This week for my advice column over at the Orange County Register, I am talking about how to deal with grandparents who go crazy with the gifts at Christmas. For full-disclosure, I have to admit that I am lucky in that both my parents and Mark’s parents are generous but reasonable. My mom has been known to over-do it: overflowing gifts under two separate trees, in wrapping paper that coordinates with the ornaments (one red and gold tree, one silver and white). But we scaled it back a couple years ago and it has been great.
Anyways, I know that is not always the case, and I had several people asking about how to get their parents to stop being so extravagant at the holidays. My answer, in a nutshell?
“First, it puts you in a position of dictating your own values onto someone else, who may or may not share in your views. It sounds like you are already seeing some "non-compliance" – but trying to get someone to comply to your own moral discoveries can feel like judgment to the other party and lead to tension and hurt feelings.
The other issue is that for some, gift-giving is as essential to the Christmas tradition as eating turkey is to Thanksgiving. To ask someone to refrain from giving to loved ones in this season may feel for them like you are stealing a part of the holiday joy. This is especially true if gift-giving is a part of their love language.
It can be easier to be flexible with traditions as a young family, but your parents have had many years of establishing the Christmas traditions that feel meaningful for them. And likely, gift-giving is a part of the holiday ritual that they have created over the years.”
What are your thoughts on this? I know my stance might be surprising because I really do hate the “isms” of the holiday season (consumerism, materialism, etc). But, much as I dislike it, I realize that others are entitled to celebrate differently.
How do you negotiate gift-giving at the holidays? How do you communicate that with your in-laws?
What’s your take?