In Excess

We had the big birthday bash for Luci and Nicholas at my house on Sunday (pictures coming soon). We entertained over 30 people (95% of whom were family). The twins received more toys than they need and way more than I want cluttering my already toy-stuffed house, so I will be doing what I did with Isabella for the first three years of her life, and that is squirreling away unopened gifts, wrapping them in Christmas paper, and loading them on Santa's sleigh for re-delivery to the babies on December 24th.

No one has ever said I was a nice mama.

And speaking of the cranky mama, I have yet another family gripe. And it goes a little something like this.

Isabella is the rock star with my family. She was the first grandchild born on my side, and has received a bordering-on-the-ridiculous level of top billing since her arrival. It was Luci and Nicholas' birthday this weekend, but she also received a gift from almost every member of my family. The twins each received a book from my mom on Isabella's birthday. No one else brought them gifts.

It's difficult to manage the emotions of young children on their siblings' birthdays, and I'm grateful that my relatives thought of Isabella. However, my problems with this are three-fold.

1. I do not want to set a precedent that on the kids' individual specials days, everyone gets gifts. I know this may be a product of their ages, and hopefully will lessen as they get older, but I believe strongly in not creating a culture centered around receiving material things. They have so much already. They do not need any more toys.

2. The number and cost of the gifts given to Isabella this past weekend were ridiculous.

3. Luci and Nicholas have not received the same treatment on Isabella's birthdays.

Here's an example.

Isabella and I went to a card store on Friday. While I picked up thank-you notes, she hugged the oversized stuffed animals by the door. When it came time to leave, she started to cry because she wanted to take home the big yellow lab. It wasn't an "I want it now!" bratty kind of cry, but more of an "I don't want to leave him" kind of misery. She was genuinely sad about leaving this dog.

My mom was in town for the birthday party, and was tucking in Isabella that night. Apparently, Isabella told her about the dog. My mom mentioned the dog to me, and asked where we saw the dog and what the dog looked like. I explicitly told her not to buy the dog because A.) I didn't want Isabella to think that any time we go into a store, she can cry and whine and get what she wants and B.) The dog is huge, almost as tall as Isabella. I am not a fan of giant toys in a house already overflowing with kid stuff.

Guess who now has an almost three-foot-tall and two-foot-long dog in her bedroom? Mamacita, despite my telling her not to, bought Isabella the $45 stuffed animal.

She's been doing stuff like this for Isabella since her birth. The twins do not receive the same treatment, on their birthdays or any day.

Undermining Aunt (background here) bought everything but the kitchen sink for Isabella's birthday back in August-toys, books, money, etc. She must have spent over $100. The twins each received a $25 savings bond from her. She spent $25 total on them. And my issue is not with the dollar amount of the gift. It's with the disparate treatment given to my children.

It makes me sad to see this. I am glad Isabella is so loved, and I know Luci and Nicholas are too. But I love them and treat them equally and I want everyone else to as well.

I am at a loss as to how to deal with this. Do I live up to my Mean Mommy reputation and tell my family to stop spoiling one of my kids and to treat them all equally? Or do I just let this occur, and hope that once everyone is a little older, the ridiculous (and disparate) gift-buying will stop?

13 Responses to “In Excess”

  1. # Blogger Mom24

    Oh my goodness Kristi!!! Your family needs smacked around. I am so sorry.

    Hate to say it, but you can not allow this. It will hurt all three of your children and hurt their relationships with each other. How can grown adults be so ignorant, careless and hurtful?

    Good luck. I'm backing you. Virtually, but still. :)  

  2. # Blogger Mom24

    Forgot to say, IMO, you need to confront them now and demand equal treatment. If they want to be ridiculous with one, then they're ridiculous with all.

    Also, your mom and the dog? That's awful. Really awful.  

  3. # Blogger Rachel

    We had a lot of this in my family, and as the favored child it was also a huge problem for me. I don't think that parents ever came up with a clear solution, although I do remember that all 'special treats/trips/experiental activities' were declined on my behalf when others were not invited. I do think that you need to draw clearer lines with your mother. Especially since you explicitly told her not to buy the item.

    As for the excess of presents, I don't know if Isabella is still too young, but my mother used to make us chose gifts to give to goodwill, etc. It would certainly help contain the toy sprawl and allow Isabella to participate in the process and hopefully over time come to enjoy it.  

  4. # Anonymous christine

    I liked Rachel's suggestion of making Isabella choose to cull down her gifts. I would also maybe mention to at least your aunt (the undermining one) that you really appreciated the savings bonds, especially since you end up giving away so many of the gifts you get. And maybe let your other family members know that since you already have so many toys that any and all gifts go right to the donation pile.

    As for disparate treatment could you maybe complain about your aunt to your mother, like a "goodness I know everyone loves Isabella, but I don't want it to cause problems down the line, etc. since Aunt X treats her this way and Luci/Nico this way. But I don't know how to tell her, ideas?" Maybe your mom can spread the word around without making you seem evil, and maybe she'll get the hint herself?

    I'm sorry your family undermines so many of your decisions.

    As Mom24 said, we've got your back!  

  5. # Anonymous Ness at Drovers Run

    First of all.. YOU ARE A NICE MAMA.

    Secondly, wow, that family of yours, they're acting as though Isabella is some kind of victim of your choices, and that she needs to be rewarded for 'putting up with' the twins. It sounds harsh, but that is the message that is getting put out there.

    Mom24 is right - it *will* hurt your kids relationships with each other -maybe not now - but in a couple of years when they know the difference.

    I wonder if folks think that its acceptable to give each twin 'less' because there are two of them? I just think that's ridiculous!

    I agree that there shouldn't be a precedent for gifts for everyone on one of their special days. We *have* bought something small up to now - for the *other* child on birthdays, but it is not something we planned to continue once they're old enough to understand the concept of birthdays etc- for now it was to avoid tears and tantrums. There are always gifts given that the other kid can enjoy too - so gifts for the non-birthday child are not necessary. I.e. one of the gifts we got my eldest on his last birthday was Wii Sports Resort - and he AND the 2yr old play it happily together.

    I'm not sure what I'd do in your case - because whatever you tell your family - they're likely to do the exact opposite. As for the dog - wow I can't believe that your mom did that - and yes - that dog is going with Isabella to college.  

  6. # Anonymous Jenny

    That's craziness...I missed present-opening but just by looking at the present pile I sort of thought there was a bit of a difference. Your Mom could have saved the dog for Christmas or something if she insisted on buying it. I like Christine's suggestion on chatting with your Mom about how to address this. Although I'm not sure I can see her spreading the word around. Somehow I hear her justifying it, but you never know.  

  7. # Blogger Melissa

    I know of what you speak!

    My mother, who completely forgot about my birthday (admittedly so) and my kids' birthdays, made up for it by sending HUNDREDS of dollars worth of stuff. She sent a lot of nice clothes, for which I am insanely grateful given our tight budget, but she also sent way more toys and little "stuff" than my kids need. In shipping costs alone, she spent around $150. She said she buys a lot of stuff on clearance and squirrels it away, but it was seriously like Christmas around here. She admits she doesn't have a lot of money, so her spending, even though it makes HER feel good, makes me feel guilty.

    I also know about the disparate treatment. My oldest is the oldest grandchild (and a girl), and my mother for YEARS treated her much better than my son. I had a big blow up with her in which she admitted to favoring my daughter. I told her the special treatment had to stop - it just wasn't fair. She's since gotten better, but I know she still prefers my daughter. She doesn't understand my son's issues and just can communicate with him very well.

    The big dog? I would have been angry. I know you have tried to put an end to your family going behind your back before, and it sounds like the problem is they don't respect your authority and boundaries. I am frustrated for you!  

  8. # Blogger Rebecca

    Ok, you aren't necessarily a "mean momma" but you definitely cheat! Shame on your for wrapping up other people's presents then giving them to the kids in the name of santa! :+)

    As far as the disparate treatment goes, we definitely have the same problem with my in-laws. Thankfully my family (who are right down the road) don't treat the kids differently. However, my in-laws came over (from England) for Lizzie's first birthday and her second birthday (not the third though). At this point my father-in-law hasn't even met Emily and only has met Alex because Greg brought him to England in August. My MIL came over when the twins were born but we haven't seen her since. As far as I know there are no plans for them to come visit.  

  9. # Blogger kenju

    I would find a way to tell my family in no uncertain terms that they are to treat my children equally at all times. And Isabella does not need gifts on the twin's birthday!! Children need to learn to deal with disappointment and this is a good way to start.  

  10. # Anonymous K

    Maybe I'm giving them too much credit, but maybe they believe that Isabella feels left out because she's not only lost her standing as an only child but that she's the third wheel to a pair of twins who will have a special bond, and so they're trying to compensate for it. Or maybe that's at least true of some of your relatives. Also, maybe they think Isabella is old enough to be jealous on the twins' birthday but the twins aren't old enough to be jealous of the opposite situation?

    Anyway, my boys have been ignored by one of their grandparents in favor of a girl we barely knew, so I know how you feel. Some people will never change, and you'll probably have to try to even things up on your own. But maybe you can lessen the impact by talking to some of the people who might be receptive?  

  11. # Blogger Jeni

    I've never noticed a disproportianate amount of gift giving between my two boys but I have definitely seen a difference between the individual attention they receive. It didn't matter so much when Mason was more of a baby, but since he passed the year mark I started seeing that he noticed when his aunts or grandparents engaged Skyler more frequently than himself. It did get to the point where I brought it up with my husband (it was his side that was particularly bad about it) and he mentioned it to them. It has gotten better since then and I attribute it mostly to Mason being younger and harder to relate to. Especially when they already had such a strong bond with Skye.

    The gift giving thing is a bit much, and I would think that Isabella is old enough to understand that things like birthdays are special for the person whose day it is. If it is really so noticeable you might want to bring it up before the twins really start to take notice of the disparity. Your family certainly keeps you on your toes.  

  12. # Blogger Pregnantly Plump

    That's crazy about the dog. I mean, that's a huge present for no reason. Couldn't she have saved it for Christmas?
    For Baby Plum's first birthday, one of my grandmothers and one aunt/uncle brought Little Elvis "presents" (they were actually small cars that he had left at their houses.)
    I don't think you should allow the treatment, either. But I have no idea how you should broach that conversation. My mom gets a subscription to O magazine and Dr. Phil always does these "scripts" for one of the problems he's answering. Maybe he could write a script for you!
    (Also, Little Elvis has started saying, "Yes we can!" whenever I tell him no. It makes me laugh so much. He is definitely my child.)  

  13. # Blogger angela

    Moving a long way away from them would seem like a good idea...or at least threatening to!  

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