There are a lot of things about being a parent that can make you feel like you’re walking a tightrope. The balance between encouraging and demanding, the one between laid-back and stringent, and a million other small decisions that could, you know, change the fate of a human being.

One that we don’t have control over (most of the time) are the gifts our kids get from others. Whether they come wrapped at a party or are given when we’re not on site, sometimes they appear and we have to deal with them, one way or another.

Here are 11 gifts that upset the apple carts for these parents.

11. Some people deserve so much better.

Yes, and my reaction was not good and I was ashamed of myself.

My youngest child was a foster child – in care for life. We could never adopt him because birth parents would not give permission. The birth mother visited him at times but he was 10 before he met the birth father. I had very little notice that this was about to happen, very little time to prepare my son.

We arrived at the meeting place to find not only the birth father there but his current girlfriend (temporary girlfriend as it turned out) and her two children. Apparently she arranged this visit from another state to see ‘his’ son – with a beach holiday for her kids thrown in. He had never made the effort to find us or contact us. He claimed he had ‘tried’ but all he had to do was phone Family Services and ask.

They both had piles of gifts for my son – in fact treated him as if he was a deprived child living in squalor. They were not interested in his family or his life of the type of person he was.

One of the gifts was a full set of Roald Dahl books – from a grandmother we’d never heard of.

Now I knew those books and my thoughts on Roald Dahl – not shared by others, I know – was that they were okay for adults but could have a negative effect on some children – and I knew my boy.

I was so stressed, so angry with these ignorant people, so angry with Family Services for approving this sham of a visit – a Saturday with me present and the Sunday without me – and so concerned for my son, and so determined to declare MY authority in the situation – that I picked on those books as a way to express that.

I said , ‘You can take these back. I don’t like that author and I won’t let him read them’.

My son didn’t notice – he was too busy with all the cars and trucks and new pairs of pajamas, and Lego sets he was opening.

Yes. I wanted to show them that I WAS THE BOSS and this was MY son. And I felt ashamed right away.

There is a part two and a part three to this story.

At age 18 my son went looking for his past. I had expected this and did not stop him in any way. He found he could not get on with the birth mother so went another 1,000 miles to find the birth father he’d not seen since that visit – and actually lived with the birth father for about five years. That man got him hooked on drugs. Dragged him down as low as anyone can go.

I lost touch with my boy for a few years, except for one phone call asking for money for a car – and I sent it, knowing it was not for a car. He has since told me how ashamed he felt about that but he owed the money to a bad person.

Then one night he phoned me from the men’s toilet in a bar. He said he had just realised that while his birth father was 45 he lived like an out of control 17 year old and he (the son) had to make a change or he’d end up the same way.

My boy did save himself. It took him another ten years. And he found someone to love and he got married and they had children.

And he made contact with his natural father again because living in the same area they knew the same people. At times he would tell me that he was fed up with the old man because of his behavior and wasn’t speaking to him – but when the old man got stomach cancer and had three months to live … guess who traveled 90 mins each way to visit the hospital every Sunday, with the children, and on the way home from work every Monday until the end.

My son did.

10. Invest in a bite guard.

Several times. Mostly it was the stereotypical “who in their right mind gives a toddler a drum!?” or other version “loud toy is LOUD please don’t give this to my kids!!!!” It bothered me for all of 5 minutes, then I shrugged and moved on.

There are two times I was really bothered by gifts given to my kids. One I think just about anyone will agree with a legit issue, the other, well, it’s a grey area.

The first, was shortly after my ex got married. My parents had, around the same time as the wedding (I don’t remember exactly when, but that same winter) taken us to court trying to get custody of my older kids (for the first time) and ended up with visitation.

I’m pretty sure they were trying to buy the kids affections, because EVERYTIME they came back from visitation they would have 2 or 3 or 4 new toys. Sometimes they came in with entire bags of new toys.

In and of itself, this wouldn’t have bothered me worth anything. But when my ex got married my kids got step siblings. My kids coming home with loads of new toys all the time caused HUGE issues between my kids and their new siblings just as they were learning to live together.

My parents didn’t care. They wanted to give the kids toys, so they were going to give the kids toys. It was the kind of self absorbed thoughtlessness I’d come to expect from them.

My kid’s stepmother tried talking to my mom about it. Stepmother… had issues communicating in a healthy way. Upshot, next time we were in court mom was able to claim that stepmother tried to insist that mom buy toys for stepkids too.

The other time that bothers me, was when my family (me, younger son, and partner. Had lost all custody of older kids by this point) were homeless. We ended up in a shelter that was supported by a number of local churches.

Let me be clear that I truly, deeply, appreciate everything those wonderful people did for us while we with them. Being in that shelter was the first step to getting out of the downward spiral and back on our feet.

But we were there over Christmas. And we’re Jewish.

Now, the whole time we were in the shelter, we were dealing with VERY religious Christians. I understand that their religion was the main driver in them helping us. But by the time Christmas rolled around I was kinda rubbed raw with the in-your-face religiosity. And being in a shelter is really stressful not just because you are homeless but also because you have no control. Imagine moving back in with your parents at 30 years old and needing to abide by the rules they set. No matter how grateful you are for the roof over your head, having a curfew and shit is going to rub you wrong.

So Christmas was very much salt on the wounds. No one asked the shelter residents if we wanted a Christmas tree or Christmas decorations (if they did, I’m sure the other residents would have wanted them, and that’s okay, but no one asked, it was just assumed). No one asked us if we wanted to participate in a Christmas celebration. It just happened.

They did ask what stuff we’d like for Christmas gifts. I don’t remember everything we asked for, but I remember gritting my teeth when my son unwrapped the Christmas-themed coloring books.

The shelter knew we were Jewish. We’d celebrated Hanukkah while we were there and made sufganiyot to share with the staff and residents.

To this day we have those coloring books, because years of not having anything and making due makes me resist throwing anything out if it can possibly still be of use. And they are just about the only coloring books we have.

My daughter scribbles in them sometimes. And I encourage her to because she doesn’t know Christmas or Santa, she just knows crayons make pretty colors.

But I still grit my teeth every time I see them.

9. I needed this funny one.

Not my child, but someone gave me a present that was just… ‘what were you thinking!?’

Some relatives were visiting and bought me a birthday present. Having known about my passion for shooting, shooting games and shooting toys growing up, they bought me a skeet shooting toy.

It was basically a little orange toaster that launched a couple discs about 5 feet into the air. When you pointed the provided infrared laser ‘gun’ at the discs, they would pop into two halves indicating a hit.

It would have been an okay present… had I been turning 8 instead of 18.

The really mind bending part is that night before they had given me the toy, we had discussed our hobbies and shooting was mentioned. I’m pretty sure the fact that I had my minors firearms license came up, as well as our possession of a 20 gauge semi-auto shotgun that was an absolute blast to go skeet shooting with, among other things.

When our relatives retired for the night, my parents and I looked at each other, wide-eyed shaking our heads. In hushed voices we exchanged exasperated words like “How old do they think you are?” and “I though we said that we go shooting actual guns these days!”.

It was decided that I would just have to set up and play with the toy at least once while they were visiting. My brother and I spent about 45 minutes sitting in the grass ‘shooting’ plastic discs in half.

It wasn’t wholly boring, it was just underwhelming and got old pretty fast. We mostly discussed our theories on how the thing worked, bitched about how it only registered hits when you were three feet away from it, and tried various things to make it more challenging. Once our quota had been filled, we headed inside to do something a bit more satisfying and less family-friendly. Like drinking beer and working together to blow the heads off of simulated undead Nazis.

My relatives can’t have been fully unaware of their blunder, because the following Christmas I received a proper clay pigeon launcher. Unfortunately, we already had one of superior quality since before the first fiasco. Nonetheless, I put it together and gave it a try. It worked, but not as well as our other one and took up more space. After a year of collecting dust, I took it apart and added it to my ever growing pile of scrap stuff in the garage. That skeet thrower has slowly become part of various DIY fixes and custom machines over the years, so it didn’t go entirely unappreciated.

Oh, and the laser skeet toaster was either re-gifted to a more fitting child, or given to a thrift shop, I can’t remember. Hopefully whoever ended up with it was able to enioy it.

The moral of the story is that gift cards are brilliant and cash is even more brilliant. Also, much can be learned from a simple phone call.

If in the unlikely event that the relatives in question come across this answer… well, I hope you can laugh about it too.

8. It doesn’t seem like they were thinking about the child.

Not my child, as I don’t have kids. Instead, this refers to gifts my sister received.

My parents adopted my sister when she was about 5 years old (and for reference, when I was 15). Prior to staying with us, she lived in a fos-adopt family with her 2 year old brother for about 6 months. During that time, they told her how much they loved her and how they were going to be her new parents. In the end, they decided they only wanted to adopt her brother, and she went back into a temporary home for a brief time before she came to live with us. (Also, for reference – my parents in this case are my dad and stepmom, and my sister is technically my half-sister – in my every day life, these distinctions aren’t important, but they are somewhat helpful to know later on.)

During her first few weeks with us- while she enjoyed staying with us- she would frequently cry at night and ask to call her previous foster family. At first, my parents allowed it, and the other family would tell her how much they loved and missed her. This caused her to be more distressed when they hung up, and she would cry even more. Eventually, my parents decided this was setting unhealthy hopes for my little sister, and stopped letting her call them.

During the next few years, my parents would still invite these people to her birthday parties, mostly so she could see her younger brother. They would always get her extravagant presents, like giant stuffed animals that dwarfed (often literally) everyone else’s gifts to her.

Eventually, my parents stopped inviting these people to events, although they still sent my sister gifts. My parents have never been into flashy gifts, and my stepmother eventually asked this couple to limit their gifts to $10 or under.

The worst instance was one Christmas when my parents got my little sister a portable CD player (this was over a decade ago). My little sister was about 10 years old, and I remember coming into the house and seeing her having a great time wearing her new headphones and dancing to one of her CDs. My other siblings by birth and I would spend Christmas morning with my mom, then head over to my dad and stepmom’s house in the early afternoon to exchange presents. They didn’t want my little sister to have to wait all morning to open presents, so she would open their gifts first, then gifts from others when we arrived. One of the gifts was from this old foster family – and they sent my 10 year old sister an iPod. I remember seeing the excitement on her face – and the awkward faces of everyone else. The CD player was quickly forgotten.

This gift bothered me for a variety of reasons. Firstly, my parents had specifically given a price limit that was not unreasonable for a gift to give a 10 year old, but even if it wasn’t, it was completely inappropriate for them to disregard it. Secondly, being that it was very much in the same category (but obviously far more expensive and more modern) as the gift they gave, it ended up completely overshadowing their gift (especially considering they are not the kind of parents to give their adolescent children fancy technology – again, this was over a decade ago).

But lastly, the biggest thing that bothered me about it was that (the way I see it) these despicable people used expensive or attractive presents to ease their own guilt for building up and smashing the hopes of a young child with complete disregard to the consequences it would have on her mental well-being. They also had a complete disregard about how it was straining her relationship with her new family by making them seem like the bad guys/stingy during what should have been happy occasions. I also suspect that these presents s stirred memories of sadness/rejection.

In this case, the receiver paid the bigger price for these fancy gifts.

7. She sounds like a great mother.

Yes… But in context.

I have 3 kids. 2 boys and a girl. In context, we try to provide a short list of things the kids want differently to each set of grandparents- after the kids got the same thing one year from all of them for Christmas.

My daughter is my middle child and only girl.

A few years ago, she wanted some drones (like her brothers), fishing rods (both my inlaws are huge fishermen) and swim stuff. She is a jock and was into competitive swimming and soccer at the time. She hated pink and thing overtly feminine. She is definitely a tomboy. I love her the way she is.

My mother in law got her all kinds of clothes, pink stuff, and dolls. Nothing she wanted at 9 years old. Her brothers got all sort of cool drones, fishing rods and stuff, that she asked for- directly.

She was so upset. My heart broke for her. Her brothers had cool science experiments, electronics, and she got clothes, dolls, and lots of pink.

I also looked over and my oldest niece got cookbooks and clothes and my nephew got some cool fishing gear. Again what my daughter wanted.

She was heart broken. Mine was for her. I really wanted to say something to my mother in law, but it seemed in keeping with what SHE thought my daughter would want solely based on gender stereotypes.

I debated on if I should say something to my mother in law. Instead, I gave my kid a fishing rod- and electronics, just because, a bit later. I told my daughter I would make it right for her. I tried to explain that her grandmother thought she was getting gifts for her that she would like.

Honestly, I am glad I did not say something. This turned out to be our last Christmas with my mother in law. She passed away on December 23rd of the following year extremely unexpectedly. It didn’t matter much then.

I was very disappointed my mother-in-law was so tied to gender stereotypes that she missed seeing the awesome granddaughter she had. How smart, sweet and lovely she is. That girls CAN like technology.

She only thought my daughter was the jock who needed to be more feminine. And not how smart she is and how she wanted things that were interesting as well. She told me that my son was the intellectual- she was my jock- my youngest, the class clown. Yes, that is a part of my kids, but far from the only parts of who they are.

But, my kids needed to know how to deal with disappointment as well. My daughter held it together until she got to her bed and then she sobbed. I was proud of her not making a scene and giving me the chance to make it right. I did not think it was right, but we could handle it without causing a scene.

Maybe not good parenting. But it is what I felt was right and just.

6. Well that’s pretty icky.

YES. A family next door gave my children NIV Bibles.

The Bible itself does not bother me, nor does Christianity. As a matter of fact, we’re homeschoolers, so we’ll be using those Bibles as textbooks for a Religions of the World course we’re taking this year.

What did bother me is that these individuals know we’re not Christian. My family practices no religion or belief system/doctrine, while they are very strictly Christian. Their children have said things to my children that bother me very much, like implying they’re going to hell, asking them about how they want to have sex with their husbands and wives, and blessing the number of children they plan to have (thoughts of this at 8 and 9 years old).

Aside from all things, the gift of the Bible was the most bothersome. If they’d asked me first, I would have been fine with it, and I got over the actual gift itself. What I couldn’t settle with was the obvious disrespect for me as a parent and the blatant attempt to undermine our nonbeliefs by handing my children their religious doctrine behind my back and telling them they should go to church.

They don’t understand how we work. They were just trying to “save” my kids behind my back. Lol. I also understand that they feel a need to educate children they believe are being misled (for the greater good).

I can forgive the action because I do understand Baptist Christianity and the fact that they are urged to “spread the word,” if you will.

And again, exposure to this religion does not bother me. I don’t hide my kids away from any religion. We learn about them all. That’s not the point.

The point is, they did something with my children that they would have been highly upset if someone did with their children. It’s a double standard piled on thick.

I know this because they’ve told me. They are homeschooling their children for different reasons than I am. We homeschool because we travel for work, and I was tired of never seeing my children. We decided to just do this together, and it’s been a beautiful experience.

They homeschool to avoid their children being exposed to any values that are not Christian. To protect their kids from worldliness. These were their words.

So what truly upset me, shoe on other foot, had I given their children a copy of my pagan encyclopedia or Quran or a guide to atheism, they would have flipped their shit.

Because I’m not Christian, I don’t have the same respect from those parents. They won’t treat my parenting as they’d like theirs treated because, to them, I’m inferior.

I also know this is a battle I cannot win. Because of their belief system, they feel this is their duty. According to their ethics, this is a burden they bear, even if it means they make enemies along the way.

You can’t convince someone like this that it’s not okay and say, “if I gave your kid a copy of the Satanic doctrine, you’d be upset,” because duh…their Bible is the truth! All other religions are wrong!

The more children influenced, the better (in their belief), so I cannot reason with them.

Again…I don’t care if the kids have Bibles. We kept them, and we’re going to use them along with a copy I already had, and had they been courteous enough to ask (considering their own feelings about beliefs), I would have been okay with the gift. If my kids asked for them, I would have been fine. If my other neighbors who I know are also open to education in every religion, although they’re Sufi, had given my children copies of religious doctrine, it would not have bothered me because we’ve discussed this subject. They understand my feelings and respect me, as I do them.

Their kids don’t tell my kids they’re going to hell. That helps, as well. Haha

The mere idea that this was done as some attempt to save and/or convert my children, topped with talks about going to hell and church, really pissed me off.

“Do unto others,” yeah? Unless…lol

5. This story is more common than we think.

My aunt was not someone I was terribly close to until my father died. At that point we just kind of picked up the tradition of a weekly phone call each Sunday night as we’d separately had with my father for years.

While my aunt never had kids and wasn’t all that interested in them (though she was a fine aunt to me when I was a kid and I have fond memories of horseback riding and such with her) she would send a box of books from the used book store along with a $10 bill to each of my kids each year. This was great.

She left the mainline Protestant church that was in our family’s heritage and joined a more fundamentalist one. She talked often of her enlightenment having thrown off the shackles of progressive Christianity. I was still raising the children in the mainline church, at least nominally. She kept asking what I was doing about their eternity and I tried to shake off the discussion.

Then she sent them for their book box a collection of fundamentalist Christian books for kids. One of them suggested that Ezekiel’s vision of chariots was really UFOs and spaceships. Others said the Israelites and the dinosaurs had lived together and the earth was 6,000 years old. (This one bothered me tremendously because my aunt was a scientist! She had a Master’s degree in Botany and knew very well that there are many plant species for one thing that are millions of years old.)

I wrote her to tell her to please not send any more religious material to my children.

She harumphed about it and never sent them any more gifts, which I guess is just as well. A few years later our phone calls abruptly dropped off. Nothing I could see precipitated it. It turns out she had early onset dementia. I allowed my cousin (also her niece) to take care of selling her house, getting her into a memory care center, and her death and burial, because she’s older, richer, and has a much emptier nest than I do. When I first found out about the dementia, I had a child in the hospital 300 miles in the other direction from her place, 400 miles from my home, so I said I couldn’t help.

She died this year. It’s not so much that I miss her, but I miss the auntie of my childhood.

4. A sad story with a hopeful ending.

As a child, I was given a seemingly innocent gift (a catcher’s mitt), that really bothered my father. To understand why, it does require a bit of backstory (for context: this story took place in the early 90’s):

I didn’t have the greatest father in the world, but I loved him very much and I know he loved me. He tried to be a good father, but he had some major shortcomings, primarily the fact that he was a major, semi-functioning alcoholic. He was very selfish with his time and emotions and the search for the next drink often consumed the waking hours of his life. He didn’t like to do things that didn’t revolve around alcohol so he didn’t have much time for activities where it would be inappropriate to have a beer in his hand. This didn’t leave a lot of time for recreational activities. It wasn’t until my early 20’s that I even realized his lifestyle and my childhood wasn’t entirely normal. I’m certainly not saying I had a troubled upbringing, I was loved deeply and my mother worked very hard to provide for our family. My father had a great sales job up until I was in about 3rd grade; however, after he quit that job he remained unemployed (or underemployed) for a large portion of my childhood. Despite this, I never wanted for anything and had (what I thought was) a typical childhood filled with sports and other activities.

I played little league every year and although my father had his priorities, I never missed a game. He would always have time to get me there (with his beer, or road soda in a koozie), just not the time to stay. I don’t ever remember playing catch with my Dad, or ever having a real conversation about anything meaningful. My Mom worked in real estate without a college degree and brought home a modest single income. Despite a tight budget, I always had a roof over my head, food, warm clothes, toys, a bike and second-hand sporting equipment. None of my “things” were ever top of the line or brand name, but I never went without and my Mom made sure life was relatively normal. Most of my childhood necessities were purchased at flea markets or used sporting goods stores, like Play-It-Again Sports. I don’t think back on any of that with any negative sentiment, in fact, quite the opposite. Some of my fondest memories of my father were spent at Denio’s Roseville Flea Market, bargaining for a new to me used glove, baseball cards or a knock-off t-shirt. Now back to the answer to the question….

My parents had a good friend named Jack and his family had their own construction business. Jack was not what I would call wealthy, but he provided for his family and they were comfortable. Jack was a good man and he taught me a lot. He even gave me my first job where I learned a great deal about work ethic and responsibility. After doing construction all summer at 14 (mainly grunt work like cleanup and hanging wires from the ceiling), I certainly knew I wanted to go to College. One summer when my parents went out of town I stayed with Jack and his family.

Early one Saturday morning after breakfast he took me out to play catch. We laughed, talked about things and played ball. It was wholesome, and I really looked up to him. After a while, he said, “I thought you played catcher?” I told him that I did, and he asked if I wanted to get my catcher’s mitt and field some balls in the dirt. I told him that I would do that at practice, but that I didn’t have a catcher’s mitt. He looked at my ratty old mitt and asked if I wanted one. It was an innocent gesture and at the time, did not seem inappropriate. Having never owned a new baseball glove, I eagerly agreed and we drove to Sports Authority, a store I frequented, but only to browse. We looked at various gloves and he suggested a few very expensive ones. Not wanting to take advantage of his generosity, I picked out a mid-grade glove. It wasn’t top of the line, but it was a brand new Rawlings in black leather. It was the least expensive glove they made (a low-end model), but it was new and smelled of fresh leather. It also looked very cool in black and had a fairly reasonable price tag. Jack asked if I was sure and he bought it for me.

Jack showed me how to condition the mitt and took me out to play catch a few more times to break it in. Looking back on it, I think Jack was doing things with me that he would have liked to have done with his own son. He had raised daughters and I think he enjoyed getting to teach a young man some things that his father had shown him. A few days later, when I was back at home, my father saw the new glove in the garage and asked me where I got it. I told him that it had come from Jack and that he had shown me how to oil it and break it in. My father got very upset and I didn’t understand why. He told me that it was inappropriate and that I needed to give the glove back to him and that I should not have accepted the gift.

Begrudgingly, I agreed and we drove to Jack’s house. I don’t remember exactly what my father said, but I do remember the sentiment revolved around “That is my son!” and “What, you don’t think I can afford to buy my son nice things!?” I don’t remember exactly what was said, but Jack was the type of guy that was hard to be mad at. He brushed it off as a simple gesture to help kill some time on the weekend and that it really wasn’t a big deal. He said something like, “Well, we can’t take it back after putting all of that oil on it. I’ll throw it away if you want me to, but he really seems to like it, so just take it and enjoy it.” He also apologized and said he didn’t mean anything by it and that I was a good kid. Ultimately, I ended up getting to keep that glove and I cherished it all through my short little league and high school baseball career.

So, there you have it, my Dad’s friend bought me a baseball glove and it bothered the hell out of my Father. I always felt bad about that situation, especially for Jack, but looking back I know my father was never really mad at him. I think he was mad at himself and his shortcomings as a Father. I think the connection that Jack and I had made him jealous….but not jealous enough to ever take me out to play catch, or stay and watch a game. As a new father of two daughters, I hope to do better.

3. The sweetest story about an annoying toy ever.

Not so much bothered, as annoyed. My son was maybe 2ish, my mom absolutely doted on him. She had just survived her first cancer battle and he was her entire life. I think she knew that there were many circumstances that, had they been slightly different, would have resulted in her not being in his life. Those exact circumstances somehow aligned later on, and she lost her second battle with cancer when my daughter was 4 weeks old. Knowing that she may have never had a chance to be in my son’s life, I had no rules when it came to her relationship with him. Even more so during my second pregnancy, when she knew it was just a matter of time. I didn’t want to interfere in any way with their relationship, the memories they made together, or to control the time they had together in any way. She was an amazing mother and even better grandmother. If she wanted to spoil him in the ways only grandparents can, and that I had no hope of even getting close to as a single mom, I was all for it. We also lived with her for the majority of the time between his birth and her death just before he turned 4. He’s 8 now and he still has great memories of her. I really do cherish the time they had together, and I honestly think that their relationship is a big reason why she managed to live twice as long as doctors expected once she was in Stage IV.

That being said, she spoiled him. I worked at Babies R Us at the time, and she would often bring him to visit during my weekend lunch breaks. She always left with some kind of new toy to occupy him while I worked. This time, it was this little zoo themed musical toy with buttons and all kinds of sounds. God was that thing obnoxious. Everyone in the house hated it and the incessant noise it produced. But my son LOVED it. We didn’t give my mom a hard time for buying it, it really did keep him busy for longer periods of time than any other toy.

Then my daughter got to about 18 months old, we were living across the country from my dad at that point, and for some reason, it came out of the box of toys we’d saved for her. And again, she LOVED it just as much as my son had. Except now, we had two kids, an 18 month old and a 5 year old, constantly pushing the buttons on it. Another 2 years worth of obnoxious noise.

While I think that toy is in the top 3 most annoying toys my kids have ever had, it reminded me of my mom. As much as I hated it, I loved seeing the years of use it got, the smiles it put on my kids’ faces, and knowing that even though she was no longer with us, she had managed to make my daughter happy with something she had purchased so many years before, never once considering how annoying it was to adults, because it made my kids happy.

2. Not the best gran.

It wasn’t for a child but for me, so hopefully this will still count even though it’s from my point of view. Consider it the viewpoint of the receiver, not just the parent.

My brothers were born when I was 12, meaning that for those preceding years, I was the baby of the family. My maternal grandmother has a habit of paying more attention to the youngest of the family. So when they were born, I wasn’t outright ignored, but it was pretty obvious that I wasn’t the one her attention was on. Which is fine, I see my family a couple times a year for Christmas and/or Easter, so it never really bothered me. Now, I was always pretty introverted so my gifts wildly varied already, depending on whatever it was they knew I was into at the time, and I prefer giving gifts to receiving them anyways so the thought was always very nice. But one gift from her always really bothered me.

It was a few years after my brothers were born, I forget exactly how old we all were, but it must have been around 16/17 for me so they were about 4/5. My birthday is in the summer and occasionally my grandmother would send me gifts via the mail for it. So when I got the box from her I was genuinely grateful. Then I opened it. Now, I don’t care if someone gives me hand-me-downs, I would rather something get used rather than tossed, so the used purses of hers I was okay with. I don’t use purses that much, but otherwise I liked them. What got to me were the two other things in the box:

Old used earrings (One of the few things that I do not believe in being handed down just because allergies/hygiene. I know you can wash them but still)


A stack of six brand new coloring books and crayons for my brothers.

It was….a bit of a kick in the gut. I realize that used coloring books would suck, but it felt almost like I was an afterthought. She went out and specifically bought those books and crayons for my brothers. Maybe she was shopping and saw them; most likely she put them together to save on postage. But it still felt awful, like she forgot it was my birthday and just tossed something in to be sure I wasn’t left out. It was the only gift from her I was ever disappointed in.

Perhaps I overreacted, teen angst or something stupid like that, maybe it was her genuinely thinking I would love them. I simply just thanked her the next day and never spoke of it again. I don’t even think my mom knew how hurt I was.

1. Bad grandma.

It’s more of how my mother-in-law treats my 3 kids differently that bothers me and that is reflected in her gifts to them.

I have 3 kids, 2 boys and a girl in the middle of the 2 boys. My MIL is a bitter, self-absorbed person who cares about no one but herself and her own 3 children. She is wealthy (family money) and has never worked a day in her life. She also has 2 boys and a girl. She favors the middle son and younger daughter, and takes every opportunity to belittle my husband, the oldest. It has been like this his entire life. She especially spoiled her daughter.

My husband and his brother both are wonderful, hard-working people, well-liked and respected in their communities and job fields. My husband has had to fend for himself his entire life, and shielded his younger siblings from his mother’s behavior up until he left for college.

When I came into the picture, I was his first girlfriend, his brother and sister had never had a partner either, so I was pretty much the first to “enter” the family. I was met with hostility, of course. When my husband introduced me to his mother, she stared at me for a moment before turning to my husband and said “Why do you bother? She’s a college freshman, she’s going to lose interest in you and leave you for the first thin, good looking guy that comes along.” We’ve been together 14 years now, and I love my husband, big belly and all.

It didn’t help that I am part Native American, and she has used colorful terms to describe that part of me, which she uses when she “thinks” my husband and I aren’t watching. Also, I come from a “lower class” family.

Our kids: my boys have my coloring – dark hair, dark eyes, (lighter than me) olive skin. My daughter is blonde, fair-skinned, and blue-eyed. She favors my daughter ENORMOUSLY.

She gives my daughter lavish, age-inappropriate gifts, like a huge, fancy dollhouse that’s more suited for a 8 year old than a 2 year old. That dollhouse was destroyed in 6 months, just because a 2 year old, even a gentle one like my daughter, is not going to understand the limits of fragile items. Not to mention we do not have the space for big, fancy toys. My MIL is aware of this and takes the time to make jabs about how we need to stop living like serfs and get a bigger house.

The boys? She often “forgets” to give them gifts. When she does remember, it’s usually used clothes (which we don’t mind because we get thrift store clothes for the kids already, but it just goes to show the difference in gifts for the boys and my daughter) and used toys or cheap, already-broken toys.

My oldest son (5 years old) is a sweet, gentle kid who loves cars, animals, dolls, dollhouses, and the colors pink, purple, and green. My MIL takes every opportunity to try and “make him into a real boy”. He overheard her say this once and was upset because he thought he was a “real boy” already, and didn’t understand why Nana said he wasn’t.

He is also old enough to notice the discrepancy in the gifts Nana gives him and our youngest son, and the gifts she gives our daughter. It hurts his feelings so we’ve started to hide and check Nana’s gifts for our daughter so we can get gifts for the boys that’s as good as what our daughter gets.

I hate this. I’m perfectly fine with cutting the woman out of our lives, because there is nothing that benefits us in continuing this. But my husband doesn’t want to. I think a small part of him believes and hopes that she will have a change of heart (I say “what heart?”).

Not to mention- in the 14 years my husband and I have been together, she has never once remembered my birthday. For the first 5 years of our lives together, she would misspell my first and last name, even giving me entirely new names on occasion.

Christmas gifts, she will give my husband a gift and say it is for both of us when it’s clearly for him, or clearly used to make a jab at me. Once, she gave us used cleaning tools and said that it was so he could try and help me keep the house clean.

Last year, she gave ME a gift. It was only because my brother in law had his first serious girlfriend and she was spending Christmas with them. My MIL likes her. She’s thin, beautiful, and comes from a well-to-do family (please don’t get me wrong, I love my BIL’s girlfriend, it’s just how my MIL sees things). So, my MIL got her a gift, a really nice, expensive gift. She knew my brother in law would have chewed her out if she didn’t get me a gift too, so she got me one. I opened it, and it was a stack of dirty old magazines. Not “dirty” as in nudes, but dirty as in she pulled it out of the garbage bin.

I burst out in uncontrollable laughter, because this was creative and took her a lot of EFFORT. She had collected magazines that were all related to how to decorate houses, how to design and stage luxury homes, how to keep homes clean, etc.

I just feel so, so bad for my husband because he’s the sweetest person and to have endured the emotional and mental abuse his mother put him through growing up…

I have learned to turn my anger towards my MIL into pity. We have a wonderful, happy family and she misses out on this. She’s dying (cancer) and while her children do their “duty” as her kids, they don’t do it out of love. My husband doesn’t mourn or fear her passing like he did when his father died. That’s just so sad.

Sorry about the novel. Although this only scratches the surface of my experiences with my MIL, I’m actually quite glad to vent a bit about this to a bunch of strangers.”

I guess you just have to work through it, but man, it would be hard.

Has your kid ever received a gift along these lines? Tell us how you handled it in the comments.