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Dear Grandma, our kids can't handle your massive load of presents

Jill is a sometime runner and expert wine taster from sunny San Antonio. She has a degree in social psychology, one husband and three children. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, Huffington Post, and Babble and she's regular...

An open letter to grandparents who spoil the crap out of kids at Christmas

Grandparents and gift-giving: they make me dread Christmas like a trip to the gynecologist.

I’m not an ungrateful jerk of a daughter. I’m lucky to have my parents in my life and in my kids’ lives. I know there are some things inherent to grandparenting: cookies before dinner, staying up past bedtime and all-around spoiling.

But grandparents and their crazy excessive gift giving? Just stop.

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Wanna buy my kids toy guns and swords? Sure. You can never have too many Nerf weapons. Buy my boy a princess doll? Whatevs, I’m progressive. Christmas candy? Super. Those sugarplums are going in Mom’s personal stash anyway.

I’m not that parent who keeps a long list of rules about what my kids can and can’t play with. I have but one simple rule: 

Stop buying my kids so much crap.

I have two 5-year-olds. Sharing? Please. In the interest of minimizing bloodshed, we pretty much have two of everything. Our house overflows with two of everything. We have a lot of stuff. A. Lot. Of. Stuff.

Every year, the grandparents ask what our kids want for Christmas. Every year, the answer is “they don’t need anything.” And yeah, I know that answer will fly with no grandparent ever.

But, it’s out of control.

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Opening presents occurs in waves. After opening 10+ presents, my kids get tired and whiny… and so do I. Gift wrap accumulates in a pile that reaches my kids' ears. Small children don’t understand why they can’t immediately play with all the shiny new things. And because there are always more coming from the grandparents, we’re snatching their bounty from their little paws before they’ve barely gotten a chance to look at it, thrusting another package at them.

Grandparent gift-giving has gotten so excessive that it sucks the fun out of presents. We’ve taken to sneaking some things out from under the tree and doling them out later (which is impossible for older kids). Guess what my kids are getting for Christmas this year? The ERECTOR Set that’s been sitting in the garage for three years that someone thought would make a great gift for a 2-year-old.

And yes, I know it’s nuts for me to expect Grandma not to buy a Christmas present or two. But 11 gifts, plus a Christmas stockingplus a gallon bucket of candy? No. Well, maybe the candy. I like chocolate.

Loving grandparents: If your grown children give you specific grandkid gift-giving guidance, take heed (especially if you asked for suggestions in the first place). If you’re given specifics on game titles or specific toys, use it. If fighting the crowds to find Barbie’s friend Chelsea with the red hair and butterfly wings is not your thing, speak up or ask me to show you how to use Amazon.

More16 Adorably crafty gifts kids can make themselves

And for the love of Rudolph, if the response to “what does little so-and-so want for Christmas” goes something like this: 

Mom, my kids have a crap ton of toys but no pants. They have no pants. Maybe a Target gift card?” 

Then, grandparents, this type of statement does not translate into “buy my kid a Storm Trooper the size of a three-year-old.” 

Maybe a little family communication is in order. Know the particulars of how your grandchildren “do Santa” or maybe even how they don’t. Is an extra stocking going to upset the apple cart of family tradition? If your adult child suggests a particular toy that your grandchild can’t live without, does that mean she assumes you’re buying it and crosses it off her list? Will there be a small child crying salty tears of disappointment on Christmas morning because Santa didn’t bring the Power Ranger thingamabob his little heart desired? You won’t be able to find that kid, by the way. He’ll be buried under a four-foot pile of wrapping paper and bows.

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I imagine being a grandparent is one of the greatest joys in life. I hope I get to experience it one day. But slow your roll on the overbuying, grandparents. Maybe what we really want is to spend time with you and relive some of our own Christmas memories as a kid.

So next time you hear the “we don’t really need anything” line, just maybe consider that we mean it. We do need you… minus the 36-inch Storm Trooper.

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