Thursday, 28 June 2012

Just Do It Whatever It Is

You guys get me. The tweets and comments on yesterday's post describe pretty accurately my thought process during this whole invitation writing process. Thank you.

I think my problem is that I'm trying to solve two separate problems with one solution. And it's not that neat and tidy. 

The first problem is the simplest. I don't want Grady to have a lot of stuff that he doesn't need. My options are to either (a) ask people not to give him gifts for his birthday or (b) donate anything he doesn't need to a local charity / shelter. 

If I chose (a) I risk offending people or hurting their feelings. I also make a fun celebration (birthday!) an opportunity for fretting (do we bring a gift even though she request no gifts? what if we don't bring a gift and then EVERYBODY else does bring a gift? etc.) Option (a) is not ideal.

Option (b) requires that I be strict and remove my emotions from the equation. Option (b) is harder for me. I grew up in a home where we held onto things. Forever. I have spent the last year focusing on letting go of things and attempting to simplify my life. It's hard for me. I'm nowhere near where I want to be when it comes to letting go of possessions. I'm a bit ... hoardy. It's really hard for me to admit that. I am nostalgic and I place emotions on things and I hold on tight. Option (b) presents an opportunity for me to put into practice what I've been trying to learn (things are not love. They are not contentment or peace or pride or status. They are just things.) 

So I've decided to not put anything on the invitation about gifts. I will choose option (b) and I will donate any gifts that Grady doesn't need. 

The second problem is messier. I don't want family members who have the means to spoil Grady to make other family members feel like they have to match their spoilyness in order to win Grady's affection. I have been doing a whole lot of hand wringing over this and then someone wise told me to stop giving a fuck and you know what? I have resolved to stop giving a fuck. People are nuts. I will make myself as crazy as they are if I play into this scenario. This is not my battle. If it starts to affect Grady? I will bring out crazy Hillary and I will shut them down so hard but for now - not my problem. (Not my problem not my problem not my problem ... maybe if I say it enough times I will start to believe it.) 


  1. I really think you're taking the right approach. And kudos for it!
    I tried to come up with an answer for your post yesterday but I was like, "You know what? I'm not a mom, I've never dealt with this stuff. I have no useful answer for her."

    Maybe if someone asks you want Grady wants/needs (wants?) for his birthday/xmas you could use that opportunity to be like "Picture Books!" or "$20 towards his college fund!" That's what my mom did when my brother and I were little.

  2. In my experience, also, we had the same issue that you did with Christmas and Eli. SO MANY PRESENTS. Especially for a baby! So much ridiculous excess! He would leave the room because he was SO OVERWHELMED. I have had to develop MANY MANY MANY strategies for dealing with Christmas Excess.
    However, the good news is that for some reason? Birthdays have never been anywhere near that bad. I don't know if it's because Christmas is so consumeristic and the stores are pushing stuff SO HARD and because people like to over do it at Christmas and there are so many people all with presents and the season lasts for so long or whatever, but for us birthdays have been WAY LESS heinously over the top than Christmas with regards to presents. So it might not turn out to be as bad as you think.
    But still, the amount of stuff I donate? A large amount.
    I also usually do a toy clean out before Christmas or birthdays. Out with the old, in with the new.

  3. I totally get what you're going through! With out son, we have the added complication of his birthday being less than a week after Christmas! So it's just insane the amount of presents in one week's time. And honestly, while he loves some of his toys, for the most part he doesn't even play with the stuff. He's happy to play with a balloon, or for that matter the tie for one of our robes, or a couple of straws LOL. The only issue I foresee is how much harder it is once they're 2 and have a better sense of what presents they got...My son is 3 and while I've convinced him to scale back on SOME of his stuff in recent months because we really were running out of space in his little bedroom, he's very protective of his 'stuff' and doesn't take well to the idea of giving away HIS presents. It's hard...and I'm like you - I grew up with an attachment to my possessions and while I've purged a lot the past few years, I still have trouble letting go of my attachment to things for sentimental reasons. I don't want to be passing that onto my son to the extent that his room will end up looking like an episode of hoarders! It's hard though, because like you said, people who want to shop for our kids have good intentions, it's just...we don't need so much STUFF! We try to suggest books or clothes for his birthday, or things like finger paints - stuff we know he'll use up or need. But it's complicated, there's no doubt about it!

    PS Your little guy is A-D-O-R-A-B-L-E!!!

  4. To give a little perspective ... all the milestones that you hit in your lifetime are reasons for your parents (and Shawn's parents) to celebrate. I*t's easy to recognize those milestones when you're still living at home, because there's an obvious correlation to what a great job they did at raising you. But, the line is still there once you leave their home. College graduation, marriage, grandkids ... all of those things give cause for your parents to celebrate. Giving gifts is a way to recognize how much it means to them that you've come so far. Kind of like when I was getting married and different people (i.e., both sets of our parents) wanted different things, I'm learning to separate myself from it. Let them have their fun (you can't control them) and then you get to deal with the aftermath in whatever way best suits you (they can't control you). What goes around eventually comes around. =)

  5. Yes. This. (From Nilsa's comment): "Let them have their fun (you can't control them) and then you get to deal with the aftermath in whatever way best suits you (they can't control you)." That is what I need to learn. Our little guy has a birthday on Christmas Day, if you can believe it, and I can already feel my palms start to sweat when I think about the avalanche of toys we're going to get this December (this year being his first birthday). I will try to learn from your experience!

  6. Can you put it out there to grandparents etc. that Grady would love to receive "experience gifts"? i.e. a family membership to the local zoo, aquarium, or children's museum, iTunes gift cards for kid music, etc? Personally I'd rather know that my friend/relative didn't want a pile of stuff than have my carefully chosen gift be donated.

    This actually happened to daughter spent a long time picking out a present for her cousin but someone else gave the same exact toy. We included a gift receipt so it could be exchanged for another item but instead my SIL donated effectively my niece received nothing from us. I realize your kiddo is still a baby and doesn't know about giving and receiving gifts anyway but as the giver it stung a little that our gift was determined to be the one that wasn't worth keeping (and this is an 8-year-old, not a baby). On the other hand, a friend of ours had a birthday for her son and requested no gifts. They live in a tiny 1 bedroom apartment so I totally get it. We wanted to gift the birthday boy so we got him movie ticket vouchers (experience gift!). I am fine with donations in lieu of gifts, for the record. I'd bring a toy or book to donate to a cause or a cash gift for that purpose, or whatever. But as the giver I'd like to have that in mind when I'm picking out the gift.

    I do understand why you're trying to avoid impropriety in the invitation, just as once upon a time people didn't mention gifts/registries in wedding invitations. I think it's now standard practice to include a separate card in the invite mentioning the registry rather than all guests privately contacting the mother-of-the-bride or whathaveyou. When I receive a birthday invitation that does not include a "no gifts" indication, I feel obligated to gift based on attending the event (i.e. if we go, we ALWAYS bring a gift, but if we decline we do not). So by inviting and not mentioning gifts, you're pretty much assuring a gift from each family attending.

    1. Re-reading, I also totally get any attempt on your part to avoid drama and BS so take my chatter above with a grain of salt.

  7. I think you said it best and sometimes you really just have to step back and not give a fuck. It happens. You can do it.

    Also, I still don't understand how Grady is almost one. That just doesn't seem possible, didn't you just have him like yesterday??

  8. This is somewhat unrelated, but one of my friends recently got married and had a baby and they specifically asked that instead of gifts (if we wanted to get them anything) please donate it to a charity. And then the idea was to put thought into a charity that they would appreciate - so maybe for needy children (like Toys for Tots) or something that they loved, etc. It worked out well and they genuinely appreciated it.

  9. I used to have a really hard time letting go of 'stuff,' especially Sadie's stuff (I also assign a lot of emotion/nostalgia to things). I once read something by that "Last Lecture" Randy Pausch guy about how he was taking some young relatives (nieces and nephews, I think) for a ride in his new sports car, and the kids' parents were spouting the usual threats of DON'T YOU DARE SPILL ANYTHING IN THAT CAR, etc., and Randy took one of their sodas, opened it up, and poured it all over the backseat, telling them that people were always, always more important than things.

    Honestly, that story (if it's even true) makes me clenchy (ZOMG SODA ON NEW CAR UPHOLSTERY), but it helps me remember that I don't need the stuff as long as I have the people. And the memories.

  10. Hi Hillary,

    I'm a first time reader anD totally relating to these recent gift giving posts. We're pregnant with our first and live in a humble little abode. We relish our uncluttered space and want to be intentional about maintaining that even with a new baby.

    I don't think there's Too much you can do for large, family parties but for Christmas, something I gleaned from pinterest might help: The 4 gift rule for gift giving to our kids - 1 thing they want, 1 thing they need, 1 thing they wear, 1 thing they read.

    I think this would be appropriate to say to family such as grandparents.