Christmas and stepfamilies and gift

thurmanDecember 25, 2012

hi folks~

Hope you all are having a nice holiday.

How do you handle the gifts thing? In our family, we have one child that is bio-child of one parent, and another who is a bio-child of both parents. Naturally, my wife and I are both buying for our child. My wife usually gets the gifts for my SD. She has, in the past, not wanted me to get anything for her child, and so I've stayed out of it.

Now, most Christmases, our biochild ends up with a bunch more things to open than my stepchild. Keep in mind that my SD gets to open more gifts at her father's house. But my wife feels very guilty every year, even though both children are now grown adults. She now wants to go out and get more gifts and mail them to her to "even it out."

When both children were younger, my wife did do more of an even-Steven thing to make sure her daughter was not "short-changed", but I'm not sure now it should make a difference.

In some sense, she is to blame, because she wanted me to stay out of it. And to be honest, my relationship with my SD has been so frayed at times that I didn't feel like buying her a gift-- the few times I did venture out, I felt neither my wife or SD really appreciated the effort and seemed to resent it. My wife resented me "butting in" and my SD seemed to resent my gifts (a few of the ones I got her ended up in her wastebasket, so I knew her resentments were too great to appreciate the thought).

In any event, I wonder how other stepfamilies handle this issue. It probably underscores how commercialized things have gotten...and how number and expense of gifts are used to measure love...I think Little House on the Prairie had it right...each kid got a shiny penny and some little candy!

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I will say first, Thurman, that I think it is a cold line of thinking (oh, not just you, I've read the same thing over and over again on another site's board) that some stepparents and bioparents seem to think that whatever happens in an opposite house should 'count' for then what happens in your own home.

I've read many times this year 'its not fair so and so gets Christmas from all these other people and my kid only gets this or that and only from me'...blah blah blah. Pfft. Why should what someone else, in this case extended additional family, 'count' towards what you yourself do for your child? His/her child?

I think what the non-parents in these situations seem to forget is by trying to make what happens in the other home 'count' one is basically asking a parent to just forget they bore all the children and put just a selected few in their homes front and center. Stupid. And I'm going to bank more often than not it blews up into hurt feelings, resentment and fights during the holidays.

Think about it. Made-up Johnny Jr comes homes for Christmas and under the tree is xxx amount of gifts waiting for Johnny Jr to unwrap, but Suzy Jr gets home for Christmas and because Suzy got a gift from opposite parent and a few from Aunt Sally and Grandma Hazel at different houses there is only x amount of gifts under this tree. Pfft, why not just a big sign across the tree stating 'oh, Suzy, YOU already got YOUR presents and way more than needed'?

Of course this scenario makes the one parent feel like he/she had to choose between children not only in the home but in the heart. 'Suzy got five big expensive gifts from her father's family so I can only get her more tiny inexpensive gift here and choose to spend all my holiday present budget on my other child, Johnny Jr because he does not go anywhere else for Christmas'.

It's bad enough when this happens in homes with adult children (which both in your case are), but picture it happening in homes where the kids are younger, not as mature and only see in their eyes Mommy (or Daddy) got Johnny Jr tons of stuff and Mommy (or Daddy) got ME jack.

I do 'get' that Johnny Jr only gets one Christmas vs several for Suzy, and I do 'get' Johnny Jr may have more needs than Suzy due to exteneded additional family...what I don't 'get' is why the situation would allowed to play out in front of the child (actual child and/or adult children). Plan your holiday and your gift giving in a adult common sense manner.

For example, 1)give Johnny Jr the extra presents before Suzy arrives. 2) Send Johnny his extra Christmas care package to his dorm in your case. 3) Use your head to think of other less obvious ways to gift the chosen receiver than to wave obvious red flags in their faces while all around the tree on Christmas morning.

In your case, Thurman, do you really need to be sure Thurman Jr your son has this huge stack of gifts given to him on Christmas morning purchased by you and to be opened right then right there at that very moment? Is your holiday season going to be totally ruined and the earth end if you had gifted Thurman Jr with perhaps the very same gifts but in a different less obvious manner?

I do 'get' it. This is your one and only biochild and you desire to gift him with special presents from his father. It's the only Christmas Thurman Sr and Thurman Jr will be having. But now let's put the shoe on the other foot...Mrs Thurman also wants to have a good holiday with Mrs Thurman Jr, also her biochild. But here you are wanting her to only get a bit for Mrs Thurman Jr because this one of your wife's biochildren already got gifts from other people. Exactly how do you think this makes your wife feel to choose between her two biochildren which child 'deserves' more gifts from her personally? You're telling her she should not buy much for one of her biochildren but should buy her second biochild lots of gifts and present them to second child in front of first child. Why don't you just rip Mom's heart out and stomp on it? You've just requested how she should treat one of her children more 'special' and done it based solely on the fact one of the children will be receiving other gifts from other places at other times. But Thurman...that Christmas tree holiday at your home is the only Christmas Mom will be having with both of her biochildren. Mom is not going to all those other places. Mom is not giving gifts at those other places. Mom just wants to gift both her natural born children in her home around the tree. She loves both children. One child might be yours and the other child not, but they are BOTH YOUR WIFE'S children. For her it's not about spending $50 on one kid and $500 on the other. For her it's not about one kid having a dozen presents and the other kid getting just say two because somebody else somewhere else already gave one of her children something.

As far as what you, Thurman, buy you yourself for your SD, I think should be your decision. If you want to go out and buy a gift, warp it and put your name on it 'to SD from Thurman' , do so. If you don't want to, don't. If you feel your selected gift you actually purchased and pick out for her yourself is not appreciated either for what it is or from who it's from...just don't waste your efforts on doing it. Let wife do the shopping for you for a gift from you to SD if that works out better for you. Just tell wife about how much you would like to spend yourself on SD's gift and let wife go pick it out staying within the budget you set for the gift from you. If wife and you usually instead give SD joint gifts with both your names (from Mom and Thurman)on the tag then speak to Mrs Thurman about how YOU feel about it...if you don't want your name on the tag ask wife not to do so.

There is not a 'rule' in any book that Thurman can't go out Christmas shopping, buy a ton of gifts for Little Thurman , wrap them and put a tag on gift 'to Thurman Jr from Dad' ...all that's needed is a bit of common sense as to how and when you gift son with all your personal presents. You earn a paycheck, Thurman. You can gift your son anything and as much of whatever you please that fits your budget...but the unwriten 'rule' would be DONT try to control Christmas for the other people in your life and DONT set up a frigging gift competition under a tree on Christmas morning. Use your head, Thurman. Organize your personal gift giving in creative and nonhostile/resentful methods. Little Mrs Thurman needs not know what nor how much Thurman gifted his son with...just don't flaunt your extras to your son in your SD's face or make Mrs Thurman feel you made HER choose between what and how she buys for her TWO children.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 8:12AM
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Christmas isn't about gifts and it seems to cause so much distention between kids & parents, even in nuclear families. It would be nice if more people would remember that it isn't about the gifts... how many, how expensive, or even getting one.

That's my little rant on what has become a pet peeve. Happy New Year!

    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 6:57PM
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Thanks for the responses. Just to be clear: I was not against my wife buying more gifts for her daughter. I did not do anything for my son that I don't do every single's just that my wife bought fewer things to open for her daughter, so the disparity was very apparent.

There are so many mixed messages in being a stepparent. On the one hand, she has criticized me when I wanted to be involved (when the SD was younger) and criticized me for being distant. I think my SD would prefer more gifts...but not any that seem to be "from me"...the few times I did try to shop for the SD, there were very subtle and not so subtle messages that it was not appreciated. So I threw my energies into my son.


    Bookmark   December 27, 2012 at 2:08PM
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A nice gesture to your wife would be "next year lets make lists of what we are going to buy for both children so we won't have a repeat of so many for one and not for the other". Gifts don't have to be matched exactly but a whole lot of stuff for one and not much for the other shows the obvious favoritizm.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2012 at 10:01AM
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Does everyone realize that the wife's daughter is a grown woman & the couple's son is still under 18 & living (I'm pretty sure) at home?

& that Thurman gets angry at the wife's daughter for such things as buying her little brother a present, saying good morning, not saying good morning, etc?

    Bookmark   December 28, 2012 at 11:17AM
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Thurman Jr is off to university and over could anyone forget the graduation gift saga or the sending off to dorm life! While he may still spend breaks 'at home' he is fuctioning as an adult off on his own the majority of the year.

I can still though understand a possible need to help Jr out a bit more with boring expense items like extra clothing blah blah...I don't think we've ever heard if Jr works parttime or anything during the school year and/or on breaks. With SD a doctor and a career wage, she likely does not 'need' a pile full of extras. BUT that is not to say sd should not still feel as special and treated as such when visiting at the holidays with her mother.

I'm actually surprised the OP was not more along the lines of 'should sd be buying her mother this or that for Christmas' like the birthday posting was. Who could forget the bottle of perfume story.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2012 at 10:24PM
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