DEAR MISS MANNERS: My children, who are 6, 7 and 12, have three sets of grandparents, 14 aunts and uncles and eight cousins. We live a good distance from all of them but visit as much as we can. We usually spend Thanksgiving with the relatives, so Christmas time is a time for just us.
It has become an especially difficult time concerning the gifts my children receive. In the past, we've allowed Christmas morning to be joyous and crazy and full of laughter as the packages are ripped open. Thank you notes are written in crayon with drawings and x's and o's but not specific to the exact gift given (ex: Thank you so much, Grandma, for the wonderful gifts you sent at Christmas -- I had a wonderful day).
I think they're precious. But the last time the kids did this "vague" type of thank you note, I got a very rude response from my mother-in-law. Basically, "If the kids can't recall what I gave them, don't bother having them do a thank you note."
So to appease her, I had out a notebook and pen on Christmas morning and made the kids report to me one at a time what each gift was and who it was from so the thank you notes could be more specific.
It was torture. For them and myself. It ruined Christmas morning for me wanting to see my kids dive into the gift opening, and I'm sure it drove them crazy. I was writing and missed their expressions.
Yes, it teaches patience, and yes, it makes them more aware of the giver. But because of the sheer amount of gifts and the writing necessary -- it just seemed ridiculous. We can't video tape it -- our camera has been broken for the last few months and with my husband out of work, the chance of purchasing a new one is doubtful -- at least for now.
For the sake of family harmony, I will continue doing it this way, but I was curious about what you thought.
My children are being brought up in a strict but loving home and have always been taught to be appreciative -- and they are. I just don't get why Christmas morning has now had to turn into this overorganized, list making Bruha-ha.
GENTLE READER: Torture? Did you actually say this was torture?
Forgive Miss Manners, but she is not as charmed as you are by the spectacle of your children tearing into one package after another without pausing to consider who gave what.
However, if you enjoy it so much, why shouldn't you draw out the pleasure by putting down your pad and pen and watching their faces at each opening, before calling them over to report what they got?
Although you resented your mother-in-law's harsh way of saying so, she is right that a form letter of thanks is thoughtless. If you want to see the pleasure on your children's faces, surely you can imagine that their relatives at least want to hear about the pleasure they have produced.
Sorry if it ruins your Christmas to have some consideration for others.