My son just turned 1. He understands neither Chanukah nor gifts, and we told the overeager grandparents please not to send anything for him. Surprise surprise, they sent multiple toys we don’t need and don’t have space for, so we gave them away to an organization that supports families in need. We feel great about this decision but realized too late that we didn’t take pictures of the baby with the toys first. How should we respond to their questions of whether he likes the gifts?
This is certainly a live and learn moment for everyone around gift-giving. You’ve learned that you need documentation of the presents before giving them away, or a rock-solid response to where the toys have gone. The grandparents will learn that you actually mean it when you say not to send anything.
If it’s possible to get something in writing from the organization you donated to, start there. Maybe it can be a formal acknowledgment of your parents’ or in- laws’ generous gift in honor of your son. Maybe it can be a detailed explanation of how they distribute in-kind gifts or their impact on the neighborhood. Show the grandparents that these toys have gone to a positive and much-needed place.
Then, you need to write a heartfelt thank you. Even if you are only resentful and annoyed, summon all your creative powers to write a thank-you card listing the ways they are enhancing your son’s life and how overwhelmed you are by their generosity. Tell them you are awed by their love, but since you truly don’t have room for these items, you are so glad that other children will get to use them. Include a recent picture of your son, framed if you are able, so they can see him happy and thriving.
Finally, remember that you have years of birthdays and holidays coming up. Grandparents cannot be deterred forever (or in this case, at all). Before the next gift-giving event, create a wish list to distribute to any relatives you think need it. Include toys you’d actually like your son to have, necessities like clothes and even diapers, museum memberships or other experiences that don’t take up space and the names of charities you’d like to support through donations.
If they continue to ignore your wishes, continue to give away the unwanted goods. At least they’ll have had ample warning.
Happy Chanukah, and be well,