Par­ents drown­ing in sea of gifts for chil­dren


My hus­band and I have three beau­ti­ful chil­dren, ages 10, three, and one.

We are blessed with a large fam­ily on both sides. They are all in­cred­i­bly gen­er­ous, es­pe­cially at Christ­mas. They love to give gifts, and we are grate­ful for their gen­eros­ity. How­ever, like many fam­i­lies with sim­i­larly aged chil­dren, we have come to find lately that we have an over­abun­dance of, well ... stuff.

My hus­band and I have come to feel that we would like to stem the abun­dant flow of toys into our house, as our kids have far more than they could ever need or play with.

Not only that, but lit­tle ones just don’t have the at­ten­tion span to sit and open tons of presents. Last Christ­mas, it took my son three days to open all of the presents our fam­i­lies sent, even con­sid­er­ing that my hus­band and I only gave our kids one gift a piece.

This year, we would re­ally like to ask our fam­i­lies to avoid buy­ing toys al­to­gether. We would be fine with no gifts at all, but if our fam­i­lies in­sist, we would much rather the gift of ex­pe­ri­ence. For ex­am­ple, mem­ber­ships to lo­cal chil­dren’s mu­se­ums and zoos, con­tri­bu­tions to­ward sum­mer camps or ex­tracur­ric­u­lars, movie tick­ets, etc.

I know in gen­eral it is con­sid­ered rude to ask for spe­cific gifts. How­ever, I fear that if we don’t say some­thing soon, we will be over­whelmed with toys again. We ap­pre­ci­ate the thoughts, but we are at ca­pac­ity.

I would feel ter­ri­ble tak­ing toys im­me­di­ately to do­na­tion cen­tres, but I think that’s what will hap­pen. Is there any gen­tle way to make this re­quest with­out seem­ing greedy or un­grate­ful? — Up to Here with Gifts

Many fam­i­lies will iden­tify with your prob­lem, which is a uniquely and em­bar­rass­ingly mod­ern is­sue. While many go hun­gry, oth­ers of us are ac­tu­ally drown­ing in an over­abun­dance of stuff.

I think your idea is a good one, and I will join you in ask­ing fam­i­lies to do less ma­te­rial giv­ing dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son.

You should con­tact ev­ery­one on both sides of your fam­ily in (per­haps) a group email, and ex­press your grat­i­tude for their gen­eros­ity. Tell them that this year you are go­ing to try to cut down on the abun­dance of ma­te­rial gifts. Say, “We’d be happy to of­fer sug­ges­tions for al­ter­na­tives, such as mem­ber­ships to our lo­cal mu­seum or ex­tracur­ric­u­lars for the kids. It also might be fun for them to re­ceive ‘coupons’ for ex­pe­ri­ences from you, which they could cash in through­out the year. We cer­tainly don’t want to dic­tate your choices, but thought we would share this idea with you.”

I am not gen­er­ally the kind of per­son to seek out­side help like a ther­a­pist, but I love my wife dearly and we are strug­gling. Af­ter ini­tial hes­i­tancy, my wife, “Dahlia,” has agreed to at­tend mar­riage coun­selling to­gether.

Dahlia has seen ther­a­pists in­di­vid­u­ally in the past, with vary­ing de­grees of satisfaction.

One of the spe­cial­ists in the area is some­one Dahlia has seen in­di­vid­u­ally and was pleased with.

I see the ben­e­fits of hav­ing a coun­sel­lor who has some back­ground into our sit­u­a­tion al­ready and that I know has the right chem­istry with my wife.

But I also won­der if hav­ing heard only one side and hav­ing built a re­la­tion­ship with Dahlia and not me makes this ther­a­pist an un­wise choice for us.

Can you help guide us? What are your thoughts? — Won­der­ing Hus­band

I would coun­sel against see­ing the same ther­a­pist your wife al­ready has a re­la­tion­ship with. One rea­son is that mar­i­tal ther­apy should be fu­ture fo­cused, while in­di­vid­ual ther­apy is of­ten rooted in the func­tions and dy­nam­ics of the fam­ily of ori­gin.

While I’m cer­tain that many in­di­vid­ual ther­a­pists are com­pe­tent cou­ples coun­sel­lors, these seem to be two dis­tinct skill sets.

Also, one of the func­tions of cou­ples coun­selling is to tell your story. How you re­veal your story, and your own de­sires, is re­veal­ing and im­por­tant.

It seems log­i­cal that you should both start with a fresh sto­rys­late.

askamy@tri­ twit­­ingamy Ac­tress Marisa Ramirez, 40 Ac­tor Tommy Lee Jones, 71 Ac­tor For­rest Comp­ton, 92 Co­me­dian Norm Crosby, 90 Opera singer Jessye Norman, 72 Movie di­rec­tor Oliver Stone, 71 Drum­mer Kelly Keagy, 65

DJ Kay Gee, 48

Ac­tor Josh Charles, 46 Ac­tor Tom Hardy, 40 Gui­tarist Zach Filkins, 39 Ac­tor Dave Annable, 38 Ac­tress Amy David­son, 38 TV per­son­al­ity Heidi Mon­tag, 31 Be big enough to serve oth­ers when the op­por­tu­nity presents it­self. Mark 9:35 — … any­one who wants to be the first must take last place and be the ser­vant of ev­ery­one else.

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