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Dear Chump Lady, Gifts for my cheating ex from the kids?

Dear Chump Lady,

I have a random question that I am sure some of the chumps can relate to. This is for those of us that are recently separated from our cheaters. Most of us had to purchase Christmas presents for our children to give our cheating spouses before we found out about the cheating, and for some of us also during the delusional reconciliation hopium stage as well. How should we handle this holiday season? I personally have no interest in purchasing presents for my kids to give to their cheating father. I am very resistant to the idea of doing that. However, when your kids are young and they have no money of their own — What should we do? What have some of you fellow chumps done?



Dear Rebecca,

If you already bought the gifts, I’d handle it one of two ways. A) If the kids know about the gifts, picked out the gifts, and were looking forward to giving the gifts — let them give the gifts when they’re alone visiting their dad. B) If the kids don’t know about the gifts, I’d donate them to some worthy charity.

You’re divorcing, which means that one of the jobs you give up is managing your children’s relationship with the other parent. You don’t triangulate for good (presents) or for evil (“tell your father his child support is late!”). You leave it alone. If your child expresses a desire to give mommy or daddy something, pull out the arts and crafts supplies and let them make a card. Or give them whatever got crafted at school that week. What you don’t do, IMO, is go buy your cheating soon-to-be-ex husband a Christmas present.  That’s one shit sandwich too many. You have to get through the holiday season right after D-Day, that’s shit sandwich enough.

You may feel vindictive, like your STBXH doesn’t deserve ANYTHING for Christmas after what he did! You don’t control that. That’s between him and Santa Claus. You only control YOU. And you, Rebecca, do not need to wade into a fluorescent-lit shopping mall in search of holiday kibbles.

But the kids! Maybe it was a tradition to buy presents for daddy together? That tradition dies. You’re divorced. It’s one more thing your kids are going to have to grieve thanks to infidelity. So make a new tradition. Go buy some toys for the Toys for Tots charity. Bake cookies. Take up wassailing.

I’m sure there are a hundred holiday articles out there telling chumps to buy those presents for a divorced parent. Don’t be bitter! Do it for the kids! I don’t think kids should be the conduit for gifts, even in a non-infidelity related divorce.

Here’s my story on that. My first divorce wasn’t over infidelity and my creepy ex would buy me gifts through my son — and I felt hugely manipulated and grossed out. My son saw the gift as from him, and I saw it as something my creepy ex-husband bought. Then I had a 5-year old asking me “Don’t you want to wear the silver bracelet I gave you?” And it was up to me to untangle all of that. I saw the gifts (which went on for YEARS and were also sent to my family) as manipulative. As a way for my ex to make his presence known where it was not wanted. It felt like he was triangulating my son into some weird unrequited courtship. It was fucking AWKWARD. An unpleasant feeling that I’m sure my ex intended. (Consider also that these gifts were sent during the same years he was suing me.)

I got put in the position of if I rejected the gift, I was rejecting my son, hurting his feelings.

Now, back to your original question. In the case of infidelity, if you give the gifts through the children, I think that is a form of the pick me dance — only with little proxy dancers. “Remember your family? We still remember YOU! Don’t you miss us?” That’s why I think you need to take yourself completely out of the equation. If Johnny and Suzy want to remember Dad at the holidays, they do it with their pocket money, their pipe cleaners and glitter glue. If they ask, you say “Hey I don’t give your dad presents, that’s not appropriate as we’re divorced. But if you want to make him something, that’s great. Go right ahead.”

I know you’ll feel a bit sad that your kids are still giving your STBXH kibbles and love you don’t think he deserves. But you don’t control their relationship with him. If he breaks their hearts, or he buys them a pony — you don’t control that either. (See a theme here?) You just control you.

And you, Rebecca, do NOT have to buy him a gift “from the kids.”

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  • I actually picked up a Keurig box of hot apple cider for dick wad. Mostly because the kids will enjoy it and I had a coupon which made it free. So the boys can give that to him and enjoy it themselves. I wouldn’t have purchased it but it was free. I do agree with you though.

  • I let the OM buy gifts for my X on my child’s behalf. If he chooses not too, not my problem. If he was not around I would give my child a small amount of money, $20 or less, and let her pick out a gift all on her own. Kids want to be a part of the holiday and I think they need to learn to give as well as receive. They still love the x and want to give gifts. I would not in any way be involved in the picking however. My approach.

  • Thanks CL for providing the opposite perspective, the one of the gift receiver. Last Xmas was right after we separated/ I filed, so I did get (small) gifts for the kids to give their dad. His bday is right before Xmas so I got that (small) gift too. This year, I just ignored his bday, not even a card from the kids, and it felt much better/ like the right thing to do. I plan to do the same for Xmas (ignore him). Your perspective as the gift receiver, that it’s awkward and reminiscent of pick-me dancing, cements this choice for me. No way do I want ex to think that I want him back. I will, however, continue to get small gifts for his family (my in-laws) as we still have a good relationship and do get together from time to time. However, that may fade as time passes…

    • I too did the exact same thing last year.
      Bought my little one something to give to her dad.
      I received nothing from my daughter (via him).
      That hurt.
      Anyway this year the kids won’t even speak with him and sure as he’ll don’t want to spend time with him, his dysfunctional family,the slut and her kids.
      I’m so glad my kids won’t do the pick me dance and have their bullshit sensors well and truly turned on.
      I must have done something right.
      Don’t buy the gifts.
      Life as we knew it is over. Don’t put the thought, energy or cash into them.
      Donate to a worthwhile cause.

  • I have to respectfully disagree, but I do see where you are coming from. Especially given your experience with your ex. But I think if you are literally just accompanying them to buy something they choose it’s okay. Or if you are getting them a kid keepsake kind of gift (like he got me candles they made for my birthday, I had gotten him coffee cups they had painted for his). I also got him washcloths once because that’s what the kids wanted to get 🙂

    As long as it isn’t very expensive of course, either. So I think as long as you keep your involvement as minimal as possible and set an appropriate kid-sized budget, it is fine.

    Then again, holidays are my kryptonite. We are all going to spend xmas morning together too – just the hour or two when they wake up and of opening gifts. But yeah, it literally means I will be going to my ex’s before they even wake up in the morning (he came to mine last year). Because the kids are so young and xmas morning is really magical for such a short period that I feel like I shouldn’t be robbed of missing any of them just because my ex was a dumb-ass who fucked his assistant.

    Er, we also might go together to see Santa again this year… I also don’t want them to have to do EVERYTHING twice if I think I can make it through and be civil. I guess if civility doesn’t happen, then I will change.

    I am improving though, last year I actually got him a present from myself so the kids could see us exchanging gifts as well… won’t be doing that this year.

    • AE It sounds like you are taking the right approach given your very different situation (though all of the together time sounds hellish). In my case, the ex hasn’t had the kids give me anything the past year since we’ve been divorced, so it’s easier for me not to feel obligated now. Also, I have the kids for Xmas every year, so I don’t have to negotiate with him thank goodness. And, he is still downright nasty to me, so I definitely feel that continuing to go out of my way for him is almost like sanctioning his quasi-abusive behavior…

  • I refused from the get go to get involved in the gift thing. Dday was right before Christmas 2 years ago and ex wanted us to exchange gifts. I said no. WE did spend Christmas together and it was horrible. So no more of that. The result was that his family took the kids Christmas shopping, bought really expensive gifts for ex and final OW in the kids’ names and then bought really a couple of really crappy, cheap gifts for me in the kids’ names. Kids were upset, I was pissed and we agreed that this year I take them to the shops, they do their shopping and that’s that.

    You just need to leave it all alone as much as possible. On ex’s bday and father’s day and all of that I did the same thing. Let them take the lead, made it as simple as possible for them to get something but did not get involved. I have no interest and will not wade into that scummy pond.

  • I do give son a small amount of money (usually $20) to buy his dad a gift at birthday and Christmas. Ex was more-or-less doing the same with son for me. This year, however, there is a good chance ex will be out of town on Christmas, away from son, and if so I am certainly not bothering.

  • The ex gets a birthday card from the kids that I get. I always buy a very cheap one, and I typically have a coupon, so it costs me little to nothing. The only reason I do this is because my birthday is shortly before his, and he has gotten me a card from the kids both years so far. Once the kids are older, though, I’ll expect them to get the card. If he stops getting me a card in the near future, then I won’t bother anymore either. I’ll encourage the kids to make him one.

    Last year, he came over for Christmas morning. I still had his stocking, so I stuck a candy cane in it (which he left there), and the kids made little cards/presents for him that they put in the stocking. He’s not coming over this year since the Owife likely decreed that off limits, so he gets nothing from me. He didn’t get me anything from the kids last year, so I’m fine with ceasing and desisting from any Christmas pretense. I will mention to the kids that they might think about making him something at home or giving him something they make at school, but that’s it. I’m not sure how I’ll handle it when the kids get older; I suppose I will suggest that they pitch in and get their father something, but with the way he’s slowly but surely proving that his interest in being their father is the lowest item on his priority list, I’m not sure that they’ll still have a relationship in the future once the kids are old enough to make their own choices about visitation.

  • Last year my ex asked me to pass along Christmas pics of the kids (I always do family portraits for our Christmas card and he knew that I had already had them done), so I framed them and wrapped them and made that the kids’ gift to him.

    Also, ex knows that I traditionally make tons of cookies and box them up to gift to people who are either just acquaintances or surprise us with an unexpected gift. The kids spend Christmas Eve with him and OW’s whole live-in family, and then Christmas Day with me. I sent them with their framed gift and a box of cookies for the family, just so they wouldn’t be empty-handed because I was mortified as a kid in that type of situation.

    Of course, as expected, no gestures came my way.

  • Thank you CL for being the voice of reason with such clarity. And thank you for posting my question. I had a feeling many of us Chumps have the same dilema about how to handlle this issue. My instincts were to simply not participate in facilitating gift-giving on behalf of my kids to their father. That is what I feel comfortable with and that is what I am sticking to. I will not wrap kibbles in a gift box for him EVER AGAIN! I spent too many years doing that before divorce.
    Thank you CL. You are the best!

  • The gift giving thing was easier for me – my kids are in their late teens and twenties and have been buying their own gifts for a while. I am also not much of a Christmas person so it was not so hard to give it all up. One of jobs working my way through university was in a flower shop. Believe me, having a large “gentleman” screaming at you on Christmas Eve at 8.00 pm while you are trying to close up because you don’t have 12 perfect longstem red roses for his wife set aside special for him takes a lot of the joy out of the season.

    STBX left a month before Christmas, and I was not invited to any celebrations with his family. I had received a couple of magazine subscriptions from my MIL, renewed every year, and these were cancelled immediately (I got notes from the magazines saying they were sorry I was leaving). I took that as an indication that I was now free of any obligation to keep buying any of them gifts.

    It was actually a relief, I have to say. I was responsible for handling all the gift giving, organizing dinners, visits, entertainments, attending all the Christmas concerts and events for the kids and suddenly I didn’t have to do any of it any more, him leaving coinciding more-or-less with my nest emptying. No more annual phone conversations with my tearful MIL wondering why we were not flying out to her tiny prairie town for Christmas this year (at a cost way higher than a trip to Hawaii, including accommodations for the five of us), no more getting out there when we did fly out and then being ignored while she lavished her attention on her son (thank God for my FIL – I loved to hang out with him, and he’s the one I miss). No more buying all the gifts for his side and then having him criticize my choices, no more him waiting until the last minute to ship them out, angry because I didn’t do that as well.

    And STBX never really got me any gifts anyway. Oh, the kids would nag him when they were older, and go with him to pick out something, but other than that my stocking would be empty. Not a book, not a box of chocolates – pretty much nothing. I always made or bought thoughtful presents throughout the year, and really it was pretty embarrassing the last few years to see the contrast.

    Two years after DDay I’m finding this approaching holiday season a lot easier. I celebrate Winter Solstice, a much more meaningful time for me, with my kids to dinner. My oldest and I will get a small Christmas tree because we both love the scent, and he and his girlfriend will decorate it one night. The boys and I get each other a few small but thoughtful gifts – I am glad to see that the boys approach the gift giving like I do, really thinking about it and always giving something meaningful and useful. I still send out cards, often handmade, and bake, and go to at least one choral performance with my dear sister, who has been my rock through all this, and who delights in discovering music. This year I’m singing in a small choir and will be going to perform at some local churches and care homes in December. And I will get together with friends for tea, and have a lunch with my coworkers one afternoon, and will run in the park when the sun is out and be grateful.

    It’s still hard, I won’t deny that. In the dark nights sitting alone, wondering if the divorce will ever be finalized, missing my kids, mourning so many losses in the last two years. But I pick up my knitting, and send a few e-mails to friends far away, and plan for 2014, and realize how good life is becoming, and it’s a lot easier to not feel sorry for myself.

    Hugs to all of you, especially those with small people to look out for You are all strong and smart and will figure this out and find your way to joy, and Meh!

  • The only gifts X ever got me or our kids for birthdays or Christmas was something he could steal from a temp job, buy used, a free giveaway or something from the Dollar Tree. He actually got off on giving cheap shit, making a point of where he picked it up and how much he spent, if at all. If any of us dared to be disappointed, he would sulk for days. It was insulting and bizarre, all at once.

    I did the holiday shopping for our family and our extended family. There were many years when the only thing under the tree for me was something from my middle son (I treasure those gifts to this day). That kind of treatment and a million other slights are why I came to hate holidays in general, including my birthday.

    I am with CL on this; kids can either make something, write a letter or use their money earned from jobs. But I’m not giving them cash to spend on their deadbeat loser of a father. I can’t anyway; the asshole is unemployed and not contributing what he should be for child support. So there isn’t any money to spare.

    • CandL, my STBXs biological father used to “gift” us with old crap too. A broken lawn mower, poorly functioning fluorescent lights, a malfunctioning video camera – after a while it became a running joke that anything he gave us would be broken. Cheap bastard that he is I think he was just trying to save on disposal fees. And mind he isn’t a poor man, having plenty of money to travel the world and keep a huge house, and now apparently to hire two caregivers to live in full time to tend to his needs, although he is still in good health.

      Before I finally refused to have anything more to do with him, about 15 years ago, we did exchange gifts. When we didn’t have much money I would craft something for him and his second wife for Christmas, and they would give us something odd – one year it was a 12-pack of Pears soap, with two bars missing. Another year it was three tubes of toothpaste. When the kids came along he would always give them something “recycled”, or a picture of him in some exotic place as they travelled a lot. You know, things a five year old could really appreciate. I finally told him to start putting some money into an educational fund for them instead which amazingly he did. Of course, now there are huge control issues around him giving them that money for university, but he has to, and has reluctantly been coughing it up.

      STBX just didn’t give presents at all, aside from risque’ lingerie occasionally (try explaining that to your elementary school aged kids on Christmas morning) which I suppose is better than being given broken stuff. I guess.

  • The gifts thing is difficult. I want my kids to think of others, not just themselves.
    But exH does make it difficult. The first Mother’s Day when we were “on the rocks” but before I knew of OW… I got a text at the end of the day… Oh, by the way, Happy Mother’s Day” he was out of town, most likely with OW.
    Then , a few months later, after i filed for divorce (since he was too lazy)…my birthday came… Nothing from the kids. Not a hug, not a card. Not a good morning birthday wish.
    I had been worried about a health issue at the time (negative results later, woo hoo), so it was a real blow.
    When I the kids are older I realize they are responsible for getting gifts, but when their ages are in single digits, it is the other parent’s responsibility to help remind them.
    STBXH did get a Xmas gift for me, from the kids.

    Last year it was difficult to send out the holiday cards… Though I was happy not having to send them to all ex’s relatives.

    This year kids are with exH and the new family, at her family’s place, out of state.
    I do not have any family nearby, so I am heading to Disneyland with friends! Let the Mouse cook the food.

    • Whoo hoo! Have fun at Disneyland, X. No cooking is the best.

      Once the divorce is over I’m planning for Christmas 2014 in Iceland, soaking in the Blue Lagoon with a good single-malt scotch at hand. Keeps me going….

  • I would sooner buy cupcakes for Al-Qaeda than buy my serial cheating ex a Christmas gift. Gifts are for friends and family. Cheating ex is neither. Cheating ex is the opposite.

    And helping children buy gifts for the person who blew up their family? No, thanks. Sends a terrible message. About the family that we are not. About the consequences of selfish, destructive choices. About the wisdom of trying to cultivate a reciprocal relationship with a sociopath. I will not be a party to such a disaster-waiting-to-happen.

    CL is right. You cannot mediate the relationship between your children and your cheating ex. As painful as it is, you must step away from that mess and let the kids wade through it themselves. They will learn how to make their way. Take the money that might have gone for a gift and save it for the therapy your children will need one day.

    • Yeah…totally agree. I think going with the kids to pick out something for Daddy (in your case, Mommy) is a sign of affection, one that is now undeserved.

      xH could give very thoughtful and generous gifts when he felt like it–an engraved iPod one year, for example. I loved it! On the other hand, when he was in love with one of his co-workers, I got a cooking pot and a pile of plastic joke dog-poo that year. “You want a dog so bad, this seemed appropriate.” The Christmas before d-day, a week ahead of the 25th, he had me practically order what I wanted on-line right in front of him. Man he was, he paid extra for shipping, since he was late. And he asked me to return every single gift I bought him that year.

      I used to buy his mothers’ gifts, and sent her flowers from him on Mother’s Day, but since she threw me under the bus–no more. His mother is now his responsibility.

      I am no longer the man’s wife. I parent in parallel. He wanted to toss me with the trash, he’s got his wish.

      Makes him angry. He didn’t really think it through, driving home from his rendezvous with the twat troll. His plans were all rainbows and sparkles. Ditching me was gonna be AWEsome!

      I help my kids with gifts to their grandparents (my parents, only) and girlfriends and each other, if they need me. xH’s family I ignore. No triangulation, just no mention. I mean, I am a door mat, but I do have some sense.

      Once again, good advice, CL.

      • I could have written your post myself. Just switch out your cooking pot with my ” hair dryer” gift. Our bday’s are three weeks apart. So I got the hair dryer first, then he unwrapped a surprise trip to the Oregon Coast. Too bad I didn’t realize he was cheating on me then…

        No way the person who destroys my life, my family, my children’s financial future gets anything from me.

        And ditto on the xinlaws, that ship has sailed…..

  • I found out he was dating on and gave him his 25th anniversary card a week later with a Monopoly game “Get Out of Jail Free” card enclosed and a goodbye note. A few years later after D-day and a few false reconciliations, I sent him a “Get Out of Jail Free” t-shirt for Christmas. The best gift I ever got was my freedom from this abusive, selfish man. One year he gave me red-orange flannel pajamas with pictures of different breeds of dogs on them for Christmas! Narcissists are terrible gift givers; their lack of empathy means they have no idea what you would like to get, He buys himself whatever he wants anyway, and even my now older children just go in on one big gift for him: kindle, tom-tom navigator, etc. Usually some sort of boy’s toy. They stopped giving him anything personal, like “World’s Greatest Dad” stuff.

    • Reminds me….my STBX got one of my plus-sized girlfriends a sweatshirt with a picture of a giant whale on it…..and acted like he had no idea it would be offensive. What a jerk.

  • I also stopped giving gifts pretty quickly after the divorce. I initially did nice things on the kids’ behalf – framed school pictures, coupons to his favorite restaurants – but it was not reciprocated. I figured if he couldn’t be bothered, why should I?

    I always did all the Santa shopping, wrapping, Christmas cards, teacher gifts, menus, cooking, etc. – with no help from him – when we were together. All he ever had to do was buy a gift for me – a huge chore, apparently – and God forbid if I EVER criticized it. Yet nothing I ever bought for him was right, particularly toward the end.

    It’s sad how many of our stories are the same. 🙁

    • Red, this is exactly my situation. No surprise, similar stories.

      Just recently I sent some photos of the children to my ex father in law (who is in a nursing home). While I have no particular love for him, it’s not his fault that his son turned out to be a cheating louse. As tempting as it would be to include a note that vilifies my EX or points out the obvious, I just write “hope you are doing well and enjoy the photos”.

      The OW, now the wife, can spend her money to buy the gifts. Last year they gave the children toothbrushes and toothpaste (travel sized) and some hand sanitizer (also travel sized) for Christmas. I’m hopeful this year they’ll branch out into deodorant or even shampoo. But I’m trying not to get their hopes up too much.

  • I ALWAYS send my mother-in-law a card and picture of our son at x-mas. I am con-
    templating whether or not to do it this year. Is she collateral damage, too?

    • If she has been kind and supportive to you, then I would continue to send her a card. If she has turned her back on you or accepted the OP as a legitimate partner to your ex, then I would not send her a card, but that’s just me.

    • I will continue to do that until my XILs demonstrate behavior that leads me to feel otherwise. My XWH’s nuclear family is all LD, but they have still remained kind to me and have not done anything to merit hostility from me (well, other than continue to accept their son and now his HoWife, but that’s pretty much inevitable in most situations). I don’t know if things will be different this year, but my MIL still sent me a birthday card and gift as well as a Mother’s Day card and gift last year, so I have no problem continuing to send her flowers on Mother’s Day (from me and the kids, NOT from XWH), a photo/card on Christmas, and a card/magazine subscription on her birthday.

      If her behavior toward me changes, though, then all bets are off.

  • The final Dear John speech happened on Christmas Day last year. I am looking forward to Christmas this year because I look at it as my liberation day. My son is an adult and still does not speak to the ex, so no gifts and more money for both of us while we spend Christmas at a beach resort.

    The way I see it, ex chose to abandon his family, therefore all family-related activities have ceased. Not being cruel, just externalizing the new reality that he imposed on us.

  • How similiar the stories indeed!

    For the ten years I was married, I did all the birthday and holiday shopping for his family (including reminding him of their birthdays!) – they were always critical of the gifts or downright nasty, so that stopped immediately.

    My kids have no contact, and my daughter has never asked to make/send/buy anthing for her “dad”. My son does get upset – they both do – at Father’s Day. They feel awkward in school when gifts are made, so each year, they’ve picked another male person (uncles, coaches, teachers) to be the recipient of their gifts. Rough, but manageable.

    I’ve been incredibly blessed (in a strange way) that many of my kids’ teachers have been/are single parents, so they make a big deal about making presents in school for holidays. I have a sweet, nostalgic collection of gifts my kids have made for me over the years that are worth more than gold. My mom helps them buy a few tiny gifts for my birthday – thought more than $$ – so they’re being well trained.

    Oh, during the ten years we were married, I got exactly one gift for birthday’s, Christmas, Mother’s Day, and Valentine’s day put together – a VERY low cut suit that allowed my bosoms to spill out in front of the whole church when he demanded I wear it on Christmas Eve. I even think my former MIL bought that – she had trashy taste.

    Great new tradition – I budget for gifts for myself for these holidays – I buy myself a rose bush every year for Mother’s day, and now have a beautiful “Mommy’s Garden” – I treat myself to a massage and nice bottle of wine for my birthday each year; I buy myself nice pajamas for Valentines day (I burned all my old PJ’s and bedding when he left…lol) and fill my own stocking with dark chocolates, perfume, and lip gloss at Christmas. Santa loves me!

  • This is my first holiday season as a STBX….I am going to try to do holidays with the STBX because my kids are so young. We’ll see how it goes. I’m going to have to tell him ahead of time to *not* get me any gifts, because I won’t be getting any for him, and it’s inappropriate.

    I have so many bad memories of the holidays, due to him. We just did an early Thanksgiving dinner, and he almost lost his temper over whether our 4-year old was going to eat the gravy. It wasn’t about the gravy. it was about him being in control. He stopped short of an angry outburst, but not before making our daughter cry. Wow, dude, really? That’s the memory you want her to have of Thanksgiving?

  • I did take my children holiday shopping and Bday shopping and F-day shopping for a number of years, to pick out gifts for their father. While I didn’t give a crap about ensuring XH had a gift, I did want to teach my children to enjoy partaking in the holiday ritual and to allow them to feel it was OK to give a gift to their father. Getting their father a gift was not about sending any kind of message to him but about them. It usually came down to letting them pick out a CD or slippers or something relatively nondescript and affordable. I also took them shopping to get a gift for their stepmother (who was NOT OW) on her Bday and for Xmas. It wasn’t going to be OK for them to not treat her appropriately.

    When they reached middle school age I purchased each of them a gift card, had them make a list of family and dropped them off at the dept store to do their shopping with a budget (card).

    Followed that ritual through HS age. Afterwards, they were on their own with paying for and deciding on gifts.

    • Thanks for this post, Marcie. I’ve always enjoyed holidays–buying gifts, wrapping gifts, and receiving them. I want my kids to have this kind of joy, too. So, for the last three years, I’ve been helping them buy their father birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, a father’s day card, and even gifts for their paternal grandparents at Christmas.

      None of this is reciprocated, of course. But I knew better than to expect that it would be. And my kids are getting better at thinking to make me a card or coupons for doing the dishes, etc. as gifts they can give me all by themselves.

      Equally importantly, I don’t want to model the nasty behaviors their father engages in (constant slander of me and my family)–I want to model the idea that they can enjoy both sides of their family as far as I am concerned. (Internally, I’d like them to see him for what he is, but I know that kids have a deep desire to love both parents, and the only “healthy” way for them to come to terms with their father’s limitations is through drawing their own experience based conclusions. I think the fact that he didn’t remember one child’s birthday this year might be doing the trick.)

      But I hate paying for his gifts. I hate the hypocritical gift lists he gives the children (Christian themed gifts intended to spackle over his flaws.) I hate the extravagant requests he makes (outrageously expensive things–just like he’d ask of me when we were married–but that even preteens from the wealthiest families would never to able to afford), which they then feel disappointed about because “Dad isn’t getting what he asked for.” I hate having to make a happy trip out of shopping for the jackass. Basically, I hate the fact that their father tries to make my modeling of good manners and graciousness into ways to manipulate all of us.

      Your idea of buying the gift card and letting them loose sounds brilliant. Next Christmas is looking easier already! And, eventually, they’ll be teenagers, and I can leave the entire business up to them.

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