Author Topic: When the disparity becomes obvious.  (Read 3487 times)

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Coley

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When the disparity becomes obvious.
« on: December 27, 2012, 09:14:31 AM »
I've read so many threads here about the importance of accepting gifts graciously. I agree with this concept. I believe it is polite behavior. However, I've also read some threads about outright gifting disparities between siblings, children, and grandchildren, and that's what I'm asking about. Honestly, I've reached the end of my rope with my mother. As it is, we rarely see my mother because she is narcissistic and manipulative. My heart is hurting for my DS (age 11), who did an admirable job of keeping his chin up yesterday in the face of yet another obvious disparity in my mother's gifting of her grandchildren.

We had late Christmas with my family yesterday. After lunch, my mother decided it was time to open gifts. I was in another room, but I could hear her setting gift-opening groundrules with my three nieces (12, 8, and 6) and nephew (10) because it is usually complete and utter chaos. She expected them to read the tags carefully to avoid opening gifts that aren't for them. She expected them to open one gift at a time, spend a moment oooh-ing and ah-ing, and then to say thank you to the gifter. When I entered the room, the frenzy had already begun.

I was stunned as I watched my nieces and nephew opened gift after gift after gift while my DS struggled to find anything that had a tag with his name on it. He eventually found three things from my mother in the back of the tree. He spent most of the gift-opening period picking up wrapping paper from the other kids' gifts and handing out gifts to other people. Then my mother showed my brother and his kids their "special" big gifts. One was for the "Jones" family. The other was for the "Jones" kids. My family and my DS merited nothing similar, but we sure got to watch all of them being showered with their gifts.

DH went out to the car to get a bag so we could pack up our stuff to get it out of the way. I watched my mother trying to hand DS a gift box that already had been opened and telling him that it was his. I took it out of her hands, pointed at the tag, and said, "No. The tag says 'Joe.' " It was my nephew's. DH and I got the mess cleaned up and our items into the car. When we were in the garage throwing out the trash, I told him we needed to leave. He agreed.

When we went back upstairs to the kitchen, DS was sitting at the table, drawing a picture on a piece of paper. The other kids were playing with their gifts. DS had nothing to play with. He looked at me and said, "I don't mind that I didn't get very much. I got (X gift)." (X gift being the thing he really wanted that DH and I gave him on Christmas morning.) I repeated loudly, "Oh, you don't mind that you didn't get very much. You're grateful for the things you already have." My mother turned around when I said it. I don't care if I was being PA. She needed to hear it. I gave him a hug right there in front of everyone and told him how much I love him.

DH informed my mother that we were leaving, and that's exactly what we did.

Now for the background: The gifting disparity has occurred for several years, but this is just the second year that DS has noticed it. Last year, he got a coloring book (at age 10), a toy for a 5 year old, and a bathrobe that was too small. And he watched my nieces and nephew open gift after gift after gift. When it was over, he quietly told me he noticed. I tried to make excuses for my mother: that she doesn't realize how old he is now; that she doesn't always know his clothing sizes; that she may not know his interests. But I was lying. She knows how big he is. She knows his interests. And this year, she'd just seen him a couple of weeks ago. She could: a) see he is nearly as tall as I am, and b) they had an entire conversation about what he's doing and what he's interested in.

DH and I discussed this last night. He is concerned about DS, but he also is concerned about me. See, this year I got another pink bathrobe. The pink bathrobes are the staple gift my mother gives me. DH and I have been together for six years, and he said this is the fourth time he is aware that I've received a pink bathrobe. I've received so many pink bathrobes that I don't count them anymore. DH has been there when I've tried to exchange them. Once, the bathrobe had been purchased so long before Christmas that the store would only give me 1 cent for it. I gave it away. I appreciate that DH is concerned about how the disparity affects me, but I told him last night that this isn't about me anymore. Now it's about DS, and I'm worried about how my mother's behavior will affect him.

As a non-gifting example: Last year at Thanksgiving, she almost succeeded in keeping DS out of a photo session of her grandchildren because she only gave me two days' notice that she had it planned. My brother had known about it for weeks. I had to rearrange Thanksgiving weekend plans in order to accommodate the photo, which affected our opportunity to see DH's family. This caused a huge argument on Thanksgiving Day. She tried to play it off to me as if she'd just found out when the photo session had been scheduled; however, my brother called her on her dishonesty. When she could not lie her way out of it, she broke down in tears and claimed the whole thing was my fault because I don't call or visit enough. See, if I were just more ____, she wouldn't have to do stuff like that. In other words, she was using DS in a bizarre attempt to teach me a lesson. We have had very little contact with her since then, although I didn't completely cut her off.

My concern with the gifting is that she is trying to send a not-so-subtle message that DS merits less consideration because of something I am doing that she doesn't like. In essence, she is punishing him to get to me. The message DS is getting, however, is that he simply merits less consideration. It sickens me to think that she would use him in that way, but she has proven before that she will do it.

There are many more examples. These are just a few of the most recent. We're trying to figure out how to handle the gifting situation, so we have come up with two options:

1) The cut direct, which would mean DS no longer has any contact with his grandmother.

2) Declining the invitation to open gifts when my brother and his children are in attendance.

I have given her the cut direct before. The last time was six years ago after Christmas for a situation that had nothing to do with gifting but was a serious manipulation tactic on her part. I could give her the cut direct again. It wouldn't be that difficult for me, but DS would wonder about it. What I like about option #2 is that it completely takes the wind out of her manipulation sails while simultaneously protecting DS. It removes the element of satisfaction she might feel while watching the disparity unfold.

I cannot say anything to her about her disparate treatment of DS because she will behave as if she has no clue what I am talking about. In addition, it lets her know that it bothers me, which gives her license to continue doing it. I have attempted many times in the past to talk to her about how her behavior affects me (and now DS), but she will not acknowledge it. Instead, she portrays herself as the victim. That's the narcissism.

Also, as an FYI, I was in therapy for several years to help me deal with the effects of being raised by my mother. I have worked very hard to come to a place in my life where I can say "no" to her without feeling guilty. She tends to escalate the manipulative tactics when I've said "no." She does not see the cause and effect between her behavior and my/our decision to avoid her.

So, those are the options as we see them. Are we missing any options? If we decide to do the cut direct, how would we explain that to DS? He is almost 12 now. How should we explain this to my brother? No matter what we decide, he is likely to get the brunt of my mother's drama.

Girlie

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Re: When the disparity becomes obvious.
« Reply #1 on: December 27, 2012, 09:20:40 AM »
I vote for declining any invitation to open gifts with your mom at all, but especially when your brother is around. Do not let your mom continue to hurt your child; there is no need for it.

Also: Your DS sounds like a darling; and you have every right to be proud of him.

Coley

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Re: When the disparity becomes obvious.
« Reply #2 on: December 27, 2012, 09:34:18 AM »
I vote for declining any invitation to open gifts with your mom at all, but especially when your brother is around. Do not let your mom continue to hurt your child; there is no need for it.

Also: Your DS sounds like a darling; and you have every right to be proud of him.

Thank you. I'm blessed that he's mine.

Sharnita

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Re: When the disparity becomes obvious.
« Reply #3 on: December 27, 2012, 09:35:28 AM »
Open your family's gifts at your house and she can come there. Wear your pink robe.  Offer her a spare in case she is cold.

cicero

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Re: When the disparity becomes obvious.
« Reply #4 on: December 27, 2012, 09:36:33 AM »
i don't know what is the right thing to do here  but I think that there comes a point when we (adults) need to stand up for ourselves as well as for our children (when it comes to faaaaamily).

do you *really* want your son to be subjected to this kind of horrible behavior? are *these* the memories of christmas you want for your child?

because that's what really matters in the end. you know what dr phil says , it takes one "bad" comment from parents/grandparents/teachers to wipe out a whole lot of "good" ones.

to your son, it doesn't matter *why* she is doing this. it's not important that she's doing this because she wants to get back at you. the point is the bottom line: he got a lot less than his cousins = he is less important to his grandmother. there really isn't any other way to put this.

stop going to celebrations with your mother. i don't know if this means a full blown direct cut or not. but i would not subject my child to this behavior.

and tell him - tell him exactly what is going on (your kid is AWESOME, btw!). ask him how he felt. tell him that you had problems growing up. tell him that you were hurt on his account and you aren't going to let grandma hurt him any more.

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weeblewobble

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Re: When the disparity becomes obvious.
« Reply #5 on: December 27, 2012, 09:37:40 AM »
You're right, you have to stop giving your mother opportunities to hurt your son, in order to hurt you.  I vote cut direct, because she sounds a vicious toxic person.  But if you can't do that, just decline all holiday and special occasion invitations.  Don't make it about whether brother is there or not, because that implies somehow that it's brother's fault that she treats him like a human being, but not you.  No more special occasions with grandma, for several reasons:

1) Your son's Christmas memories shouldn't involve recollections of how watching his cousins open gift after gift after gift after gift after gift, while he sits there with physical reminders that his grandma doesn't like him all that much.

2) It takes away Grandma's "audience."  Narcissists need an audience like most people need oxygen.  She wants other family members there to see her "triumph" over you and your inevitable reaction, which she can twist around and make your fault.  After all, she wouldn't have to lie to you and exclude your son if you would call and visit more often.  ::)  (Seriously, that's an awful thing to say to you and I'm wondering how your brother responded to it.) ::)

3) You won't feel pressured to stay because you don't want to make a scene and "ruin" the day by leaving if Grandma acts up. 

If you choose to see her again, schedule it during some time around the holiday, but not on it.  That way, if she starts acting hateful, you can get up and leave.

Stop making excuses for grandma.  My grandmother favored my sister and my mom made excuses for it.  "Oh, I'm sure she meant to buy you a special gift for no reason, just like Sis, she just didn't know what you'd like." and "Oh, she only took Sis out for a special outing because she knew how much Sis enjoys porcelain doll shows.  You don't like dolls."  This made me hold out hope that somehow, Grandma would figure out what I liked and treat me like she did Sis.  I was hurt and disappointed over and over again.  Just tell your son you don't understand why grandma behaves this way, but he's an awesome kid and doesn't deserve to have his feelings hurt.

bloo

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Re: When the disparity becomes obvious.
« Reply #6 on: December 27, 2012, 09:39:11 AM »
You're right, you have to stop giving your mother opportunities to hurt your son, in order to hurt you.  I vote cut direct, because she sounds a vicious toxic person.  But if you can't do that, just decline all holiday and special occasion invitations.  Don't make it about whether brother is there or not, because that implies somehow that it's brother's fault that she treats him like a human being, but not you.  No more special occasions with grandma, for several reasons:

1) Your son's Christmas memories shouldn't involve recollections of how watching his cousins open gift after gift after gift after gift after gift, while he sits there with physical reminders that his grandma doesn't like him all that much.

2) It takes away Grandma's "audience."  Narcissists need an audience like most people need oxygen.  She wants other family members there to see her "triumph" over you and your inevitable reaction, which she can twist around and make your fault.  After all, she wouldn't have to lie to you and exclude your son if you would call and visit more often.  ::)  (Seriously, that's an awful thing to say to you and I'm wondering how your brother responded to it.) ::)

3) You won't feel pressured to stay because you don't want to make a scene and "ruin" the day by leaving if Grandma acts up. 

If you choose to see her again, schedule it during some time around the holiday, but not on it.  That way, if she starts acting hateful, you can get up and leave.

Stop making excuses for grandma.  My grandmother favored my sister and my mom made excuses for it.  "Oh, I'm sure she meant to buy you a special gift for no reason, just like Sis, she just didn't know what you'd like." and "Oh, she only took Sis out for a special outing because she knew how much Sis enjoys porcelain doll shows.  You don't like dolls."  This made me hold out hope that somehow, Grandma would figure out what I liked and treat me like she did Sis.  I was hurt and disappointed over and over again.  Just tell your son you don't understand why grandma behaves this way, but he's an awesome kid and doesn't deserve to have his feelings hurt.

This. Please do not subject your son to this anymore. A holiday cut direct at least. Hugs to your awesome DS.

ETA: I agree with Cicero that since your son is noticing what's going on, it's time to explain to him in an age-appropriate way WHY Grandma treats your family this way. My Mom had to do that with my Grandma (her MIL) because I was commenting on their weird dynamic when I was 8 or 9. Once I knew what was going on, I, mentally, moved on to other things and didn't fret about it.
« Last Edit: December 27, 2012, 09:42:17 AM by bloo »

MamaMootz

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Re: When the disparity becomes obvious.
« Reply #7 on: December 27, 2012, 09:40:14 AM »
I would opt for the cut direct. It seems to me that the behavior doesn't improve.  It's how I feel a lot of times, about my father. I didn't care if he gifted me badly (aka The Pink Bathrobe Scenario) or made disparaging comments to ME (it's been hurtful for me over the years, but I have learned to deal with it, and accepted that I cannot change him), but when he started in on DD, things changed. I will not tolerate him treating her like kaka.

My paternal grandmother also did the same thing to me as a child, only it was between me and my cousin. My cousin was always the golden child. It came to a point one day when I was about 8 or 9 and asked my mom why grandma didn't really seem to like me. She had no real answer for me, but just told me sometimes people are mean. I shouldn't take it to heart because I was a wonderful child and she was the one missing out.

I didn't care if we visited grandma much after that - it wasn't about gifts, but the overall treatment of me vs. cousin (cousin always invited for overnights, special trips, praised to the skies for everything she did) and honestly, she damaged our relationship so much that I didn't shed a tear when she passed away.

If that's the kind of relationship she wants with your son, it's on her. But please do something to protect your son from it. It hurts. Cut direct.

And I completely pod cicero.
« Last Edit: December 27, 2012, 09:44:32 AM by MamaMootz »
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Redneck Gravy

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Re: When the disparity becomes obvious.
« Reply #8 on: December 27, 2012, 09:50:44 AM »
Pod to the others good advice. No more special occasions with grandma so that she can have the opportunity to hurt your DS.

But if she wants to continue this behavior, be aware that it will continue, she will just find new ways to accomplish her goal (gifts labeled for other grandchildren lying around at every visit, mention of whatever special gift she just gave other gc, positive comments about other gc, etc).

Yes, grandparents that want to hurt one of their grandchildren find ways.  You are probably looking at the cut direct down the road. 

Experience knows!  And years of therapy can help; but stop the actions now and maybe DS won't need it later. 


bonyk

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Re: When the disparity becomes obvious.
« Reply #9 on: December 27, 2012, 09:51:52 AM »
Everything Cicero said. 

If you don't stand up for your son, you're teaching him that it's okay to allow others to treat him shabbily.

Winterlight

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Re: When the disparity becomes obvious.
« Reply #10 on: December 27, 2012, 10:04:22 AM »
I think it's time to sit down with DS and tell him that you aren't going to be around grandma anymore because she's not a nice person. She does things like this to hurt people, and that's not OK.

Then cut direct. You can let your brother know what's up. If she calls and whines to him, then he can say, "Mom, you treat Coley and her family badly, so it's not surprising she doesn't want to be around you."
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WillyNilly

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Re: When the disparity becomes obvious.
« Reply #11 on: December 27, 2012, 10:14:40 AM »
...We're trying to figure out how to handle the gifting situation, so we have come up with two options:

1) The cut direct, which would mean DS no longer has any contact with his grandmother.

2) Declining the invitation to open gifts when my brother and his children are in attendance.

I have given her the cut direct before. The last time was six years ago after Christmas for a situation that had nothing to do with gifting but was a serious manipulation tactic on her part. I could give her the cut direct again. It wouldn't be that difficult for me, but DS would wonder about it. What I like about option #2 is that it completely takes the wind out of her manipulation sails while simultaneously protecting DS. It removes the element of satisfaction she might feel while watching the disparity unfold...

Your son is 11 and has twice noticed the disparity now.  Why not ask him what he would like?  Would he prefer to just not see your mother ever, or not see her on Christmas, or have your brother and his cousins come over to your house sans grandma?

He knows something is up.  He might not understand the intricacies of your mother's awful behavior, the history and reasons, etc but he sees there is something going on and he has opinions.  Why not really make him a part of the conclusion you come to so not only does he feel protected by his parents, but he also gets to feel empowered and respected, like he has control over his life and is not simply a pawn being pushed around by adults.

Cz. Burrito

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Re: When the disparity becomes obvious.
« Reply #12 on: December 27, 2012, 10:17:22 AM »
At an absolute minimum, I would decline to attend gift-giving occasions.  Your son doesn't need to be treated like that.  He (and you) should spend the day surrounded by people who actually like and respect you guys.

Just Lori

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Re: When the disparity becomes obvious.
« Reply #13 on: December 27, 2012, 10:20:50 AM »
You mention in the beginning that you rarely see your mother.  Does the other family have more of a relationship with her?

Honestly, I think it's fair for someone to spend more money on people who share a relationship with them.  I know I spend more money on the people I'm close to than I do the relatives who share little with me except for a common ancestor.  HOWEVER, I also think it's wrong to blatantly exhibit this disparity, especially when it comes to children who don't understand the complicated dynamics of family relationships.

If you want to continue a relationship, tell her you're going to opt out of the gift exchange.  If pressed, tell her that your son is old enough now to understand that she has chosen to spend more on his cousins, so you're going to skip that portion in order to protect his feelings.  I imagine she'll protest and say it's your fault because you don't spend enough time with her.  Don't engage.  Just say, "Mom, you can choose to spend whatever you want on each child, but we're not going to subject our son to the imbalance." 

Then stick to it.

Sophia

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Re: When the disparity becomes obvious.
« Reply #14 on: December 27, 2012, 10:22:29 AM »
I strongly urge you to consider a complete, total and final Cut-Direct with your mother. 

I had an Evil Grandmother.  Part of the reason that I call her Evil Grandmother not just here, but in my mind, is to help myself heal.  Grandparents are supposed to love you unconditionally and totally.  If they don't love you, then there must be something really really wrong with you.  Please stop and ponder that a moment while you think of your son and how he feels. 

I was 9 years old when my parents stop covering up for her.  She did something really horrible that broke my heart.  I remember crying in a way that I hope to NEVER hear my daughter cry.  They told me about the things she had done to mom and dad in the past.  (Like when they were dating she told the cops that dad had kidnapped mom, and the cops set up roadblocks and stopped them.  Fortunately, the cops weren't born yesterday)   I felt better.  A lot better.  I knew that it wasn't me, it was her.  They had given her the complete cut, and only relented when they knew I, the only grandchild, was coming.   When I was 9 they didn't give her the complete cut, but then by that point we lived 1000 miles away.  I was old enough to understand at 9. 

My mother still continued to occasionally tie herself in knots trying to please her mother.  It never happened.  I hated to see Evil Grandmother hurt Mom, but the I understand the basic need mom had to be loved by her mother.  When Evil Grandmother died, no one wanted to do an Eulogy. 

In summary, I think NO Grandmother is better than one that hurts you.