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Extend the Family Tent Pegs To Include Mom and Dad

I am a bargain hunter. I clip coupons, and buy holiday gifts year round. Because of this, I am usually able to give my three children a very good Christmas, in spite of the fact that we are a one-income family. (This year I bought my 20 year old daughter an $80 wool pea coat for $3.84 in May, which will be under the tree for her this year.) I also chair a holiday fund drive, which sponsors 3-6 deserving families, buying them everything from food, clothing, toys and household goods such as bedding and kitchen appliances, if needed. I don’t put much of my own money into this, but all of the gifts are collected at my home, where I photograph them and divide them up and prepare them to be delivered. I am a coordinator, more than a benefactor, though I do always spend something toward this endeavor.

My etiquette issue involves my mother. She, with my father, moved in with my family about 2 years ago due to my dad’s declining health and their inability to manage their finances effectively in the wake of the health issues. It has been a tumultuous time, with everyone having difficulties adjusting. However, it is working out okay, for the most part.

Today I took my youngest daughter out to lunch, and decided on the spur of the moment to leave the waitress a $50 tip, even though our bill only totaled $11. She looked tired, but was cheerful and pleasant, and I had been wanting to do something like this for quite a while. It made my day, that’s for sure! On the way out of the restaurant, she ran up to me and said “Thank you so very much!” I responded with a “Merry Christmas!” and went over to corral my daughter, who was playing one of those crane games that some restaurants have. Anyway, while I waited for my daughter, I could hear the waitress in the background, gushing to a fellow employee about how I told her ‘Merry Christmas’ and I could hear how excited and happy she was.  This further multiplied my good feelings about what had just transpired.

When I arrived home, I was beaming. I shared my good deed with my mother, who BLEW UP AT ME. She started shouting about how selfish I was, and how I never even spend that much on her or my father for Christmas, and how they are always at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to presents. She then berated me further, saying that she couldn’t stand the fact that I bought my oldest daughter (the 20 year old) 8 different super-expensive gifts, and that no one person should ever have that many things under the tree, yet EACH of my children have at least that many. Following that, she was saying how sad that I spent all my time hosting the poor families for Christmas, but yet gave so little to herself and my father.

I was flabbergasted. As I’ve said, everything I buy for my kids is on sale or purchased with a coupon. She absolutely knows this. She also knows how much happiness I have in my heart, helping out others on Christmas.  What she said sucked all the joy out of everything.

For ALL of my extended family, I usually budget $25 per couple as a gift. My brother and his wife receive a gift card to Olive Garden, my other brother and his girlfriend get the same $25 gift card, only to Applebees. My husband’s parents receive a $25 card to Red Lobster. I gift this consistently, because this is what they ask for. My parents don’t like gift cards, so as a rule, I split the $25 I would have spent on a card, between them. Last year for Christmas, my mother had asked for slippers, and I purchased her a nice pair of $10 slippers, and my father received something separately, which costs around $15. The year prior to that, I actually spent more, as my parents were still living on their own and had been hit with an unexpected bill that they couldn’t pay, so I gifted them the $50 so they could pay it in full.

I brought all of these facts up to my mom while she was shouting at me, and she said that it hurt her terribly that I had ONLY bought her slippers, and nothing else, and that if I loved her I would have bought her the slippers and a second gift as well. “$10 is too cheap.” She also was angry that earlier this year I had told her I would try to buy my father a full-length hooded robe for the holidays, and a few weeks ago I had to tell her that it was more than I could spend, but that I would get him something else. She was really upset that I had given the waitress $50, when that $50 could have purchased the robe.  Now, this is true. When she pointed that out, I did feel bad, but I had already purchased my father a different gift, more in line with what I would normally spend.

I really don’t think I was wrong to give the waitress this holiday gift though, or that am I wrong to spend time coordinating my fund drive. I also feel that it is a blessing to be able to gift my children nice presents on Christmas, even if they are older, (22, 20, 13), if I can make it happen. Never did I feel that what I give my parents as “less than” but apparently my generosity to others has upset my mother.

What else can I do here? I feel awful, and a few minutes ago I was on top of the world.

The first thing you should have realized by now is that arriving home and announcing your monetary gift to the waitress was a mistake.   It’s somewhat crass to brag to others of one’s own generosity and how much money was given.  It is unrealistic to expect others to vicariously have the same level of good will and warm fuzzies as you do via a secondhand experience they hear about.    The enjoyment one gets from giving to others should be savored alone.

As for gifts for Mom and Dad, now that they are living in your home, they are your family and should be treated just as you would with the other adults in the home,especially in light of the fact that two of your children are aged 20 and 22.   We are not talking about minor-aged children that one indulges for the holidays.  I can see how another adult living in the home may feel slighted with one inexpensive gift when other adults living in the home receive quite a bounty, even if that bounty was purchased at discount.  Some people measure the fullness of your love cup towards them by the number of gifts that is given to them.   Gifts send messages whether we realize or like it and Mom may be interpreting your gift giving as a message that she and Dad really aren’t part of your family but merely guests that happen to live with you year round.

You apparently spend considerable time shopping for bargains for your adult aged children yet despite assuring your Mom early in the year that you would find your Dad a hooded robe for Christmas, you did not succeed in doing so.  I don’t know if that is because you did not invest the same effort into finding a bargain as you have for finding your children’s gifts or you tried and could not find anything suitably on sale.   If your Mom is aware of how you shop for your children’s Christmas presents, she may be perceiving your gift of a sole pair of slippers and the news that Dad isn’t getting a robe as promised as you simply not putting the same effort into shopping for her and Dad.   But having given Mom your word that you would find a robe, I believe that spending  money to acquire what you promised takes precedent over giving to a stranger.

In summary, keep quiet about your giving and extend your family tent pegs to include Mom and Dad into the circle with all the same benefits of family living together.

{ 151 comments… add one }
  • Michelle M December 27, 2011, 4:30 pm

    I have BEEN that stranger, and humbly remember such an act of kindness: I was broke, unmarried, and pregnant–deserted by the father of my baby–and working two jobs (full-time receptionist during the day, waitress at night) to support myself and my yet unborn child. This was during the holiday season, and I was very noticeably pregnant; I am sure I looked tired as well, but was trying to be as cheerful as possible to my customers. One woman and her elderly mother sat in my section, and seemed very content to just enjoy some soup, and what seemed like endless cups of coffee. Their tab was not very large, so I would not expect anything more than an extremely modest tip, no matter how good the service may have been. The daughter called me over to collect their money, thanked my for service, and said “You and your baby have a very, Merry Christmas.” She then slipped something into my apron pocket, gathered her mother, and left. I reached in to pull out a crisp $100 dollar bill–and burst into tears on the spot. This stranger’s act of kindness did indeed change my life–it enabled to pay my rent that month, and restored my faith in what I would like to believe is the basic goodness of the human race.

    Bless you, OP….you are obviously a generous, loving person, and have no cause to feel shame for your wonderful act of random kindness to a stranger–you may have indeed changed her life!

  • Lola December 27, 2011, 4:47 pm

    A parent’s obligation to their child is so sacred that I would jump at anyone’s throat for challenging my devotion to my child. That the OP didn’t do so when her mother objected to the amount of $ OP spent on her kids (ages do NOT matter), is a testament to her restraint.

    At the same time, I agree with the admin on both reasons why sharing the news of a $50 tip with mom was not the brightest idea. Still doesn’t excuse mom from the ugly reaction, but may prevent future blow-ups.

  • Margaret December 27, 2011, 4:53 pm

    I notice that a lot of comments state that if the OP had $50, then if should have gone to the father’s robe first. The OP herself posted that she hadn’t thought about that. Therefore, it seems to me that the way the OP handles her budget is to set amount for each category. If there is $50 available in the charity category, it does NOT mean that the $50 is also available in the gift category. If she is a strict budgeter, and it sounds like she is, then she probably truly did NOT think about just shuffling the money about. And as someone who often spends on stuff from the great pool of money at the start of the month only to realize at the end of the month that I’ve spent the money that was supposed to cover the bills at the end, I think that is a very sensible thing, and I don’t think she should be faulted for it.

  • Cat Whisperer December 27, 2011, 5:18 pm

    I want to add one thing to what’s been said about this issue.

    Both my parents are dead. My mom passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. And when that happens, I can tell you that one of the worst issues you deal with in your grieving is thinking about things that you wish you’d done different, things that you wish you could do over, things you wish you’d said or not said.

    The big point here: OP’s mom clearly feels hurt about the way her daughter is treating her. Why mom feels hurt, whether mom is justified in feeling hurt, is a side-issue: there is pain there, it is real, and it’s very evidently been simmering for a while.

    One of the best gifts you can give to yourself and the people you love is the gift of admitting that sometimes things get so emotionally loaded with years of baggage that you need to bring in a professional to help sort things out. That means going to someone like a licensed family counselor or therapist and working through the issues with the therapist, who acts as a neutral party to sort things out.

    Some people resist the suggestion of a counselor, which I have never understood. When our physical health breaks down, we go to a doctor to fix it. When our car isn’t working properly, we to to a mechanic to fix it. When an appliance like a refrigerator or stove isn’t working, we call in a repair person to fix it.

    When relationships aren’t working, sometimes it takes an expert to figure out what’s going wrong and to point you in the right direction to start to fix them.

    OP has indicated several components to her situation where very clearly a therapist or counselor could be helpful:

    The OP has her parents living with her, which creates friction.

    The OP’s father has some sort of serious physical illness, which creates stress.

    There are issues about finances, which have caused problems.

    There are clearly some resentments over how the OP allocates time and resources to family vs. non-family.

    This is a situation where a counselor could really, really help. And since OP likes to shop for bargains, here are where you find bargains in counselors or therapists:

    If you live near a college or university that offers a certification or accreditation program in marriage and family counseling, you can usually get counseling very inexpensively through their program. Typically students who are working for their certification work with a staff member who is certificated to see clients and counsel them. Payment is usually inexpensive or on an “ability to pay” basis.

    Some churches offer free or low-cost counseling or therapy to members of the congregation, either through someone on staff or through referrals. The counseling may be faith-based or it may be secular, it’s worth asking.

    Nowadays many employers offer access to free or reduced-cost counseling through some kind of employee assistance program. The aerospace company my husband works for offers this: you call up the employee assistance program office, they match you up with a counselor, and you get a certain number of appointments free and a certain number at reduced cost.

    Sometimes counselors will do pro bono appointments if they’re referred from a source like a domestic violence center, a suicide prevention center, a family resource center, a community mental health program, or other source. You have to ask around and it can take some effort, but there are resources out there if you’re willing to look.

    Getting help from a professional so you don’t find yourself staring regrets in the face when a parent suddenly passes away can be the best gift you ever give or get. Sometimes we just need help, and there is no shame in asking for help. The shame is in not asking for it when it’s needed.

  • Rei December 27, 2011, 7:22 pm

    OP, I’m so sorry about all of what happened. Your crime here was in being human and dropping the ball, which all well-intentioned people do occasionally. It happens, and I’m sure the minute you find a great robe at a great price you will get it for your dad. You clearly love your parents, and I think the fact that other people are going so far as to call your motivations for your generosity into question is distasteful.

    Perhaps you should swap stories about the rush of giving spontaneously with other people who do the adopt-a-family or other charitable events you’re involved in instead of people you know more personally in the future. I feel as though those people would really understand that there is an intense, giddy, joyful feeling that can come with surprising someone with a generosity out of left field in a way others might not.

    I applaud you for making sure your children, who have been through so much in their lives, feel really special every Christmas. You have taken in your parents when they needed you, which you didn’t have to do. That responsibility could have fallen to ‘Mommy’s favorite’, but you took it up yourself. I am also very happy to hear that you work so hard to help take care of other families in need. With all that you do, it is understandable how you ended up not putting in the time it required to make this all work out the way you meant it to. I do agree with the suggestion that you are perhaps spreading yourself a bit thin. Perhaps you could ask your husband to help you bargain hunt online if he doesn’t already? Or maybe, if your youngest is old enough, you could ask her to help you look for online coupon codes and stuff to help you find things for extended family members and the like. Having a little extra help, I think, would make a big difference for you. Not to mention that it would help teach your youngest the joy of giving and the joy of bargain hunting!

    And I don’t care if other people flame me for this, but if I took my parents into my home and gave them care and fed them and paid their expenses (which can add up to an awful lot with elderly people) and then had to deal with my mother acting like a snarky teenager while my children opened gifts, I would be livid. It takes either a very sick woman or a very cruel woman to roll her eyes and make noises while her grandchildren (especially considering the circumstances of their lives) open gifts. The OP openly admits that mistakes were made, but I missed the part where being human and making mistakes gives someone else the right to be a cast-iron witch about it. Perhaps OP’s mother should wait until she can walk on water before she starts criticizing people for being imperfect.

  • Rap December 27, 2011, 8:27 pm

    “The OP herself posted that she hadn’t thought about that. Therefore, it seems to me that the way the OP handles her budget is to set amount for each category. If there is $50 available in the charity category, it does NOT mean that the $50 is also available in the gift category. If she is a strict budgeter, and it sounds like she is, then she probably truly did NOT think about just shuffling the money about.”

    Speaking as a strict budgeter, I disagree. The OP makes it very clear that the decision was a spur of the moment decision, and there is no mention that it was money intentionally earmarked for charity. I get it, I’ve done it – though I tend to be that person who throws twenty bucks at the Girl Scouts when they are selling cookies in the rain. I’ve also been in the spot where money was so tight, I was hoping and praying I’d get a good tip.

    I agree, it probably never dawned on her in the heat of the moment that 25 of those dollars still made a great tip on a 11 dollar tab, and those other 25 dollars plus the 15 in the budget = Dad’s new robe. I think its commendable that someone in a one income home can manage so well… But I also think this is a classic example of why its not always a great idea to draw attention to one’s charity. While I don’t think it was classy or polite of the mom of the OP to use this as a point to rant… again we’re left with “There’s no money in the budget to get dad a robe, his xmas gift must be 15 dollars or left and btw I gave fifty dollars to a stranger on a complete unplanned whim, go me!”

    I don’t approve of the mom throwing a fit over it at all, but whether the OP thought about it or not really isn’t the issue – the initial mistake was telling her mom.

  • Beans December 27, 2011, 8:36 pm

    The OP said the waitress was pleasant and cheerful despite looking tired, so she rewarded good customer service. It isn’t a job I could do without wanting to strangle people so I really appreciate good service. I think it was very nice that she adding such a generous tip and I don’t think she was bragging. What’s wrong with wanting to share the good feelings that come with generosity? Her Mom’s reaction was childish.

  • yokozbornak December 27, 2011, 10:06 pm

    I started posted a comment and hit a button so forgive me if I am reposting.

    When I read this post and the update, I immediately thought of the book “The Five Love Languages” which explores how different people show love . The 5 languages are Gift Giving, Acts of Service, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, and Physical Touch.

    I would bet that the OP’s mom feels love when she is being given a gift and the OP probably shows love by her Acts of Service to others. I would also bet that the OP doesn’t even look at that $50 tip as a gift – she equates it as an act of service for someone else and is perplexed why her mom is hurt that she would do something kind for another person. I would also bet that she expresses her love to her parents by giving them a home and provide what they need. She is serving them and spending time with them so it’s hard for her to comprehend that her mom may not get how much she loves and cares for her.

    I would encourage the OP to talk to her mom and try to get on the same page. If spending $25 more on her mom at Christmas will make her feel loved then I think it’s a worthy investment. I also think that she should talk to her mom and let her know that serving others is how she shows love to her family and community so mom needs to back off on her criticism.

    Basically, I think the whole thing is a failure to communicate, and I think the OP and her mom need to talk about what’s going on because this will keep festering if they don’t.

  • Kira December 27, 2011, 10:18 pm

    I guess we are focussing on this one off gift to one person, vs what the OP has done for her parents over the ENTIRE LIFE TIME! I know when I buy for friends they would rather get the gift card then the presents I spend hours on hours looking for something great. Also spending my hard earned work and time to get not even a thanks in return makes me no longer wish to do it. So for some people based on years of experience I have my set time and budget and others who do appreciate my hard work and time I continue to enjoy the hunt for the good present and happy to spend over on the right thing. Maybe after years of getting very little from her mother (she says she get’s less and her brother get’s obviously favoured – whether presents or emotionally) she would rather spend her time with people who would appreciate the generosity of the season instead of catering to a gimme pig who seems to care nothing more then getting what she considers her fair share.

    The mother (and some posters) also don’t seem to appreciate the year round gifts of paying bills (for someone bargain happy and budgeted they would take a lot out of her money) and the gift of a safe roof over her head. If money is supposed to show love and pecking order and other things mentioned then her mother is doing the exact same thing by gifting more to the brother and saying “Hey thanks for taking care of me and everything, but I don’t love you as much for all your sacrifices.”

    However seeing most of us can only assume on the full situation I don’t think anyone can condemn or say what she did was bad or anything. I think a bigger faux par is assuming you know the full story and judging someone on it vs questioning.. As this is about etiquette and we only really can know the one thing fo saying hw much you donated – just don’t do that in the future. How about establish a no present thing for the adults because it sounds like everyone is struggling a little and just focus on children yourself, or just continue as you are.

  • Leah December 27, 2011, 11:35 pm

    Mom gets one cheap gift to open, Dad gets one cheap gift to open, then they have to sit there and watch everyone else unwrap at least 8 expensive gifts one at a time for what – half an hour or more?
    Not kind.

    No wonder she was upset.

  • Stephanie December 28, 2011, 2:02 am

    If $4 can get an $80 peacoat for your daughter, why does $10 only get $10 slippers for your mom? If you put as much thought and effort into your parents gifts as you do your kids, you should be able to give them a lot more than $25 dollars worth of stuff. You really couldn’t find a robe on sale? Maybe your mom was out of line, but come on, she is your mom! Suck it up. When you have a quiet minute, go say you’re so sorry that she has gotten so upset about these things, but that you were thoughtless and didn’t realize how much your behavior was affecting her. Then outline your feelings and limitations and see if she has any thoughts about how you can balance your gift giving out any better. Promise you will take any suggestions under consideration. Use your shopping skills and get her nice, meaningful gifts for future occasions.

  • Amp2140 December 28, 2011, 2:23 am

    You’ve got to be kidding me that this was the response to this woman’s post.

    You’re telling me that a woman that intelligently manages the money for her single income home, runs a charity, AND has taken on her two elderly parents that can’t budget for themselves (health problems suck, but they are a part of life… while i have sympathy, i have more sympathy for the woman that can provide for essentially 2 families on one income) was told that she shared a bit of Christmas cheer and deserved to be berated for doing so for not spending enough on her parents (because food, utilities, and shelter aren’t enough)? Really? There are some things that make you so happy you want to tell someone. Personally, I’d kick someone out of my house for screaming at me like that… ‘you’re not doing ENOUGH charity for me!’, or at the very least return or donate anything I got them.

    As for the very nasty comment about the robe… I bet you that if the coat hadn’t gone on sale… the mother wouldn’t have bought it. For whatever requirements were put on the robe her father would want, and whenever she learned that he wanted it, maybe she couldn’t find one, or find any sort of discount. Maybe her father is a large size, making it difficult to find on sale. This was the nastiest comment i’ve seen in response to a post here ever!

  • Edhla December 28, 2011, 3:04 am

    I’m astonished at the people who think the OP should be canonised for looking after her parents in their old age and illness, when they presumably raised her. Wow, people. No dignified human being in the first world should have to consider food and shelter to be on par with a Christmas gift. Have we really lost so much regard for family relationships that, bar a serious family rift (e.g. felonies being committed, past abuse, etc) supporting one’s parents is up for discussion? My father and I don’t get on much, personality clash. But I wouldn’t hesitate to take him to live with me if he needed it, particularly if he was ill. And I certainly wouldn’t think that providing him with shelter clothing and food was a “Christmas gift” and expect him to not be upset if I refused to spend fifteen dollars on him, and then gave fifty to a stranger just so I could feel good about myself!

  • Mistral Fire December 28, 2011, 3:13 am

    I also mostly disagree with the Admin. I think it would be nice if the OP would take the effort to bargain shop for the parents as well as her children, but I do not think she has any obligation to purchase the same number of gifts for her parents as for her children.

    I would also like to point out, that the gifts from the OP shouldn’t be the only gifts the parents are receiving. What about gifts from other friends and family members? Could the parents perhaps visit their favored son for Christmas next year? Or hold off on some of the little gifts throughout the year and save them for Christmas?

    The mother’s behavior was rude and ungracious, particularly considering that the OP has already extended the tent pegs to include her parents.

  • Elle December 28, 2011, 12:09 pm

    This sounds like one of those fights that isn’t really about what’s causing the shouting. In the end it doesn’t really matter much why this particular incident caused your mom to explode, the bottom line is that your mommy is hurting. Bearing in mind that the stress of your dad being sick and their living with you is affecting both you and your mom a great deal (and thus making you both more brittle than you’d otherwise be), this needs to be revisisted in the spirit of love and wanting to resolve what is really at the core, I imagine the real issue is much more comprehensive than just how much you spend on presents.

  • Jane December 28, 2011, 12:30 pm

    I almost completely disagree with Jeanne’s response. While it is true that bragging about giving money kind of lessens the spirit of the gift, we’re taking about parents who have to live with their children because they can’t handle their own finances. A house hold that has a single income no less. Furthermore, on what planet is a parent expected to not give their children gifts just because they are “adults?” OP should not discuss financing with her mother and her mother should learn some gratitude and keep her mouth shut about gift giving to others.

  • Miss Raven December 28, 2011, 3:01 pm

    I hope to bring a fresh angle to this story. My job currently centers almost entirely around finding financial assistance for people who are – not unemployed – but under-employed. People working hourly, for minimum wage, with children. People with single-income households, caring for elderly parents, or with chronic illnesses themselves.

    These are people who are one good crisis away from being homeless. They are on the whole uninsured, so one kid’s broken arm becomes a $16,000 debt that can ruin them. Or two weeks out of work with the flu. Or a robbery. Or anything that can happen to any of us at any time. These are the working poor, and let me tell you, a waitress working at a restaurant where $11 buys lunch for two people is certainly among them.

    Every day I struggle to find help for these people. Government programs are going bankrupt; no one is giving to charity. And the holidays are the WORST time, because the programs funded by the government have gone dry until the next year, and programs that aren’t funded by the government (frequently religious ones) are putting all their resources towards holiday giving.

    $50 towards delinquent rent or utilities, or the grocery bill, or even for a little bit of Christmas cheer for Waitress’s own children? What a blessing. What a gift! If people like OP came along more often, I might be out of a job.

    Seeing what I see each day, I consider OP’s mother’s reaction repugnant. Yes, how DARE her daughter give freely to someone who likely has nothing, while still giving her parents everything? It may be uncouth to brag about one’s good deed, but the one person I would feel good sharing one with is my mother. OP’s mum’s immaturity and selfishness are almost embarrassing.

    All that aside, I agree with others that dementia may be creeping in, especially if this reaction was entirely out of the blue or unusual. Until Alzheimer’s set in, my grandmother’s worst curse was, “Go soak your head!” Afterwards, she swore like a trucker. Something to think about.

  • MidoriBird December 28, 2011, 3:19 pm

    Reading this and thinking of my past year, where I was at starvation level and still, basically, after I’ve paid my rent and bills there was never anything left and I had to literally had to skip Christmas all together….I just want to cry.

  • MidoriBird December 28, 2011, 3:20 pm

    And PS to my first comment, I do not have children to concentrate upon.

  • Allie December 28, 2011, 4:52 pm

    It sounds like mom has been under some financial and emotional pressure, and has chosen to take it out on you. I find it hard to believe that an adult her age would truly be so invested in Christmas gifts. As a kid, gifts mattered to me, and even in my early 20s they mattered to me to an extent, but now at 41, I could care less if I get any from anyone other than my husband, and we usually give each other practical things and always open our gifts just the two of us together. Perhaps it wouldn’t hurt, while you are living together, to have a bit more of an equal distribution amongs the two older kids and your parents. Also, you need to keep some things private from mom. There was absolutely no reason to tell her about the $50 tip. That is your business and no one else’s. I had to have that talk with a friend recently. She was complaining to me that her parents were always critical of her financial decisions, and I said she should keep her finances to herself (she is in her 30s and self-sufficient).

  • AS December 28, 2011, 5:24 pm

    I am with the admin on this.

    I mostly have my empathies for OP (especially given that I myself have a grandmother and an aunt who constantly my parents, and not me about how much I spend on them). But unless OP’s parents have been gimme all their lives, I can see why her mother feels slighted. It is not always about giving the gift as it is about the thought that goes behind it. You (OP) seem to put in a lot of thought for your kids, but you could not buy the one thing that your father wanted. It is understandable if you didn’t have money to spend. But if you could tip the waitress $50, maybe you could have purchased the robe for your father. It seems sad to me that it gives you happiness to make someone else happy, but you don’t want to get the robe that your own father so wanted. I always used to go out of the way to buy anything (which are not too many) that my parents wanted; and I am so glad I did that when I suddenly lost my mother. I still regret not being able give her one thing that she had wanted that I had planned to give her when I meet her next – which never happened. You might have made the waitress’s day, which is nice. But IMO, you would have made your father even happier. Charity starts at home.

  • Addy December 28, 2011, 5:55 pm

    Leah, the “others” opening gifts were all the OP’s children. The OP and her husband don’t even exchange gifts. I only gave one gift to my mother, who also lives with me, but gave 3 each to my grown children, who are all poor students. My mother has a lifetime of accumulated “stuff” while my kids need all kinds of things. My mother had no complaints as she had gifts to open from others. Do the mother and father give each other gifts? Or do the children give their grandparents gifts? There is no reason why the OP has to be the only one to supply gifts for everyone.

  • SJ December 28, 2011, 10:05 pm

    I have to diagree a bit with the Admin.

    Adults are adults doesn’t fly with me. Your kids will always be your kids, no matter how old they get.

    Demanding gifts of your children? Over the line.

    Obviously, though, the warm fuzzies probably should not have been shared with Mom, or anyone. Despite her good intentions, it can come off as bragging.

    I felt similarly annoyed when my uncle told me he couldn’t afford to come to my wedding, but then bragged about the new RV he’d just bought for his wife. (Way worse than what OP did, for sure.)

  • Elle December 28, 2011, 11:12 pm

    “I find it hard to believe that an adult her age would truly be so invested in Christmas gifts.”

    I would bet you any amount of money that it is not actually about the material things or the value of the things. I would bet that what mom “sees” is that her daughter doesn’t value mom and dad enough to put out the same thought and effort that she does for strangers’ families. Objectively, I’m sure this is not true, but on an emotional gut level it probably hurts. Add to that probably everyone is stressed by the living situation and mom smarting now that her daughter’s taking care of her instead of the other way (the way it’s always been).

    And in the end, does it really matter all that much if the OP was perfectly polite and 100% reasonable and her mom was in the wrong, wrong, wrong? Does it matter whether or not mom “should” feel upset about $50 being given to a waitress when dad couldn’t get his robe? No. What matters is the OP’s mom is really hurting and there’s a way to fix it. Mom is craving a little more evidence that her daughter is there for her and cares and doesn’t resent them for being there (or so I would guess). I would wager that sitting down and taking the time to write a really lovely letter on a nice (or even homemade) card would go a long way towards smoothing the troubled waters here.

    Etiquette is all very well in good, but when a loved one is hurting it really doesn’t matter who is in the right as much as it does how to soothe the hurt.

  • Felis D December 29, 2011, 2:50 pm

    I have never been an extravagant gift giver, and I try to live within my means. I like buying gift cards, DVDs, books, games, little things for my friends and family – usually something I know that they’ll really, really like and appreciate. Meanwhile, most of my mom’s friends’ children (around my age – $25-30+) would buy their parents new cell phones, computers, high-tech household appliances, cars, cruises around the world, etc the minute they started earning a paycheque. Not just for Christmas, birthdays and special occasions – sometimes as “just because” gifts. I got to hear about it all the time.

    My mother, from the time I was 25, was bitter that I haven’t yet bought her and dad a cruise for Christmas or for their wedding anniversaries. I don’t know how much money my mom’s friends’ children pull in, but I can’t even afford to buy half the things they do – not even for myself let alone as gifts. And for this, I’m considered a “bad daughter”.

    All that to say that, OP, I kind of feel your pain. Please don’t let your mother’s sense of entitlement ruin your holiday. I do partially see where some of the other posters come from when they think you erred by spending more time and money on charity that they feel should be spent on her parents (it comes from being raised in a background where family is considered to trump all, and there’s nothing wrong with that – just a different philosophy).

    But at the same time, I also think that helping families who wouldn’t otherwise be able to have Christmas without the hard work, donations and dedication from people like you is more important than ensuring that someone who has a roof over their head and a big, warm Christmas dinner with loved ones waiting for them on the 25th gets a more expensive gift.

  • Angela December 29, 2011, 3:46 pm

    A couple of points: I mentioned dementia not just because the mother blew up, but because that was unexpected. The OP is clearly not a very young woman, if she has a daughter who is 20, and I expect she would know if her mother has always been sensitive about money issues and would have kept the information to herself if she had been sensitive. This sounds like a change, although perhaps subtle, in personality: a red flag. Otherwise I don’t see what’s so wrong about sharing a good deed with your own mother! It’s not necessarily bragging or looking for approval.
    Many people have faulted the OP for spending money on “strangers” and not buying her dad a robe. However, I suspect that the donations of money and time made a big difference to those other people. If my daughter chose to spend $20 to help a struggling family buy Christmas presents rather than buy me a fancy gizmo, I’d say “more power to you”.

  • Kira December 29, 2011, 9:46 pm

    I don’t think people think that caring/providing for the grandparents is the xmas present. However seeing this person has a finite amount of resources and time that she has now included towards her parents without any sacrifice to their normal present budget. I think it is fair enough to put forward that the mother is being unfair seeing this person is now spending more of her time, money, everything and still keeping the same level of xmas present time and money is not being selfish with either her time and money for her mother.

    One thought I had, could it be possible that someone so very organised with their money and budget has also money she sets aside for charitable donations. Let’s say she has $100 a year she puts aside instead of buying magazines or own self luxuries to give to others. So she decides on the fly that she want’s to donate as she see’s fit. She probably donates as much every year as she gives as much on xmas presents each year is set. Just another assumption – but in favor, just as easy to make assumptions for and against a person based on little knowledge.

    I biggest etiquette breach/faux par I see is having a go at a person on assumed details. Why not just focus on the one known – which is just the telling of the amount of the donation or at all. Everything is just assumed knowledge. For the OP – just focus on the only real faux par people can know of this situation – every other comment for and against the rest of it is just based on people assuming they know your every thought and action.

  • Angel December 29, 2011, 10:17 pm

    Post #119, I totally agree! Very well put and also could be a possible explanation for the sudden blow up. Unless the mom is like this all the time. In that case, it’s not an illness, it’s an extreme character flaw:(

  • Miss Take December 29, 2011, 11:22 pm

    I see both sides, well, all three sides of this story.

    I think all the people jumping to dementia and saying to get the mother checked out are out trying to find a quick answer. I agree that the mother is stressed. That stress came out in a bad way, and continued through to the Christmas celebration. Probably, because the issue wasn’t resolved in her mind.

    The OP can spend her money however she wants, burn it, give it away, spend it on others, it is her money. But she cannot expect that others are going to accept that with good will. Others stated it better than I can, but telling her mother that she gave a stranger more money than she was willing to spend on her parents would be upsetting to the mother.

    I disagree with the webmistress, you don’t treat everyone the same just because they live in your house. Should the OP get her children less so that it equals out with her parents? No, I don’t believe so. I have first hand experience with this. We have two additional grownups living in our house. One in his late 20’s, one just a year older than my oldest child (22). When it came time for gifts, the non-family members did not receive a gift each night like my kids do (Channukah tradition). The one just older than my son got a gift the first night. Do I wish I could have showered him with gifts, sure, but I wasn’t going to do so at the expense of my children, no matter how much I care for him. In addition, he never would think of asking for more. He was so excited at his gift and never asked why he didn’t get one every night.

    The OP truly gets something out of her charity work. I applaud her for that. I hope that she can find a way to mend whatever is going on within her own house.

  • Slartibartfast December 30, 2011, 5:20 pm

    My guess is that the mother is probably critical of ANY gift she receives, not just the price tag. It would be spectacularly easy for the OP to pick up little gifts all through the year and still come out only spending $10-$15 on her mother – but if the mother turns her nose up at anything that’s not exactly what she specified she must receive for the holiday, there’s really no incentive for the OP to do so. It would only take a year or two of buying sale/clearance items she thinks her mother might like only to hear “But it’s not BLUE” or “But I wanted the NAME BRAND!” before the OP just gives up and buys one specific thing at regular price instead. (We have no proof that this is the case, of course, but I find it hard to believe the OP didn’t try this already!)

    • NostalgicGal October 18, 2015, 9:06 pm

      Late but comment. I used to make high end costume jewelry out of precious (silver) or semi (gold fill) with semi precious or precious stones. One year a a particular catalog from the hoity place down south had a rose quartz and peridot chunky necklace with sterling clasp set. They wanted $1850 retail. A client of mine (professional) showed me the item. I ordered from my wholesaler triple the amout of semiprecious chunky chip so that I could hand pick, MADE the clasp set, and matched up something that was better quality and turned a nice profit at $300. His missus had a massive fit because her beautiful necklace didn’t come from “Ritzy Place.” He finally was able to show here it wasn’t identical because he had had it custom made, just for her, by a gifted local artisan. Honest? Honest. He thought she deserved the BEST and she deserved a custom made. Well…. she finally relented.

      I’m sure OP’s mom even if gifted with her top end wished for item would still find much fault. She had to go from her own household to under roof with someone else, and I am betting some of the anger about every little penny, is the loss of the control of the household. Once you have had that for awhile it’s hard for some to tuck back in. I hope in the next few years this has mellowed.

  • AIW December 30, 2011, 6:52 pm

    This story makes me sad.

    I suppose I’m looking at it from my own point of view, and thinking about my parents. While the gift the OP gave to the waitress was laudable, the bare minimum of attention she pays to gifts for her parents makes me sad.

    I budget carefully and shop throughout the year to ensure that everyone has a nice Christmas, but that everyone includes my mom. It included my dad before he passed away last year.

    Honestly, while your mom’s reaction was totally over the top, I imagine that it wasn’t the $50 that you spent on a stranger, versus how little time and effort you seem to spend on her and your father.

    My dad died about a year ago and my heart hurts everyday when I think about him. Continue to do charitable works (I do as well – adopting families, as well as sending gifts to people who I know can’t afford them for their own children), but perhaps spend a touch more time cherishing your parents. They won’t be around forever, and you’ll miss them.

  • Cupcake January 1, 2012, 3:15 am

    OP, I think you did a really kind thing for that waitress and if your mother, who will always have a roof over her head and food on the table, can’t see that then she doesn’t deserve any gifts at all. Please don’t indulge your mother by getting her more gifts next year to avoid another outburst – it’s your money and you should spend it as you wish. However, I agree with others that she might be upset about more than just the gifts, so maybe you should make time to talk with her about this.

    I’m so surprised at the reactions of the Admin and others who agreed with her. Imagine if someone wrote in saying “My husband got sick recently, and I can’t budget to save myself so it wasn’t long before our money ran out. We moved in with my adult daughter and her adopted kids, and last Christmas she only gave me a ten dollar gift AND didn’t even buy her father the gift I asked her to get, yet her kids – our grandkids – each received several nice gifts. Surely, since we all live under the same roof now, we should all get equal gifts! To make matters worse, she recently gave fifty dollars to a waitress she doesn’t even know, just because she wanted to spread a little Christmas cheer. This is so typical – she is always donating her time and money to others instead of to me! Naturally I lost it and told her how selfish she had been but she just doesn’t get it. How can I make my daughter see that it is wrong to spend more money on a stranger than her own Mom?”.

    Would anyone really agree with that woman? Wouldn’t we all be saying that a gift is a gift, that it’s rude to complain when you receive one, that adults can do what they like with their money and that this woman is totally selfish if she truly thinks it’s unfair that the woman who took her in during a time of need chose to extend her charity to someone else as well?

  • Enna January 1, 2012, 7:29 am

    I think the OP should seat down with her parents and talk to them when they are calm. Maybe she even talks to her mother on her own. The OP could point out that she buys gifts for them over the year and that the gifts she gets for them at christmas are the equivlement to what the mother gets her – if she brings up the $50 to the waitress event OP just says “well you will spend that on your son but not us.” It may not have been the best thing to tell the mum this in the first place but I think Mum’s reaction is one of stress and worry. Maybe if you talk to her OP and try include her in the way you buy presants then maybe you will both understand each other better and clear up this tension. I really do hope that you resolve any issues you have.

  • Aje January 2, 2012, 1:08 pm

    25 dollars, 15 dollars 50 dollars, who cares? My philosophy is that it´s the thought that counts.

    One of my relatives is older, single and lives alone and one year I recieved three books from her which were obviously from a bargain shop… meaning she might have spent perhaps, 1 dollar on me in total. But they were books that she knew I would enjoy, that would be useful. So the price was hardly important.
    This year she sent me a check for 100 dollars. I´m living abroad and she knew it would come in handy since I live on a strict budget.

    The money isn´t important. The books are not important. Not that I don´t appreciate them… but I love my aunt. She is important to me. Not materials.

  • Pat January 2, 2012, 5:20 pm

    OP’s Mother is given a pair of slippers and an unknown waitress is given $50. The OP did this to bring joy to a stranger, and a great deal of joy to herself. Her Father is ill and she can’t give him a robe yet she can give a complete stranger $50. She knew it would cause excitement around her. She got a big kick from it. We all would like to be able to give others gifts like this. The thing is she doesn’t have the funds to do it without shorting her father his robe. So she chose the attention of strangers and the joy in it for herself instead of showing love to her Dad. Giving gifts to one’s children is great. More power to her. What do her grown children give to her? Do they try to make her happy? What do they give to or do for Grandma and Grandpa? OP should be a good example for her children. She needs to take care of her own family first and not spend all her effort and money to make others outside the family the source of her joy.

  • JE January 3, 2012, 3:13 am

    I read this site and enjoy it but have never commented on it before. And I will completely stay out of the etiquette part and who was “right” or “wrong.” But I do have one thing to offer that I hope the original poster sees. I don’t know what sort of illness her dad has, but I want to share something about my own parents.

    When my Dad was 67, he was diagnosed with cancer. He had surgery and then underwent chemotherapy. And all the time he was sick (he died about seventh monts after his diagnosis), he was still the same loving father he had always been, but there was only one difference. He was ALWAYS cold. Before he got sick, Dad was the type who would turn on the air conditioner on Memorial Day and leave it on until Labor Day, and who even in the winter would sleep in shorts and a t-shirt instead of pajamas. But once he got sick, even after Mom would turn up the heat high, he couldn’t get warm, and on his last Christmas, we bought him warm clothes to wear in the house.

    My Mom (now 84) has also become much less tolerant of the cold in recent years, wearing sweaters when she never used to and using extra blankets. After an illness, she recently has been living at a nursing home and she does rehab so she can get back on her feet and come home, and they keep the temperature in there VERYT warm because most of the older people prefer it that way. When my siblings and I go to visit, we usually remove not only out coats but our sweaters/sweatshirts as well, leaving just a short-sleeve shirt because it’s so warm. Mom is there in a sweater.

    I don’t know if if your Dad is going through something very similar, but I think there’s a chance that his illness has made him cold. Rather than ask you to turn up the heat, which would make everyone else warm and make your heating bill skyrocket, he probably told your mother that he really could use a warm robe. I’m sure he has some warm clothes, but maybe he wants something he can throw on quickly when he gets particularly chilly.

    Whatever the etiquette, your dad didn’t ask for a luxury item, he asked for something really practical. In fact the reason your Mom asked you to get it might be that he is too proud and didn’t want to admit that he is cold all the time. Gifts don’t have to be given at Christmas, and maybe you can ask your siblings to pitch in so your Dad can have a warm robe.

  • Cheryl January 3, 2012, 9:52 am

    Even though I am sorry for your parents medical issues, is it your fault that they are unable to be financially responsible. They are living in your house which I would assume means that they pay no rent, electricity, cable or water. You didn’t have to take them in, but you did, to me that speaks volumes and if your mother wants to whine about just getting slippers, then you can inform her that she can move out, with the extra money you will be saving then you can purchase another gift for your mom and the robe for your dad. As for your mother berating you for what you get your kids, if you were in a financial bind and didn’t buy the things with a coupon or on sale then I would agree with your mom but since you bargain hunt then who is she to reprimand you for what you buy your kids. My question for you is what does your mom buy you for Christmas and how much does she spend, if it is as much or less than you then complain to her about the reverse. As for you informing others of your generosity, even though I am sure it was appreciated, tell only your husband and no one else. It is your money, do what you want, besides the waitress may have needed the money more than your parents who need to grow up.

  • Calli Arcale January 3, 2012, 12:17 pm

    As some of my relatives have fallen on hard times, I think I can understand why the mom was so upset. I don’t think it’s that she’s a gimme pig. I think it’s that it’s very hard becoming dependent on your children, and so everything is being seen in that light.

    Different families have different ideas about gifting. Some families only give cool gifts to the newly married, new parents, and minor children, and give token gifts to the others. Some do a Yankee Swap. There are many ways of giving. But I do think you need to be sensitive to the quantities, especially when there are no minor children involved. I give my children more gifts than I give my mother and father, but mostly because the kids get the extra “santa claus” gift opening occasion. At parties, I don’t give them more to open than I give to anyone else. It can get awkward otherwise, because apart from birthdays and such, who wants to just sit and watch someone else rake in the loot? Again, exceptions for minor children, especially if they’re still getting stuff from Santa, but I think I’d be doing more gifting to my parents if they were sharing my house.

    Flip side: if the parents aren’t contributing to the household finances, it can be very difficult to feel generous towards them. This can lead to a sentiment that “I’m putting a roof over your head and food on your plate; that’s your gift.” While tempting, you can’t really wrap that, and it will make them feel even worse. Why?

    Parents generally do not want to become dependent on their children. To them, it’s a reversal of the natural order that they’ve been accustomed to for so long. It’s like abdicating the throne. So it already stings to be receiving that charity. If you do decide that the room and board is their gift or a major part of your gift, it means that on Christmas, your gift will be to remind them, in a way that will feel particularly public, that they are no longer fully independent. I know it’s a big sacrifice, caring for your parents. But on some level, you may be inadvertently giving them the gift of resentment. “Merry Christmas; your life sucks; now be grateful for it.” No, that’s not how you intend, and no, that’s not how they should interpret it — but the human heart is not always rational, and in its dark moments, that’s how things can look.

    I would scale back on the gift-giving to adult children and put a bit more effort into the gifts for parents. And don’t waste time weighing whether it was justified to give the waitress an exorbitant tip, or whether it was fair for your mother to be harsh about what gifts she received. That’s not what charity nor gift-giving are about. I would also suggest no longer determining gifts to relatives by price tag. For gift cards, there’s no other way to do it, but with slippers and robes and things like that, prices can vary dramatically. It’s not how much you spend — it’s whether or not it means something. You can spend ten cents on a robe at a garage sale (plus $5 for professional cleaning) or $50 on a new robe at the mall — that’s not what’s important about a gift, and I wouldn’t think spending $5.10 cents would obligate you to find something to spend the remaining $20.90 on.

  • Lilac January 3, 2012, 2:29 pm

    I have a very good relationship with my mom. She is very generous to my kids and to me at Christmas and for birthdays. I never count on her gifts but they sure are nice! I also give her nice gifts and I make them as thoughtful as possible. I give one or two from myself and then one from my kids–this year it was a $25 box of Godiva chocolates I got for $15. I shop coupons too! Christmas isn’t about the gifts but I KNOW that my very generous and completely reasonable mom would be incredibly hurt if I handed her an obviously cheap and thoughtless gift using my budget as a reason for frugality and then telling her about all the money I had given to a stranger. It would be doubly painful if she was in a difficult financial position and she knew that I was aware of some things that would make life easier–such as a robe and/or slippers–but I chose to ignore these needs and give to a stranger instead. My mom wouldn’t have yelled but she probably would have gone in the other room and cried. I can understand why the OP’s mom would feel bad–no ROBE (not ipod, not an expensive watch, or other trinket–but a ROBE) for her sick father but a $50 tip to a waitress instead? In hindsight, the OP should be glad that her mother told her how she felt even if it was over the top. The OP now has an opportunity to look at how she handled the situation and at her priorities and make changes before she loses her elderly parents. The true “gift” in a gift is the caring and consideration behind it. That her father didn’t rank high enough on the caring meter for a bathrobe speaks volumes. It seems to me that this is what upset the OP’s mother, not the money.

  • Roslyn January 3, 2012, 5:13 pm

    This story reminds me of a Christmas about 13 years ago. It was a hard year for my husband and I. We both lost our jobs and were living tightly to say the least. We informed his parents and my mother in October that we just couldn’t do gifts for everyone that year, we were saving to give to our two young children (2 and 5 at the time), but wouldn’t be able to give to each other or anyone else. Everyone understood (we both come from frugal-life backgrounds). A week before Christmas my husband was hired at a new company with a labor position, and a good wage, but not starting until after the new year, so things stayed tight.

    Christmas Day (we spent the night at my mother’s house) and we are up with the kids gathered around the tree. I couldn’t believe the amount of toys my mother had purchased for my kids. She was generous with them back then, but this was just nuts. I knew about some of the toys, but I was shocked at the amount of money spent on them. My husband and I knew better than to expect anything, since we had already had the “conversation” etc. But, then my mother handed my husband a small envelope with a $250 gift certificate for a local store that specialized in high quality work boots. I was shocked, and what a lovely gift since his new job meant he would need a good (expensive) pair of boots. However, I received nothing.

    Before anyone jumps, we were both expecting nothing, but to see MY mother give my husband a very expensive gift and shower my young children with gifts and then I received nothing was very difficult. No, I never asked her or brought it up. I didn’t want to look greedy.

    Even years later it hurts just thinking about it. It’s been 13 years and it’s hard to get over things like that.

    So, keep in mind that your mother may be looking at the whole situation very differently than you. You are spending time and money to give needy strangers something they need, and yes, you obviously are doing it (at least in part) to get the high from giving. Your mother may see it as strangers and adopted children mean more to you than she does or your father does. On top of the shame of having to live with you, accept charity, and lose her place as the head of household. The stress can build up, and obviously she snapped. Her behavior during the gifts could just be the fact that she wasn’t in charge of how things went. My Mother has done such things and acted very oddly when she was at my house, just because she couldn’t boss people around like she usually does. It could be simply loss of pecking order (mentioned by another poster). In her mind YOU should always listen to HER because she is your mother.

    Different medications can also have mood side-effects as well, especially blood-pressure medications. I would NEVER throw it in her face that she is living with you to “remind” her how much you give her, but you definitely need to sit down and have a calm talk, with no one else around. If you or her can’t remain calm, don’t get into a nasty shouting match, it never helps.

    At the end of the day, it is very hurtful to hear that you gave away $50 to a stranger to get a “give-high” when your own father wasn’t worth even half of that for a necessity.
    I know that feeling all too well.

  • Lorrie January 5, 2012, 1:01 am

    My family is average. Not poor but not wealthy. Many years ago, I decided I would give what I would normally spend on each kid in the family, $10.00, for stuff if you asked them in 2 days who got it for them, they would not know and send to a kid in Mexico, Chicago or Russia. I get to tell each kid what I got for the kid who usually gets nothing and I made it a gift from them. That way, we all win! My family gets to vicariously give to others, the kids who would normally get nothing get warm clothes or school supplies and we all at the end of Christmas day, feel good.

    But I agree that if Dad didn’t get his robe, maybe telling Mom about the $50 gift was not a good choice, that day. Maybe around Easter instead?

    I have a Dad who one day when we were out, actually took off his nice wool shirt and gave it to an obviously cold homeless man. That is an awesome thing for a kid to see.

    To this day, when I am at the thrift or a yard sale and see a good deal on warm clothes, I stock a few sweaters and shirts in my car for the cold season, along with clean warm socks. I have a roof over my head, food in the fridge and a warm bed.

    Many don’t. I don’t have a lot, but what I have in love from my family is more than any gift I could ever receive from anyone.

    God bless all of you and realize if you are reading this post, on a computer with internet access, you are far richer than most of the people in the WORLD!

  • cs January 6, 2012, 9:57 am

    The OP should have gotten the robe for her father and she should not have mentioned the amount she gave to the waitress, but these seem like small errors that anyone in the Christmas rush could make easily. Could be there was a specific robe that was discussed, but it ended up being too expensive, or not available in the right size. I’ve been in the same boat where I’ve had to postpone giving a gift that was talked about earlier.

    As for the small amount allotted to her parents, it’s reciprocal judging by the OP’s added comment.

    It seems like she has a lot on her plate and, if I may extrapolate further, her daily efforts might not usually be acknowledged– she doesn’t seem to be asking for or expecting acknowledgement, but perhaps her charitable work helps her cope. Caring for old ill people can be difficult and thankless enough (I used to be a nurse’s aide, so I know) without being related to them AND living with them. Maybe spreading some unexpected Christmas cheer was a boost the OP needed, and actually seeing the gratitude was so exciting (sounds like she wasn’t expecting this or hanging around the restaurant for this), she had to share. Instead of buying a $50 gift for herself, she spent it in a way that helped out someone else too. I think this is wonderful. I’ve donated but have never been a spontaneously generous person like that; this example is inspiring.

  • Chris January 6, 2012, 12:02 pm

    I have a problem with most of the comments on this story including admin’s. While the OP was wrong to mention the extravagant tip she left for the waitress, her mother and anyone else who feels it’s their place to tell her how to spend her money is way out of line. Frankly if someone told me I wasn’t spending enough on them the next year they’d be getting nothing.

  • Gracie C. January 6, 2012, 3:47 pm

    Chris – the “how I spend my money is none of your business” argument becomes moot when you start telling people how you spend your money. The very nature of telling someone something invites conversation. And while the mother was wrong in the way that she reacted, when you invite conversation you don’t always get the result that you want. Which is why most people opt not to discuss financial matters. In this case, many people have said that it wasn’t just a nobody, it was her mom and she should have been able to tell her own mom. But her mother has fallen on such difficult times due to the illness of her husband. She apparently lost her own home and had to move in with her daughter. I can’t imagine how difficult that is to come to terms with, and hearing that her daughter is giving complete strangers $50 on a whim (and I think it’s a very wonderful, generous whim, btw), may be really difficult for the mother (who can no longer even take care of herself and her husband on their own) to hear.

  • Freckledbruh January 7, 2012, 2:17 am

    I have to agree with the admin on this. This scenario would have never happened if 1) LW had never crowed about her generosity to her Mom and 2) never discussed the cost of her gifts to people. Also, there are some things about this story that doesn’t add up. 1) how can you find an $80 coat for $4 but not be able to find an affordable robe for your sick father?! 2) how can you find an $80 coat for $4 but only find your Mom $10 slippers? Could you not find $40 slippers that only cost $10? 3) I really don’t see how either item could fall outside your budget since those items are very common gifts during Christmas and are practically given away for free. I know this because my partner gave me a nice, plush robe among other gifts and the robe was free. 4) How can you not qualify a statement about how your parents are financially irresponsible when you admit that you father is seriously ill? I’m sorry but medical bills are no joke and are bankrupting people everyday. If they have a fixed income, unfortunately people their age sometimes have to choose between much needed medication and the mortgage or even food.
    As for people saying that the roof over the parents heads IS the Christmas gift, sorry but that’s just wrong. Plus, as morbid as it sounds, her parents clothed, fed and provided shelter for her free of charge for much longer than she will be providing for them. If anyone feels that it’s a one way streak that is your right, but I strongly disagree. And if the LW feels that way then I say save yourself a lot of grief and kick them out on the street with a business card from one of your charities since it’s not your “responsibility.”

  • Asharah January 8, 2012, 11:56 am

    OP had acknowledged that she didn’t put as much effort into finding her father a robe as she did with bargain hunting for the kids. We don’t know when the subject of the robe came up. She got a good deal on the coat because she found it in May. If she didn’t know until sometime in December about the robe, I can understand why she might not have had time to find a good deal. I would assume the OP actually sent this story in before Christmas, so we don’t know if Dad actually got the robe or not, since he has two other children who could possibly have bought him one. Perhaps OP can find a robe at a post Xmas sale and give it to her father for some other occasion like Valentines Day, his birthday, Easter or Father’s Day.
    @ Freckledbruh, how do you know they weren’t actually $40 slippers that were marked down to $10? Also, she knows her parents and is familiar with their financial habits over their lifetime, you are not.
    I think the real issue here is that OP is still adjusting to the new dynamics of having her parents living in her house. Her parents have always been “extended family” along with her siblings and in-laws, her “immediate” family are her children and husband. I would assume that prior to last year, when her parents were still living on their own, they probably weren’t there when the kids opened their pile of presents. Her main priority was on giving her kids a nice Xmas.

  • Marna January 14, 2012, 4:10 am

    I know I’m coming late to the party, but I can’t help but take issue with this idea that Mom and Dad’s presence is “a burden on the family.” Mom and Dad are PART of the family and deserve to be treated with the same consideration as the kids. After all, did they not raise the OP?

  • Alla February 26, 2012, 1:59 am

    I realise I’m resurrecting a zombie post, as the kids say, but I didn’t see this one until just lately.

    There is so much wrong here that I’m almost nauseated.

    For those fussing that the OP’s mother was rude or has “dementia”, you’re entitled to your opinions. For those claiming the elderly parents with medical issues so expensive that they had financial issues should be “so grateful” to have a roof over their heads that they give up their emotions, you’re entitled to your opinions. For those claiming that the OP was such a wonderful person to give a total stranger more in the way of a gift/tip than she spent on her own family, you’re entitled to your opinions. For those who think the OP is such an awesome person for all her charity work, you’re entitled to your own opinions, too.

    And now, for my opinion.

    OP, you were flat out dead wrong from day one.

    It’s nice that you organise these charity drives. It’s nice that you feel all special inside at helping someone else. It’s NOT nice that this takes up so much space in your home, and apparently, in your mindset. It’s nice that you bargain hunt and are frugal. It’s not nice that you claim to budget your presents and thenrandomly dump an enormous sum of money on some stranger when your elderly, ill father was quite possibly in need — not physical but EMOTIONAL need — of a gift that cost the same amount.

    Further, I have to ask, if your parents were so overwhelmed by medical expenses and medical care-giving that they were unable to maintain their own household, how can you NOT understand that money is something very important to them? They don’t need to get down on their knees and kiss your feet for keeping them off the streets, either. You’re their child, and they brought you into this world, or brought you up. (Biology, or adoption, have nothing at all to do with this, nor does the “favourite sibling” nonsense.) Just as they cared for you, it’s now your turn to help care for them.

    Aside from that, OP, try turning the situation around. How would YOU like to be in the position of losing everything, including the physical structure of your home, as well as the emotional considerations that make a building a “home”, and be forced to admit you are no longer able to take care of yourself, or your husband, and be forced to come to your children and basically, beg for their help? How would YOU like it if you no longer had that $50 to hand off to some random stranger? How would YOU like it if you could no longer do your big important charity drive? How would YOU like to see your husband deteriorate before your eyes? How would YOU like facing the knowledge of your own increasing infirmity and obvious mortality? How would YOU like it if others assumed that because you simply melted down in reaction to an amazing amount of emotional stress, that this automatically meant you were suffering from dementia or mental illness?

    Chances are you wouldn’t like to be in that position, and you’d have very strong emotions about it, and while you might try to hide them, sublimate them, or otherwise behave in a socially acceptable manner, eventually there WOULD come the straw that broke the camel’s back, and you might indeed lose your temper.

    You wanted to share your “warm fuzzies” over being so generous to some random stranger? Then you weren’t generous to a random stranger. You were, again in my opinion, self-serving, selfish, and frankly, smug. You didn’t give that waitress $50 for any reason other than to make YOURSELF feel good, and from your descriptions of your charity work, you don’t do that for charity, either; you do it to make YOURSELF feel all special and wonderful and important.

    Charity begins at home, and you wouldn’t be here to HAVE a home if your parents hadn’t provided you with a home first.

    I’m sure when you posted this, you wanted people to say “Oh poor OP, your mean old momma is just senile, you are a wonderful yummy person!”

    The fact is, at least based on your behaviour as reported in your own post, you’re actually pretty nasty and self-centered.

    I feel terribly sorry for your parents. I only hope your children DO NOT follow your example, if and when you should ever be in the situation your parents are in right now.

  • Hannah April 13, 2012, 1:37 am

    OP’s mother is getting a house to live in. Pretty sweet Christmas present, if you ask me. I’m glad my family doesn’t celebrate Christmas. We don’t get sucked into the “what am I getting?” mindset. That’s not the reason for the season, people =p

  • Marozia December 20, 2012, 1:40 am

    It was wonderful about the $50 tip you gave the waitress and the Christmas wishes as well. I tip too, and it is appreciated by waitstaff but I don’t go around telling people about how wonderful they were and how my ‘good deed’ made me feel.
    I wonder whether you ‘let people know’ about the good deeds you do. I’m not saying that you throw it in their faces, but people don’t want to hear about this sort of thing, especially if they have shortcomings. The charitable work you do is fantastic, but I’d keep a lid on it. You parents obviously know of all this charity you give, and no doubt it was the straw that broke the camel’s back for them.
    Do your charity work and keep quiet about it. You will be rewarded in time.

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