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Holiday Rant....Advice needed.

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
This was our first Christmas as a married couple. I have a close family and we have always had Christmas Eve and day at my parents' house.

DH's family does NOTHING for Christmas! He buys the boys gifts in Dec. and ends up giving them to them whatever day he happens to buy them. No wrapping, no suprise, no fun in my mind! His ex does the same thing too.

Basically his ex's work schedule determines who has the boys for the holidays. So, we don't know if they will be with us or not until she decides is she is going to work. She is a nurse and gets paid more for working holidays, so she normally will work.

Anyway, the boys don't like going to my parents' because they are expected to behave, use manners, and socialize. I won't let them bring their laptops or gameboys, because they need to learn to interact with other humans! They will spend HOURS on the computer video games rather than socializing with people. I would dare say that they have more cyberspace friends than they do "real" friends.

Anyway, my family doesn't think that it is fair that we open presents in front of the boys because the boys get one or two expensive ($500) gifts while each of my family members get about 10-15 inexpensive ($3-25) gifts. Their ONE gift normally costs more than any one person's 10-15 gifts, so I don't feel bad about it. But my parents do. Any advice?

My sister gets VERY stressed out over having the boys at Mom and Dad's. The boys have not been raised to have manners and while I am trying to teach them it is hard to take a 14 and 16 year old and get them to be gracious guests. For example, the 14yo almost knocked my sister down and didn't apologize! She was livid, but didn't say anything to him...she waited to complain to me days later which is too late to do or say anything. Also, one of my DSSs wiped pie off of their finger onto my mother's living room floor and still my sister said nothing to him! I would have MADE him get a wet towel and wipe it up if I had seen it. But instead I have to listen to her gripe about DSSs poor manners days later! How would you handle this?

Next year, we will have the first grand child of my side of the family, so I really want to spend Christmas with my folks, but I just don't know how to make everyone happy. Suggestions?
post #2 of 13
post #3 of 13
Hmm. No big ideas. I can see how having all the families open presents together would be a little strange since different families spend differently. In my family, we open presents(from moms/dads/santas) by ourselves, as do all the other siblings and cousins in their own homes, then we all get together at grandmas at about 10am to open presents from each other and share a meal.

What does your dh say about the manners issues? I would think that as teens they'd take advice and guidance a little more graciously from their dad.
post #4 of 13
Thread Starter 
I like the idea of us opening gifts here at home and then exchanging gifts at M&D's. That would cut down the number of gifts that DH and I would have to open at Mom and Dad's, and if M&D and my brother and sister (both single with no kids) would open gifts from one another, then it would cut down the time. But I would still have gifts to open from each of them.

Another issue is that my parents buy one gift for each boy and make them a goodie box. DH says that the boys think the goodie boxes are stupid...Mom spends hours baking different types of cookies and making fudge to create this huge box of junk food. So it kind of hurts that they don't like it. But Mom and Dad are both on Social Security and really don't know what teen agers like. Besides that the boys don't buy gifts for anyone...not even for their parents or one another! So, I kind of think that they are lucky to get and not give. KWIM? I was raised that you should buy something for everyone just to show that you love them.
I have thought about doing a drawing where one person will buy for another, but I don't know how to do that with my family and his!

Anyway, I am worried the boys will think the baby got more gifts than them next year even though I am sure that my parents will spend the same amount...but the boys will probably get a gift card to their favorite fast food joint and the baby will get toys or clothes. ON THE OTHER HAND, my sister and brother will probably buy the baby gifts but not the boys. Sis and Bro don't feel connected to the boys.

DH just says boys will be boys when I bring up the manners issues! He will correct them if he sees something really disrespectful. He also makes excuses for it, saying that they are bored at Mom and Dad's house. They only have to go there once or twice a year and we only stay for a few hours, so I don't think this is really fair.
post #5 of 13
Please don't take my post as rude, I truly am not trying to be rude! I probably made several assumptions too!

1). Let the boys take games. They are bored. Just from what you posted, these boys have nothing in common with anyone at your parents house. These boys are 14 and 16 years old and are light years away from where anybody thinks they are. You even posted that your brother and sister don't feel connected to them. They feel that. Let them take something to do.

2). Talk to the boys. Open up with them and explain the situation. They are old enough to understand how you and your family feel. If they feel like they are being heard (by being able to take games) then they will be more likely to consider your parents, brother and sisters feelings.

3). Do not let them open their gifts from you and your dh in front of everyone. That seems very personal and 'family' oriented. Bottom line, you have a new family now that includes two teenage boys, not your family.

4). These boys need a break, they are going through hell. Dad is getting ready to have a little girl. That has to smart.

5). Talk to your family. Explain how these boys must feel.

6). Explain to the boys how hard your mother is trying. It really isn't hard to illicit empathy from children.

I hope I haven't offended you or come across too strong. My heart truly is in the right place. Good luck to you with the new baby!
post #6 of 13

great post.
post #7 of 13
Teen boys that don't like a box of cookies????

It sounds like your dh needs to get after them. If dss came to dh and said my mom gave him a stupid gift, dh would stop right there and talk to him about manners, thankfulness, and even ACTING thankful for a gift you don't l ike. Those aren't really stepfamily issues, just respect in general.

As far as bringing gameboys, etc. I do sometimes let dss bring a movie or a game if the social situation is boring to him. But, I'd probably say, visit for an hour then you can go play your game, or something.

It can be hard for gifts to seem "fair" when the age differences are like that. Dss is 10 and as you know, one video game for him might be 50 dollars, but spending 50 dollars on a gift for a 2 year old is pretty impressive. My parents spend exactly the same amount on each grandkid, step or bio, and we all know that (I'm sure it's been mentioned to the older kids, too).

Your bro and sis should give the boys something, even homemade or cheap, just as a gesture at least.

Why not have the boys help pick out gifts for your family (their new family!)?
post #8 of 13
I don't understand why they wouldn't like cookies but whatever!
you should def. have a talk with them about manners and then remind them as needed while at m&d's. also maybe try taking them shopping next year to buy small gifts to exchange each seperatley so they can start buying for each other and their dad as well. they will also have a little sister by then to buy for!
good luck-teen age boys are boring
post #9 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thanks ladies! No, I'm not offended LAB. I know that we all need to make adjustments in the situation both me, DH, DSSs and my family. I am going to have to sit down with everyone involved and have a chat about what should be happening. Thanks again!
post #10 of 13
great advise by Lab!

no one said this would be easy......we have yet to indroduce our kids to eachother - they are from different states and the ex is leary about letting them travel here and it is so dificult for me to travel alone with 3 kids unde rhte age of 4...

soon - soon we'll see thier interaction!
post #11 of 13
I have a 16-year-old "step-nephew". He's never really felt like part of the family (neither do my brother and SIL's three kids, though), but is always at my mom's for the Christmas morning gift opening. DH & I always buy him a gift certificate for HMV. The reason he doesn't feel like part of the family has to do with family dynamics and has nothing to do with him. It would be hard on him to have to sit there and watch everybody else (the other 11 kids and three siblings with spouses, and mom and stepdad, and my stepbrother, and...my godmother, I guess you'd call her. I wouldn't do that to the guy. I think it's only fair to get him something. I think that applies to your step-sons, too.

Like the pp's, I can't imagine why they don't like the "goodie box". If someone gave ds1 (he's almost 13) a box of junk food as a gift, he'd be over the moon!

I agree with pp's about the Gameboys. I actualy hate the things. But, I think it's unreasonable to expect two teenage boys to have to socialize with people they don't well for an extended period of time. And, I don't think it will give them very pleasant Christmas memories, either. I'd agree - expect them to be polite and sociable for an hour or so, then they can go play their games somewhere else. (DS1 and my 10-year-old nephew always vanish into the TV room.)

Our family has the big gift opening at mom's place. The way it works for us is that we each open our gifts at home as a family (ie. me, dh & our kids at our house; my brother, SIL & their kids at their house and my sister, BIL & their kids at their house), then we all meet up at mom's at about 10:00 or so. We exchange all the "inter-family" gifts...the ones to and from the grandparents and between the grown-up siblings and the nieces and nephews. It's a chaotic hour or so, but everyone has fun...and we don't have any massive discrepancies in gifts to address. Would something like that work for your family?

I hope you can get this sorted out. I have a stepdad & stepbrother, and each of us has one child from a previous relationship, plus our current families and my brother has his stepson, and I have to co-ordinate with my ex's family and buy them gifts from ds1 (he has no money of his own, and my ex isn't even in the picture). The whole "step" thing gets awfully confusing at the holidays.

Oh...and I'd make a point of telling your mom, sister and everybody else that any gross infractions against common courtesy (eg. not apologizing, smearing food on the floor) on the part of your dss's should be brought to your attention immediately. I'm sure some of that is boredom at work, but it's not acceptable, and you can't be expected to deal with it if you don't know it's happening.
post #12 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thanks Lisa!

DH and I need to sit down and have a long talk about this.

I think that we should not go to Mom's Christmas Eve and Day, but only go Christmas Day.

My sister needs to understand that I have my own family now and she just needs to adjust!

We, DH and I need to talk to the boys about how to act and I need to talk to my family about how to respond to their behavior. Having my family complain about the boys behavior several days later doesn't change anything..it is too late then. For example...last year DSS#1 was constantly going off into parts of the house that he had no reason to go into like my parents' bedroom. This really bothered M&D because DH had his nephew with him, who had the night before stolen my car, smoked pot and wreaked it. Yes, Christmas Eve 2004...So, my family wasn't happy with DH's family.

Anyway, Thanks again...if anyone has any advice I would love to hear it.

My family has never dealt with split families, divorce, or step children...so this is totally new to us. Thanks again!
post #13 of 13
I'd try to remember that they are young and this is THIER Christmas. At 14 and at 16, Christmas was still a big thing to me. Ask them what would make Christmas special and nice (or try to think yourself what would make it special) and try to do that for them. Also, I don't always remember giving my dad and mom and brother and sister christmas presents - sometimes yes - but not always. ( Of course I was NOT "raised that you should buy something for everyone just to show that you love them." ). Love and christmas presents weren't coupled in that way.

I was thinking why the boys might not enjoy christmas. You mentioned that your parents were excited about their first grandbaby. Which means, of course, that they don't consider your stepkids their grandkids, and your stepkids probably don't consider your parents thier grandparents. So the boys are spending christmas with a family that feels like it isn't their family. There is a lack of real connection that better manners couldn't mask. Remember, they are 14 and 16 and these are THIER childhood Christmases.
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