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Treating Adult Children Differently


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#1 Eowyn

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 03:42 PM

So Christmas was lovely this year...DH and I were at my parents house, both of us were given lots of gifts and showered with love and affection by my family. DH saved his package from his parents to put under the tree and open Christmas morning....to find one shirt, not in his size, with the "sale" tag still attached. I almost cried. My family had given him some clothes he really needed for work, practical gifts for his car, and lots of gift cards to places he likes to shop. His parents? One shirt. His parents, btw, are in equal or better financial shape to mine. One of his sisters has recently been given $1000 in new furniture, and an additional $1000 in gifts for her upcoming baby and was given twice as much money as we were when she married (not including for the wedding, they didn't contribute anything to our wedding and paid for hers entirely, just as a "getting you started" gift) SIL is in worse financial shape than us because of decisions she has made, and neither the furniture nor the baby things were necessities, just expensive luxuries. I know it is not unusual that parents treat their children differently. I am just trying to understand the logic behind it, and what parents think their children will feel when they see it. Also, what IL's think their children in law will feel when they see it. Is it the expectation that children won't notice? That children won't care? Do IL's who treat their children differently still expect to be treated equally to FOO's of the spouse when that family treats the children better? Disclaimer-- I realize it is absolutely no business of mine how my IL's choose to spend their money, but is the converse to that it is absolutely no business of my IL's how we choose to spend our time at the holidays?

#2 footballmom

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 04:00 PM

Ewoyn, we recently had a thread about this subject with many, many different opinions, surprise ! I personally think that parents of adult children should do what "feels right" in their own family. I gave the example of a neighbor of mine that has several children, the one son is the one that visits and takes her to doctor appointments, calls to check on her and in general takes interest in her. This adult child is given money now as a "reward" for what he does for her. I have no problem with parents giving more "things" to the "kids" that take an interest in them, spend time with them, it seems to me to be natural. Others think that no matter what the relationship is between parents/adult children, everything should be even. To each his own. It would be sad though to think that some adult children would only visit their parents for the money that is to come. Time should be spent on those that you love and value, I guess the same could be said for money.

#3 Eowyn

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 04:05 PM

FBM...I was worried I would come across incorrectly here...I don't care about the value of what is given, or even if anything was given. MIL and FIL could have given us cracker jack toys and it would still have been something to thank them for, I just object to the rubbing in that someone else is being treated better. I just wonder how parents of adult children THINK adult children see this, because I don't think most parents have the thought process "Doing this for M will make A very sad because we never do things like this for him. Also, A's wife will think we don't love our children equally and feel badly for him"

#4 mrsslant

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 04:16 PM

As usual, FBM is correct. The bottom line is that you can't tell other people how to spend their money. You are allowed to feel slighted, your feelings are your own. However, you don't know what their reasoning behind all of it is. Perhaps they genuinely feel bad for your SIL for her financial situation even if it is her fault. Maybe they are just closer to her. Or the other side of the coin-maybe she is a big PITA and they would rather help her than listen to her whine.

#5 BSW

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 04:17 PM

I don't think it should matter. My parents have given a couple of my siblings a lot of money over the years due to various reasons. I've never received any help from them, and actually am really proud of that fact. It's their money and their choice what to do with it. Also, I don't think it's any of your business what your IL's are doing with their money. Would you want them examining what you are doing with yours?

#6 Eowyn

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 04:35 PM

@Mrs Slant I know I can't understand *why* my IL's do this, I just wonder, for parents of adult children who treat their children differently, do they think the children don't notice? Do they just assume they don't find out? I am curious as to the thought process. @BSW as I stated in my previous post, I *know* it is none of my business how they spend their money AND I don't care about the value of the gifts we're given, just that it's rubbed in my DH's face (not intentionally I don't think...just "Look mom and dad got me this....and this....and this!") that he is not the favored child, which I as his spouse also find hurtful. But to play devils advocate...don't a lot of people on this board complain that FOO of their DIL's get "more" of something? Like time with grandkids? Is that any of their business how their children spend their time?

#7 footballmom

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 05:19 PM

Eowyn, I think that sometimes it does not matter what it looks like, same as you said in your last post, it does not matter to some people that more time is spent with one side of the family than the other, it is their business. It is not your ILs fault that SIL tells your DH that their parents buy her this or that, maybe he should tell her he is not interested. I do understand where you are coming from, my ILs, when they were alive and we were newly married gave my husband's sister many things and lots of money. They paid for her kid's braces, private school and trips abroad, ours were given nice gifts but nothing like nephew. So I have been there and it is hard not to notice. My husband could have cared less at the time but I did see it as an insult to DH and BIL. BIL did confront his parents about the difference shown and their answer was that we and BIL lived out of town and were not around much, SIL lived close, came to visit often and they were closer to her. DH and I could see that, and nothing was ever said again. I have often wondered how we (DH and I) would feel or what we would do if one of the boys did not visit or stay in touch and the other did. We have been lucky, when ODS was married, he and DIL did split holidays and visits right down the middle and it looks like YDS and his future wife will also. But I really do think that if one of them did not visit or stay in touch but did have the time and energy to visit and stay in touch with another family, I would have no problem with giving more at Christmas to the one that cared more for us. I hope I never have to find out if that is what I would really do, but I can understand it happening. You see, I do not blame a DIL when a grown man does not visit or stay in touch with his parents, I blame the grown man. A wife might make it difficult for him but if he will not go to the mat for his parents as much as he will a golf game or fishing trip, he does not care much for those parents. I do think some wives and some husbands make it hard to visit, but somethings in life are worth it, I would hope we would/will be to our sons.

#8 lovinben

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 05:38 PM

Interesting question. Yes, I do think my adult children notice if one gets more than another. I try to explain the whys of what was given. For example, this Christmas my ODD had one small gift to open because she and her SO were given concert tickets over the summer to Paul McCartney - a possibly once in a lifetime thing. Not the best seats, but still $90 a piece. My YDD made a comment (sort of in jest) about how she was keeping tabs on what was spent for each one. She thought the tickets were $300 a piece! I quickly let her know that was not the case. A few years back, my ODD was upset because she thought the car purchased for her then high school age younger sister was much newer than the one we had purchased for her when she was in high school (disclaimer: no bus service). Had to let her know that the car was the same amount of years difference, just that she is six years older than the younger one. So as the parents, I think my dh and I are aware that sometimes we give more to one than another, but I feel that explaining my motives can go along way to not causing bad feelings between the siblings. We do try to give things as needed, not just try to spend the same amount of money on each one. Sometimes, each one of my three children has different needs. I am sorry for what happened to your dh. They could have been more thoughtful in their gift; even if it was just one item, it could have been something he truly needed or enjoyed. Some parents just don't get it.

#9 Eowyn

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 06:41 PM

@lovinben you sound like a very fair Mom and your children are lucky to have you-- it sounds like you care how they feel, even if things "look" uneven @footballmom sure, SIL could not say the things were from her mom and dad...but knowing her financial information as we do it would be obvious that since *we* didn't buy them for them, it was IL's. I guess its a chicken and egg question "You don't come to Christmas with us so we don't buy you many gifts" OR "You give me one gift at Christmas while my sister has dozens, so I don't want to come to Christmas"

#10 BSW

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 07:13 PM

"don't a lot of people on this board complain that FOO of their DIL's get "more" of something? Like time with grandkids? Is that any of their business how their children spend their time?" I think the pain GP's feel from not having as much time with their GK's is a lot different than feeling slighted on a gift or financial help. It sounds like your SIL may need the help, but you don't. Be happy that you're in a better position and that you worked for what you have. That is how I see it at least.

#11 SueSTx

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 08:01 PM

From my personal experience with my MIL and how she always treated the "chosen one" and his family along with how she treated us (hubby knew he was a slave to his mother)... I have no doubt that she ever gave the "unfair/unequal" a second of thought. MIL had behaved this way since the "chosen one" was born...it was just natural that she would continue into their and their childrens adulthood. I know a lady who started putting bubble gum into her teens packages to assure that every child got gifts of equal value. She started this when the teens would protest that his/hers must have cost more than mine. She continued this practice even after they were all married with children of their own. With my own young adults, I never tried to make sure that they each received equal every time, but that they each had what they needed when they needed it. One spring DS needed a suit to wear to a wedding and for job interviews. I took care of it. That fall, DD needed a stove and frig to move into her first place, I bought used ones and moved them for her. These might not have been totally equal...but, their needs were equally met in my eyes.

#12 ReneeN79

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 08:18 PM

It's just a symptom of a bad relationship.

#13 Eowyn

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 08:56 PM

@Sue I think my parents are more like you-- every year is different but their children get what they need (they gave my sister a stove and a refrigerator too!) one year my mother gave me a check after Christmas when she and my dad had bought my sister a new car, and they felt that they should also reward the daughter that *didn't* have the crashing habit... @BSW i am proud of DH and I that we can stand on our own feet financially, and I would never want financial help from my ILs. But at Christmas time, why would someone make such a point of showing that one of their children should get more than the others? @Renee....probably. And as I said in my thread awhile back, I still get them nice, thoughtful gifts every year. Should stop that...

#14 footballmom

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 09:29 PM

Ewoyn, I think maybe you and I are talking about 2 different things here. You are giving examples of your parents giving equal gifts to 2 adult children that treat them equal (I am assuming here). What I am talking about is what I see with many of my friends. You have 2 adult children, one is stand-offish, rarely visits or calls and never extends invits to their home, not invited to the grandchildren's school functions or sports I guess you could say just frozen out. Then you have adult child #2 that calls, visits, invites, wants you to be involved with the grandchildren. This is when I think the "giving" can be different. It is not a "if you want the gifts come see me Christmas Day" it is more of a "because I feel loved, wanted and a part of your life, I want to shower you with gifts because it gives me pleasure just as you give me pleasure all year long". Ofcourse I believe that adult children that equally treat their parents should be treated equal, just as they were when they were children. I find it very sad that families can get to the point where gift giving is so different between kids either because the parents are unfair or one of the kids have frozen out a parent. We have always used the equal as possible theory with our boys and when DIL was around she had equal to them also.

#15 footballmom

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Posted 29 December 2011 - 10:02 PM

I should also add that adult children are treated different according to "their place in life". DIL (I found out after they seperated) had a problem with the fact that we still support YDS, she could not (or would not) understand that YDS is 8 years younger than ODS, and we are doing the same for him that we did for ODS at the age of 22. I am sure in her eyes the fact that we pay his rent, utilities, furnish a car and insurance was not "fair". She always thought we favored YDS over ODS because we were more involved with him and supported him.

#16 nanceed

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Posted 30 December 2011 - 03:30 AM

It hurts you that your husband is not treated fairly by his parents. it is hurtful. Parents who show favoritism can never see it. They wear blinders. Just learn how to be fair with your own kids.

#17 oscarsmaman

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Posted 30 December 2011 - 04:18 AM

Yep, I can dig it...Watching parents lavish love and attention on another sibling, and you can SEE what the potential of their love and affection COULD be....but YOU'LL never get it, for reasons that are never explained (because you're not worthy enough to be owed an explanation, perhaps?). And their blatant favoritism might be so obvious that other family members and even people around town might comment on it, which can contribute shame and embarrassment to the heap of hurt feelings that pile up as the parents cruelly perpetuate this particularly cruel form of rejection. I can dig it that this is more than about the financial outlay or getting enough material goodies at Xmas to satisfy you. This is about trying to have a Merry Xmas, and when material goods are used to make people feel rotten...well, it IS the thought that counts, and if the thoughts are rotten, it'll often come shining through in the gift. Eowyn, I guess for 2012, your DH could stand to figure out whether this gift is symptomatic of other deficits he finds in his relationship with his family, so you both can figure out how to deal with them to mitigate the hurt that comes from them. As you can guess, my sister's favored. After 38 years of dysfunction, it became too much to bear, and therapy with my mother and sister actually worked wonders for our relationship. (My sister was also the type to rub things in my face...Once, when I objected, she hollered, "Don't you dare try to make me feel guilty because Mom and Dad give me more things than you!" Oh baby, we've come a long way). I think birth placement had a lot to do with things-- both my parents are older siblings, and they used to mention how their younger siblings got on their nerves, so I could see, growing up, how they favored my sister, gave her more and better stuff, let her get away with murder and treating me like scum, etc. My cousins used to marvel at it, and we'd laugh about it sometimes because it was so ridiculous, but it really became a PITA as I got older. I think, when un-favoreds get married and bring an outside witness to the favoritism, it gets a bit harder to swallow this kind of material bullying, and to shrug it off as "no big deal." And as we get older, pity for situations like this becomes more embarrassing. And believe me, it's hard not to pity your DH. The picture of him saving his present from his family under the tree so he could specially open it on Christmas Day....the anticipation...the build-up by your family and getting fun things that show him, yes, he's worth thinking of, yes, he's worthy, yes, he's special....And then finding out his parents don't know his size, don't care, and just wanted to make an empty gesture. Sure, his parents have the constitutional right to spend their money as they see fit, just like your DH has the constitutional right to protest being treated like sh** by his family for no apparent reason, and to seek an outside party to mediate difficult discussions like this. And I hope he does seek that neutral party, because it's not likely to get any better if nothing is said. And who knows? Maybe there's an explanation for all of it that he's not aware of....Maybe they had to spend $50K to bail him out of a Mexican jail on Spring Break '99 or something, consigning him to a lifetime of receiving $20 shirts at Xmas....(I doubt it seriously, but it was fun to come up with a crazy example.) Good luck, and tell him I said "Nuts to them!"

#18 rosered135

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Posted 30 December 2011 - 04:51 AM

Eowyn, first, let me say that I'm sorry DH was hurt that way. Secondly, I think what you're describing is similar to what some MIls describe when they are treated *very* differently from the other set of parents/GPs. It's not so much that there's a "difference" but that the difference is so extreme. No, it's not your and DH's concern how his parents spend their money. Nor is it their business where you spend your holidays. But people are often hurt by the differences, especially when they're so extreme. Granted, I'm one of the first ones to advise people not to compare. B/c all if does is cause oneself hurt. And b/c as lovinben's post shows, we often get the wrong impression from "outside" a situation. Even in your case, as PPs have pointed out, you and DH can't really know why PILs have spent on SIL the way they did. What strikes me here is the complete thoughtlessness of the gift to DH. I mean maybe they thought they knew DH's size and were mistaken. But then why send only 1? Or perhaps they weren't sure and so only sent 1 shirt. But then why not just call and ask about the size? And, of course, why leave the "sale" tag on? So yes, maybe they are "making...a point" of the difference, deliberately, out of some anger they feel at DH, for whatever reason, saying, in effect, "Hah! We only bought you 1 gift and didn't spend too much money on it either! It's in the wrong size, too, but you can't return or exchange it b/c it was on sale! Tough!" Then again, they may have done it carelessly, saying to themselves, in effect, "Ok, we need a gift for DH... oh, look here's a shirt- and it's on sale!...Uhhh, what size?... Ok, this is close enough... bought, wrapped, sent...Ok, we're done with that!" They may not even realize they left the "sale" tag on. Regardless, yes, it may be a "chicken-and-egg" situation. But from what you tell us, your and DH's part of it, isn't just based on the fact that he gets fewer or less expensive gifts that SIL. And, hopefully, on the PILs side, it's *not* just about whether or not you 2 come for Christmas. As Renee suggests, IMO, these are just "symptoms" of a relationship that has problems to begin with, possibly even ones that go back to way b4 you knew DH.... FWIW...

#19 rosered135

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Posted 30 December 2011 - 05:27 AM

"I still get them nice, thoughtful gifts every year. Should stop that." Maybe. A lot depends, IMO, on how long you think this problem goes back and whether or not you have any idea how it began. If it goes back to when DH was a kid and he has no idea why or feels there's been "too much water under the bridge" to "fix" it now, then, by all means, respond to their gift in kind. Either don't get them gifts (did they get *you* anything, BTW?) or get them cheap, "dime-a-dozen" gifts. But if the problem is of more recent vintage, then you and DH may want to think about why and if one or both of you possibly had any part in creating it. Then, maybe, you can figure out a way to begin to fix it (trust me, we'll be glad to help). In *that* case, I wouldn't plan on cutting out or cutting back on the gifts for them, just yet. That would just be another "***-for-tat" move that would make things worse. In fact, since DH seems to have eagerly anticipated his parents gift, it appears that this issue is fairly recent or, at least, "recent enough" that he still hasn't been able to wrap his mind around it. Then again, it may have been wishful thinking after years of disappointment. Please let us know what you think about this. And, of course, if you and DH decide it's worth trying to solve whatever problems there may be, you know we'll be willing to help! :-) @ All - I'm concerned about the expression "the favored child." As a number of parents have explained, both in this thread and the other one that FBM mentioned, often we give more to one DS or DD when they are in need. That does *not* mean they are "favored." In fact, the parents may be very happy that their other child doesn't need this kind of help. And, depending on the situation, may be very proud of the other child for being more self-sufficient.

#20 rosered135

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Posted 30 December 2011 - 05:41 AM

@ Oscars - I'm so deeply sorry for the pain and embarrassment (more pain) that you went through all those years. Yet, I'm glad to hear that therapy has helped! Hope that your relationship with your parents and sister just keeps getting better! :-)