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Should people be required to get a gift for the stepkid if they are giving something to biokid?

completely overwhelmed's picture

Ok, I’m relatively new here, and I have some questions and hopefully more experienced stepmoms can help me out here. Fixing some of the biggest problem isn’t possible, but this is one that hopefully maybe can be fixed and help improve my situation a little.

One of the sources of conflict with my 15 year old stepdaughter is some inequities with gifts. My daughter (they are half-siblings) is 3.5 years old. When my parents or my sisters visit, they occasionally bring my daughter something. Most of the time it’s some bargain my mom got like clothing she found on clearance at Kohls or some kids books she picked up at the library book sale. My sisters frequently bring over toys their kids have outgrown or aren’t using. So these aren’t large gifts, but my stepdaughter has raged about how much her half-sister gets compared to her.

The holidays are something I know it will come up again.

Part of the problem is there are far more people involved in my daughter’s life who will send gifts. My family is nearby and they like to spoil my daughter. Nothing extravagant, but it’s easy to shop for a her with dolls, toys and clothes.

My husband’s family lives in another state. He’s an only child. His parents are divorced and his father isn’t involved in his life. My stepdaughter’s mother is currently in a halfway house and has a history of drug use, has been in and out of jail and is no longer involved in her daughter’s life. It would be a minor miracle if she sent a Christmas or birthday present. I’m not even aware of her mother’s extended family. They never have any contact with my stepdaughter.

Last year my parents did buy a Christmas gift for my stepdaughter, but it wasn’t well-received (several books). My stepdaughter is developmentally disabled and struggles with mental illnesses and learning disabilities, so she isn’t the typical teen. She doesn’t have a cellphone, doesn’t care about clothing, doesn’t wear make-up. She has great difficulty reading. Shopping for her is next to impossible. My parents didn't get anything for her last birthday and she was in the hospital then so there wasn't a party.

I was thinking of asking my parents and sisters to make sure to bring something for my stepdaughter any time they bring something for my daughter, but then it’s going to be awkward if it’s clothes she doesn’t like or books she can’t read. My sisters' kids are all 2-4 years older than my daughter. They don't have teens. They would have to buy something for her.

Last Christmas it was the first year my daughter understood what was going on with Christmas and was super excited about Santa and she had far more gifts than my stepdaughter - something my stepdaughter had several meltdowns over. Holidays are very rough for her since I think she’s reminded that she can’t see her mom and her behavior escalates due to all the difficult emotions.

My husband is horrible at shopping for gifts for Christmas or birthdays. He usually grabs something at the absolute last minute at whatever store he can find open, so leaving it to him is guaranteed to result in more accusations of unfairness from my stepdaughter.

Asking my stepdaughter what she wants for Christmas or her birthday always results in two answers: 1) a dog (we’ve tried pets, it doesn’t work, so it’s a big fat no since I don't have time to care for a dog) and 2) to visit her mom or her mom to visit (unfortunately, that’s not going to happen).

My stepdaughter is incredibly jealous of my daughter and my daughter is already picking up on all the very negative things my stepdaughter says to her - like my daughter is the favorite, we like my daughter better and my daughter gets everything, and so forth. My daughter is very, very sensitive so she’s very hurt by these comments.

This has been an incredibly difficult year - my stepdaughter has been in and out of in-patient psychiatric centers, has been suspended from school multiple times. My husband is fed up with her behavior problems so doing something awesome for Christmas for her is not going to be in the cards. Plus the copays for all of her psychiatric treatment is adding up so money is very tight.

I really want my daughter to have a good relationship in the future with her half-sister and not hold a grudge always telling her that she was the favorite and got everything.

Is there a nice way I can tell my stepdaughter to suck it up and that’s life because unfortunately she doesn’t have much extended family and her mom is a piece of sh*t who won’t buy her gifts? Or should I try to get my relatives to do something for my stepdaughter - something they might not financially be able to afford and likely will be more things my stepdaughter doesn’t want or need.

LAMomma's picture

I think she needs to just learn everything in life is not equal. There is a huge age gap there and from what you posted a lot is hand me downs which is totally different, IMO.

For Christmas did you spend the same amount of money on them? A teen is going to get less gifts because the stuff they tend to like costs a lot more than baby toys.

completely overwhelmed's picture

Last Christmas, the 3.5 year old probably got more from my hubby and me. I didn't know what to get my stepdaughter and my hubby waited until the last minute and didn't know what to get her. He picked up a few things at CVS on Christmas Eve just to have something under the tree. I hoped her paternal grandmother might send something, but she didn't. My parents got a few big ticket items for my daughter. My husband promised to take her to a movie she wanted to see that came out in January, but that ended up not happening because she got in trouble at school.

completely overwhelmed's picture

He does. He's just very stressed over her behavior and how to stop getting an email every day from teachers or someone at school about what she has done now.

She's not a very easy person to deal with. He's fantastic with our 3.5 year old. They get along great, but the 15 year old just gets on his nerves so quickly. She always does the opposite of what he says. She won't listen.

LAMomma's picture

Maybe you should take over shopping from now on? I take the kids with me shopping every now and then. I take note of what they like or say they want throughout the year. I either write it down or make a mental note so I always have something that I can grab for them if need be. I'm betting she has to say SOMETHING she wants throughout the year besides just those two things.

The movie should have still be seen, IMO. That was a gift that was promised and not related to her behavior.

LAMomma's picture

Yup.. My DH's version of shopping is grabbing the first thing he sees that he likes. I'll usually make the list, tell him about it then buy. This year I bought everything and he saw it when it came in.. lol He's kind of out of the loop on what they are into currently. He still thinks they are 2-3 years younger.. Their tastes have branched out now so no telling what he'd get if I sent him shopping.

ETexasMom's picture

Wait! She lives with you full time, doesn't see her mother, and your daughter had a tree full of presents and no one bothered to get her anything till Christmas Eve????? No wonder she is jealous of DD. SD is being treated as an after though. Sounds like the only way she gets attention is acting out.

My suggestion is fix this now (by the way I'm a children's mental health case manager). Sit down with your SD and Amazon start a realistic Christmas list. If your parents or sister want to buy her a present then they can view that for ideas. If they do not then you need to have a few spare presents for SD hidden so that she isn't sitting on the sidelines watching everyone gush over your DD.

It is very damaging to a child's mental health for her to already be abandoned by one parent and then watch her half sister get everything while she gets nothing.

SMto2's picture

I agree with this. My heart hurts for this little girl. She needs someone to go above and beyond to make her feel special.

notasm3's picture

For something like Christmas, Easter, or Halloween I would never give a present to one child in a home and not to the other children present. I think it's okay to privately give to one child when the other children are not physically there if it's not something huge that would be flaunted by the recipient later.

Birthdays don't happen at the same time. Sometimes one gets invited to a party for one child (and takes a present) but doesn't get included in birthday activities for another child. I wouldn't feel the need to send a gift in the second case. And all of that could be for siblings from an intact home too.

Your SD sounds like a very troubled young individual who probably inherited some psych problems from her mother. Could you and your DH work with her to come up with a "Santa" list of small items that might please her? And then share that with your relatives if appropriate.

Peridwen's picture

The only thing you can ask of your family in relation to gifts is ask them not to bring DD anything. It's incredibly rude to ask them to bring something for SD as well. Another possible solution is for you to purchase and keep a hidden stash of things (that you know your SD would like) for your family to "give" to SD when they come so she doesn't feel left out.

While I am a firm believer that kids need to learn that a gift for one doesn't mean everyone gets a gift, it's a little harder in your situation since it is one-sided, even over time. Our families will bring gifts for one of the four kids if they came across something only the one would like. But it evens out over time - it's not the SAME kid getting the gifts each time. Your SD is correct in saying your DD is getting everything. DD is literally getting more gifts and getting to live with her mom & dad. It's an unfair fact of life. The fact that you and DH gave DD more than SD is concerning, if only because it clearly shows SD that her dad cares more about DD than he does about her. While we as adults know that is because YOU handled the gifts for your DD, that's not how SD will see it.

Look at what SD is asking for for Christmas: a visit with her Mom, or a pet of her own to love and have as a companion. I'm guessing she feels lonely and isolated, as though she isn't part of the family. Due in part to her own mental issues she's also isolated from her peers. Is there anything at all this girl has passion about?

2Tired4Drama's picture

"Look at what SD is asking for ... a pet of her own to love and have as a companion."

This is a very valid point and a HUGE red flag for a teenage girl with these kinds of issues, living in this kind of environment. This can be a prime reason for teen pregnancy, and this girl seems ripe for it.

OP, have you looked into Big Sister-type organizations? Maybe if your SD had someone who focused solely on her because they WANTED to, it might make a difference.

Even if it was a stranger to start out with, at least the girl would feel she is worthy of attention ... maybe her behaviors would change and the pressure at home might lift enough for all of you to get on better footing.

notsurehowtodeal's picture

It just breaks my heart when I hear about Dads who fundamentally don't like their children. You said your DH is fantastic with your 3.5 year old. I'm sure SD is well aware of this and it probably makes her feel even worse.

As far a present ideas - how about activities instead of items? Going out to a movie was a great idea. It was a horrible idea to cancel it due to a behavior issue.

Why not give her a booklet of coupons that can be used for going to the movies or dinner or a concert. Like another poster suggested, paying for lessons for something she might be interested in is a great idea.

This isn't really an idea for a present - but if she wants a dog is there a way she could volunteer at an animal shelter?