How do you deal with grandmothers bearing gifts? Gay Uncle knows.
Gay Uncle Brett Berk: I received a triple-threat of a question this week: one that takes as its
subject a twining trio of resentments involving greedy children, objectionable gifts, and mothers-in-law.
"Dear Gay Uncle: I am having trouble with my child's grandmothers giving copious, unwanted gifts. These gifts normally are from China, overly packaged, cheap, and are often relegated to the bottom of the toy box moments after opening. There have been times when a certain grandmother has been told she may not buy our daughter something while at the store. On a later date, the same grandmother has returned to the store to purchase the item. I used to go by the philosophy that gift-giving was a grandmother's prerogative. However, my daughter now greets her grandmothers with, 'What did you bring me?'. I feel embarrassed every time I need to overfill the recycling bin or put out a second garbage can because of all the toy refuse. Please address."
The Gunc abides. The short answer is that parents should feel entitled to set whatever boundaries they want for what comes into their house. It's their one absolute fiefdom, and until it's struck by lightning or gets foreclosed upon, they should be able to enact any restrictions they see fit, so long as they're not physically injurious to anybody and don't involve silly costumes or nudity. If your child had a nut allergy, you wouldn't allow grandma to bring a can of cashews over just because she thought they looked "cute" in the store. Of course, if you want this practice to work, you can't be passive, or passive-aggressive, about it. Clearly set the rule, discuss it with the M-I-L, ask her to respect it, and set up repercussions if she doesn't abide (e.g., "We're not coming over for Memorial Day," or "We're sending you to a home").
Of course, every good solution requires a trade-off. (That's why it's called compromise: you feel compromised whenever you do it.) In this case, you must adhere to the understanding that grandma does not have to follow YOUR rules at HER house. Her house is her castle, and she can implement whatever protocols she wants over there -- garbagey product-based, or otherwise -- so long as they're not physically injurious to anybody and don't involve silly costumes or nudity (and no pig latin either; it's asinine). This patented Gay Uncle formula affords a sense of control, achieves balance, and conditions all parties to practice mutual respect. Try it!
|Brett Berk, M.S. Ed. has worked with young children and their families for over 20 years--as a classroom teacher, preschool director, and research consultant--and is the author of "The Gay Uncle's Guide to Parenting."|