Holidays always stir up a lot of emotions for people because there’s a lot to consider. No matter what the approaching holiday is, it’s common to have to balance meals, family members, and even gifts.
Recently, one dad took to a Reddit forum to work out a solution to a problem: He said his wife never appreciates gifts that anyone gives her, so no one wants to give her presents anymore. He also said that this extends to their children, who are 5 and 2 years old.
“So look, my wife is a great mother in many ways and I love her dearly, but she is [expletive] at getting gifts. Back when we were dating, when I rang her doorbell with a dozen roses, she opened the door and immediately said “you can’t afford that!” This, I’m afraid, is fairly typical of her response when given anything. Not even strained politeness but usually a directly negative response. It’s hard for me – my family are big gift-givers- but I’m an adult and love her enough to find other ways to show it. So on birthdays I buy her the exact thing she requests and other times I just restrain myself entirely.”
Since Mother’s Day was this past weekend, he had been thinking about this a lot:
“Our kids (5m,2f), though, lack this perspective. They do what kids do (‘look mommy I found this stick in the yard for you!). They find her response to this as demoralizing as I do.
“I work nights and sleep in late. I woke up this morning to a text to the effect that she had asked the kids to make her a card for Mother’s Day and they responded with great enthusiasm that they wanted to make them… for MY mother.”
His mom and his wife apparently have had tension for a while:
“The longstanding tension between wife and mother is largely outside the scope of this post, but it is sadly quite severe, which partly explains why this bothered her as much as it clearly did. She thinks the fact that the kids ‘prefer’ their grandma is my fault. I didn’t point it out in the moment for obvious reasons, and I ultimately pestered the kids into making her ‘cards’ (kid scribbles that I helped them sign their names to), but WIBTA if I found a good moment to remonstrate with her? To explain that the reason nobody wants to give her nice things is because she habitually [expletive] all over any she gets that she didn’t pick out herself in advance? And that my mom always shows enthusiasm and delight in every bunch of dandelions or lump of dirt she gets, so the kids naturally think of her when they think of giving nice things to people?”
And this has been going on so long that he and his wife have decided that generally, she’ll pick out her own gifts:
“For years we have had a pattern. After numerous abortive attempts to surprise her (with gifts, with dates or outings, with meals I made, and so on), I have largely given up on creativity. So, for birthdays, for Christmas, for Mother’s Day, and so on, what I do is, I ask her what she wants and then I do that.”
Since this is their established pattern, that’s what he did for Mother’s Day. After asking her what she wanted to do, he said she didn’t take his question very seriously:
“She sort of snorted and said ‘nothing.’ Then a couple of days later, she said that what she wanted for Mother’s Day was to get her and the kids dressed up nice and have me take a picture. I said I’d help with that, but asked her to remember that I was working overnight and would be asleep for much of the morning.”
He also tried to help the kids out, since they’re little:
“She has a favorite candy bar that she always places on the grocery list whenever I go (I do most of our shopping). I bought her a bunch of them on the last trip, but held one out to save for Mother’s Day. Last night (since I wouldn’t be up) I gave it to the kids to give to her. All very secretive and hush-hush. They enjoyed the conspiracy and ran into the room with big smiles on their faces to give it to her. She, however, was disposed to inform them that she had already had one that day. She put it casually to the side. She wasn’t mean, just… disinterested and tactless. I guess the kids pretty much shrugged it off.”
The dad wrote that he slept in until 2 p.m. on Mother’s Day, since he worked the night before. When he woke up, he offered to get the kids ready to take the photo his wife requested, but she said she wasn’t interested. At a loss, he decided to ask the internet for help, with a caveat:
“Maybe I’m clumsy. Maybe I’m doing a bad job adjusting to her love language. Certainly I’m not the kind of mind reader it would take to know I was supposed to ignore her stated preference about how to mark the day. But kindly do not accuse me of not trying.”
Luckily, people had a lot of helpful ideas and solutions for the family of four. A teacher of young children noted that when it comes to kids, you take all the gifts:
“This past year alone, my students have gifted me half-eaten sandwiches, rocks, a lizard, a dead lizard, dozens of cards, pepper, dandelions, and half-eaten snacks given with dirt-covered hands.
“Even if you secretly throw it out later, you accept that gift and you act like it’s the best gift you’ve ever received. They want to share–they’re showing you they care about you and think about you–and you want to encourage that as much as you can.”
And another person said they grew up with similar parents, and the experience still hurts:
“You know what? It hurts. Do I have a relationship with my parents? No. It got drilled into me at an early age, over and over again that what I did wasn’t ever good enough so don’t bother trying. Will that happen to OP’s [the original poster’s] kids? Maybe, maybe not. Who knows. Don’t give your kids reasons to not have a relationship with them later on.”
Another person said to address the issue head-on with his wife using constructive criticism (and to avoid drawing comparisons to his mom):
“Your wife has been unintentionally hurting people who care about her, and if you can summon a whole lot of tact, it’s important you tell her OP. Definitely don’t compare her to your mother, but tell her you’re concerned that the kids feel disappointed after they gift her something. Give her concrete suggestions. ‘When Timmy gave you the candy, you told him you’d already had one and just set it on the dresser. I feel like he was hoping to make you happy, and he would have been thrilled if you told him you love that candy and you’ll save it to eat on Mother’s Day.'”
Another person agreed that the issue needs to be confronted, but added that the dad needs to be making sure his young kids have gifts and not putting it all on them:
“You need to address this, your wife should not be shaming your kids for getting gifts. Also, in the future, YOU should be the one making sure your kids make mother’s day cards and/or gifts. They do not know they are young, this is YOUR job.”
The dad offered an update, and thanked everyone for their comments. He also said that he thinks they need to seek professional help, which is probably the best idea:
“We’re looking at the flip side of that here, and most of us are in agreement it’s a problem – but it’s only a problem, not an indication that she’s a horrible abusive wife and mother. She makes our children feel loved and safe and special every single day in a dozen different ways.
“No argument she/we might need counseling, though – it is my view that substantially the entire human race could benefit from some professional counseling.”