Dear E-Hellions. I am looking for honest feedback, so please read the following story and tell me what you think. I truly apologize for how long this is. Â
This year I invited my mother and step-father to celebrate Christmas with my family (myself, my husband and our 3 children who are between the ages of 1 and 6). I like to try to get unique and thoughtful gifts because I enjoy the challenge of finding something within a reasonable budget that I feel the recipient would like, however I was finding it difficult to think of something my step-father might like or need. I phoned my mother to ask her any ideas for what my step-father might like, just so I could be pointed in the right direction. She said, “Oh nothing. Don’t worry about that. Christmas is really about the kids now.” I replied with, “It’s so true. It’s so much fun to watch them open their presents that I wouldn’t be sad if there was nothing under the tree for me! Plus I get to play with them and all the new toys too!! So,…. I’ll get him a gift card to his favorite coffee shop. She then said not to worry about it and we ended the conversation.
I wasn’t happy with the idea of getting my step-father a gift card because it is usually not my style, so I went to a store and made he and my mother a basket of goodies that was filled with their favorite treats that would be reminiscent of the area in which we grew up (they are moving back to said area in 3 months, which is all the way across the country). It had a bottle of Sea Salt, Salt Water Taffy, Fudge, Maple Syrup, Sea Salt Atlantic Canadian Chips, Second Cup coffee K Cups for their machine, oven mitts and pot holders that match the decor of their cottage, gluten free biscotti, and a picture frame containing a picture of all of the grandchildren which were all wrapped in a lovely fabric box. I felt that this gift was thoughtful because I had hand selected all of the items for a specific reason. I also remembered my mother telling me not to purchase anything that they would have to pack so I thought if I bought treats and small items it wouldn’t be a problem.
To be honest, I have had some issues with purchasing gifts before. A few times I have purchased gifts for my mother that did not go over well. She would say, “Are you serious? Come on, now!”, and would slam the gift down (once it was a book that she wasn’t interested in). Another time when I was a teenager she didn’t receive any stocking stuffers. I thought my step-father was filling her stocking and he must have thought that I was going to…. needless to say Christmas morning was completely ruined and that year we opened our presents in an awkward silence.
Flash forward to this year. I felt the need to warn her that the present I bought them this year was something that wouldn’t take up much room when they packed to move back to the East Coast. I also told her that I had hand picked everything. I think I must have known that it wasn’t going to go over well. I’m in my late 20s and I felt like a child tip toeing on egg shells. She brushed it off and said, “It’s fine!”, with a smile.
Christmas morning they opened the gift and I started to explain why I chose each item and she said, “Oh! I get it, it’s all the things representing home!” I was so relieved as they smiled and began looking the items over.
On the 27th they left (even though they told us they were staying until after New Year’s day). They had tried to leave boxing day but there was too much snow so they left in a huff early on the morning of the 27th. I was dumbfounded. She patted me on the back to say goodbye and then left. A few minutes later I went to fetch something in the cupboard and saw that she had given me back most of the items I had given her for Christmas.
Here’s the message I received from her the next day via text message:
Mom: I look around your house and we have been very generous to you . I would appreciate that you would have gotten a proper gift for Karl . He is the same man that watched your kids when you had Sarah , drove you where ever you needed to go . This was very inconsiderate and he deserves to be treated better.
Me: I literally thought I had put some thought into the gift I gave you both instead of just getting Karl a Tim card. I felt it was very hurtful that you left it here in the cupboard. I am sorry you felt the need to do that.
Mom: I’m sorry but that was unacceptable . Take a look under your tree, people treat you well. I have given close to $6000.00 worth of furniture for your house since you have been with your husband. We are kind-hearted, please don’t abuse people’s generosity . Karl has been good to you .
Me: I am not abusing people’s generosity. I have given you many nice presents over the years as well. I asked you for suggestions for Karl and you said “nothing” so I tried to come up with a basket of East coast treats. I understand that it failed. My intent was not malicious. My intent was not for you or Karl to feel the way you do right now.
Mom: I said to get him a gift card to Tim Hortons.
Me: But leaving it at my house was unnecessary. It was an intentional act to cause me hurt.
Mom: No I left before I lost it.
Me: You left the present before you lost it?
Mom: You are not going to make a mockery of this. Don’t push me too hard right now. I tried to ask you politely.
Me: I can’t do this right now, Mom. I am detaching myself. I am sorry you feel this way.
And then I blocked her number.
What else could I have done? I know it was probably immature of me to block her but I have had a lifetime of this sort of behavior and worse. I’m not sure what to do. I feel hurt and I know that she does, too.
It’s so sad when material items have greater priority than the actual relationship. Even if you had given an inappropriate gift, the gracious thing for your mother to have done would have been to concentrate on how pleasant your hospitality was, the good intent of the giftgiver, how much she loves you, how delightful it was to see her son-in-law and grandkids, how nice the Christmas day meal was, etc., etc.
Unblock your mother lest you become known in the family as the evil person cutting mom out of your life and should you ever exchange gifts again, you now know to give Karl a large denomination gift card to Tim Hortons. And frankly, I’m ornery enough to suggest you wrap it in increasingly elaborate wrapping and packages every year. If it’s gift drama they want, you can certainly accommodate that in very flashy ways with the prettiest bows and wrapping paper.