her remarks.

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Merrilee December 1, 2010 at 3:24 pm

My comments are:

1) What Calypso said.

2) Stop exchanging gifts with her? Or will you hear more whining about how you’re not letting her love her grandbabies or something?

3) I agree that if you can’t stop exchanging gifts, stopping the provision of the wish list is the way to go.

My immediate family keeps ongoing wish lists on Amazon.com and only refer people to them if asked. I like it.

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MetalRose December 1, 2010 at 3:32 pm

I hated doing christmas lists. My mom would always demand them so she would know what to get us, it was like pulling teeth. Each year I got a pink robe or a clown. I have never worn pink and clowns scare the heck out of me. Instead I started giving lists with interests. For example instead of saying, “I want X and Y.” I would hand out a list that sad, “I love concerts, concert tee shirts (size L-XL), dragons and heavy metal music. My current hobby this year is Q. I have all the CD’s from my favorite bands A, B and C. My favorite color is black secondary is olive green.” It gave people enough information to find something for me with out telling them what to buy.

So maybe instead of a list, provide her with information on their favorites and let her pick from there, or not.

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ilex December 1, 2010 at 3:34 pm

“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.”

I totally agree. The idea of gift-giving isn’t necessarily giving what’s asked for. I don’t get why the MIL demands a list if she has things in mind that she wants to buy the kids. Why doesn’t she just buy what she wants to give them? Seems like a lot of unnecessary drama over something she isn’t forced to do.

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ferretrick December 1, 2010 at 3:44 pm

“My mother taught me that when people ask what you want for a gift the appropriate response is, “Anything that you give me will be fine and appreciated.” ”

No, that is a stupid and irritating response. Sorry this is a personal pet peeve, as I have way too many people on my shopping list who say this kind of thing. When people ask what you would like, it means they are trying to insure the money they are spending on you is going to good use for something you will really enjoy. You don’t have to be totally specific if you want some surprise, i.e. instead of “I want X novel by John Grisham but only a hardcover first edition”…you can say I like authors who write legal thrillers like John Grisham, so anything like that would be nice.

In my opinion, no matter how politely phrased, refusing to give ANY guidance to someone trying to pick a gift for you is rude.

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AS December 1, 2010 at 4:05 pm

How about wish list for this year – “let us enjoy the holidays without being terrorized about a wish list”?

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karen December 1, 2010 at 4:37 pm

I consider wish lists a suggestion. Some people are very hard to shop for, and knowing what would make them happy is great. But I also like surprises, and if I know someone well enough, I’d rather come up with a gift on my own.

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Elizabeth December 1, 2010 at 4:49 pm

Op, she gives your children food they are allergic to because she thinks you are lying? Please, please, please tell me I read that wrong. And who goes off about, “I don’t want you get YOU what YOU want because IIIIIIIII find it boring”? (Yes there is more that one ‘I’ on purpose.) I am quite angry on your behalf. I am having to refrain from choice language. I am very sorry you have to deal with that. The vindictive evil person in me wants you to train your children to throw fits and cry that grandma is trying to kill them anytime she tries to feed them food they are allergic to. But I know that is poor manors among other things. I say make your hubby deal with her and the list drama. My husband deals with his mom when I am upset, and I deal with mine when she upsets him. It is easier for us because we are bother better at dealing with our own moms than each others. I really hope it doesn’t spoil your holidays. :-(

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Sharon December 1, 2010 at 5:22 pm

OP, the boycott is the only way. I wish you the best, I really do. Hopefully, this year you can break that chain and be free to have a good time.

I do ask my DIL for advice as to what to get my grandsons. She knows what they are “into” at any given moment. But, I would never berate her for the suggestions. (The only problem my DIL has with me is, she warns me NOT to get EVERYTHING on her suggestion list… if I did, she would just not make the suggestions for me any longer. So, I choose one or two things on the list and everyone is happy.)

Part of being a good Nana IMHO is knowing that my family may have different tastes than me, but they are entitled to their own opinions. Keep an open mind… you might even learn to like something new! Vive la difference!

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The Letter Writer/OP December 1, 2010 at 5:24 pm

Oh Elizabeth! Your response made me smile. My children are too old and well behaved to throw fits. I have been very lucky that they are gracious about her insanity towards us. The child with the allergy (thankfully it’s not life threatening, although it does make her feel very sick to consume said food) had a difficult time refusing grandma when she was younger and the MIL’s attitude about it was distressing, so I reduced her ability to shovel that “poison” in my child. Now that she’s older and has the ability to say no, she does, and quite often. “Thank you, but I am allergic to this.” is an acceptable response in my opinion.

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Alice December 1, 2010 at 5:38 pm

My family is rather large and goes all out for Christmas gift-giving, so lists have been a part of my life forever. On the flip side, they are STILL a part of my brother and I’s lives (we were just asked for one on Thanksgiving, the traditional List-Giving Day) – and we are 25 and 29 years old! It’s my grandmother who mostly wants it, but at this point in our lives, with jobs and most of what we want, what in the world could we possibly put on it? Mine read like a bridal registry: knife set, spices set, glass bowl. I felt sort of stupid, as these are all things I could probably pick up at the store on my way home from work if I remembered.

At the same time though, and this goes for all who deal with the demands for a list (except for the recipients who say the list isn’t good enough) – keep in mind that most of the time, people want lists because they really want to get you something you’ll use and/or appreciate, as other commenters have said. It’s sort of a pain, but the intention is usually good.

As for the OP, I agree with those who say not to even bother engaging any more. Give a vague, spoken list once, and be done with it. I also like how someone said to tell people what you or the children are “into” that year, giving a general direction. I’m a nut who loves to get people the perfect gift, but something somewhat surprising that they maybe didn’t think of themselves. I always remember those gifts the most. :-)

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Maitri December 1, 2010 at 5:46 pm

I disagree that a wish list is “the ultimate gimmee.” I have Amazon wish lists for myself and my 2 children, and I encouraged my DH to make one as well. The reason is because my in-laws all want exact lists from each of us with sizes, colors, links to the item online, and so forth. My MIL will force catalogs on us to circle things until we give her an actual list.

My one SIL is the exception – I asked her for a list in November and she got mad because it wasn’t Thanksgiving yet (even though I explained that with one of my children and myself in the hospital this year, we had a lot of medical bills and had to spread out the gift buying to be able to afford it), and so she told me gift cards. I personally hate giving gift cards because I prefer to get something that I know the person will like, but I just shut my mouth and bought her what she asked for. Talk about sucking the life out of gift giving – gift cards for everyone, yay?

Anyway, my point is, I have zero problem with a wish list as long as the person isn’t shoving it in your face.

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Kat December 1, 2010 at 5:51 pm

I’ve been asked by a couple of family members this year what I want for Christmas. The thing is, I just got married a few months ago and was the recipient of an overwhelming number of generous gifts. I’ve told my family that I don’t have any particular needs and I’ll be happy with anything they want to give me, but the consensus is that I’m being difficult. I’ve been asked sarcastically, “you have everything you want, RIGHT?”

With that said, my in-laws have also requested a list. I’m happy to oblige them, because this is their family tradition and I am new.

Is it an etiquette blunder to respond differently to my parents and my parents in law when they make these requests?

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Maitri December 1, 2010 at 5:56 pm

“She had bought the suit on sale and didn’t keep the receipt so it went to Goodwill with the tags on it. Oh yeah I let her know what I did so she wouldn’t waste her money like that again.”

Um, wow. Isn’t that pretty rude? Whatever happened to “thanks” ?

Personally I wish my mother would give my kids gifts or acknowledge their presence on the planet. Kinda sad that I wish my mom cared like the OP’s does :(

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LovleAnjel December 1, 2010 at 6:02 pm

My mom never had to ask for a list from us kids because we kept running lists all year and handed the stacks of paper to her for transfer to “Santa” (yes, we were those kids). As I got older, the list would have things like “something with tigers” on it. I was always very happy with what I got, and it’s better to be surprised (even awful tacky gifts are a wonderful thing on Christmas morning).

This approach did not work with my husband’s family. They demand very specific lists, and they send out specific lists with the links to the items online. I hate shopping for them. It’s absolutely no fun. My husband ends up doing most of it because I keep putting it off.

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The Letter Writer/OP December 1, 2010 at 6:11 pm

I want to thank everyone for the wonderful suggestions! I wish they would work on MIL and that she’d realize it’s not just about the gifts. We’d be happy to celebrate with no material goods, no wrapped gifts, just happy and loving time spent with one another. That’s not good enough for her and she would never accept that.

The remark I made about being cast off to e-hell is about the general idea that you should respect your elders and behave in a kind manner….always. I simply can’t do that with this person anymore. If I treated her with the “respect” she has shown me for the last 2 decades I’d be breaching etiquette all over the place. Her inability to compromise has made me change the way I react to her antics and sometimes I have to behave in a manner that some would not consider kind or polite. I’d rather rack up a few bad karma points than allow that woman to walk all over us one more time.

Again, thank you, to everyone, for sharing your stories and ideas! It’s greatly appreciated!

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