When parents become grandparents or siblings become aunts and uncles, a natural urge develops to spoil the newest member of the family at the next coming holiday or birthday. Sometimes, they will even spare no expense to find the best gift they can get their hands and, hopefully, be deemed the "cool relative." Often, said gift may win over the child. But, just as often, it can be a losing round to the parents. Many people who have felt offended by a family member's gift to their child shared the experience on Quora. These stories may inspire you to set some ground rules for your child's next birthday party.
This Gift Was A Disaster
“A cousin’s wife loved to give our kids traditional playthings, often handcrafted. They were usually lovely thoughtful gifts. One was a disaster though.
It was a traditional Ball and Cup: a wooden handle with a round depression in the top and a round wooden ball attached by a long thin piece of leather. The idea was to toss the ball up and catch it with the handle, balancing it on top. However, the wooden ball was big and heavy (larger than a hardball), the cup wasn’t really a cup, and it was very hard to catch the ball on. Imagine tossing a billiard ball on a string and you can imagine the consequences.
After about 10 minutes, everyone who tried it was covered with bruises on their arm. The toy was confiscated and spent years in a cupboard before it was thrown away. The darned thing was lethal. My cousin’s wife was chagrined and apologetic.”
Silent Wrath Of The Stepmother
“My grandmother-in-law is a wonderful person. However, she once gave my step kids a gift I cannot forgive her for.
My three stepsons live with their father and I full-time and see their mother every other weekend. My grandmother-in-law printed out and framed pictures of their mother and father (my now husband) on their wedding day. Cutting the cake together. Hugging each other. Posing together. Dancing together. Framed. To display in MY house. For ME to see every time I tuck in my kids. I do more for them than their mother ever has besides push them out of my body, so I do consider them ‘mine.’
It makes me so mad every time I have to see her ugly face hanging on MY husband, in MY home! If these horrible pictures were ever to disappear, you know they would have my head. I am to silently see them day in and day out and not say a word of complaint.”
Tell Grandpa To Just Send Money Next Time
“There were a couple of times when my biological father gave my children gifts for special occasions, which were either completely inappropriate or demonstrated a profound inability to appreciate any human perspective different from that of his own.
When my daughter turned 2 years old, for her birthday, my father gave her a toy car which could ‘drive’ along the road using a thrust mechanism similar to that of a toy water rocket, which required hand pumping. This gift was wrong on many levels, the least of which was that my daughter was still somewhat into things like baby dolls and stuffed animals at the time. More importantly was the fact that the mechanism of the toy was more appropriate for an older child, maybe around 5, with more developed motor skills.
But, the worst part was the fact that my daughter was born with partial cerebral palsy, which restricted the precise movement of one of her hands. My dad was well aware of this disability. She could not have used this toy even if she was old enough to otherwise do so and, somehow, my dad thought this would be a great gift for her to have.
Some years later, when my eldest son was around 8 years old, my father followed up this car thing by giving my son a lighter following a weekend visit with ‘Grandpa.’ I am not talking about something with personal or collectible significance like, say, a World War II-era Zippo belonging to my grandfather. That would have made some sense.
It was, instead, a simple, Bic-style disposable lighter full of both fuel and flint. Given that no one in my household is (or ever was) a smoker, to say nothing of the inherent safety issue, this struck me as a very unusual thing to give an 8-year-old boy.
I never confronted my dad about the impropriety of either of these things. By that point, I had simply come to accept his abject lack of empathy, coupled with his just-under-the-surface tendency towards mischief, as part of who he was. I simply helped my daughter with playing with her water car when she wanted to. I told my son to just let me take possession of the lighter until such time as he could think of a use for it, which he never did.”
The Mother Of All Mothers-In-Law
“It was more of how my mother-in-law treated my three kids differently that bothered me. That was reflected in her gifts to them.
I have three kids: two boys and a girl in the middle. My mother-in-law is a sour, self-absorbed person who cares about no one but herself and her own three children. She is wealthy (family money) and has never worked a day in her life. She also has two boys and a girl. She favors the middle son and younger daughter, and takes every opportunity to belittle my husband, the oldest. It has been like this his entire life. She especially spoiled her daughter, who grew up to be exactly like her mother.
My husband and his brother both are wonderful, hard-working people who are well-liked and respected in their communities and job fields. My husband has had to fend for himself his entire life, had to work several jobs to get through college, and all that. You would never guess that his mother was wealthy.
When I came into the picture, I was his first girlfriend. His brother and sister had never had a partner either, so I was pretty much the first to ‘enter’ the family. I was met with hostility, of course. When my husband introduced me to his mother, she stared at me for a moment before turning to my husband.
‘Why do you bother?’ she asked him. ‘She’s a college freshman, she’s going to lose interest in you and leave you for the first thin, good-looking guy that comes along.’
We’ve been together 14 years now and I love my husband, big belly and all.
It didn’t help that I am half-black and come from a lower class family. My boys have my coloring: dark hair, dark eyes, olive skin. My daughter is blonde, fair-skinned, and blue-eyed. She favors my daughter ENORMOUSLY.
She gives my daughter lavish, age-inappropriate gifts, such as a huge, fancy dollhouse that was more suited for an 8-year-old than a 2-year-old. That dollhouse was destroyed in six months because a 2-year-old, even a gentle one like my daughter, was not going to understand the limits of fragile items. Not to mention, we live in a small house and do not have the space for big, fancy toys. My mother-in-law is aware of this and takes the time to make jabs about how we need to stop living like serfs and get a normal house like everyone else. We have a house that is just right for the five of us.
The boys? She often ‘forgets’ to give them gifts. When she does remember, it is usually used clothes (which we don’t mind because we get thrift store clothes for the kids already, but it just goes to show the difference in gifts for the boys and my daughter), used toys or cheap, already-broken toys.
My oldest son, who is 5 years old, is a sweet, gentle kid who loves cars, animals, dolls, dollhouses, pink, purple, and green. My mother-in-law takes every opportunity to try and ‘make him into a real boy.’ He overheard her say this once and was upset because he thought he was a ‘real boy’ already and didn’t understand why Nana said he wasn’t. He is also old enough to notice the discrepancy in the gifts Nana gives him and our youngest son and the gifts she gives our daughter. It hurts his feelings. We have started to hide and check Nana’s gifts for our daughter so we can get gifts for the boys that are as good as what our daughter gets.
I hate this. I’m perfectly fine with cutting the witch out of our lives because there is nothing that benefits us in continuing this. But, my husband doesn’t want to. A small part of him believes and hopes that she will have a change of heart.
Not to mention, in the 14 years my husband and I have been together, she has never once remembered my birthday. At Christmas, she will give my husband a gift and say it is for both of us when it’s clearly for him or clearly used to make a jab at me. Once, she gave my husband a dirty, used handheld vacuum for Christmas and said that it was so he could try and help me keep the house clean.
Last year, she gave ME a gift. It was only because my brother-in-law had his first serious girlfriend and she was spending Christmas with us. My mother-in-law likes her. She is thin, beautiful, and comes from a wealthy family. Don’t get me wrong, I love my brother-in-law’s girlfriend. It’s just how my mother-in-law sees things. She got her a gift, a really nice, very expensive cashmere shawl. She knew my brother-in-law would have chewed her out if she didn’t get me a gift too, so she got me one.
I opened it, and it was a stack of dirty old magazines. Not ‘dirty’ as in nudes, but dirty as in she pulled it out of the garbage bin. They had food and liquid stains all over them and subscription names and addresses were all different.
I burst out in uncontrollable laughter. This was creative and took her a lot of EFFORT. She had collected magazines that were all related to how to decorate houses, how to design and stage luxury homes, how to keep homes clean, etc.
I just feel so, so bad for my husband because the lonely, abused little boy he once was still clings to hope that his mother loves him. I have learned to turn my anger toward my mother-in-law into pity. We have a wonderful, happy family and she misses out on this.
She’s dying of cancer. While her children do their ‘duty’ for her as her kids, they only do the minimum. My husband does not mourn or fear her passing like he did when his father died. That’s sad.”
It Was Almost As If His Granddaughter Didn’t Exist
“My son was always his grandad’s blue eye. He favored him over his sister, who is two years younger. That was clear from the day Yasmin was born. He came to the hospital, but not to see her, or me. He was searching for my mom, who was looking after Luke for me. Without even peeking in the crib, he asked me where my mom was because he wanted to take Luke out.
I hated him right then.
He always bought Luke nice gifts. A railway and train set, radio controlled small boat, a flute, and lots of other lovely gifts. So, what am I complaining about? He never once bought Yasmin a gift.
I should have said something. I made excuses that he did not mean it. He could not relate to a little girl the way he could a boy. He used to pick Luke up and take him swimming or to the park, but never Yasmin. I would spend some quality time with her instead.
Every one of those gifts was like a slap in the face for me. It was hurtful that Yasmin was treated like a little scabby head. She never did without anything. It’s not that she would want a toy, but when her grandad came with a big colorful kite for Luke and she got nothing, I know she felt it too.
One day, a few years ago, she told me that she always hated grandad Tommy for leaving her out. He’s in his 90s now and she doesn’t see him at all. Luke does. When that man dies, I will only have one child to console. Only one of my kids ever really had a grandad.”
“Is This What They Really Think Of Me?”
“The present was not sent to my child but to my nephew. I was highly offended and he was quite clearly distraught when he realized what the present was.
My nephew came to live with me at 16 years old after being beaten and bloodied by his father. As it turned out, this was not the first time he had been hit, but this was the first time my husband witnessed it. He immediately removed the boy from the home…at the boy’s request.
After about six months, my nephew decided to make contact again with his family. His father, my brother, never apologized for the beatings, But his mother seemed to be trying to build a bridge. Christmas came soon thereafter. We received a large parcel addressed to my nephew.
The parcel was full of a number of small wrapped gifts. I use the word ‘gifts’ very loosely. I suspect that she had simply cleaned out what was underneath the sink in her bathroom because the gifts were things like scented soaps, a used razor, shampoo, deodorant, a book of spiritual poems with a floral design on the cover, a broken tape measure, and several other items of a similar nature.
Most of the items had been used or at least opened. At first, my nephew was so excited because he thought that this was their way of making amends. But, as he opened each individual gift and saw yet another used piece of trash, he became more and more withdrawn and upset.
‘Is this what they really think of me?’ he asked me.
After a while, I made him stop opening the gifts. It was just clearly too upsetting for him. At that point, he didn’t even want to open the gifts that we had purchased for him. He went to bed on Christmas Day at about 6 pm. I have never seen him so depressed.
It was a year before I allowed my brother and his wife to contact him again and I gave them a piece of my mind about their idea of a gift. They continued to deny that any of the items were used or regifted. Either way, given that many of the items were suitable only for a female even if they hadn’t been re-purposed, they were thoughtlessly purchased.”
Only The Best For Grandma’s Favorites
“Earlier this year, my mother-in-law brought gifts for her grandkids for some obscure holiday. She happily pulled out gifts for my 10-year-old niece and 7-year-old nephew (chocolates and toys). My 10-year-old daughter was given a small set of doll accessories.
For my 12-year-old son, my mother-in-law pulled out an empty, dirty, used Star Wars-themed popcorn box from the movie theater and a small Star Wars-themed box of Kleenex.
To his credit, my son did his best to hide his disappointment. He thanked his grandmother, but it was a difficult ride home to be sure.
My mother-in-law isn’t that old, by the way. She’s not even yet 65 years old. I cannot even make an excuse for her. She does the same thing with my sister-in-law and my husband. She will shower my sister-in-law with expensive concert tickets and puppy grams, despite being on a very tight fixed income. Meanwhile, she will give my husband a pair of mismatched socks covered in dog hair that are two sizes too small for his birthday (when she remembers).
We really have not done anything but support both of them when my sister-in-law’s marriage fell apart (thanks to her infidelity) and my father-in-law passed away more than five years ago, we saved my mother-in-law’s house, worked on her house and yard, cooked dinners, etc. After six to nine months of this with no thanks from her, we realized she expected it from us while going out to ‘play’ and have fun with my sister-in-law. We slowly scaled back our efforts.
When it comes to her grandkids, she feels she needs to spoil my niece and nephew. That’s what grandmas do, but I’ve never seen someone do it in such an unbalanced fashion. My kids noticed a few years ago. There would usually be a lot of tears on the way home from her house.
One time, my daughter gently asked her why she would give her other grandkids unlimited candy and toys, including more than five American Girl dolls, while not doing it for her and her brother.
She replied, ‘You have a daddy. They don’t.’
It’s a terrible reasoning to give a child, especially when my former brother-in-law has partial custody of his kids. We had a huge blow-up not long after that conversation, for a variety of reasons. The relationship between our family, my mother-in-law, and my sister-in-law has never really recovered.
I suppose we should be happy that she at least knew my son loves Star Wars. It was also a good way to begin teaching our kids that life isn’t fair, forgiveness isn’t easy, and sometimes people confuse material things with love.”
My Daughter, The Tomboy
“I have three kids: two boys and a girl. In context, we try to provide a short list of things the kids want differently for each set of grandparents and have since the kids got the same thing one year from all of them for Christmas.
My daughter is my middle child and only girl. A few years ago, she wanted some drones (like her brothers), fishing rods (both my in-laws are huge fishermen), and swim stuff. She was a jock and was into competitive swimming and soccer at the time. She hated pink and thing overtly feminine. She is definitely a tomboy. I love her the way she is.
My mother in law got her all kinds of clothes, pink stuff, and dolls. This was nothing she wanted at 9 years old. Her brothers got all sort of cool drones, fishing rods and stuff, which she had asked for directly.
She was so upset. My heart broke for her. Her brothers had cool science experiments, electronics while she got clothes, dolls, and lots of pink. I also looked over to see that my oldest niece got cookbooks and clothes and my nephew got some cool fishing gear. Again, that was what my daughter wanted.
She was heartbroken and mine was for her. I really wanted to say something to my mother-in-law, but it seemed in keeping with what SHE thought my daughter would want solely based on gender stereotypes. I debated on if I should say something to my mother-in-law. Instead, I gave my kid a fishing rod and electronics a bit later, just because. I told my daughter I would make it right for her. I tried to explain that her grandmother thought she was getting gifts for her that she would like.
Honestly, I am glad I did not say something. That turned out to be our last Christmas with my mother-in-law. She passed away on December 23rd of the following year extremely unexpectedly. It didn’t matter much then.
I was very disappointed my mother-in-law was so tied to gender stereotypes that she missed seeing the awesome granddaughter she had; how smart, sweet, and lovely she is; and that girls CAN like technology. She thought only my daughter was the jock who needed to be more feminine and not how smart she is and how she wanted things that were interesting as well. She told me that my son was the intellectual, my daughter was my jock, and my youngest was the class clown.
Yes, that is a part of my kids, but far from the only parts of who they are.
Also, my kids needed to know how to deal with disappointment. My daughter held it together until she got to her bed. Then she sobbed. I was proud of her not making a scene and giving me the chance to make it right. I did not think it was right, but we could handle it without causing a scene.
Maybe it was not good parenting, but it is what I felt was right and just.”
She Just Wants Her Children’s World To Be Less ‘Virtual’
“Christmas has always been a huge deal for my mother-in-law. By that, I mean her focus has always been on the gifts. It is to the point at which the excess makes me uncomfortable. It is just not how I was raised, but it’s her deal so I let her be.
Last year, my husband and I announced we would be moving four hours away for a job opportunity. Four hours is a big deal for his family because they all live within 10 minutes of each other. His grandparents, his parents, aunts, uncles, sisters, everyone. Without asking either my husband or myself, she bought my 7 and 8-year-old an Xbox.
We don’t normally limit TV or electronics a ton, but this was totally different. I felt they were way too young to play video games and the games she did buy them (Farming Simulator) were something they had previously used their existing toys (tractors, cows, barns) and imaginations to play.
The reason she bought it: ‘Oh, they won’t have any friends when they move. This will give them something to do.’
The Xbox only caused more fights between me and my kids and between them. I hate it.”
No Dolls, Please
“When my daughter was born in the late 1980s, I made up my mind that she was going to be subjected to as little of the gender stereotyping that was already a feature of toy aisles, certain nursery school practices, and advertising on children’s television as possible. She was going to build with primary colored LEGO, not pink and purple. She would pretend to be an astronaut, not a hair-stylist. And, there would be NO DOLLS, despite my recollections of my own large collection of much-loved dolls, with whom I spent many happy hours.
The first two years went fine. There was very little pastel in her life. Space ships, trucks, and the like took up a fair amount of space in the toy chest.
Then, my mother arrived for her second Christmas with my child with (in direct defiance of my dictum and wearing a nervous yet knowing smile) a lovely, cuddly baby doll whose eyes opened and shut. I growled at it and at her, but then found myself assisting as she finished off the tiny cable-knit sweater she was making to supplement the doll’s outfit. Come Christmas morning, my traitorous child, of course, deemed the doll by far her favorite present that year.
It took only that to convert me. There were several more dolls over the next few years, for whom my mother and I made many more clothes, including a set of school uniforms for the entire collection when my kid was in the first grade. There were no Barbies (no one in the family had any problem adhering to that stipulation), but there was Rachel, Belinda, Brittany, Emily, Eric, Ryan, and at least two or three more whose names I forget.
My kid still grew up a feminist. It was fine. She came by the other day to sort through her collection of dolls, doll clothes, doll furniture, and stuffed animals as she and her boyfriend prepared to serve as foster parents. They took several bags full of stuff, but I don’t yet have permission to dispose of the rest. It’s OK. I can wait.”