Unsure of my role in my nieces Christmas

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-28-2013
Unsure of my role in my nieces Christmas
13
Tue, 12-03-2013 - 11:14am

Any advice/suggestions would be appreciated with this situation.  

My brother is an alcoholic who is currently in rehab. He and my sister-in-law are now divorced, he has lost his home, job, everything. He is literally one step away from being homeless. My sister-in-law (we'll call her Jane) was fortunate enough to have a mother who bought her a small home for she and my neices (ages 7 and 11) to live in. My husband and I have tried to remain very close to our nieces who live several hours away by offering for them to come spend weekends with us and offering to go and visit them. Jane just blows it off saying "the girls don't like to be away from me." Which I can understand because they're Dad is no longer in their lives on a regular basis.  Occasionally, Jane will need help keeping them and will call on us and we gladly help. I love the girls as if they were my own and would love to help them in any way possible. 

Jane is a school teacher and I realize she doesn't make a lot of money. However, she doesn't have a house payment or car payment, and her mother helps her out with the bills and her father does any handywork that needs to be done around the home. We are all thankful for that. 

My problem is last night Jane called me and told me that although she does have money, times are tough and she "doesn't want the girls to go without at Christmas, because the fact that they're Dad is in rehab is not their fault." I completely agree and had planned to spend $100- $150 on each of the girls this year. Jane said to me "that is wonderful, but I'm going to need help with Santa" The 11 year old wants UGG boots and a Northface Fleece FROM SANTA  She said she would email me the list for the 7 year old. Jane told me when the girls get older she'll tell them that I helped out with Santa. I can understand her asking for a little help, but as the Aunt, I don't feel as though it's my responsibilty to play Santa. Am I being selfish? Between, Jane, Jane's mother and father, my mother and my husband and myself, the girls are definitely not going to "go without." Jane says her family has already done so much she hates to ask them for anything. I KNOW they will do a lot for the girls at Christmas. I told her to mail me the list and my husband and I would try and help out with a couple of items. She went on to say that my brother owes her over $5,000 in child support and that she pays for all their groceries and field trip for the girls...ughhh!! My brother is completely broke, and as much as I hate that for everybody, I feel like she's implying that since HE can't help out that I should. I would appreciate ANY advice. Thank you!

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iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Tue, 12-03-2013 - 12:14pm

I think that her behavior is over the top and a lot of nerve.  You don't demand that people give your children specific things.  I also think that if you are going to give the children expensive things that they should be from you, not from "santa."  if you want to send some extra money so she can buy some things from Santa, then that is your choice, but it should not be demanded.  The fact that your brother owes child support should not make you feel guilty.  It is not your responsibility to support your brother's children. Not to mention that if she has a full time job & is not paying rent or mortgage (which is the biggest expenses for most people) it doesn't appear that she's in poverty.  I think one problem is that people expect to go overboard at Christmas not in relation to what they can afford and kids should learn that they can't have everything.  If I bought my child either a North Face jacket or Uggs (they would never get both) that would be the one big present and they wouldn't be expecting tons more gifts--and I'm a lawyer.  I'm also divorced and my kids know that I can't afford tons of stuff and they have to be happy with what they get.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-28-2013
Tue, 12-03-2013 - 12:21pm

Thank you for your response. I'm going to have to stand my ground with her. 

Community Leader
Registered: 07-26-1999
Tue, 12-03-2013 - 12:50pm

I have to agree with musiclover here.  I would just simply tell her thank you for the list, we appreciate knowing what the kids want for christmas, and then explain that you are happy to buy them gifts, but they are gifts from you, but you are willing to help out with a small present or two "from santa" if she would like.  If she has money to buy them gifts at all, then those should be labeled from santa and she can either not give them gifts from her, or however she wants to do it, but they girls are also old enough to understand the situation enough to know that money is tight and that while santa will bring them gifts, mom may not have the money to do expensive gifts this year.  When I was a single mom, my DD knew that money was tight and she would get a few small meaningful gifts from me, and other gifts came from santa and relatives.  And honestly, if they have as many people in their lives as it sounds like, at the end of hte day, they really aren't going to remember who gave them what gift.

as for child support, she is trying to making you feel guilty for no reason.  It is your brother's issue, and you already support her enough....

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iVillage Member
Registered: 03-28-2013
Tue, 12-03-2013 - 12:54pm

You ladies have made me feel MUCH better. I agree with what you are saying, but was starting to feel like I was being selfish. Thank you so much for your replies. 

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-08-2006
Tue, 12-03-2013 - 3:28pm
I think it is pretty outrageous of your sister in law to ask you to give 'Santa' gifts...I know that parents try to keep the magic going, but I think an 11 year old is old. Enough to help make the magic, not still believe that there is a Santa...and a seven year old should be starting to question. I think it is much more important for your nieces to know that you love them and will be there for them than to believe Santa grants wishes. If they were two or four, and didn't ubderstand who gave what, that might've different, but I think having a special aunt who buys dearly wanted presents is ablessing...and good for you for staying in there life. When my parents divorced, we lost contact with his family...for a lot of reasons...and I think my aunt really regretted it at the end of her life. I know I would fight tooth and nail to be in my nephews lives if the need arose. Best wishes
iVillage Member
Registered: 05-20-2009
Tue, 12-03-2013 - 4:28pm

I agree with the other two.......she is milking the cow.  Since she hasn't got the "usual" payments to make, like house & car, what is she doing with her money?  Teachers make "decent" money.......and if her kids want that stuff (I'd say that 7 & 11 are a little big to believe in santa) then she should explain to them that there's only so much money for Christmas, and they can decide what they really want, and if it's one BIG thing, then there will be no small things. 

Also, no one mentioned it, but I think that two girls 7 & 11 are old enough to leave mommy for a week-end now and then, and if she tells them at all about you wanting them to visit (I bet she doesn't even tell them) she's putting you down in some way to discourage them from wanting to see you.

I had a similar situation with two grand daughters......my son DIED, and left an 11 year old and a 13 year old daughter.  My DIL was a nutcase to start with.  Once the girls became pre-teen and teen, I had no idea what to buy them for Christmas, or birthdays, so I would arrange for them to go to lunch with me, individually for birthday, and together for Christmas.  Suddenly their phone wasn't being answered.  So I sent a birthday card for the first one, with a note to call me to make a date to go out for lunch.  No reply.  Same for the second birthday, no reply.  I went by their apartment, they'd moved!  I sent Christmas cards thinking they'd be forwarded, they came back.  I gave up. 5 years later, they found their uncle (my other son) on Facebook, and asked him why Grandma was ignoring them!  He told them my number is still in the phone book, (same # for 50 years) and they should call me.  One did, they both came to visit, both had married, One had a 2 year old son, my greatgrandson!  They said they never saw one of the cards, and their mother told them that I didn't "give a damn" about them.  Angry, unhappy or mentally disturbed people can do strange things.  If they won't come to stay with you, why don't you go to where they live, just to pick them up and take them out for lunch.  I'm sure they could be persuaded to leave Mom for an hour or two......and maybe take her with you, too.  That way you can see the way she influences them.  Good Luck with all of it.    Buy what you were planning to buy, and don't deal with the SIL. 

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-28-2013
Tue, 12-03-2013 - 5:16pm
I'm so sorry for you situation Fissatore. I know that must be heart-wrenching. My nieces have always been so very special to me, I don't have children of my own and have made a very special effort to stay in their lives. The SIL is ALL about me being with them when it's convenient for HER. I'll take what I can get at this point. It's so strange how she expresses to me how much she wants me and my husband to be in the girls lives...yet, each time we try it just doesn't work out. My SIL is extremely close to her mother...I think in an unhealthy way...and I think she's passing that along to her daughters. We live 2 hours apart and on the rare occasion that they do come spend the night she puts a picture of herself in their suitcases and calls several times to check on them. I can completely understand calling to check on them, but it's overkill. Thankfully, the girls call me from time to time and "face-time" me on their iPads (which both girls have) so they're definitely NOT hurting. I just don't like the way My SIL manipulates the situation. I really appreciate your response, after talking to her last night I was starting to wonder if maybe I was the one that had the issues. Take care and God bless you.
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-28-2013
Tue, 12-03-2013 - 5:20pm
Yes, I agree with you that they're at the age or approaching the age where they no longer believe in Santa. In fact, the 11 year old mentioned to me 2 years ago that she doesn't believe anymore. I'd do anything for those girls and they all know that, but playing "Santa" I think is over the top. My SIL knows that I love those girls as my own and I feel like she's taking advantage of that. Thank you for your response.
iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Wed, 12-04-2013 - 10:37am

Yes putting a picture of herself in the suitcase is really nutty if they are only stay for a night or two (or even if they were staying for a week--does she think that they will forget they have a mom when she's constantly calling them?)  Some parents foster their kids being independent (which is healthy) and some want the kids tied to them constantly, which is only going to cause problems for the kids later when they are adults and can't do anything for themselves.  Imagine if they try to go away for college--she'll be the helicopter parent for sure.

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-19-2008
Wed, 12-04-2013 - 1:07pm

I agree with the others.  Your sil married your brother and you are being kind by doing all that you have.  She's now trying to take advantage of you.  I think you should just offer the gifts you would normally send and make up a reason like "money is tight" or give no reason at all. 

By the way - I am almost 50 years old and while I can very much afford it, I recently opted to buy a cheaper brand of boots than ugg.  I know that kids want these because they are fasionable - but to expect someone to pay $150 or more for a gift for a niece is really out of touch with reality....just my opinion.

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