Dysfunctional Family Christmas and Giving the Wrong Gift




dysfunctional family christmas
the wrong gift

The Ghost of Dysfunctional Christmas Past ~ Part 2

How come I could NEVER find the right gift for my Mother? I never seemed to be able to make her happy. My Christmas gifts  as well as any other gifts I found for her never had the desired effect one wants when giving a gift to someone.

There was always this disappointment she showed when she opened a gift from me. Her face would fall. She would look uncomfortable. She wouldn’t say much about whatever I had chosen for her. I agonized over what I would get her, and then I worried about it until the day I gave it to her. I dreaded her reaction. I guess I was hoping that her face would light up. I was hoping for approval.

I got so that I HATED thinking about what she might like for a gift and what I should get her. There was so much anxiety around gift giving that I couldn’t actually concentrate on the celebration itself. There was so much “obligation” around all these events that I didn’t understand back then.

My mother never made it easy for me by pointing out or mentioning a specific gift she wanted. It was as if my “guessing what the right gift would be to get for her” was part of what would make her happy. It was a though if she “told” me what she wanted, that would ruin it. In order for the gift to be “special”, I had to come up with the idea on my own, or be a mind reader.

My mother collects Royal Doulton Figurines. Not the cheap kind either. The ones she likes cost upwards of $250.00 each. One year I decided to get her one. It was a lot of money but I really wanted to make her happy.

It worked. She loved it. FINALLY I had done something right after YEARS of giving her a disappointing gift and feeling like I had let my mom down. Her face lit up! She approved! It was an exhilarating feeling of success for me!

There was only one other time I recall where my mother was pleased with me choice of gift for her. It was when I sent her a huge amount of roses to correspond with the number of years she had reached on her birthday. (I can’t remember which birthday, but I know it was over 60)  

When I began my journey out of the foggy darkness, I realized that my Mother sees gifts as a reflection of “love” or a measurement of love.  Gifts “prove” her value. If the giver spends a lot then the giver recognizes her value. Gifts define her. It isn’t the thought that counts in her mind. In addition to that, it’s not only about money and the monetary value of the gift but how well the giver has “guessed” what would please her.  When the relationship is dysfunctional however, it is really hard to guess the right gift.

It seems as though according to her belief system, the gift actually “proves” her worth. The gift proves the givers love and understanding of her.

There is another side of this picture. My mother didn’t give gifts to me in the same way she wanted to receive them for herself. Once again this is an example of how controlling and manipulative people live by two different sets of rules.  The rules that apply to her, and the rules that apply to others.  I always say that narcissistic, controlling and manipulative people don’t ‘love’ by the same rules that they demand love. If my gifts to her defined my love for her and her worth in my eyes then I thought it would stand to reason that the same was true for her when she gave a gift to me. 

When it came to me and the gifts that my mother would choose for me, the gifts always seemed practical or convenient.  She hated those kinds of gifts for herself, but she bought them for me. It seems odd to me that she would buy me gifts that would have disappointed her; gifts that would have “defined her” as less than worthy of a major splurge gift.

In the fog of dysfunctional mother daughter relationship, I could not sort this out.

If my gifts to my mother defined or proved my love for her and made a statement TO her about HER worth in my eyes then it would stand to reason that the same was true for her when she gave a gift to me.

Today I realize that her gifts to me were in fact another way of keeping me defined as less valuable than she was.  Upon closer examination, if my gifts defined my love for her and her worth in my eyes, than judging by the gifts she chose for me, it would stand to reason the same belief actually WAS true for her.  In truth, she was giving me gifts according to her own belief system. She believed that I was not worthy of thought and consideration in the way that I had to prove she was worthy of thought and consideration.

Her double standard (in her view) wasn’t odd at all. It was actually a truth leak about the way she regarded me as “less” than herself.

And in some dysfunctional families, this devaluing belief system is reflected differently for each child! In other words, one child gets the best and most expensive gift imaginable while the other child gets socks.

I don’t miss any of that stuff anymore. I don’t miss the anxiety of choosing a gift for her; I don’t miss bracing myself for the reaction from her; I don’t miss her disappointment or her false definition of love that wrapped around the whole Mothers day, birthday, and Christmas gift giving thing.

It took me years to get over my fear of giving the wrong gift. It took me years to get over my fear of opening gifts too.  I was so afraid that I would react the way that my mother did, I was more focused on my reaction to a gift than I was ON the gift itself! Once I found the truth at the roots of those fears, each passing year has become easier. I don’t buy gifts OR give gifts out of obligation anymore. I don’t believe gifts are a measurement of love. And since my definition of love has been redefined and I know what LOVE is and what LOVE is not, I don’t live under those two different sets of rules anymore either.

I welcome your comments. Please feel free to share.

Happy Holidays everyone; Bright blessings, hugs and squishes to all;

Darlene Ouimet

Related Posts ~Part one to this post ~ Dysfunctional Family Christmas and Being Alone

 The Emerging from Broken book is ready for download! If you find that the subject matter I am writing about resonates with you, get this book today! This 197 page, downloadable, printable, live linked e-book will put you on the fast track to healing.  Get yours here through the upper right side bar or click this link~ Emerging from Broken The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing


119 response to "Dysfunctional Family Christmas and Giving the Wrong Gift"

  1. By: Jen Posted: 28th December

    Hi Betty Jean,

    Kindred “Say it as I see it” spirit here. No worries. I know how sometimes things just strike such a nerve that you just let things out quickly and it is so easy to offend over the internet sometimes. Nice to meet you!

    Darlene does a great job here keeping the peace I think. Thanks, Darlene.

  2. By: BettyJean Posted: 28th December

    Oh please no – please not to worry.

    I read here all the time but I am very very busy and I just cannot stop and pay attenttion to what I am writing all the time. I read and then I shoot off my mouth without thinking! It’s a fla in my character – heheheheh – that’s another joke!
    Oh dear – I have done it again – see- I can’t write without screwing it up!

    Plese forget about me- Let me just read and keep my trap shut!

    I have a very very very complicated life and problems – I have my own foundation and rather than open up about all that – I concentrate on opening doors for others. This is not the proper venue for me.

    Darlene and I know each other- I know she probably understands but now I fear that I have you worried! So please don’t!

    J, every one of us has problems – I don’t think mny of us are unscathed –BUT I am not prepared to focus on mine – I am a woman’s activist working for woman’s rights and toward changing DV laws. For me I will just complicate things if I bring my personal mother- daughter problems into this right now!

    I am working on something much bigger than me and my problem! I know I should think me and my problem should come first but this is about people who … well its about 2 girls that I … they are more important to me right now . Its a matter of Justice that can be found whereas it is too late for me to find justice in my personal case.

    I need justice to be served in the case of these two Gals!

    I read here because I need to and once in a while – you gals and your stories hit so close to home that it sticks me where the hurt is so poingnant that I burst. AND I can’t afford to let that happen so I covered it up with something else and now I have you worried.

    So there is the truth – now promise me you will not worry about it being anything anyone there says or does?



  3. By: J Posted: 28th December

    not sure if it worked but I’ll try again anyway…

    Glad it gave u a chuckle! Wasn’t very well thought out in retrospect. I wasn’t implying anything about time needed to moderate posts btw.

    Oh and thanks for your nice compliments! Much appreciated!

    Hi Pam,
    Nothing at all 2b sorry about – it just seemed mildly amusing 2 me when I realized, so just posted in case it gave anyone else a laugh!

    Personal note: just had my father come in (I’ve been up all night again) and do a “sort-of-but-not-really” apology about being a hard-ass re me moving out other day. I felt tense as soon as he came in, was gonna leave but didn’t wanna make it too obvious. The apology was ok, but then I tried 2 say that nights I haven’t slept are the worst times 2 try and boss me around. I then said that doing so is a fav tactic of my mother (wasn’t sure if I should even as I said it). He said it’s done from caring. I don’t know if he meant himself or her. I managed to say “well it doesn’t help” and then left. Came straight here 2 try and get off my chest. Was pretty close to asking who he meant, and calling total f**king BS on it if he said my mother. Still not sure what I think if he meant himself. (I’d be more likely 2 cut some slack seeing as it was the 1st time). But that’s prob letting him off the hook again.

    Stupid f**king parents!!!

    Ok, off to try & distract myself until i can sleep. Hope everyone’s good!

    PS f**k his “done from caring”. That’s really pissing me off!

  4. By: J Posted: 28th December

    hi all,
    On my phone so see if it works or not?!

    i didn’t mean 2 imply u needed 2b moderated or anything – was more trying 2 say it’s no big deal if it does happen. (Darlene told me she reads all comments anyway so it’s not extra work 4 her – that was main thing I’d felt bad about). Basically I was hoping u’d feel ok 2 post more, esp since u seemed to deal w/it so well when Darlene commented.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 28th December

      It also helps that BettyJean and I know each other.
      Hugs, Darlene

  5. By: Pam Posted: 28th December

    J, Sorry, I just get tired of writing it out.:0)Maybe I’ll just use a capital “N” instead.


  6. By: mary Posted: 28th December

    The first gift I gave, I was 4 yrs. old and picked a bouquet of dandelions. A neighbor man was out picking them for dandelion wine and explained how he made it. He told me I should pick some for my Mom. I thought they were so yellow and sunny and pretty. I came in the house and she went through the roof and threw them down screaming what do I want a bunch of weeds for? (It was one of many gifts hurled at me because not what she wanted)I ran out crying and the neighbor saw me and asked what was wrong. My Dad came and they started talking about wine and that was the end of that.
    Until her last two years never got it right. I started to send flowers and she liked them.
    Her sad game all her life was asking if you wanted something and after saying yes, she gave it away to someone else. She did that with all of us except the golden girl.
    Maybe that’s what happened with the will in the end and my son. She showed him a ledger and she wanted to split even with my siblings except in my case, it would be divided between my children and I. That’s not how things ended. We weren’t in the will.
    I have struggled with a crippling disability for the past 10 years that docs say is caused by the abuse. If I was better I might’ve sued for damages. My siblings got what they wanted when they wanted when she was alive and are quite well off with what she left them. They think nothing of my being left out at all.
    When I went to Mom’s funeral we went afterwards to clean her apartment. My siblings split all that came out of her house when she moved, I lived too far to be involved.
    I walked in with my sons and my brother said “Your next!” Meaning I was going to be the next to die. What a weirdo! I got down to business packing things. My daughter wanted a Doulton if I could get one. Golden girl asked what I wanted and she said no when I brought up the Doulton’s, that she was getting the largest one and the rest were being sold. I said ok our phone is near dead and I have to take the train so the portable phone would be ok, no her son was getting that, so I thought forget it. Went back to packing things up. Sister came into the room and said did you want Mom’s underwear? Salt in the wound. Bad enough she didn’t play the funeral song after she asked me four times what one I wanted, she planned every last thing and no one had input. Narciccistic controlling witch. So finally they called me in the room who wanted the tv, no one did, so they pointed to me, do you want it. My husband wass still in town with the car so I said sure. They said $400. That’s the point my one son had to leave the room or hurt someone.
    After mulling it around they didved the doulton’s and gave me last pick, better then nothing, I was glad to at least get on for my daughter.
    My siblings are pitiful and I went NC for the second and final time. I don’t need anymore of their punishhment or mentally depraved crap! Normal people wouldn’t treat a dog as bad as they do me.
    I am worthy of all the good that has come out of it. A closer bond with my children and my husband. My siblings have been irrelevant as far as my life goes since I moved so far years ago, TG! My past now seems like a blip on the radar screen and it is getting smaller and smaller as I become stronger and at peace with myself. They are bad-assed, no good people and good ones to stay right the hell away from!
    This Xmas was quiet and nice, though I had my moments, but the topper was hearing from my son Xmas day telling me I was going to be a Grandma!
    The clouds are parting and things are looking up finally!

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 29th December

      Hi Mary
      Sorry I missed your comment yesterday.
      Kids are so precious ~ I am so sorry that your mother rejected your flowers when you were a kid.
      Thank you for sharing all your examples of this dysfunction in families. I was treated like nothing in my family as well and it was when I finally owned my own value that they no longer were able to hurt me. I found the truth and validated it for myself. This took a while but I am not the same person anymore and I am free now.
      glad you are here and congrats that you are going to be a grandma!!!
      Hugs, Darlene

  7. By: BettyJean Posted: 28th December

    Thanks for not being rankled by my remark- you are very understanding and kind. I am back just to affirm that I read your post and appreciated it but I am not about to get on the moderate list so Happy New Year all. See you in another year when I may pop in again!

    I am entirely too sensitive to worry about policing every word before I say it once I am moved to actually share my feelings! It is rare enough that I open up without having to watch each word I utter lest I offend.

    See what I mean – I don’t mince words- I say what I mean and mean what I say or I just don’t say anything at all! Good luck J- and all. Darlene you are doing a great job!

  8. By: Nikki Posted: 28th December


    Thankyou JEN MZC and DARLENE For your kind words they have helped lift that guilt a bit……….sometimes all I need is for someone to agree with me to just……. further validate what i am saying.

    I read in an earlier post………. MZC – quote:”I wish with all my heart my children, my sister, and I could enjoy a normal relationship with her. I totally feel ya on this as it’s all i want with my mother.

    i feel forced to treat her badly like i’m stooping to her level and being stubborn. And MY GOD i hate to think how i’m going to feel if it’s left like this and the next time i see her is at her funeral because then it will be too late!!! And i know i will be left thinking what if what if ………..regardless of what i’v done already to fix it.

    I just want her to stop hurting us both like this, i love her to pieces and i miss the good times (my mother was like one of those ones who was actually a decent mother when it came to some things………..Then in other stuff, she lacked immensly.

    I’v played the victim most of my life having left home early and straight in to an abusive relationship with a married man (i found that out later when i was pregnant to him) but that’s another story for another blog

    so it’s easy for me to relate to those comments that are designed to make me feel bad about myself as a person and a terrible daughter to her, i also care alot what others think of me, that’s because of a low self esteem, do you think she see’s this in me and uses it to her advantage? I’d hate to think such a horrible thing about anyone but my own mother??? eeeek !!!

    “Acquaintances & fair weather friends tell us what we WANT to hear. Those who genuinely love and care about us, our true friends tell us what we NEED to know. Thing is often, cos it ain’t what we want to hear we ignore it & them

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 28th December

      I LOVE what you said “Dysfunction demands Dishonesty!” that is so true! Thanks for posting that and for your support to Robin,

      I think that some of it is conscious and some of it may not be. I have worked with abusers too, and some admitt that they knew full well the tactics they used to control. So here is what I try to concentrate on; instead of trying to understand my parent or abusive person in my life, I aknowledged the damage. I aknowledged ME and validated me and concentrated on healing from the damage that had been caused to me. the funny thing about this now is that I understand my mother much better now and her conduct is even less acceptable to me now that I have seen the dysfunction. I have written lots about this too.
      Hugs, Darlene

  9. By: J Posted: 28th December

    Hi Robin,

    In a word – YES!!!

    Hi BettyJean,

    just wanted to say I relate a lot to worrying about how what I write will effect others / not taking correction well. (Btw, I don’t know how you can take correction any better than you just did!)

    Also for the record, I think what you wrote might’ve rankled if it had been a specific comment directed at me; but it didn’t bother me personally as a general comment (although I did notice it for the same reason Darlene mentioned). Hope that makes sense!

    From my point of view, I hope you’ll comment again when you want to – worst case scenario, you might end up on the “moderated” list with me! 🙂 (Hope you don’t mind me joking about that Darlene)

    As for myself, I’ve been listening to music and having a grand old time. Then suddenly tears started flowing – brought on by a punk cover of “phantom of the opera”, believe it or not!! I think it was just the emotional feel of the music (no specific memories or anything attached to it that I can remember – I definitely have songs that can break me down for that reason, or because of the words). But it was a sad kind of feeling.

    I was going to listen to my “sad songs” playlist and try to let myself break down fully and get it all out, but then remembered my mother’s awake late tonight too, so switched to happy music instead & thought I’d come here and write about it in case any insights came to me while writing. (They haven’t). Actually just remembered I’ve been reading some old books online that have had a fair bit of sadness and/or bittersweet emotions in them; maybe that’s part of it.

    PS I keep seeing “narcs” written & I keep thinking people are talking about drugs/cops or something…. taking a bit longer to sink in than it probably should! 🙂

    PPS been really stressed about moving out. I’ve been asleep/dozing pretty much all day lately then up all night, which doesn’t help. Just trying to be gentle on myself, but really hope I get a burst of energy/motivation soon so I can at least spend one night a week there or something & hopefully get people off my back!

    It’s kinda the worst time of year because my brain recently jumped to the idea of holiday suicide (as a fear, not a plan btw), so I haven’t really been in a hurry to put myself into a new place & take away my main distraction during the night (internet) and potentially have to deal with a breakdown.

    Actually just before I got sad from the music, I was feeling fired up from it & was going to put some things together to take in. Getting a bit tired now though, so might just try to get some sleep.

    Hope everyone’s going well!

  10. By: Emma Posted: 28th December

    Hi All,

    Can I just say to Robin, I totally understand the hatred feeling. I have felt such anger and hatred, which I think is part of the grieving process. I’m not afraid of emotions (altho I used to be) as its what makes us really live and really be alive. Even horrid emotions such as fear/hate/anger/envyvy – i just say Im not a perfect little robot who smiles and says yes mummy or yes daddy, im perfect and always happy and agreeable and polite, I say you know what im pissed off and I hate this situation and its about time i started to be REAL!!!! Dysfunction demands dyshonesty and I would rather stop pretending and just be honest about what feels healthy and normal and loving, safe and positive.

  11. By: BettyJean Posted: 28th December

    re: I doubt that your mommy dearest puts the rest of the readers moms to shame.. please be careful about statements like that; it is rather devaluing and invalidating to everyone elses pain.

    Oops- I never gave it a thought when I made that careless remark. My bad- I shoould never have said that and I certainly didn’t mean it that way. I was so excited to find my mother in all those comments that I became overwhelmed and wanted to shout from the rooftops – hooray – its not me – there really is such a person and mine seems like a composite of all of them at that moment!

    I am going through a very hard time right now and I am stuck here in her basement because of my Louisa- I can’t leave – I’m trapped and that is not my style.

    I do apologize- I did not and probably can not express this right but EACH of us of course has OUR own mommy dearest that puts other moms to shame as it pertains to us. How else can it be? When you have a toothache you don’t think about the other teeth you concentrate on your toothache.

    So to all out there with a mommmy dearest – I apologize – I did not mean to say mine hurts worse than yours hurts to you! Darlene reminded me to think about others before blurting my ouch!

    This is also why I read but rarely comment! I screw up and don’t take correction well but I do apologize when I am wrong. Happy New year and again _ I apologize !

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 28th December

      Thanks BettyJean,
      No worries! I appreciate your coming back to comment again. I know you didn’t mean any harm!
      Please don’t let something like this stop you from commenting!
      Hugs, Darlene

      I actually got a kick out of your joke and appreciate your attitude about being in moderation. I admire your courage for coming back and not letting that stop you from being here. I try to approve all comments as soon as I can, but when I am sleeping or with friends it is not possible. (I do have a phone app that allows me to approve comments when I am away from home) Don’t feel all alone though J. there are quite a few people on that “moderated” list.

      Having said that, for some reason my blog is acting up today and some comments are being held back for NO reason… so if there is a delay in your comment showing up (everyone) it does not mean you are being moderated!)

      Hugs, Darlene

  12. By: Pam Posted: 28th December

    MCZ, I think narcs’ can’t even view themselves as perfect enough to deserve their love and feel they have to keep their people beat down so that they don’t realize they can leave them. Or that’s the way my family dysfunctions. My children were very affected by the way my family treats me and my compliance with it. It not only affected the way they see me but also, the way they see themselves. It helps no one to put up with it. Things are getting better since I no longer am.


  13. By: Robin Posted: 28th December

    Today I really just hate my mother. In fact, I just hate *everybody*. Does anyone else ever feel this way?

  14. By: Emma Posted: 28th December

    Hi All,

    Gifts, omg, I used to give and give and give and give…..!!! Even when it wasn’t her birthday or christmas, she just said I want and she got. I remember going to her house seeing so many gifts that I had bought her and saying to myself, my god everything I have is what I have given to myself. Yes I used to get rubbish gifts, things that I didn’t, like, want or need. For my 40th birthday I was given a piece of jewellery probably from the market. My mother never celebrated my birthday with me, she would promise me that we would do this and that, but the promises never materialised. My sister would have thousands of pounds spent on her and my mother would gleefully tell me. Yes gift giving is just another opportunity for them to abuse you, this time financially, a way of saying I can take thousands of pounds off you and will spend one pound (if you grovel and if you are really lucky!!). I love these blogs!!! You know what, its so worth feeling all the hurt, anger, fog because it really is progress and after the hurt, in the end I just end up laughing at the ridiculousness of these crazy pains in the neck called narcs!!!

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 28th December

      I got a smile out of your comments today! Thank you for sharing your exp. and I am really glad that the lights are coming on for you!
      glad you are here,
      Hugs, Darlene

      Hi Robin,
      I went through lots of those feelings. This process brings up every emotion. I felt extreem hate when I realized how many of the people in my life used me, disregarded me, defined me as unworthy and not as important as themselves. But out of those feelings, I took my life back. Everything is different today! There is nothing wrong with those feelings. They are all good when we are not avoiding the truth about where they come from. Hang in!!
      Hugs, Darlene

  15. By: BettyJean Posted: 28th December

    BTW- I stood up to her a few weeks ago and she is not talking to me– heheheheeh as if I were talking to her if she’d have me! Well anyway her birthday (87 on the 19th) and Christmas passed and I was saved the aggravation and humiliation of gift giving!

    I also enjoyed my Christmas because she is NOT talking to me- best gift I had in 63 years!

    Last year I had it out with her other half – my dad – and we didn’t talk for nearly three months then Pop 90- fell and broke his neck. I was there for him from that moment until he passed 10 days later in my arms. She was too selfish to take care of him but I did! I think he appreciated it but that didn’t matter to me as much as doing what I could while I could. I had stopped the abuse and now I had to end it with dignity and I am grateful I did that!

    60+ years is a long time to put up with bullshit- isn’t it?

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 28th December

      Hi Betty Jean
      I doubt that your mommy dearest puts the rest of the readers moms to shame.. please be careful about statements like that; it is rather devaluing and invalidating to everyone elses pain.
      I am glad that you have realized that you are not alone. That in in itself is freeing.
      Good point about almost being convinced that it was you. That was my life before. Constantly convinced that I was the problem. No more!
      Hugs, Darlene

  16. By: BettyJean Posted: 28th December

    OH GEE – My mother is all over this piece and then she showed up in the comments too.
    Of all the crap she pulled with the gifts that never met her approval, or with forgetting to give me gifts on many occassions, and with gifting more to some and less to others, and ignoring my husband altogether- the line that prompoted me most to finally comment came from these lines:

    “Your mother is making herself a martyr so she can feed off your bad feelings along with the sympathy she gets from people who believe her stories about how rotten her children are.”

    Before reading this and the comments you got – I would never have revealed these things about my mother for fear I wouldn’t be believed. But now that you mention it – Let me tell you – my mommy dearest puts all of your’s to shame. I won’t botre you with the details but the lines I mentioned are probably what stokes her furnace. Well anyway – at least I am not alone having such a mother!

    After 63 years- she almost had me convinced it was me not her – thank God I decided to read you again toinight!

  17. By: MZC Posted: 27th December

    What is it with narcissists? It seems that “to have a friend, you’ve got to be a friend” just doesn’t compute. Do they truly believe that making people feel badly is going to make them love them?

    I’ve prayed to see the world through her eyes, just for a little while. What drives her? Is it fear? Is it pride?

    We watched “Heidi” and when the governess told Heidi to put the soft bread rolls back that Heidi wanted to save for her dentally-challenged grandmother, my mother said, “That is wrong!” After she continued with, “You never put back food that you’ve already taken,” my eldest and I exchanged stunned looks. What an incredibly shallow world my mother must inhabit.

    I wish with all my heart my children, my sister, and I could enjoy a normal relationship with her, but that is not to be, and it’s something I’ve just got to accept. But while she is alive, it’s a wish that will never quite be quieted.

    Thank you for giving me this space to blather on about things that are too familiar to lots of us–it does me good.

  18. By: MZC Posted: 27th December

    Nikki, please don’t feel guilty. Your mother is making herself a martyr so she can feed off your bad feelings along with the sympathy she gets from people who believe her stories about how rotten her children are.

    I’ve learned to deal with my mother with a tall emotional wall along with complete indifference to all of her complaints. It’s the only way I could disentangle myself from a very unhealthy relationship.

    Gift-giving isn’t my mother’s forte, either. One Christmas she gave me a very ugly fake-flower arrangement not because she thought I would like it, but “because it was on sale.” One birthday while I was still giving her household help, she said, “We’re going to do something special today!” My hopes arose that she was going to acknowledge my birth, but then fell as she said, “We’re going grocery shopping today!” That meant two hours of trailing behind her electric cart in Wal-Mart. Another birthday she drove up our driveway and yelled something at me about needing a hand.

    It was possible that she had simply forgotten the day, but there was plenty of time after that to say, gee, I missed your birthday, I hope you had a good one.

    And yet woe betide my sister and me if we forget hers. Trembling lip, tears, some guilt-inducing remark. So I buy a birthday card very early and keep it on hand for the big day.

    I just can’t stomach buying the flowery “you’re the best mom in the world” cards anymore, so I’ve bought cards “from your greatest accomplishment–me!” which she smiles at and lays aside. She’s never given me one word of praise that I remember, so I’ve got to praise myself. (Wait, no, she did say that she liked the way I folded her nightgowns.)

    This past Christmas eve my girls and I went to her house as usual, but she started snapping at my eldest. I refuse to subject my children to such an uncomfortable, joyless, bad-feeling-engendering scenario, so we’re not having Christmas Eve over at her house ever again.

    She gave us Christmas ornaments so that when we hung them on our own tree in years to come, we’d have something to “remember her by.” She doesn’t understand that no one wants to remember her.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 28th December

      I forgot about the CARD thing! Oh that is a really big one for a lot of people too. Thanks for bringing that up!
      Hugs, Darlene

      Hi MZC
      Wow. Thanks for sharing your points about this too. Good for you about your decision. It took me years to realize the effect that my mother was having on my kids ~ the way that they saw me so ill regarded by her. They way that my submission was giving her permission to keep treating me that way, and communicating to them that relationship is about that kind of stuff! I didn’t even realize all that stuff until my mother and had no longer had any contact!
      Thanks for sharing!
      Hugs, Darlene

  19. By: J Posted: 27th December

    Hi Darlene & everyone else,

    just wanted to chime in quickly (gotta leave for dr’s appt. soon)

    This needs some further thinking about for me – I’ve gotten to the stage that I just don’t bother anymore with gifts or even cards most of the time. Cards are in some ways a bigger deal for me I think – I think you wrote about this somewhere else Darlene (?)

    Anyway, thinking back, even as a young’un I remember feeling a “pressure” that I had to write the “right” thing on cards to my mother, but struggling because it didn’t feel like there was much to write. Also struggle regularly w/cards my sibling gives to my mother – still remember being in that place of lying to try and make her feel better. And my mother leaves cards out in pride of place for ages. Oh well.

    More recently, one small gift stood out to me (from my mother) as the tackiest thing I’d ever seen in my life, and that nobody would ever want (until I received it, I would’ve sworn nobody would ever have bought it either!!) 🙂 It kinda stood out as how incredibly far my mother and I are in terms of tastes etc.

    Anyway gotta run, hope everyone’s doing well!


  20. By: Jen Posted: 27th December


    I read what you just wrote and wanted to respond. YOU did not wreck your Mom’s birthday, SHE did. You have nothing to feel guilty for. That whole scenario sounds WAY too familiar.

    If my mother had been any other person, I would not have given her the time of day. I would have cut her off decades before I did. Truly. She used me and betrayed me over and over. Cruel people treat their animals better than she treated me. Food for thought.



  21. By: Nikki Posted: 27th December

    I stood up to my mother last year, this xmas is the first that i did not spend with my mother “I feel extreemly guilty on account that it was also her 50th birthday this year which we fell out over in August.

    She asked for the family to send her away to a nice hotel for a night with her partner. I scoured the internet for romantic weekend getaway’s and produced a whole list of prospective places to her…………SHE DIDN’T LIKE ANY OF THEM!!!

    She told me about a deal she had seen online and so i looked that deal up and at the time…rugby world cup was on so that deal was not avail. When i came back to her with this, she took it as me being difficult and couldn’t understand why i wouldn’t just give her what she wanted.

    So at my wit’s end by now i said well how about you book what you want………Tell me how much and i’ll pay for it, that displeased her immensly also and she came back with something like oh if i’m going to be that much of an in convenience to you then don’t worry bout it. So i didn’t

    “Now my mother is saying to the rest of the family “I had my 50th birthday this year and none of my kids even bothered to txt happy birthday…………i’m tellin ya now, if i had of txt happy birthday she would be angry with me for not coming to see her instead of not txt’n and if i had of gone and seen her she would have been angry that i didn’t come and give her the apoligy i owed her before her birthday because now i’v ruined her birthday????

    But i still can’t shake the guilt no matter how much i try to justify my actions it hurts alot to see that i cause her so much pain

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 28th December

      Hi Jen
      My husband and I are the same with our kids. I was scared to be like my mother from the day the first one of our kids was born (over 20 years ago now) We get them what they want too. We listen to them about what they are interested in as well.
      I don’t miss any of the family crap around gifts either!
      Thanks for sharing your examples! Hugs, Darlene

      Hi Nikki
      This is a great example of how the child (adult child in this case) can NEVER win. Nothing is ever right. No effort is enough. None of this is about you nor does any of it define you. This is all about her dumping her own issues on YOU. No one can make another person feel valuable but parents so often really believe that their kids should and CAN do that for them. I think that is why there is so much dysfunction and pain around holidays and special occasions like birthdays. The belief system is funky when it comes to “gifts”. It isn’t you.
      Thank you for sharing this example!
      Hugs, Darlene.

  22. By: Jen Posted: 27th December


    Your mother sounds an awful lot like my grandparents on my Dad’s side. They hated my sister and i but loved my brother and the other “boy” grandkids and made it obvious with the gifting. And likewise whatever gift we gave them was never well received. Thankfully my maternal grandparents weren’t this way so we didn’t receive piss poor treatment on both sides. I never took this personally though because I knew they never liked us and I never liked them.

    My own mother however, was a bit more sneaky with her guise. Christmas at our house as kids was full of extraordinary gifts. We kids had everything. But looking back, that massive show was for control and to ease my mother’s guilty conscience. She pulled the same thing with my children. Buy them lots of gifts so they will love her but never spend any time with them or worse, betray them. Then get mad when they don’t truly love you. Hmm…..

    Once I moved away from my mother, the gift/value system became much more obvious. She’d just clean out her closet and give me the clothes she didn’t like or that didn’t fit pretending they were new. Or I’d get the $5 clearance items complete with price tags. Or she’d buy something hideously ugly or pink (I hate pink and she knows it) and then be mad when I didn’t seem thrilled. I think I have come to despise gifts for this reason. I don’t like to revisit the “control” factor or the sham of my childhood. My husband says I am so hard to buy for because I never truly show interest in things. This year I liked a saddle and he was thrilled to be able to finally get me something I wanted. I try not to receive gifts from my kids like a sour pickle, if you know what I mean.

    My mother so hated my husband that every year she’d openly slight him. The biggest one being she sent him a birthday card that claimed to be full of money…..once you opened it up, you found a hole where it “all fell out.” I kept that one stating how symbolic it was. I wonder if she even realizes how obvious she had become in her hatred toward me, my husband and my family.

    My husband and I try to be certain gifting is “fair” at Christmas for our three kids so that no one feels slighted. I also be certain to buy them what they want, not what I think they should have. My husband was full of praise for me this year for the gift choices for the kids and the couple surprises he received as well. It was fun and my kids enjoyed it without wondering what was going on behind the scenes, if you get my drift.

    I don’t miss gifts from any of my family nor do I gift them anymore either. My mother like yours was totally about the most costly gifts so I am sure she is quite pissed that she has received nothing for many years now. Oh well!

  23. By: Libby Posted: 27th December

    My mother did this, in a slightly different way – but enough the same to to be wholly familiar. My father also. He was one for the Grand Gesture. His gifts to her were always way over the top – and she would usually discard them fairly swiftly. His gifts to me…. were always chosen by my mother – and were invariably predictably practical.
    I learned not to ask for toys – no-one would play with me – they wouldn’t, and I had no siblings. I was not encouraged to invite friends home.
    My Mum was a very repressed person – she was always very controoled and controlling. She would say very clearly that she didn’t like surprises. My father was a spendthrift. You can see how the two go together. I too am not keen on surprises – not the “planned” sort – spontaneous things are wonderful – but my fathers’ behaviour was stressful and alarming.
    For my part, they were both dreadful to buy for. I never really knew what I could get that they would appreciate. In the end I realised that appreciation was unlikely to come my way in any shape or form. I like to give – I love to find something that the other person REALLY likes/wants – but it causes me a great deal of stress to identify that thing. And I am wary of falling into my fathers’ pattern – and of my similarity to my Mum.
    I guess soemwhere it evens out – and hopefuly as I move forward in healing I wil be able to find the balance more easily.
    Your blog was, as ever, timely. I have more parts of the puzzle to ponder again. Thanks for this, Darlene. Hugs to you.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 27th December

      Hi Libby
      I am sorry that this is your history but I am happy that you see these insights as more parts to the puzzle! For me this was what the path to freedom and wholeness was paved with!
      Thank you for sharing your insights here too.
      Hugs, Darlene

  24. By: Sherie Posted: 27th December

    This site has been an absolute revelation, along with the ‘DONM’ group.

    I feel like the fog is lifting, I don’t like what that is revealing but it resonates and I finally feel like I haven’t just imagined it all.

    Gifts ick! My mother ( who married into money when I was 26 ) doesn’t even buy me presents anymore…not for my birthday or anything. Why? She said its so I don’t feel pressured to buy her one….I know that’s because she always hated my gifts and would always giver that ‘is that it’ look. I KNOW she sees me as ‘less valuable than her’ she clearly demonstrates it regularly. She spoils my son and passes his ‘clothing gifts’ off as gifts for me….yeah right.

    My mother in law always gets me a wee something for my birthday or Christmas…I don’t see presents defining love but through her ‘thoughtfulness’ she makes me feel like a special part of her life. My mum makes me feel like that manly child who can’t do a damn thing right.

    Actually I think the elation of discovery is passing…I’m feeling pretty hurt, angry and unloved right now and I want to hurt her back. Not helpful I know but it’s progress perhaps?

    THANKYOU for this site and thank you everyone who contributes.

    Kia kaha everyone
    (Maori for ‘stay strong’)

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 27th December

      Hi Pam
      Excellent points and comments! My mother brought many things up (never let me live it down, was the expression I believe) I think because it made her feel like she had something on me “proof that I was defective” or proof that I was the problem.
      Thank you so much for sharing!
      Hugs, Darlene

      Hi Sherie
      So glad that you are enjoying this site!
      About your mother story, wow, that is a new one on me! I love how you describe the thoughtfulness. That is how I feel too. My youngest teenager this year said she could not find what she wanted to get me, so she decided to make me a gift. She took pictures from the last 5 or 6 years from all of our computers; pictures of me with each of the kids, vacations, my other daughters graduation, me and my husband, our whole family, some of me alone, and she made a slide show to music. (the song is Thank you Mom by Good Charlotte) I cried. It was the best gift ever. SO thoughtful.
      About the anger and hurt; I see it as progress. I HAD to go through those stages as part of validating me. Validating that what happened to me was wrong.
      Keep going Sherie ~ you are doing great!
      Hugs, Darlene

  25. By: Pam Posted: 27th December

    Hi Darlene, I believe that the naricissitic members of my family do see gifts as love as they must have some visible means of measuring love because they don’t feel love. Really, that’s how I learned that my family doesn’t love me. They give lots of gifts at the appropriate times when when I needed emotional support, it just wasn’t there. It wasn’t there because it doesn’t exist. They’ve learned how to behave and not be easily spotted as people encapable of love and it is in the times when it can’t easily be faked that their true colors show. It makes me feel sorry for them but that is a dangerous thing to let them see because they truly,believe their unfeeling state is superior and my sensitivity, inferior and something for them to take advantage of me by.

    I have a hard time remembering if my mother’s birthday is the 7th or the 9th of February. I’ve never forgotten her birthday but I’m not the greatest at keeping every date straight. One year, I gave her a card on the wrong day and she made me abosolutely miserable over it. Since then, I just can’t remember which day it is. I’ve written it down and still, she makes me feel and believe that I’ve missed that day again. It’s weird, but I think she does it on purpose and derives pleasure from watching me squirm.I guess, in her mind, I don’t love her perfectly because I have a problem with dates. She can only measure my love by the form it comes in. It is such a mental block with me, I don’t think I’m able to describe the emotional damage I have over this silly thing…I am glad to be free of trying to do the right thing on my mom’s birthday and it always being wrong.


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