≡ Menu

A Poor Standard of Generousity

I have 3 grown children. My daughter is married with two young children who are a gift to me with just their presence. Her family is struggling to make ends meet so Christmas gifts other than to her children are hard to do. My youngest son is single with a girlfriend and he is the most generous person. He bought me a new fridge for this Christmas because mine was on its last legs and I was totally surprised. My oldest son is hardworking and giving of his time and actions but really hates to shop. He usually doesn’t give gifts at all.  Both my sons earn the same pay.

I was planning to treat them equally on gifts this year but would really like to get youngest son something very nice, not because of his gift but because of his loving, generous spirit. I would appreciate having your opinions to consider.   1205-13

Youngest son gets you a refrigerator and he’s the one child you would bestow “something very nice”to reward his “loving, generous spirit”  but you appear to diminish the oldest son’s “giving of his time and actions” as unworthy.    Anyone can order a refrigerator online from the local home store in a matter of minutes.   But gifts of time and deeds takes a considerable personal investment that far exceeds the value of a store bought item.  You, dear madam, are defining generosity by material standards.   Pity your poor daughter who is busy with your precious grandchildren but she’s too poor to ever meet your definition of generosity.

If you were my mother, words cannot express how disheartening it would be to realize that you judged me and each sibling by such a petty yard stick.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • sweetonsno December 16, 2013, 2:50 am

    I think it is difficult to give gifts with an obvious disparity in value without sending an impression of favoritism. However, I do think it is good (no, necessary) to acknowledge gifts that you receive. I’m sure the OP always says thank you, but it never hurts to remind others of how much those gifts mean. The OP has three wonderful children, each of whom have bestowed upon her lovely gifts. I think she should spend the same amount of money on each, and devote time to choosing gifts that will be the most appreciated and enjoyed for each child. Additionally, she should include a nice hand-written card for each of them. In each card, she can express her gratitude for the most meaningful gifts she may have received that year, be it a much-needed refrigerator, time with the grandkids, or help with unpleasant or difficult tasks. Doing this will allow the OP to treat her children equally, but also clearly express her appreciation of what her kids give her.

  • remi December 16, 2013, 2:56 am

    That she wants to give her youngest son something especially nice because of his “loving, generous spirit” rather than specifically because he got her something nice already is kind of worse, in my eyes. You can rationalize away a nice gift in exchange for a nice gift, but when it’s just because he’s so much NICER and more LOVING than her other kids, it’s just reeking of favouritism, which has undoubtably been going on way longer than just this holiday season. Her other children have probably noticed how much she favours her youngest; maybe that’s why they don’t go out of their way so much to shower her with expensive affection like he does, because they know they won’t measure up. Even if they match his expensive gift, he’ll always have that invisible, intangible but oh so important “spirit” that makes him that much better than the other two.

  • FizzyChip December 16, 2013, 3:08 am

    Wow, harsh comments Admin, but you’re spot on. OP, how can you differentiate amongst your children like this? Can you not see that each child is worth of “something nice” at Christmas? Your post reminds me of my (now passed) Grandmother who was renowned for playing favourites amongst her own children. The legacy she left was primarily one of bitterness and mean spiritedness – is this what you want to leave to your family?

    I think not, please give thought (and your time and hard earnt money) to all your children equally this Christmas. You are very lucky to have three such wonderful and diverse children who no doubt give you such joy.

  • Lilya December 16, 2013, 4:26 am

    I understand the fridge was a nice surprise and you want to thank your Youngest Son, but do it *separatedly* from his Christmas gift.

    If he lives close, you could invite him over for dinner, cook his favourite food or bake his favourite cake/cookies, but do it *after* the holidays . Let’s not turn a nice gesture into food for resentment and/or favoritism.

  • Kirsten December 16, 2013, 4:34 am

    I think the person who needs to find their ‘loving, generous spirit’ here is you. If you want to ‘treat them all equally on gifts’ then why would you buy one son something ‘really nice’ but not the other two? That’s not equal treatment. That’s the total opposite. And when you break it down, what do you have?

    Your daughter has no money so cannot buy you a present.
    Your youngest son has money and does buy you a present.
    Your elder son has money but doesn’t buy presents.

    However, all your children show you they love you – one with buying you something physical, one with her loving grandchildren, one with his time and care. Aren’t they *all* generous?

    The fact you only think the younger son has a ‘loving generous spirit’ when they all sound like they have is just pathetic. And sad. I mean, you actually went onto a website to ask if you should do this?

    No, you should not. If you do, your children will all know that you bought him something ‘really nice’ because he spent money on you. And your two other children may think you love them less. And other people may think you are greedy and materialistic.

    Shame on you for comparing your children like this when you have so much evidence that you are loved by them all. Shame on you for comparing your sons’ pay packets (!!!). Shame on you for deliberately planning in advance to ‘reward’ one of them for a material present and not the others. And shame on you for implying that only one has a loving generous spirit against all the evidence otherwise.

    As one of three children who has often been the poorest by several thousand miles, and who has always loved my mother very deeply, I am so very glad she has a loving, generous spirit that means she would NEVER even consider looking at her children the way you have just looked at yours.

  • Kathryn December 16, 2013, 5:01 am

    I would feel quite offended if I were your daughter or eldest son. Whatever YOUR reasons may be, consider how your children would perceive unequal gift giving.
    Even if they discerned your ‘pure’ gift giving motivations, it would still be considered a terrible slight towards them as they are being called out as less loving and generous, an unfair comparison. Don’t compare your children and reward them accordingly. What about your daughter’s [insert positive attributes here]? What about eldest son’s time generosity? Don’t they deserve rewarding with a special gift too? This just seems completely hypocritical, unfair and divisive.

  • Lex December 16, 2013, 5:04 am

    I agree – my significant other is generous with his time and selfless to a fault whereas his brother is selfish and insular – money doesn’t even come into it, yet both brothers are treated identically by their parents and the family lives in relative harmony.

    It is wrong on so many levels that you want to give an ‘extra’ reward to the son that spent lots of money on you. You mention that your other son is generous with his time but you don’t say how you have benefited from this – has he spent time and effort decorating or doing manual work for you? This is often more valuable than a simple white goods purchase – my partner is working hard on our house yet still found a lot of time to re-plaster his parents hallway and replace the ceiling on the staircase – this was several evenings and weekends worth of work – work that would have cost his parents over £1000 to have a tradesperson do.

    I recommend that you ignore monetary value of gifts and treat all your children the same way. If you want to ‘reward’ them individually for their contributions, then I recommend getting them a very personal gift related to their hobbies and interests – for example I might recommend to my mother-in-law that she buy my partner a new drill as a ‘reward’ for his work (if she needed to ask, which she doesn’t), the fridge-buying son clearly has a lot of money so perhaps something hobby related – if he fishes, perhaps a new pole or something? For your daughter who is struggling with the children, maybe purchase her a spa day and offer to take the kids for the day so she can have some time to herself.

  • Kelly December 16, 2013, 5:30 am

    Treat your children equally. Period. It is incredibly hurtful to reward the one who is more financially able to make a big show gift and claim it is his “generous spirit.” For all LW knows, it was one of her other children who mentioned concern that Mom’s fridge was on its last legs and they’d like to get her a new one but couldn’t.

  • jojo December 16, 2013, 5:49 am

    Why doesn’t everyone in the family deserve the same time and attention given to picking a gift? Maybe a nice family day out doing something they’d all like?
    Then everyone is treated fairly and the grandkids get the chance to have fun with their uncles which, if my family is anything to go by, is generally quite rare.
    It also means that no one gets a gift to open and any issues regarding what to do about presents for the daughter is no longer problem.

  • Lo December 16, 2013, 6:36 am

    If this were a friend who you wanted to give a gift of equal value to that would be one thing. But you really can’t give one of your kids a better gift than the others.

    Gifts aren’t supposed to be rewards for generosity anyway. If all gift giving were tit for tat what would be the point?

  • Melnick December 16, 2013, 7:13 am

    In reading your story, it seems to me, that the child that most need your blessing is your daughter and if both of your sons are the generous souls you say they are, then they would not bat an eyelid at you helping their sister out. In fact, they would probably appreciate you doing that for her at this point in her life. I would be embarrassed if I were the younger son and you got me something significantly more than my siblings, particularly when my sister was struggling to make ends meet. If you want to honour your son’s nature, a truly heartfelt card expressing what his actions mean to you will mean more to him than an expensive gift and it is private and personal so that no one’s feelings have to be hurt.

  • Marian Perera December 16, 2013, 7:15 am

    One reason my younger brother and I are estranged now is because my parents treated us very differently in terms of money.

    I’m not saying the OP is anything like this, but I know from personal experience that if you want your children to feel you love them all equally, you need to treat them all equally. Especially if your children haven’t done anything to warrant differential treatment other than your daughter being too poor to buy you something expensive and your older son hating to shop, but being giving of his time and actions otherwise.

  • Sarah Peart December 16, 2013, 7:34 am

    The first thing I thought was – she wants to give far more generously to her daughter who is struggling and is that fair? After all the other two are comfortable. When I read the end I was stunned. I feel there is an underlying material aspect to her decision, time is worth money and often a lot – call out a plumber for a 10-15 minute job and come back to me on that one! I have no idea whether giving equal presents is the etiquette answer but I feel for the daughter – she has been totally written out as a dead loss. I wonder if she has been saving all year to give her children a nice Christmas and get them presents. I do not like to think that her budget mean that her children will not get toys etc but a good winter coat or a nice dress/suit as their Christmas presents, but I fear it is so. In the hope that she really means it that the children are a present in themselves because that is the only sentence that shows any humanity at a time of year when people are consumer mad.

  • clairedelune December 16, 2013, 7:40 am

    Hear, hear, Admin!

  • essie December 16, 2013, 7:42 am

    I’ve spent over an hour typing a comment because each time I think I’m ready to submit it, I read it over and have to delete it because it’s not very polite. Truthful, but not courteous. But since you asked for opinions, I’ll give you mine.

    Shame on you.

  • Jazzgirl205 December 16, 2013, 8:01 am

    I think you were a little hard on the mother (OP). She realized the situation with her children and was very understanding. Perhaps she has never received quite such an expensive gift. In youngest son’s defense, one doesn’t just order online. One notices what is needed, one researches which model might be best and arranges for delivery. I agree that all 3 gifts should be of the same value because all 3 children love and respect her and do for her with what they have. If she starts measuring the gifts based on “worthiness,” she will not like the results.

  • Angela December 16, 2013, 8:03 am

    Wow. I was expecting a question about whether it was showing favoritism to provide something very generous to the daughter so that Christmas for the family wouldn’t be such a struggle.

  • Angela December 16, 2013, 8:06 am

    While I agree with the overall sentiment, it sounds like the youngest son did a little more than “order a refrigerator online from the local home store “. He noticed and remembered that his mom’s refrigerator wasn’t working well and took the initiative to remediate the situation. Having said that, placing that above the other children’s contributions is rather materialistic.

  • Susan December 16, 2013, 8:14 am

    You may say you want to give the youngest one a nicer gift because of his “loving, generous, spirit” but it sounds to me like you want to pay him back for the fridge. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that, but own the sentiment.

  • Raven December 16, 2013, 8:49 am

    Admin nailed it. Her daughter should not be shamed for her financial situation (yay! Christmas spirit!) and her son’s gift of time & actions are priceless – things other families would love to have. Not to disparage the other son, either, as his gift of the new fridge was thoughtful and something no doubt his mother needed. However, OP should reflect a little more on the meaning of Christmas.

  • PhDeath December 16, 2013, 9:14 am

    Agree with the majority that gifts given to OP’s children in front of one another should be equal. If she wants to acknowledge their varied “strengths,” perhaps a letter to each of them nothing their generous spirit, giving of time, and…ability to provide grandchildren?

    (As you might be able to tell, I sort of feel for the daughter here, who has been completely supplanted by her children in her mother’s eyes!)

  • Barb December 16, 2013, 9:27 am

    We used to run into this with my inlaws. Husband’s brother would buy his parents a TV for Christmas, Parents would buy HIM a TV. We would give home-made food gifts, we got the $10 box from Wisconsin Cheeseman in return.

    I don’t have kids but I can’t imagine treating them that unequally.

  • Stacey Frith-Smith December 16, 2013, 9:36 am

    Gifts for adults are an extra, not an entitlement. And in cases where there is some likelihood of their being used to manipulate, play favorites or cause dissension- there is even more of an incentive to emphasize other aspects of the holiday. Anything so loaded with meaning as to be a source of potential conflict is best avoided- so playing favorites with gifts, compliments, money, time and other “goodies” is a poor way to build family bonds. Better a nice meal and a few tokens than an obvious disparity in largesse. Surely OP can think of some other creative and less dramatic method of expressing her thanks for the gift of a refrigerator- a few home made meals, perhaps, in the company of the son who provided it? Or an offer of assistance with something he is dreading that OP can handle for him?

  • clairedelune December 16, 2013, 9:40 am

    @Angela–I know. I expected it to go in that direction, too. That sort of made her actual idea seem even more sour!

  • Rap December 16, 2013, 9:47 am

    On the other hand….

    Speaking as the equivalent of the youngest son in my own family, sometimes it would be nice to have it acknowledged that when one sibling does nothing because they are broke (because of their own bad choices) and one sibling does nothing because they now gear their spending towards their kids, that yes when I buy a nice gift, its not the same as doing nothing.

    Perhaps OP should do something nice for her youngest son, seperate from Christmas where resentments might fester?

  • Abby December 16, 2013, 9:49 am

    I agree with Lilya. The son certainly deserves a heartfelt thank you for his decision to purchase a new fridge. Regardless of his financial situation, refridgerators are *not* cheap. It was very generous and if the mom wants to give him something or make him something separate from her other kids, fine. But that should absolutely not be tied to his Christmas gift! That will only breed resentment from the other two, and it certainly gives the message that Christmas gifts should be not given out of love, but merely a repayment for what material things the giver has previously received from the recipient.

    I too thought that OP was going to ask if it would be offensive to give her daughter something extra, seeing as how the sons in one way or another gift their mother and her daughter does not. Clearly I was off the mark on that one.

  • Yasuragi December 16, 2013, 9:53 am

    …Grandma? Is that you?

    Gosh, Grandma. I know mom and us kids never had much money but we spent all our recess time making you those Christmas cards. We thought they were really pretty.

    But, hey, no, it’s totally cool you bought uncle the four wheeler and his girlfriend got the matching diamond necklace earring set. We had lots of fun with the three-sizes-too-large flannel pajamas you bought us. It was really handy that you bought us the one set as a group present, since we can all wear them as hand-me-downs eventually.

    Merry Christmas.

    *Okay, okay, that all didn’t happen the same year. More of a mishmash of years of Christmas heartache with a grandmother that played obvious favorites.*

  • Alie December 16, 2013, 9:56 am

    Please don’t do that to your kids. If you want to give a special gift, do it privately, but not publicly. Don’t pit your kids against each other or treat them unequally based on “loving, generous spirit.” Doing that is basically trying to sow disharmony between your kids. Give based on need, or as a thank you, but not because you view one as somehow “better” (and come on, based on a material gift?).

    One of the best things my grandmother ever did was encourage all of her kids to stay close after she was gone. And part of that was by encouraging her children to love each other and never to compete for affection.

  • AMC December 16, 2013, 10:01 am

    I have to agree with Admin. I have one sister who makes about twice as much as I do. I have a child; she does not. As you can imagine, my budget for Christmas gifts is much tighter than hers. She’ll be gifting our mother a high-end brand name purse for Christmas. I’ll be giving her a book and a homemade ornament that took me several days to make. Imagine how awful I would feel if my mom deemed my sister “more generous” because her gift happens to have a greater monitary value.

  • Mae December 16, 2013, 10:03 am

    OP- to me, it sounds like you favor your youngest son. While what he did was pretty nice, I would be careful about showing favoritism among my children. Your daughter is in the same situation as many families, especially in the past few years and I am sure she would love to have given you something really nice, but it’s just not possible right now. Most men hate to shop, so I think your oldest could put in a little more effort. A nice scarf would not be hard to find.

    If you plan on giving your youngest something much nicer than you plan on giving your other children, do it in private or maybe at a different time.

    I am biased when it comes to this situation because I am the middle child and I always got mediocre gifts- the 2 older kids got nicer presents because they were older and the 2 younger kids got nicer presents because they were younger. I started to dislike the holidays because I always felt like I was not as special as the other kids and trust me, it hurts, even now.

  • Wild Irish Rose December 16, 2013, 10:07 am

    Okay, I was doing all right until I read Rap’s comment.

    “Speaking as the equivalent of the youngest son in my own family, sometimes it would be nice to have it acknowledged that when one sibling does nothing because they are broke (because of their own bad choices) and one sibling does nothing because they now gear their spending towards their kids, that yes when I buy a nice gift, its not the same as doing nothing.”

    Hooray for you for having money. But you have NO IDEA what these children’s situations are. You have NO IDEA why OP’s daughter doesn’t have money. You just assume that it’s because of her “own bad choices” (which I’m guessing you’re actually applying to one of your own siblings, but your judgmental attitude is sickening either way). As for sibling with kids spending the money on his/her kids, why not? I’m guessing you don’t have kids and are therefore capable of spending your money on other people so they are aware of the fact that you have money. Good for you. Whatever.

    Speaking as someone whose family NEVER had money, I can appreciate my in-laws’ generosity toward us, but they do it in a ham-handed way that ensures that spouse and I will always remember that we are nothing and the kids with money are All That. Frankly, OP, if you can’t accept a gift in the spirit in which it’s given (i.e., youngest son replaced your fridge presumably with no expectation of getting a “nicer” gift from you than his sister and brother would), then you just don’t get it. Inequity in gift-giving simply because one kid has money to spend on you and the others don’t, or don’t choose to spend it on you, is mean-spirited and a guarantee of putting a wedge between your children and each other. It’s a sure-fire way of planting the seed of resentment among them, so if that’s what you want to do, then by all means make sure that your “loving, generous” son is singled out as the example of how all your kids should be. You should be ashamed of yourself and I wouldn’t blame your kids if they never got you another thing.

  • Roslyn December 16, 2013, 10:08 am

    I am a child who was clearly not the favorite. To this day my mother shows favoritism over my older brother and his family. She shows it by saying only negative things about me, my husband and my children and only positive things about my brother/his wife and children. If something good happens to us she can put a negative spin on it in a heartbeat. If my brother or his family does something negative she has only positive things to say.

    Financially he is very well off and I am not. I have chosen to live very frugally so that I can stay at home and raise my children and take care of my family. She pours money into my brothers family and doesn’t do anything for mine. I have learned her games over the many years and I have written them both out of my life.

    So, take it from the not so favorite. No matter what you do, keep it equal. If you need to show an extra show of appreciation from your youngest son for his generous gift, then show it separately from the Holiday gifts to the others.

  • Sarah Jane December 16, 2013, 10:26 am

    Like some of the others, I had to re-read this a few times and even sift through some of the comments to try to understand what’s really going on here. Is the OP just trying to find some way to thank her youngest son for the fridge? That’s not uncalled for; simply take him out to dinner, or better yet, cook him dinner to celebrate the benefits of the gift. Or if you’re wanting to give him a gift as a thank-you, that’s fine, too, but by all means, don’t wrap it in Christmas paper and put it under the tree with all the “differentiated” gifts for your other kids. That’s just bad, bad policy. Christmas gift- giving should be about love and generosity, not “tit for tat”, as someone said.

  • Huh December 16, 2013, 10:45 am

    If you don’t think kids of ANY age don’t notice differing treatment, you are sadly mistaken. I’ve known grown adults who say, “Oh yeah, I take care of mom/dad every day, take them to doctor’s appointments, clean/repair the house, and my sibling who’s the golden child will get a lavish gift/a larger inheritance/praised to the moon and back when they stop by to say hi.” They notice and it can breed resentment.

    I’ve found (with my ex-in-laws especially) that lavishly differing gifts between siblings/grandkids can be indicative of the amount of time and thought that the giver puts in to the receiver year ’round, which is why it can be hurtful to the others. Its not so much that Youngest Son gets a fancy present from Mom that hurts Older Son and Daughter, but that it is once again, a hurtful reminder that Mom thinks of Youngest Son first.

  • Cat December 16, 2013, 11:15 am

    I understand your feelings and the fact that a much-needed refrigerator seems a more important gift than the other son’s time and actions. You want to reward each child according to his/her giving to you. You have the gift of grandchildren and two sons: one who gives an important gift and the other who makes a gift of his time and the things he does for you.

    My parents discriminated between my brother and I. I made the honor roll while he made D’s and F’s. My good grades were never rewarded in word or deed. Mother said I did it just to make my brother feel bad. If he had studied, he would have had grades equal to mine. I did it because college was my key to being self-supporting.

    They gave him a car for his sixteenth birthday; I was not allowed to have a driver’s license until I was too old to need their permission. They paid for him to have four years of college and he achieved only a two year diploma. I paid for my own college and graduated with a BA. Dad put my brother’s name on his bank account so brother could pay for Dad’s funeral. Brother refused to attend the funeral, and I had to pay for it. Brother kept all the money in Dad’s bank accounts.

    I would like to tell you that it did not change my feelings for a parents, but it did. I resented being a second-class citizen in their home and they were shocked when I left at nineteen. Discriminate and you may find yourself down one son.

  • acr December 16, 2013, 11:17 am

    I think Rap has a good point. When somebody goes “above and beyond” for you, it’s nice to acknowledge that. When oldest son gives his time, OP should acknowledge that. For example, if the oldest son spends a day helping the OP out with chores, the OP should acknowledge that, perhaps by making him a special meal, etc. But as others said, this should NOT be tied to Christmas! It should be totally seperate. Your children should each have their own relationships with you and you should not be setting them up to “compare”. Sometimes I do something special with my mom and/or dad. And sometimes my siblings do something special with them.

  • Pen^2 December 16, 2013, 11:22 am

    Wow, admin was spot on. This entry was quite unpleasant to read. The fact that the letter writer even tries to justify why her youngest son is apparently the most generous by pointing out that the other son earns just as much but gives his time and energy rather than a fancy new fridge speaks volumes.

    I know that it’s hard to treat people equally, since everyone is different. But that doesn’t mean it’s okay to focus -this- much on how your children compare to each other (wages, price of gifts bought for you, number of offspring, etc.)

    If you want to get one kid something nice as a thanks, then do so. But do it separately to special holiday gifts, since the purpose of said gifts is not to thank/reward people for what they have done for you, but rather, show them that you love them. And maybe get something for the other kids who have done similar things which aren’t as easily quantifiable as buying you a kitchen appliance to thank them, also. Time and energy are worth much more than a fridge.

  • WendyW December 16, 2013, 11:22 am

    My husband has a very stressful and busy job. He also hates gift buying, with a passion. His free time is very precious. Last Christmas his mother requested a set of bunk beds for the grandkids. It would have been easier ( and much, much cheaper) to just go out and buy a $300-400 set of beds. But hubby is a carpenter and he can “just throw something together!” Instead he, and our daughter, spent every free moment for over a month building a set. It was gorgeous. And while it was appreciated, it was obvious my In a Laws had no idea the true value of his gift. They were just “hey, wow! Very nice, so glad you could just whip this out for us.”

    They are under the impression that since he is a carpenter by trade that *any* wood project is just a cake walk. We’ve given up on trying to tell them the sheer time sink these projects are. All evenings and weekends for 7 weeks were spent trying to get it done in time. If he had charged someone to do this it would have been around $2000, but they don’t realize this.

    Often the gift of time and self is worth so much more that people realize.

  • Pam December 16, 2013, 11:54 am

    My parents have been extremely generous to each of us four kids at different times depending on our needs. I doubt it would ever be “equal” if we added it up, but all of us know that they are willing to help us as they are able. It was NEVER in response to something we’d done for them. The gifts we get them are appreciated and we are thanked. Their most common response to “what would you like for Christmas?” is either something small (just so they give us an idea) or, nothing… spend the money on your family. In return I can say when I find something I know they’d enjoy it makes it fun 🙂 If your son surprised you with a refrigerator send him a nice thank you card expressing your love – that would mean more than anything and create competition between him and siblings.

  • Pam December 16, 2013, 11:56 am

    Oops – meant to say NOT create competition between siblings!!

  • Politrix December 16, 2013, 11:57 am

    I’m focusing on the OP’s last sentence, “I was planning to treat them equally on gifts this year but would really like to get youngest son something very nice, not because of his gift but because of his loving, generous spirit.”
    I’m going to cut OP some slack here, and consider that maybe she just worded that last part really poorly. Perhaps what she really meant to say (and I really, REALLY hope she meant to say!) was, “Even though I love and value my three children equally — because of all they have blessed me with in life, each in their own way — I’d like to give my youngest son something a little *extra* special, to show my gratitude for his generous gift of a top-of-the-line and much-needed new refrigerator.”
    In which case, I’d go with the excellent advice of the previous posters, who said it’s fine to reciprocate such a lovely gift from the youngest son (hat tip to Rap, who raised a very good point), just don’t tie it to Christmas; maybe wait ’til after the holidays and respond in kind to the youngest son, privately and sincerely.

  • Lily December 16, 2013, 11:57 am

    Hope ya enjoy that fridge lil Buddy. I hope for you that it lasts a good long time because with your attitude its going to be all you have left to remind you of those precious human beings you dismiss so merrily.

  • WillyNilly December 16, 2013, 12:34 pm

    My father and stepmother spent their lives working hard and investing wisely. They are now in a position to be *very* generous financially and with their time. And they are: to me, to my brother, to my cousins, to my SM’s god-daughter, and to assorted others. I’m sure over the years various gifts have been unequal, especially since not all gifts can be financially valued; many gifts are personal and also based on relationships and lets face it, relationships change and have varying degrees of closeness.

    But publicly? At something like the holidays? Everything is equal. Because Christmas is for everyone equally. A personal, private event (a wedding, the birth of a child, a graduation, a time of personal struggle) is something where a gift can, and by my father and stepmother is, given personally and discreetly, but the holidays are about celebrating together and publicly, and sharing together and being inclusive, etc.

    OP please give to your children equally this holiday. If at some unrelated to the holiday time you want to give to one child over another (the gift of babysitting or gifting to your grandkids for your daughter, the gift of supporting a charitable event for your your older son, a material gift to your younger son) by all means do so. Try to have how often you give those other gifts even out, but their financial value can fluctuate, but the holidays are equally for everyone and you should give equally among your children during this time.

  • Margaret December 16, 2013, 1:12 pm

    It really is great for the youngest son to have bought a fridge for him mother. There is no denying that, and he should be thanked. It would not be appropriate to say, oh, well, he has more disposable income, so he SHOULD be the one to buy it. (I realize OP said her sons earn similar pay, but that DOES NOT equal similar disposable income — maybe one has debts, donates more to charity, lives in a more expensive area, etc etc). However, I couldn’t help but wonder how OP would feel if her oldest son were to decide next year, say, to replace OP’s washer and dryer (or some similar appliance) and then cut back on spending time with his mother and/or helping her out in whatever way he had been doing before. Would that mean he had become more loving and generous or less?

    I think you should treat your children as equally as possible, especially if, as it appears from your description, they are each in their own way treating you well.

  • Rap December 16, 2013, 1:26 pm

    Wild Irish Rose – if you want to be angry with me, feel free. I was referring to my own sibling situation where yes, one sibling has persisted in making bad choices. Yes, I *know* why my sibling doesn’t have money, and it *is* due to bad choices. And I know my other sibling chooses to indulge his children and the only issue I have there is that its expected that I still purchase gifts for him, his wife and his kids because I “have moeny”. I don’t especially care if you find it “sickening” that I am frustrated that my taking the time to research and purchase a thoughtful gift is considered “the same” as doing nothing.Yes, I have money and apparently you don’t and why does that mean I don’t have any reason to be upset that when I make an effort to get members of my family nice gifts, that it isn’t acknowledged? I assure you, when I suggest we do homemade presents so that various siblings don’t have to spend money, I get called on “cheaping out”, so I hope that makes you feel better.

    In the OP’s case? Her youngest son did a really nice thing. I wouldn’t necessarily do a bigger gift at Christmas (where resentments will fester), but I see no reason why OP can’t acknowledge that he did do something nice. Maybe take him out for a nice dinner in January to say thank you, or bake a special batch of cookies or something? It doesn’t have to be a monetary gift – sometimes it is just nice to have it acknowledged that you made an effort to do something special.

  • June First December 16, 2013, 1:37 pm

    I really like Kelly’s (#8) comment: Maybe it was someone else’s idea, and the brother was just the only one financially able to make the purchase.

    Ideally, the children should have gone together for a fridge as a group gift.

    In the best case scenario (since it sounds that OP is already planning to reward her youngest son at Christmas), it would be great if the other siblings turned it into a running joke: “What do I have to do to get some recognition around here, buy her a $*%$# fridge??!” 🙂

  • Abby December 16, 2013, 1:55 pm

    I will give OP a slight pass in that perhaps the line about the new fridge was not the motivation for wanting to give him a gift-perhaps that was just the most recent example of his generosity. Maybe OP’s younger son is super kindhearted in general, and in a world where good deeds don’t always get recognized and rewarded, OP wants to make sure her son knows how grateful she is, and how glad she is that there are people like him on this earth. I mean, while Admin is right that ordering a fridge online takes a lot less time and physical exertion than say, re-roofing your mom’s house, we don’t know his budget, and perhaps he had to tap his savings or go without some items for himself so he could afford to buy this for his mother.

    That being said, Admin is correct that a family Christmas exchange is a spectacularly bad time to drive that point home.

  • Ergala December 16, 2013, 2:29 pm

    And this is why we no longer do tons of gifts and have now set a price limit. We do a little rule now: Something we want, Something We Need, Something to Wear, Something to Read. And then Something Spiritual (we attend Church and our faith is a large part of how we run our family). Our children get something from each category and $40 is the limit for each of our two children (so $80 total for them both). We do the same for family members except we omit the Spiritual part for them because not all of us share the same faith/spiritual path.

    Last year there was a huge uproar over the gifts my mom sent to my sister and I and it resulted in an email being sent to her from me a few weeks later. Basically I was given socks, shaving cream and razors. My sister was given the meat grinder I had been promised year after year. I tried to not become upset but it was very hard not to feel the slight.

  • just4kicks December 16, 2013, 2:41 pm

    OP: we have five children and I really do understand where you are coming from!
    I also can understand how hurt your other two kids might feel, that the way to Mom’s heart is through expensive gifts. Maybe invite very generous son over for his favorite home cooked meal or a special movie date (or some hobby he enjoys) just the two of you. Good Luck!

  • Heather December 16, 2013, 2:52 pm

    You know, my parents- on the surface, at least- gave my sister and I unequal gifts. Sometimes people would comment on how unequally we were treated. However, my parents actually gave us exactly equal gifts! I remember seeing them sitting at the table crunching numbers and figuring everything out so that each gift was worth exactly the same, but was tailored to the hobbies/preferences of the recipient, so that we each still felt unique and special. For instance, I got a series of figure skating lessons; one day when we got home from school, my sister had a brand new bike with a bow on it waiting for her. It was actually really neat, and we never felt unequal or unhappy because it was very apparent how much thought our parents put into each gift. Of course, they only did this kind of thing after we were old enough to understand the separate-but-equal concept.

    I feel bad for this lady. I don’t think she understands what gift giving is supposed to be. It’s fine to give your kids different things, but (in my opinion, anyway) the gifts should have the same amount of finances/care/etc. behind them. Favoritism just makes for resentment. I hope her kids don’t let it get to them.