My in-laws are really nice people. I truly believe that they have the best of intentions, they love their three sons dearly, and are really happy with their daughters-in-law. They are absolutely thrilled about Phred, who will be their first grandchild.
Two issues. First, they do tend to be somewhat overbearing. I'm not sure whether overbearing is exactly the right description. In some ways I think it's because they're lonely - they will often call us (or M's middle brother a lot more), with nothing really to say. Recently they've been calling on an almost daily basis asking "So how's my grandchild?" Ummmmm..... fine as far as I know. I've heard them say, as well, that once Phred is born, they plan on spending two days a week with us. Ack. Again, they're really very nice people, but they're not family to me in the same way that my mom and sister are - I feel like I need to entertain them and keep them busy where with my mom and sis I know that I don't. So that's issue number one.
Issue number two is going to be even harder to deal with. It has to do with gift giving, for birthdays, but way more so, for Christmas. My MIL is a shopaholic. Which is a really bad thing when you are planning on retiring in about six months, have your house fully mortgaged, and over $30K in credit card debt. Christmas at their house is a truly disgusting event, in my mind. Each person gets a stack of presents about three feet high. The first few years we estimated that the total value of gifts amongst the three sons and their spouses was in excess of $2K. It's gotten better since then, but still completely and thoroughly over the top. So much waste, excess, spending for the sake of spending.
A prime example was my baby showers. I had two - one organized by my MIL for her friends and relatives, and another organized by my sis, for our family friends. Similar to my bridal shower, I felt completely embarassed by opening the huge stack of gifts all from my MIL. To me, a single gift would have been more than sufficient, given that she spent all the time and energy to throw the shower. But no. She got us (brace yourself!) 1. the bedding set we had registered for, 2. along with the matching diaper stacker and 3. sheet. 4. A box full of about fifteen different bibs for all sorts of occasions, all individually wrapped in the appropriate paper (e.g. heart paper for "baby's first valentine"). 5. Another pair of sheets. 6. Waterproof bed cover. 7. Two sleep sacks. 8. Hangars. I don't know about you all, but spending fifteen minutes opening presents from one person was a bit much for me - again, I know it's well intentioned... The real kicker for me was at the baby shower thrown by my sis. I was completely and totally taken aback when I was handed a SECOND stack of presents from her! More bibs (we have 29 in total, thank you very much), more hangers, more sleep sacks, another sheet, another set of waterproof sheet covers, three or four sleepers of different sizes, and the Graco stroller we had registered for. All told, around $600 worth of stuff.
After this, M tried very gently to tell her that although it was much appreciated, it was way more than they should have done... and that Christmas is going to have to be *very* toned down, i.e. only one or two gifts. And nothing for Phred (in my mind, it is worthless to give gifts to a child before they're old enough to grasp what's going on, and at 4 months, I can pretty much guarantee that even if Phred is a super genius, that's unlikely). She told him that she has already purchased a bunch of outfits for next summer! Argh!
So that's issue number two.
I feel like I need to address these things with them now. Set expectations up front so that we don't have to battle every Christmas and birthday, and so that they don't expect to be living part-time with us! The rules that I would like to set are one toy and one outfit for Christmas and birthdays. If nothing else, I feel like it's unfair to us for them to do more than that - this may be their first grandchild, but it's our first child, and *I* want to have the enjoyment of picking out toys and clothes! If they're buying dozens of outfits, on top of all the hand-me downs I'm probably getting from various friends and relatives, I feel like I won't be able to have that fun (I am extremely frugal and thrifty, and aside from my car, really don't buy things that I don't *need*. Which makes their excess even worse in my eyes!). And we'll need to figure out how much we actually want them to visit, but I think weekly visits should be more than enough. I don't want to have to plan our lives around them, and also want to have time to spend with OTHER people.
My dilemma is how best to address these so that I can get my point across without getting their backs up and making them all defensive. I thought of a few options - 1) writing a letter, 2) inviting both of them over to dinner this weekend, along with my mom and her husband, and laying this out for all of them, so that my in-laws don't feel as targeted, or 3) taking my MIL out to lunch, just the two of us, and trying to get the point across to her on our own.
Which option do you think is most likely to work (feel free to make other suggestions too!)? Am I completely deluding myself in thinking that there is anything I can do about this?