Monday, April 29, 2013

Receiving Unwanted Gifts

My mom told me the other day that she used all her self-restraint to resist buying a battery-operated monkey for Peter that kicked its feet and laughed. I told her she could have stopped at "battery-operated" and I would have thanked her sincerely. She knows that, of course, which is why she didn't buy it, even at thrift store prices. (I find battery-operated toys excel at stifling creativity, annoying me, and breaking.)

Generally speaking, we avoid toys that are battery-operated, plastic, or low quality. Most gift givers in our lives know this and have given us wonderful toys. Peter loves his wooden blocks, art supplies, balls, matchbox cars, and puzzles. We've also received some high quality books, which I've used to slowly replace the books  with literary value comparable to a cereal box.

He also likes his friends, shown here after a meeting.
Notice the empty seat to the right, where Peter sits.

But there are always generous friends and family who don't know our preferences.

The problem is what to do with the gifts I don't want in my house. I could exchange, donate, or re-gift these items or keep them and hope they break quickly. Either way, I feel uncomfortable. If I get rid of them, I'm concerned the giver will find out and be hurt. If I keep them, they clutter my home and detract from time my kids could be playing with something of better quality. I don't want to sacrifice relationships to my sense of aesthetics, but nor do I want to sacrifice my kids' education to ruffled feathers.

What to do?

Sometimes I re-purpose a gift. Perhaps it can be used as a decoration or incorporated into another set (e.g. play kitchen). Sometimes I wait until the novelty wears off, then donate it. If it is battery-operated, I remove the batteries. In a few cases, I've refrained from telling Peter to be gentle and it has broken and taken the decision out of my hands. But almost every unwanted gift still makes me uneasy. Sigh.

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