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The Inconsiderate Gift Receiver

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.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jinx December 30, 2015, 8:29 am

    But… are you meant to literally give him $6,000 on a coffee gift card? I mean, if I had the means, I would literally do that because it’s literally what she asked for, and it’s also a little passive-aggressive.

    Your mom sounds like she enjoys creating drama. She told you not to buy anything for Karl. Then she told you you were supposed to buy something to pay her back for the furniture. Also… she said she was going to lose it. She never gave any indication to how Karl was feeling.

    I would try to call Karl directly and explain that you love him and were trying to get him something better than “nothing” and out a lot of thought into your gift, and I would apologize (as long as he doesn’t act badly).

    Your mom is either a giant drama queen or the worst communicator I’ve ever heard of. Have you ever had a nice Christmas with her?

  • Cherita December 30, 2015, 8:42 am

    I disagree about unblocking Mom, at least not yet. Wait until you feel you can respond calmly and rationally to any reference she may make to this ridiculous behavior on her part. And if you don’t feel that way for a long time, well… you’re human.

    This is not an attitude you’d want your children to adopt toward gifts and gift giving, so until and unless you feel comfortable with it, there’s no hurry to invite Mom for in-person gift exchanges in the near future. I’m sorry you have to deal with this, OP.

    • ketchup December 30, 2015, 11:06 am

      Yes, who cares what the family thinks. Don’t unblock before you feel ready to, and if you never feel ready, so be it. I think this mother is so far out of line, she doesn’t even have a zip code.

      This woman is acting so childishly, comparing costs. You can’t compare a child’s expenses with their parents’. Ridiculous.

      And then to call the daughter to complain, and leave the presents. That is so ungrateful!! Frankly, this mother reminds me of my own. She does the same thing. She accepts something with a smile, and later, calls with complaints that are unreasonable.

      I haven’t blocked mine, but only because my daughter likes her, and she is not always annoying. And mine would implode if she lost the last thing she has; her second child and family. I have detached myself, and I think that’s very wise in this case.

  • Shoegal December 30, 2015, 9:01 am

    This woman obviously doesn’t say what she means. How horrible would it have been to suggest a gift – or say – get the gift card? She downplayed gift giving then was shocked and surprised when there wasn’t some elaborate huge gift under the tree for the stepfather when she shouldn’t have been upset if there was nothing. She clearly said, “Nothing . . . Don’t worry about it.” Although, given her history with gifts – the OP should have been prepared. Obviously, gift giving is some sort of importance barometer to the mother. She sounds unreasonable and ridiculous – but honestly, OP as people age they become less and less reasonable and more obstinate and unforgiving. Here is advice I learned from this site: “you can’t reason with the unreasonable.” Stop trying. You won’t win. This kind of thing can easily escalate to the point where you haven’t spoken to your Mother in years and your children don’t know their grandmother at all because you’ve cut her out of your life and you won’t be able to even remember why after awhile. Do you really want this to destroy your relationship with your Mom for good?

    • Cyberwulf December 30, 2015, 3:48 pm

      Better question – does OP want Gram-Gram to visit this manipulation on her grandchildren when they’re old enough to buy her presents?

      • NostalgicGal December 30, 2015, 6:04 pm

        Hubby’s college friend’s wife’s dad was like this. He would get the hooks in early and play his kids like a fiddle for the money (yes he was very rich). She finally came around to reality, accepted the nice wedding and a present of one of the first of the minivans, then cut off from him. She said after all she’d been through she decided she’d take the wedding and the car and quit there. She had five kids, she carefully controlled his contact with them; things went okay, then the daughter got near driving age and grandpa started with dangling a new car in front of her. I happened to be there when that wall phone was ripped off the wall and danced on, then mother reeled off all the icky and tacky things the man had done to her to manipulate her life. Daughter actually understood the bribe system he had taught her mom and when he called again (now he was offering 4 years of college to be his obedient little minion) she said “Mom told me everything, don’t call me again.” and hung up. Wonder if they’re relatives with OP?

      • Weaver December 31, 2015, 11:09 am

        That’s an excellent point. If she can treat her own daughter this way, why not her grandchildren as well?

    • NotCinderll January 12, 2016, 11:33 am

      I’m dealing with similar problems with my own mother (not concerning gifts, specifically, but with the same pattern where everything is okay until she blows up at me for some horrible crime that I unwittingly commit and then am obligated to grovel in apology for ad infinitum)

      The fact is, OP is not sabotaging the relationship with her mother. It’s her mother who can’t graciously accept a thoughtfully given gift, and takes a genuine attempt at doing something nice as a slight. Mom’s making her own bed with this one.

    • C. January 14, 2016, 2:18 pm

      It was all a set-up. The mother sounds like she has a personality disorder.

  • PWH December 30, 2015, 9:08 am

    OP, I’m so sorry to hear that your mother reacted the way she did. You put a lot of thought into the gifts you bought her and your Step-Father and it seems that all she could see was the perceived value. I know it will be some time before you want to consider exchanging gifts with them again, but if that time does come, have you thought about asking your Step-Father what he’d like? My Mom is always giving me gift ideas for my Step-Dad, but some are complete and utter flops because he either already has the item (bought it for himself :)) or doesn’t really need it. This year, after my Mom gave me Step-Dad’s list of items, I confirmed that they were actually things he wanted with him.

  • Fluffy December 30, 2015, 9:12 am

    Don’t unblock your mother. She has all the grace of an ill-behaved toddler. Is that really the kind of person you want around your kids? The kind of person who throws passive aggressive tantrums and slams things around when she doesn’t get the kind of presents she thinks she deserves?

    • ketchup December 30, 2015, 11:08 am

      This. Or pod?
      Such an immature person.

  • Bellyjean December 30, 2015, 9:22 am

    Wow… I would quickly stop inviting them to my place, and stop giving them anything. Thought and care went into your gifts, and you were told to give him nothing… “Christmas is about the kids.” <What is that supposed to mean other than it is the THOUGHT THAT COUNTS? Wow – sorry your mother is delusional and cares more about $$ than the heart of the gift. 🙁

  • Dippy December 30, 2015, 9:27 am

    I’d ignore your mother as she’s got serious issues you’ll most likely never resolve.

    What about Karl? Was he happy with the gift?

    • Yuchin December 30, 2015, 2:05 pm

      Exactly, what about Karl?
      It’s strange that the OP doesn’t seem to have a direct line with Karl, who according to the mother has been very kind, generous and helpful to her and her children.
      How come in the post, the LW seems to be so remote from Karl? The step-dad and step-daughter guys never talk to each other?

  • Heather December 30, 2015, 9:29 am

    I have such a hard time understanding parents who are disappointed in gifts. Year after year, my kids (ever since they were old enough to think and do these things) make a point of getting me something I like. Year after year, I tell them that there is no way they could ever disappoint me. And I mean it. To me, the cliché is so true: it’s the thought that counts. I still remember one Christmas when my son (who must have been about 14 or 15 at the time) was so proud of getting me orange flavoured chocolate truffles and wrapping them himself. I was so touched that he thought about it and wanted to please me. Those truffles tasted fantastic because of it! Another Christmas (about 5 years or so ago… before Netflix), my kids got me a DVD set of one of my favourite shows. It was such a treat to watch it over the Holidays! This year they gave me a more extravagant gift (they are older and both have jobs). My one worry is that I didn’t want them to spend too much money… because I’m so easy to please… why spend so much? But the gift is beautiful and I will have it for years to come. Slightly off track: this has been a year full of challenges. I was so grateful that we were together and healthy.

    • LadyV December 30, 2015, 11:40 am

      THIS – exactly. Some of my most treasured gifts were simple, inexpensive things that my son gave me when he was younger – because he had put a lot of thought and effort into them. When he got older, and could afford better things, I learned that he was VERY good at remembering things that I mentioned I wanted to buy for myself someday, and then buying the item for me. With your children more than anyone else, it’s absolutely the thought that counts. I would NEVER become hostile because I didn’t think a gift was “good enough”. (And Heather, like you, my only worry is that I don’t want my son spending too much money on me!)

    • Reboot December 31, 2015, 4:01 am

      This. You know what I got for Christmas this year? A cup. But it’s a fancy double-walled cup for tea, and it came with some nice tea, so even though it wasn’t what I asked for in our Secret Santa exchange, I know my brother made an effort to get something he thought I’d like (and I did ask for tea things, so it’s related to my request).

  • Cleosia December 30, 2015, 9:32 am

    Oh, my God! This could be someone I know and her mother. She gave her mother a very generous gift for Christmas, a new laptop. Now my friend isn’t well off and is just living pay to pay so to say this was above and beyond is an understatement. However, three days after Christmas, instead of texting her daughter “Good Morning,” she texts her daughter how horrible her new computer is. It turns out it was in sleep mode and being computer illiterate, she couldn’t figure it out.

    But how horrible is that? She could have nicely told her daughter she was having problems but that’s just not her style. And this isnt’ a one off. She constantly does this to her daughter, who is a very nice person and doesn’t deserve this attitude.

    • Also Anonymous December 30, 2015, 8:13 pm

      I have a similar-but-different story. Christmas of 2012, my laptop computer was dying. The fan was broken, and it got incredibly hot, and made a horrible grinding noise whenever it was turned on. It was a tight year for my family, so I didn’t mention it. Anyway, I asked my brother what he wanted for Christmas, and he said he wanted saxophone reeds. He asked me what I wanted, and I responded with a list of ideas (as in, pick one) of items that were all under $30, so, of roughly equal value to the saxophone reeds (because woodwind reeds are incredibly overpriced). Anyway, I bought my brother saxophone reeds, and he gave me a Christmas card that said he was in the process of ordering me a new laptop computer that should arrive in early January. I asked him if he was sure he wanted to do this. He said he was. I asked him that repeatedly over the next few days, because a laptop computer is a big-ticket item. He assured me that he was sure. My mom, however, said that I was horrible for “manipulating” my brother into buying me a new laptop, just because I didn’t say no, because I needed to have a computer, and I was literally afraid of my old one bursting into flames, because it had no means of cooling itself. That Christmas pretty much designated me as the “selfish sibling” for life.

      • tNostalgicGal January 2, 2016, 3:54 pm

        Your BRO should have been the one to tell mom that it was HIS choice so shut her trap about it.

        As for laptops, cooling fans often go. You can look up yours and find out what fits, buy one, look at a youtube or two on how to open yours and put a new fan in; or some shops charge pretty reasonable for it. Mine has had two self surgeries already and when we get out of the ‘this time of year’ money pit (insurances, property taxes, holidays and vehicle tags all come due in three months in a row plus the sewer added to it this time); I’ll be putting a new keyboard on mine

        Your bro is the the one that needs to straighten Mom out. You gave him reasonable choices, and it’s hard to turn down a high ticket you need.

  • Girlie December 30, 2015, 9:36 am

    Wow. Can I just say that I think your mom’s behavior was ridiculous? There was no reason and no excuse to be become so upset about something so minor. The gift that you chose seemed lovely and thoughtful, and I know that I would have adored receiving a gift like that one.
    Make no mistake – your mother chose to take offense to something which garnered none. I don’t know that blocking her will help your relationship in the long term, but I would suggest a firm rule that you and your husband cease trying to please them at all with gifts – both her past and current behavior suggest that she will never be happy with what you decide to gift her. If I found myself in the same situation, I would be telling my parents that I no longer wished to exchange gifts with adult family members other than my husband.

  • Christina December 30, 2015, 9:37 am

    If my mother ever did that to me, I would be blocking her too. She was childish, rude, disrespectful, etc. The OP specifically asked more than once what to get her step father and the mother said nothing. Then she got something anyway, that was very personal and thoughtful, and she was chastised for it as if she spit in his face. She obviously puts a lot of work into finding meaningful gifts and her mother has never been receptive. She would certainly never get a gift from me again, let alone spending more than before just to make a point. I predict next year the OP gets a large denomination gift card, and the mother complains about how impersonal and meaningless gift cards are.

    She was going to “lose it” because her gift wasn’t good enough? I can’t wrap my head around someone being such a special snowflake. I’d rather get rid of the toxicity of her in my life than worry about how others will feel about it.

  • Lisa December 30, 2015, 9:46 am

    This makes me sad. OP, I’m sorry your Mom treated you this way.

    I honestly don’t have much else to add, except that I would not be inclined to take Admin’s advice and increase the amount of the gift card. Caving in to Greedy Mom’s request for a higher dollar value gift seems like it would indicate acceptance of OP’s position as a doormat for her mother and SF.

  • Amy December 30, 2015, 10:06 am

    Wow. I would have loved to have had a gift like that and I’m sure that wasn’t cheap. Perhaps if you gave her an itemized receipt she would realize what a thoughtful i.e. expensive gift all that was. Have you spoken with Karl yet. He is the one you should really speak to. If you sense that he is upset then get him the Horton’s gift card if not then ask him if he would like to have you send him his gift through the mail.

    • Cherita December 30, 2015, 12:08 pm

      I like the idea of reaching out to Karl, if OP feels able to do so. There’s no indication from the letter as to his general disposition–and he was smiling when looking over the gift, originally, so it’s possible that he does not share his wife’s opinion. How he deals with her is his own separate issue.

  • Lerah99 December 30, 2015, 10:10 am

    Your mom is the middle of her very own drama tornado.
    She will ALWAYS be the victim in her own mind. There is nothing you can do to fix it.

    If you had given her husband a Tim Horton’s gift card she would have been apoplectic over the fact that you give him a gift card rather than a well thought out gift from the heart. The amount would be insulting or ridiculous (either too much or too little regardless of what the amount was) and you would be the villain who ruined her Christmas.

    You are an adult. You can look at you mom and see her as just a person, a deeply flawed and unhappy person. It’s not within your ability nor is it your responsibility to fix her.

    • Lisa H. December 30, 2015, 11:19 am

      What Lerah99 said!! Accept what you cannot fix.

    • Dee December 30, 2015, 12:40 pm

      Lerah99 – Yes, it is the Mom who is the problem. However, OP is making the Mom, and her problems, her own problems. If OP wants some peace she has to stop adopting her Mother’s drama. Now, is that what OP wants, or does she get something from all the drama?

      The Mom has already made it clear, years previously, that gift-giving is her weapon. She can ruin an entire Christmas over it. So why does OP want this to be part of her children’s memories? Inviting Mom over for Christmas Day is asking for new, horrible traditions to be part of her kids’ lives. Why does OP think that’s a good thing?

      The Mom is deeply flawed. OP wants her to not be. But the only person OP can change is herself. If this gift-giving is such a minefield then why participate? Celebrate Christmas with the hubby and kids, invite Mom and Karl over for after Christmas. No presents involved. If Mom complains that she is doing all the present buying then remind her that everybody’s okay if she stops (or is that the truth? Does OP still want all the things Mom showers on her?). Simply end all the drama over gifts by taking them out of the equation. If drama continues over something else, remove that, too. It’s up to Mom if she wants to keep whittling down events and occasions spent with OP and her family by her behaviour.

      And Karl does not get a pass. He does nothing to override the rudeness. He let Mom hurt a child years earlier with her narcissistic games. He’s no peach.

    • clairedelune December 30, 2015, 4:36 pm

      Yep, exactly–I posted somewhat the same below; I didn’t see your comment first. But yes–no matter what the gift had been, it would never be right with the mother. Trying to find the “right” gift for her would be like playing whack-a-mole, because this is a mother who is going to be constantly moving the goal just out of reach.

  • Otter December 30, 2015, 10:10 am

    Your gift was thoughtful and appropriate, too bad it was badly received. I would suggest you stop the gift giving with them all together. If they’re going to calculate the cost of everything you exchange then the spirit of the occasion is lost (or never was). If you wish to continue trying be normal with them, ignore the drama and let them stew in their own ire. Once you’d discovered the abandoned gifts, you should have closed the cupboard and gone on about your day. Texting your mom with questions was just what she wanted to pop the cork on the drama bottle. Better to leave her wondering if she really irked you. Sorry you have to deal with this. Sometimes we have to drop the rope with “push-me-pull-you” parents. I’d leave the number blocked for a few days then reopen channels – but don’t initiate communication. You did nothing wrong, except try to please the unpleasable.

    • Ally December 30, 2015, 12:17 pm

      My reading of the story was that the mom’s text was unsolicited. I saw nothing saying the OP began a conversation about the gift.

      I think the OP did a pretty good job of trying to defend herself via text, and then she smartly disengaged when the conversation obviously wasn’t going anywhere.

  • starstruck December 30, 2015, 10:10 am

    I must say, your mother sounds like a manipulative women. If I were you, given your history of gift exchanges with your mom, I would cut this off at the source. I would let her and your step dad know that next Christmas you wont be doing a gift exchange between adults. That your reserving the gift giving for the kids only. It would have hurt me greatly if my mother did this to me. Your gift sounds really nice by the way. Thats the kind of gift I like to give too. And receive 🙂

    • Goldie December 30, 2015, 12:43 pm

      Second that – I would be thrilled to receive a thoughtful gift like that!

    • plainbelliedsneetch December 30, 2015, 1:03 pm

      Good idea, limiting gifts to the kids (at least as far as OP’s mother is concerned), but there’s a good chance her mother will agree, then bring something and act hurt when there’s nothing for her (the mother). It’s unreasonable and ignores OP’s boundaries, but that seems to be pretty common.

      • NostalgicGal January 4, 2016, 1:55 am

        Have the kids MAKE them gifts. Adults aren’t exchanging any more but. Home made with love from the grandkid gifts. She make a fitz about that, I’d make plans not to have Christmas with her for a few years.

  • Anna December 30, 2015, 10:14 am

    OP, you don’t need to put up with this. Your mother’s actions are malicious and she is doing them with the purpose of hurting your feelings. You put together a lovely gift and any normal person would know to say “thank you” even if they weren’t thrilled with every item.

    I disagree with the admin on this. You don’t need to take this kind of abuse from her. You aren’t obligated to “make nice” with someone who is determined to hurt you.

  • Yuchin December 30, 2015, 10:18 am

    I feel sorry for the 20-something daughter, seems to me she’s been trying to please her mother but only to be let down all the time. Her mom may be rich but quite cruel and manipulative. However, that being said, Karl shouldn’t be punished for his wife’s behaviors.
    Next year, if the letter writer still wants to exchange gifts, gather some information as what Karl may like beforehand. It cannot be that she knows nothing about what Karl likes and has to rely on the mother to be the only source.

  • Reaver December 30, 2015, 10:22 am

    This advice makes no sense…unblock the toxic person AND shell out large sums of cash for them next time???? No,Mother or not this as rude,nasty behavior and op has the rght to separate from it,not throwing more money at them.

    • admin December 30, 2015, 10:43 am

      The gift is for her step father, not her mother. I see nothing in the OP’s story that indicates Karl is a willing accomplice in his wife’s antics.

      • Otter December 30, 2015, 11:01 am

        Karl left days early along with his wife and didn’t take his gift. He’s either an accomplice or a passive enabler.

        • essie December 31, 2015, 9:10 am

          …or he’s been married to her long enough to know it’s better not to “interfere” between mother and daughter, that any communications he has with the LW will be considered interference. Or he figures it’s between them and doesn’t want to step into the middle of it.

      • ketchup December 30, 2015, 11:12 am

        There’s also nothing about the step-dad being an unwilling accomplice. It’s fishy.
        ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.’ Maybe evil is a bit much, but still. My own father is always part of the problem, because he never stops my mother from being a horrible person.

      • Fluffy December 30, 2015, 11:39 am

        And nothing to indicate he did anything to discourage his wife’s antics. That’s called enabling, and it’s just as bad.

      • Adereterial December 30, 2015, 12:25 pm

        I find it hard to believe the step-father was not complicit in a) leaving early and b) leaving the gift behind.

  • mark December 30, 2015, 10:29 am

    FWIW, I think blocking your mother was a very good idea. It gives you both a chance to calm down. I wouldn’t leave her blocked for too long but it might be good to still keep some distance even then.

    If you look at your mother’s response objectively, it’s a lot like the temper tantrum of a child. Normal adults don’t behave that way. I think many of the same ways of handling it also work.

    I think refusing to argue is useful. In this case maybe respond to her first text pointing out she is being unreasonable and you are not going to discuss it with her, and then ignore any thing else on the issue from her. Her text was her trying to pick a fight with you.

    Timeouts can be useful as well. Just take a break from communicating with her. I think your final text to your mother was perfect in this regard.

    As for gifts for your mother and stepfather, my recommendation is to get them something small and tasteful, and perhaps most importantly tell her well in advance exactly what it is. And absolutely refuse to change it.

  • shrinkingdaily December 30, 2015, 10:30 am

    This is unbelievably cruel to do this to someone who was kind enough to give any gift. OP, your gift was thoughtful, clever, and sweet. It is very obvious that you put a lot of effort into selecting presents for people. You even checked beforehand to see what they wanted. To leave early, leave the present behind then complain about it shows a tremendous lack of manners on your mother’s part. She had the nerve to argue about it when you tried to explain yourself. I don’t blame you for detaching. Whether you wish to resume contact is completely up to you. One thing is for sure. These people should not be getting any gifts from you in the future.

  • essie December 30, 2015, 10:31 am

    Firstly, I find it odd that, nowhere in this letter, is there any mention of the stepfather’s wishes. LW asks her Mom what she should get, but doesn’t ask her stepfather what he wants. After Christmas Day, Mom says “I-I-I want you to give him proper gifts…I-I-I have been generous…Karl has been good to you…” Maybe Karl’s not saying anything because he was perfectly happy with the gift basket (To be honest, Mom sounds like the kind of person who would say “NO, we’re leaving it here [because I’m offended by it]. Since it’s half MINE and MY daughter gave it to you AND ME; I get to decide its disposition: it stays.”). Stepfather appears to have better manners than Mom.

    Secondly, people who constantly remind you of their generosity aren’t really, in their hearts, generous people. They want their “pound of flesh” in bowing, scraping, and other expressions of humility and gratitude for eternity. How dare you be so ungrateful as to thank her only once for a gift given only once! (Been there, done that, stopped accepting the charity, feel much better now.)

    Thirdly, the LW keeps trying to please Mom and being rebuffed. It hurts. I suggest that LW stop giving her that power. Provide gifts that you consider appropriate; once they’re opened, respond to any comments – any at all – with “I’m so glad you like it.” Complaint? “I’m so glad you like it.” Criticism? “I’m so glad you like it.” Dredging up past issues? “I’m so glad you like it.”

    Fourthly, I would suggest contacting her, sometime between April and June, telling her you’ve thought about what she said – you know, Christmas really being about the kids now and all – and you and your husband have discussed it and decided that she’s right, so you’re providing Christmas gifts for only the kids this year. (NOTE: If you and your husband, siblings, cousins, friends, grandparents, etc. decide to exchange gifts for Queen Silvia’s birthday, Festivus, Winter Solstice, or any other occasion-that-occurs-before-Mom-and-stepfather-expect-a-Christmas-gathering, even one you make up, the rest of us will look the other way with a slight head-nod and eye-wink. )

  • Chelle December 30, 2015, 10:34 am

    I have to disagree with Admin on this one. You should certainly NOT reward this behavior by giving a large denomination gift card. That’s like giving a toddler the candy they are throwing a tantrum over. In fact, perhaps you should not invite them to your home to celebrate holidays. You shouldn’t have to walk on eggshells in your own home. Beandip when asked about holiday plans, or you could straight up tell them that you’ve decided to celebrate as a nuclear family so as not to cause a repeat of this year’s drama and hurt. See them way less; they’ve boiled your relationship down to a dollar amount. That’s terrible.
    And- who expects a teenager to fill their mother’s stocking?????????

    • admin December 30, 2015, 10:42 am

      The gift is for Karl, not her mother and from what we know Karl may not have a problem with the gift the OP gave them.

      • shrinkingdaily December 30, 2015, 2:08 pm

        This very well may be true. However, Karl should have spoken up about the present himself. Hopefully, to express gratitude. There is no evidence of it in the letter, either. Bad behavior should not be rewarded. The mother’s behavior was inexcusably hurtful. I am inclined to believe that “Mommie-dearest” rules the roost in their home.

    • lakey December 30, 2015, 1:01 pm

      Cutting the mother and stepfather out of holiday celebrations because mom is childish is not the only option. Many people have a relative who has a less than perfect personality. Another way to go is to lower your expectations of this person. If you know your mother accepts gifts rudely, see her for holidays, but for more limited amounts of time. Give her a gift, but don’t waste time or emotion expecting her to be gracious. She’s your mom, she’s not perfect, it’s not you, it’s her.

      What I would do, next Christmas I would have a visit with them of a couple hours, not necessarily on Christmas Day itself. I would give mom a nice box of Godiva chocolates, and stepdad a gift card to Tim Hortons. If she leaves the chocolates behind, enjoy them. If she texts you nasty, ungrateful messages, ignore them. That’s what’s lovely about digital communications. You know the saying, “Don’t engage the cray cray.” And, yeah, a woman who expects her teen-age daughter to fill her Christmas stocking is a bit off.

      • Bellyjean December 31, 2015, 9:32 am

        +1 for “Don’t engage the cray cray.” Almost spit my coffee. 🙂

    • Ciotog December 30, 2015, 2:51 pm

      I was struck by the teenage stocking debacle too : that a teenager was in charge of filling her mother’s stocking, and that Christmas was apparently ruined when she failed to divine this. It sounds like her mother has always been difficult, and not exactly a “Christmas is for the kids” kind of person!

      • Bellyjean December 31, 2015, 9:33 am

        Agreed! re: ‘not exactly a “Christmas is for the kids” kind of person!’

      • Angela January 1, 2016, 9:04 am

        Exactly; if it was a tradition that Mom got a stocking, I could see her being a little disappointed but ruining Christmas??? That’s childish and cruel.
        And add my voice to the chorus of “Where is Karl?” If he had done so much for OP in years past, why is he sidelined now?

    • Weaver December 31, 2015, 12:29 pm

      Adding my vote for finding the stocking incident a bit odd. It would be one thing if it was an established family tradition for the daughter to fill the mother’s stocking, but it sounds like that wasn’t the case at all. And then to ruin Christmas day over it like a sulky toddler makes it even worse.

      In our family, my mum would do stockings for whichever children were living at home at the time. The unspoken bargain was that we would open them sitting on mum and dad’s bed first thing in the morning (even if we were twenty-one at the time, lol). It was a fun tradition. At some point my dad started making stockings for my mum as well. I would always pack mum’s stocking for him, as I have a knack for packing stockings and he doesn’t! But he always bought the gifts, and my mum would never have expected her children to buy stocking-stuffers for her. Now that all three of us have flown the nest, mum and dad make stockings for each other rather than for us, which I think is really sweet 🙂

      • Amanda H. January 2, 2016, 2:58 am

        Agreed on finding the expectation that the teenage daughter stuff the stocking to be strange. When I was a child, my parents always stuffed each other’s stockings (to preserve the illusion of Santa doing the stocking-filling). When Hubby and I got married, we had a gift budget for Christmas we agreed on in advance, with as much or as little of that spent on stocking stuffers as we ended up choosing, and we continue to do that even now that we have children. So I purchase the stocking stuffers for our kids and my husband, while he’s in charge of making sure my stocking has treats in it too.

  • JWH December 30, 2015, 10:52 am

    Always be careful when family members give you large-scale gifts. They can come with strings attached. Sometimes, the strings are benign or neutral (“Of course we’ll contribute 20 grand for your wedding. But here are 25 people we think ought to be on the guest list.”) and other times they are not (“Of course we’ll contribute 20 grand for your wedding. But you must invite these 350 people and arrange for your Uncle Charlie, who is on death row, to escape from jail so he can attend the wedding.”)

  • Jewel December 30, 2015, 10:59 am

    PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE tell your Mother next summer (or well in advance of when she might start gift-shopping for Christmas) that you would prefer not to exchange gifts with her or her husband for any occasion from now on. If your Mother has the temerity to ask “why?”, just say that it’s obvious you don’t know her tastes and wish to avoid the pain of obviously disappointing her year after year. State that it would be better for the relationship to not repeatedly enter into any more gift exchanges that just end up with her being upset with you for quid pro quo reasons. Then, stick to it. It may take a Christmas or two to feel comfortable leaving your Mother/Stepfather off your shopping list, but I do think you’ll also feel great relief.

  • magicdomino December 30, 2015, 11:06 am

    I hate it when people play manipulative games by saying things that they don’t mean. On top of the hate list is people who say they don’t want gifts, or to get them anything, or don’t worry about it, then get upset when you take them literally. I take them literally anyway. They’ll learn.

    Do coffee shops even sell $6000 gift cards? 🙂

  • Cass December 30, 2015, 11:09 am

    It sounds like the gift was originally for Karl but when the OP started to put it together, it became a gift for him and her mother. Knowing the specifics may help clarify actions; however, the mother reacted as though it was for her.

    I think it might be a good idea to refocus gifts to the kids. I have a sister and a niece who are very materialistic about gifts (though the niece is getting a lot better – the sister is a sociopath and as a child used to find gift receipts to ensure our parents spent exactly the same amount on each of their kids – to the penny. This was in the 60s and 70s, so they did have to save receipts.) the niece is in her thirties, by the way. All of our birthdays are in four weeks, so it’s common that we don’t see each other till after all three of them are over.

    I gave up giving them gifts of any kind the year I spent well over a hundred dollars and many hours coming up with birthday gifts they would like, which on my salary at the time was not a small expenditure. In return I received a bag of radishes from the farmer’s market which was clearly an item if their own shopping they decided they could part with, and I have to say it was pretty hurtful to receive that. Better to give no gift than panic and give a gift with no thought other than “what do I have right here???” I’ve found that now that I do not give birthday gifts to my siblings, my life is a lot better, and I think most of theirs are too. If nothing else, we have seven birthdays in six weeks and it gets pricy! My sister isn’t happy with that arrangement, but the other siblings are, and I am willing to go with majority rule on this.

    All that to say, I don’t think of myself as a person who values the gift itself, I prefer the thought, and when confronted with people who only see the dollar sign, as this mother did, or do not have interest in the thought, it’s more satisfying to focus on making a holiday special in a way other than gift-giving, especially when someone uses gifts and gift-giving as a weapon to hurt.

  • stacey December 30, 2015, 11:15 am

    You’re in your late twenties and you don’t need to explain yourself to mom. Keep that mantra fixed in the forefront of your mind. Don’t do gift exchanges with them anymore and don’t (for the love of Pete!) apologize. You don’t need to unblock her for fear of your family’s reaction. That’s the logic that got you stuck. Eventually, she will contact you. This is about power in the relationship and she has (apparently) a habit of bullying you with the threat of a negative reaction. This can only be effective if you allow it to be. You should not (in my opinion) Justify/ Argue/ Defend/ Explain your gift choices… or other life choices. Getting yourself out of the habit of doing that may take a bit of time- but it’s well worth the investment. When you remind yourself that you are NOT responsible for her feelings, her reactions or her emotional baggage, and you mean it, you’ll be able to reengage. Don’t be afraid to use a little distance until you can manage it. Risking an estrangement is a better choice than sacrificing yourself continually on the altar of her dissatisfaction and your supposed culpability. If you struggle with this in a larger sense due to your family history, help is available.

  • LadyV December 30, 2015, 11:21 am

    So – when asked about what to get Step-dad, Momzilla says “Oh nothing, don’t worry about it, Christmas is for the kids” – and then when OP creates a personalized gift for the two of them, Momzilla goes on a rant about “proper gift, he deserves better, I’ve given you so much”? I would have blocked her too – especially since, from what OP says at the end of her post, this is a pattern of behavior on Momzilla’s part. It might be a good idea to say “Next year, let’s just buy gifts for the children and we adults won’t exchange gifts.” If OP’s husband still wants to give her gifts, it can be done when Momzilla isn’t around.

  • PJ December 30, 2015, 11:22 am

    In gift-giving (I can’t speak about the rest of life) you will never be able to buy your mother’s love or happiness. You will always be wrong and she will always blame you for her disappointment. You can run yourself ragged trying, or you can just let it go. One is an ongoing persistent pain, and the other will be tough at first then get easier.

    As for Karl, I’d skip over Mom and contact him directly– ask him point-blank if he was disappointed by your gift, and if he’d still like it, you can mail the gift card to him so he can still enjoy it. His response will be very telling.

    In the future, inform them that you will no longer be exchanging gifts, since you are so clearly out of sync with each other on gift-giving and you don’t want that type of drama in your home. In addition to that, start refusing ‘help’ from them, as you can’t afford the lifelong repayment plan.

    • NotCinderll January 12, 2016, 11:51 am

      ^^^This!!! So much this!!!

  • Huh December 30, 2015, 11:28 am

    Hugs to the OP. I had flashbacks of my ex with your post. No matter what I did when it came to gift-giving holidays, it wasn’t right.

    He would say he didn’t want me to buy gifts for him, so when I did, he would automatically be upset. If I did what he said and gave him nothing, he would be upset because he didn’t get a gift. If I tried to do something nice on the occasion instead of monetary gift (bake him something, cook special dinner, make a present, go to movie) he would be upset because that wasn’t good enough. If I tried to buy him things he needed, he would be upset because that wasn’t a good present. If I bought him things off his wish list he would be upset because it wasn’t a surprise. It was a no-win situation. And I just got the point where I accepted that he was going to be mad no matter what I did. So I would give him whatever and just try to ignore the rant.

    OP, sounds like you’re in a similar situation with your mother. She’s not going to be happy no matter what you do. Try to get her and your stepfather (and ask him directly what he wants, ignore her suggestions) something you think they will like, and if it doesn’t please her, remember – she was going to be mad no matter what you did. It’s not you, it’s her.

    You might try reminding her that your kids saw this, and were probably confused as to why Grandma cut the visit short. If they gave Grandma, say, a coffee mug, would she have thrown a fit at them? That’s extremely unacceptable if so.

    • Victoria December 31, 2015, 9:11 am

      I am so glad you said “ex”. Good on you for getting out of that.

  • Otter December 30, 2015, 11:31 am

    This really irks me for specific reasons, thus my second comment. I took a second job to pay for my daughter’s college education. My husband sacrificed a large portion of our budget to give her a car, furniture and living expenses while she’s at school. It’s what a lot of parents do to help their kids getting started in life. She just started working a part-time minimum wage job, and gave us Christmas presents this year. I got an island scented candle and my husband got an Avenger character mug. We were delighted by those precious gifts from her heart. I lit my candle up and put it on the table, my husband put his mug on display in the china cabinet. She loved our genuine gushing reactions. I can’t imagine hurting her for the “cheap” exchange after “all we’ve done for her!” Parents shouldn’t look for payback. Her best gift to us would be to stay a kind person and do well for herself in life. (And OP, I do understand toxicity, we’ve had to distance ourselves from my husband’s parents who create drama every Christmas as well). I just want to give you (((hugs))) and say it’s not your fault. You can’t control another person’s behavior, just your own reaction to it. Take back control even it it’s just your own peace of mind. P.S. Your gift basket sounds wonderful!

    • Bellyjean December 31, 2015, 9:39 am

      +1 for amazing parenting!!!

    • Weaver December 31, 2015, 1:01 pm

      Yes, this exactly. My parents helped support me through university as far as their budget would allow, and I was very grateful for it as it meant I only had to take part-time work in term time, and casual summer work, rather than trying to hold down a full-time job while studying. They must have had to make sacrifices in order to do that, but they’ve never dangled their generosity over my head like some weapon of manipulation.

      They were also generous when I moved in with my husband, buying us several large items of furniture like a bed, table and chairs. This year for Christmas I got my Dad a glass-topped divided wooden box to display some of his fossils in, plus a winter hat. I bought my mum a nice handbag in her style, plus things to stock it with (a pretty compact mirror, a pocket comb, tissues and lip balm, a nice notebook and pen). We probably only spent about £70 between them, but they were obviously genuniely delighted with their gifts because I’d put thought into them, and I loved seeing their reactions. It really is the thought that counts, so much more happiness can be generated that way 🙂 You’ve obviously raised a daughter who knows your taste and puts value on getting you gifts you’ll enjoy!

  • Daisy December 30, 2015, 11:35 am

    OP’s mother is going to have a sad and lonely old age if she keeps this up. Turning a joyous occasion into an accounting session is hurtful and rude. A Christmas gift of a basket of local goodies is thoughtful and loving. The value is immaterial. The best gift I ever received from my daughter was a box of used paperback books, the complete works of an author whose work I admired, long out of print. They were dusty, dog-eared, and foxed, and it took her weeks of haunting used book stores to find them all. I wouldn’t part with them for anything.

    • bern821 January 4, 2016, 5:09 pm

      That’s so sweet! Your daughter sounds amazing and you sound like you truly appreciate her. That’s the way it should be!

  • Saucygirl December 30, 2015, 11:56 am

    Just out of curiosity, I’d be interested in knowing what the
    Op got her dad and step mom (if there is one) and her inlaws. And if her mom and stepdad know what these gifts were.

    Not to say the moms reaction was right or even truly justified, but if she knows everyone else got “better” gifts and this wasn’t the first time it’s happened, her reaction might be more about her perceived place in the ops affection/life then the actual gift. And then I think the idea given above about op calling stepdad (and mom) and making sure they know how loved and appreciated he is is a good idea.

    • OP January 2, 2016, 2:07 pm

      We bought my Dad and Step-mom a bottle of wine and chocolates (it had to be shipped to the East Coast), and we bought my in-laws a tool box with screwdriver set (for FIL) and a pair of headphones for travelling (for MIL). She made sure to ask me what I bought for them.

      I should have also noted that my mother had a main gift from us as well which was an art kit because she began taking art classes in the fall. I made the basket for both of them because I included treats that I thought she might like as well.

      • bern821 January 4, 2016, 5:14 pm

        Wow – that makes your mom’s reaction even more hurtful. TWO thoughtful gifts and she decided you didn’t spend enough on your stepdad? As many other posters have stated – there is nothing you can do to change your mother, only how you react to her. The fact that you as a teenager were expected to fill her Christmas stocking, only to have her ruin Christmas when it wasn’t done is mind-blowing!
        Stop exchanging gifts with her, why exhaust yourself trying to please someone who you know is going to hurt you for it? So sorry you have to deal with such a drama lama!!!

  • JD December 30, 2015, 12:02 pm

    OP, I’m sorry for your issue here. I agree with some of the other posters, what does Karl think? Can you talk with him? Is there any way to reach him without going through your mom? You said they left in a huff — did both of them look mad, or just your mom?
    I noticed you said they are moving back to that area in a few months. May I assume you won’t be doing many Christmases together in person after that? I have to say, although it’s sad, that I hope you’ll be doing Christmas with her via long distance only after this. You can choose to give Karl a gift card, or ask him straight up what he wants, or call off gift giving to each other altogether, but I foresee mom saying “What, no gifts after all we’ve done for you?” to that idea. Your mom and step-dad expected the child to fill the grown-up’s stocking? Well, that’s different to say the least.
    I think OP would be better off to accept nothing else from mom and Karl. Mom is keeping accounts.

  • padua December 30, 2015, 12:04 pm

    this is my mother. year after year she hijacks christmas and we walk on eggshells to make sure she isn’t disappointed. i, too, have had silent christmases because she didn’t get exactly what she wanted. it’s hard to confront this because we’ve grown up with this. so kudos for you for finally being able to express yourself. i remember one christmas when my mother wanted a bible. my father (who typically received the brunt of her wrath) bought her a nice one and had her name engraved. when she opened the gift, silent treatment for the rest of the day because it wasn’t the color she wanted. and of course we’re supposed to be experts at mindreading. courage, OP. you’re not alone.

    • stacey December 30, 2015, 6:01 pm

      The way you put it- “year after year she hijacks Christmas” really sums up the negative dynamic. People allow themselves to be taken hostage emotionally in the mistaken idea that they will eventually be able to appease the hijacker. Instead, the “ransom” simply escalates as time goes by. The hijacker is trying to meet a “felt need”- some sort of deficit that they expect others to make up for. It never works. The only escape is to refuse to be taken hostage, heal the impact you’ve experienced from these events, and live without perpetuating the dynamic by participating in it. It feels scary. But it’s the only path (that I know of) to peace.

      • padua December 31, 2015, 11:52 am

        absolutely. that sums it up perfectly.

    • clairedelune December 31, 2015, 1:12 am

      Sounds like she might benefit from actually cracking the cover of that bible sometime…

  • Tana December 30, 2015, 12:12 pm

    Honestly, really at this point the LW needs to talk to Karl if they are ever going to give another gift to the adults, they need to directly ask the adult involved. Leave mom out of it.

  • Denise December 30, 2015, 12:24 pm

    So, your mother is keeping track of the things her and/or Karl give and do for you in hopes of a big payout come gift giving times?

    Giving gifts should come without strings attached. It should be done from the heart. It shouldn’t be something done to hold over another’s head.

    If this is your mother’s behavior, it would be a long time before I unblocked her number. And even at that time the relationship would be forever changed.

  • Goldie December 30, 2015, 12:30 pm

    I’ll join in with the commenters that say that this is crazy, irrational, unacceptable behavior. And sorry, but Karl isn’t without blame. He left in a huff, without explanation, five days earlier than he was going to. He never said anything to OP to apologize or otherwise make OP feel better about him and OP’s mother leaving early in a huff. Unless OP’s mother tied and gagged him and physically dragged him along, I’d say he’s not an innocent bystander in this crazy drama.

    I’d be tempted to pay back the 6K as soon as possible and cut ties. Otherwise there will be more of this kind of thing in the future, with the added benefit of OP’s kids being dragged into it as they grow older and can be guilt-tripped into participating.

    • Goldie December 30, 2015, 12:40 pm

      PS. Admittedly, I’ve never cut ties with my own parents. (because, even though we’ve had our share of conflicts, nothing like this story has ever happened.) But my parents have cut some of our relatives off for lesser infractions than this one. Did the relatives talk behind their back, oh yes, you bet they did. One approached me and my husband once and unloaded a monologue on us about how my parents were being ungrateful after all he’d done for them (which was nothing) and after he’d brought them to America (he hadn’t.) Did my parents care what the relatives said behind their backs? Nope. They had peace of mind, a drama-free life, and each other. To them, these benefits far outweighed the downsides of being known in the extended family as two evil people who went around cutting relatives off.

    • clairedelune December 31, 2015, 1:13 am

      I want to cut Karl a little slack because often it’s the spouses of these kinds of people who bear the greatest force of their toxic behavior. If he doesn’t fall in line with OP’s mom’s tantrums, there’s probably hell to pay for him.

      • Goldie December 31, 2015, 10:53 am

        Oh very true, I can imagine that being married to a toxic person is no walk in the park. And it does mess with one’s head as well as with their self-esteem!

      • Becca December 31, 2015, 7:57 pm

        You choose to be married to someone. This woman has shown these malicious gross behaviors for the OP’s entire life it seems. He signed up for it. He goes along with it. I cut him zero slack. He’s an adult and like the OP has a choice to cut this woman out of his life if she makes either one of them miserable.

  • AnaMaria December 30, 2015, 12:31 pm

    I’m sorry, but I have to disagree with the admin. OP, you’re husband comes first and you’re children second- you should be able to enjoy Christmas and other special occasions with them without being manipulated by your mother. This doesn’t sound like a misunderstanding or someone overreacting because of stress- this is a mother who will do anything to feel like the victim and get sympathy, even if it means ruining Christmas for her daughter and daughter’s family. We have no way of knowing if Karl is mortified by her behavior or if he is her accomplice, but, either way, he and the OP’s mother are one social unit and the OP shouldn’t have to try to maintain a relationship with him while trying to protect herself and her family from her mother. If Karl is innocent in all this and he wants to communicate with the OP and her family, then I see no reason for the OP not to try and reciprocate, but if enjoying holidays with her family means that neither Karl nor Mom can come, then so be it.

    Once things have cooled down in a few weeks, I might unblock mom so she can at least apologize for being so irrational, if she chooses- but if the crazy texts start up again, she may need to be blocked for the long term. OP has her own kids to raise; she doesn’t need to fix her mother, too.

  • lakey December 30, 2015, 12:45 pm

    “I have given close to $6000.00 worth of furniture for your house since you have been with your husband. ”

    She’s keeping track of how much money she spends on you? She’s your mom, parents do things for their kids. Many parents really mean it when they tell their adult children that they really don’t need gifts. They say it because they are well enough off financially that there really isn’t anything they need. And, yes, many adults, myself included, would rather concentrate on giving gifts to the children and watching them open their gifts.

    There’s nothing wrong with what you gave her and your stepfather, and I know people who react the way your mother does. They are narcissists who are entirely too focused on themselves. Give your mother and stepfather gifts in the future, but I wouldn’t worry too much about what you get them, because it is likely that no matter what you give them they will whine about it, anyway.

    • clairedelune December 31, 2015, 1:00 am

      I’d love to know whether she actually spent $6000 buying furniture especially for OP or just passed along furniture from her home that she didn’t want anymore, and has estimated the overall value at $6K.

      • OP January 2, 2016, 2:12 pm

        She insisted on buying us a dining table (we already had chairs) for our new home and bought me a bedroom set when I moved across the country. I was very appreciative for these gifts. All other furniture was from her house that she did not want anymore and she did not ask me if I wanted it. She simply brought it over and dropped it off. Some of it I do like and was very appreciative.

    • Cora January 5, 2016, 11:34 am

      My mom was like this — money is very, very important to her, and love is shown via money. Likewise, when she’s spent a lot of money on you, you’d damn well better be grateful enough, which of course is never enough. (My father is oblivious). They gave us half the down-payment for our house; when we sold the house two years later, Mom got that money back first, in full, because I did NOT want to deal with her holding that “gift” over our heads.

  • Callalilly December 30, 2015, 12:50 pm

    This is the problem with Christmas = presents. Only presents.

  • GeenaG December 30, 2015, 12:53 pm

    I would send them a note early next year informing them I would not longer be purchasing gifts for anyone except children, (if that’s your choice). I would just opt out entirely and do nothing more for them other than sending a card with just my signature. Depending on how they act next year you may want to revaluate if you wish to continue spending holidays with them at all, it’s perfectly acceptably to completely opt out if they are going to abuse you. Under no circumstances do anything to “make up” for this years present.

  • Devin December 30, 2015, 12:53 pm

    First, its been a few days so unblock your mother. That behavior is kind of childish in itself. If you still are too upset to talk, ignore her messages. If you don’t unblock her, you are sending a message that you want her out of your life. Unless that’s what you want.
    Second, talk to Karl. He has been in your life since you were a teenager at least, so I assume you know him fairly well. If you clear the air between the two of you, your mother wont have him as an excuse for her behavior. If his feelings were hurt, then this is an opportunity for you to communicate with him and it might end up being your mother purposefully trying to cause a riff in your relationship with him. If there was something you did, and didn’t realize, to hurt his feelings calling him will show that you do care about him and all that he has done for you.
    Is your biological father around? Is this behavior maybe ‘punishment’ for you keeping in contact with him?

  • Phoebe161 December 30, 2015, 12:56 pm

    In all this contrived drama, I don’t see anything about what KARL wanted, said or did, nor anything about the relationship between OP and Karl. That’s what matters, not the drama llama. When the drama llama starts to complain, remind her that the gift is between OP and Karl, not her and refuse to discuss it with her (and don’t allow her to substitute herself for Karl. Nip it in the bud. You don’t owe mom an explanation.

  • rak December 30, 2015, 1:24 pm

    “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.”

    Are you freakin’ kidding me? Christmas morning was ruined because a VOTING ADULT did not get some candy or whatever else you could fit in a stocking? And you think “needless to say” applies here…let me finish how that sentence SHOULD go in the world I like to call Where Mature People Live. “Needless to say, my mother was amused and made a joke of it, lightly teasing us both about forgetting her. We went on to have a lovely Christmas, and The Year that Stockings Forgot is a family joke now.”

    Your mother is a child, throwing a temper tantrum. You have done the adult equivalent of putting her in her room until she calms down, which is how good parents discipline selfish, tyrannical children. Good for you. Keep it up.

    • Cat December 30, 2015, 7:11 pm

      If I were not a mature, rational adult who believes in good manners, I would have been so tempted to fill Mom’s stocking with coal or rocks. Santa knows if you have been naughty or nice.

  • Cat2 December 30, 2015, 2:13 pm

    OP, understand that you cannot win. You will NEVER be able to win. If you had given a TH gift card, she would have complained about the amount that you chose.

    If you have a way to reach out separately to Karl, I would do so with a brief explanation “Hi Karl, Mom has made it clear to me that my gift to you guys was not something that worked for you. I would like to apologize most sincerely, and let you know that I really was trying to think of you guys, but it appears that I missed the boat on that. I want you to know that I appreciate you and all that you have done for me and my family. Love, OP”

    Do not unblock your mother. Not until you are capable of handling her more calmly, with the understanding that nothing will ever be good enough, she will always find fault, and that is about her and not about you. It’s also perfectly fine to never unblock her because even if you become capable of that, you just don’t want to talk to her. Don’t worry about becoming “the evil person in the family who did such and such” when it comes at a cost that you can’t bear. Just decide whether you can live with that tagline (even if you get tagged with it) in return for the peace of not dealing with your mother’s drama. By the same lights, she may be “the mother who was so evil/nasty/hurtful to her daughter that her daughter stopped talking to her”.

    • NotCinderll January 12, 2016, 12:07 pm

      The thing is, no matter what OP does, she’s going to be “the evil person who did [fill in the blank]”. When it’s clear you’re going to lose no matter what you do, best to preserve your sanity.

  • David December 30, 2015, 2:16 pm

    Mom didn’t get anything in her stocking so Christmas was ruined? Mom got a book she didn’t want to read and slammed it on the table? Mom left the present in the cupboards because it “wasn’t good enough?”

    Frankly, I’d probably start replacing the six grand worth of furniture and pay to have it all shipped back to mom’s house. Then maybe I would unblock her on my phone.

    Seriously, what happens when your children are old enough to want to give Grandma a Christmas present? Is she going to treat them the way she treats you?

    Right now the hurt is very fresh. Keep mom blocked until you are able to be calm about the situation, but definitely do some thinking about how you want to move forward. Then when you unblock the phone and if the subject comes up, tell your mother how you will be moving forward with this situation.

    • tNostalgicGal January 2, 2016, 3:45 pm

      I do like the idea of replace all the furniture, hire a van/moving company and have it all delivered to her front yard, with the big card taped on something saying “Thank you for your generous loan, happy to be able to finally return it.” (snarky me off)

  • OP December 30, 2015, 2:17 pm

    I think that Karl was happy with the present but was not allowed to show it. Through the years he and I have shared many looks to one another when my mom was upset over something, which occurred very frequently. We learned that disagreeing or saying anything at all was not worth being berated and/or getting thrown out of the house. Now that I have my own home and family, I’m only realizing now that I’m still behaving the way I did when I was growing up under her roof. My brother didn’t speak to her for over 2 years when she was being completely unreasonable with him. Now their relationship is a very superficial one but at least she knows that she isn’t allowed to hurt him anymore.
    Maybe I need to do the same.

    • Cat2 December 30, 2015, 5:17 pm

      If that’s what it gets to take her to quit this, yeah. You say that his relationship with her is very superficial – but when you think about it, can you really say that yours is any different if you remove all the drama moments or things that resulted in drama moments? (I will not say *caused* because it sounds like it is not your actions that instigated the drama. Therefore, the fact that it happened doesn’t mean it was “caused” by something you did.)

    • rak December 30, 2015, 9:14 pm

      Absolutely. This is the key-you have your own home and family now. Maybe you had to take a lot of her abuse growing up because you weren’t interacting as equals. But now you are an adult and things have changed. Make it a rule for yourself right now-no guest is allowed to hurt my feelings or make me feel bad about myself under my own roof.

      And yes, going forward, if you do start talking to your mom again, make it clear that there will be no more gifts among the adults and tell her exactly why. Don’t be rude, just firm. You don’t seem to be able to make her happy, and her unhappiness hurts your feelings and makes you feel bad, which see above re: your roof, your rules. Further, you do not want such poor manners modeled to your children. So, it’s better for everyone if you just don’t do presents.

    • Fluffy December 31, 2015, 9:19 am

      Frankly, this sounds a lot like the stories on the Raised by Narcissists group on Reddit. Might be worth looking into. Lots of people have had similarly lousy Christmases because of their parents’ antics.

    • PJ December 31, 2015, 11:44 pm

      Follow your brother’s example and get some emotional distance between you and her. You will be happy you did, and you will be modeling healthy choices for your children. I’m sorry that this was your experience of mothers and Christmas — it is time to make better memories!

    • darqmommy January 6, 2016, 1:43 pm

      Darling, he is a classic enabling husband. A narcissist needs a spouse who will let her get away with her disgusting behavior in public and toward her own children.
      Now you know.

  • Jazzgirl205 December 30, 2015, 2:24 pm

    This is what you do. Never again accept large amounts of money from your Mother. It will be tempting but don’t do it. You will feel more like and adult and it will rob her of ammunition. Secondly, to keep your children from having this attitude, teach them that Xmas is celebrated by giving gifts – not receiving them. The fact that they receive gifts is because other people are celebrating Xmas. This will teach them not to expect gifts from everyone every year or that gifts are a tit-for-tat exchange. Get them excited about what they are going to get or do for others. They will be much happier with this attitude.

    • Also Anonymous December 30, 2015, 8:41 pm

      Better yet, maybe Christmas with Mom and Karl should be based on “experience gifts” from now on. I don’t mean like handing over movie passes, or an art gallery membership, or something tangible with an easily measurable dollar value, I mean including a special family activity before or after Christmas itself, like going ice skating, or for a walk to look at Christmas lights, followed by hot chocolate, or if you go to church, going to Midnight Mass together, especially if the kids are old enough to participate in the Mass somehow, by singing in the choir or acting in the Nativity pageant. It doesn’t really matter what you do; the point is to reset expectations so that no money or tangible items will change hands, in order to focus instead on enjoying doing something together as a family.

    • daphne January 3, 2016, 5:11 pm

      Perfect advice, Jazzgirl!