Dear Amy: My husband and I have three beautiful children, ages 10, 3, and 1.
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 centers, 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
Dear Up to Here: 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.”
Dear Amy: 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 counseling 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 counselor 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
Dear 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 counselors, these seem to be two distinct skill sets.
Also, one of the functions of couples counseling 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 story-slate.
Dear Amy: I thought “Grounded Mom’s” need to stop her son from accepting a graduation gift of skydiving was very controlling.
Thank you for calling her out on her statement: “I only have an heir, not a spare.” I found her implication (that an only child is somehow more valuable than siblings) quite objectionable.
Dear Offended: Many readers were put off by this mother’s question. Thank you.