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Grandmothers, "presents" that aren't really presents, etc.
August 1, 2007 9:10 AM   Subscribe

I need a little help on a petty family argument . . .

So, we're married and have an infant baby. One of the grandmothers showed up from out of town and gave us some presents, including--and here's the rub--a Halloween costume for the baby's "first Halloween" in a few months.

Would you find this 1) kind of sweet, 2) slightly annoying but would just go along with it, 3) boundary-overstepping behavior but would passively aggressively not use the costume and otherwise leave sleeping dogs lie, 4) so annoying that you would make a big issue out of refusing the costume and making your own, which will make everyone upset but will stop this from happening again.
posted by danny boy to Human Relations (57 answers total)
 
Kind of sweet. Why would anyone be annoyed at all by that?

If you want the kid to wear a different costume for Halloween, then take a couple of pictures of the baby in the gift costume, send them to grandma, and no one is the wiser.

You're right, that is petty.
posted by The World Famous at 9:13 AM on August 1, 2007 [3 favorites]


1.) Kind of Sweet.

Seriously - what's the big deal about a Halloween costume?
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 9:14 AM on August 1, 2007


She's from out of town. If you don't like the costume enough to actually use it, or don't believe in the complete nonsense of "Baby's First Halloween OMG", stick the kid in the furry mouse suit, take five pictures, and send them to her with your thanks for the lovely gift.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 9:14 AM on August 1, 2007 [4 favorites]


I think you need to explain why you see this gesture as being so bad/annoying/evil/overstepping. Is there a detail you left out?

TWF's idea of photographing the outfit is perfect since they're from out of town.
posted by ALongDecember at 9:15 AM on August 1, 2007


2) If she's from out of town, can't you just put your kid in the costume for five minutes, take a picture to send her, and then change the child into whatever costume you prefer?
posted by kimdog at 9:15 AM on August 1, 2007


Hmmm, not really knowing about the family dynamic, I think it sounds kind of sweet. If it were my grandma, she wouldn't have necessarily expected it to be worn in lieu of something my parents wanted, but would have rather seen it in the store, pictured my little baby self in it, and purchased it thinking only about how cute it would be.

It sounds like, though, that there are some family dynamics though that we're not really getting the story on in the question, which would definitely affect how a person would feel about such a thing.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 9:16 AM on August 1, 2007


1.5) Kind of sweet and slightly annoying.

Since she's visiting from out of town, I will assume that she won't be around to celebrate said halloween. So I would graciously accept the gift and, if you'd prefer the baby wear a different costume, have him/her do so.
posted by googly at 9:16 AM on August 1, 2007


I'd think it's just something grandmothers do. I don't think they are capable of not buying baby clothes when confronted with them. So probably somewhere between kind of sweet and slightly annoying, but entirely expected. Thirding the "just take a picture and send it to her" answer.
posted by true at 9:16 AM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


It depends on whether you have a good relationship with grandma. If you feel that she's overbearing and controlling, then the gift of a Halloween costume would be annoying, yes. But, if she lives out of town, I'm assuming she won't be there for Halloween, so I'd just let the matter drop. If she's expecting a picture, just dress the baby in the costume, take a quick pic, and then re-dress the baby in whatever you want. Believe me, with grandmas, there will be much bigger issues as the grandchild gets older, so save for emotional energy for those.
posted by amyms at 9:16 AM on August 1, 2007


Is the costume actually of something that is morally objectionable to you? I doubt it, but just trying to get to possible underlying issues.
posted by sweetkid at 9:17 AM on August 1, 2007


Wow, I should have previewed... lol
posted by amyms at 9:17 AM on August 1, 2007


5) Meant to be sweet but slightly boundary overstepping, would absolutely not passive aggressively make up my own mind to use or not use the costume and would expect my spouse not to falsely accuse me of trying to be passive aggressive in making up my own mind, but would otherwise leave sleeping dogs lie. If grandma is hurt by my choice regarding the costume or my right to make choices about my own child in general; she can go have her own infant.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:17 AM on August 1, 2007


I'd think it's between 1 and 2. But then, I'm a huge fan of Halloween. I'm guessing it's not a favorite holiday of yours?
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 9:17 AM on August 1, 2007


Why would anyone be annoyed at all by that?

To play Danny Boy's advocate, its slightly annoying because it carries with it the expectation that grandma's taste will prevail on the Very Special Occasion of BFH. Which is fine if the costume is innocuous, less so if its hideously ugly or offensive to the parents. Its slightly different from an ugly seater that can be worn once and then packed away in a drawer.
posted by googly at 9:20 AM on August 1, 2007


Okay, I purposefully didn't add background info so as to take the temperature of the general idea of the grandmother preemptively choosing the costume.

The grandmother has some boundary issues. Lots, really. Just trying to decide whether to go to war on this or pick a better battle.
posted by danny boy at 9:21 AM on August 1, 2007


But then, I'm a huge fan of Halloween. I'm guessing it's not a favorite holiday of yours?

On the contrary. We were just kind of looking forward to doing the whole thing as a family for the first time.
posted by danny boy at 9:23 AM on August 1, 2007


What does your partner think? And did you have a costume planned out already?

I'm kind of a control freak about things like décor and clothing and costumes and the like—I usually have very specific ideas about what I want, and I plan these out the way I want them. So if I didn't like the costume/it didn't fit my idea of what I wanted my baby to wear—I'd go with option 3. (I wouldn't want or need to have control over an older child's costume choices—but a baby's too young to choose a costume for him/herself.) No need to make a big deal about it—I just want what I want, I'm very particular, and my loved ones know that.

Also, if you were looking for a "legitimate" reason to reject a costume, in case they ask why you didn't use it, you could cite:

1. Concerns about chemicals in the fabric or any dyes/paints used on it. Sometimes it turns out that children's store-bought Halloween costumes do have lead paint or flammable materials on them!

2. Alternately, if it has ruffles or other costume parts that are near the face, you could cite concerns about suffocation or allergy issues.

3. Or if you don't want a child to chew on a certain material, you could say that.

4. Or if it's not made of a washable material, cite concerns about not being able to wash it (to remove chemicals from the manufacturing process/warehouse) before the child wears it.

5. Or say, "I'd like to wash this, but I don't want to ruin it! Maybe [this costume] would work better."

All of these things are potential concerns with children's Halloween costumes!
posted by limeonaire at 9:23 AM on August 1, 2007


Halloween is just an excuse to put the baby in a cute costume.

Great parents don't need an excuse to costume their child. I'm not an expert or anything, but I imagine that if you're not posing the kid in silly costumes regularly, you're 'doing it wrong.' Accept the gift, continue to hoard costumes, and think of making coordinating costumes for the family for special holidays.
posted by cowbellemoo at 9:23 AM on August 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


I don't understand how this could ever be seen as a big deal. Unless it was a Hitler costume.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 9:24 AM on August 1, 2007 [7 favorites]


If you want the kid to wear a different costume for Halloween, then take a couple of pictures of the baby in the gift costume, send them to grandma, and no one is the wiser.

Exactly. Like Ralphie.
posted by ericb at 9:24 AM on August 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


Pick a better battle. It's a gift, for a baby.
posted by desjardins at 9:24 AM on August 1, 2007 [5 favorites]


Although as many posters mentioned above (oops, didn't preview!), if she's not going to be in town for Halloween, I'd just put the baby in the outfit for like five minutes, take pictures, and be done with it.
posted by limeonaire at 9:27 AM on August 1, 2007


i think grandma was trying to be sweet. what rubs you wrong about this gift?
posted by Flood at 9:27 AM on August 1, 2007


It's both sweet and presumptuous. Borderline borderline-overstepping, yet also just something grandmas do. The fact is, if your baby's first Halloween is a special event for you as a couple, and you want to dress baby up yourownselves, you are under no obligation to take the tyke trick and/or treating in grandma's gift costume. But I would advise against lying or confronting. There will be pictures, and there's no use hiding them. Also, confronting what was surely an innocently loving gesture will make no one happy.

So here's what I'd do:

Take pictures of baby in Grandma's costume. Then dress baby however you want on Halloween, and send pictures of both costumes to grandma with no explanations, excuses, or recriminations. If she asks about it, tell her, "We wanted to dress baby up as [x], so we used both. Isn't he/she cute?!"
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:29 AM on August 1, 2007


I would presume the grandma saw the costume on sale and snarfed it up. It would be slightly annoying -- just because I hate the "baby's first foo" aesthetic, and wish people wouldn't spend money on it -- but I wouldn't lose sleep over it.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:31 AM on August 1, 2007


Normally this should be seen as a simple sweet gesture (presumptuous yes, but not a serious conflict), but there are obviously underlying issues that's making this bigger and badder. It's your family, do what you want! If she's not going to be in town for Halloween, simply throw out her costume and do your own thing. But I wouldn't use this instance of "boundary breaking" as the straw that breaks your back, it's far too petty of an issue.
If you want to be polite about it, send her a message thanking her for the outfit and saying just what you told us: We were just kind of looking forward to doing the whole thing as a family for the first time.
posted by Meagan at 9:32 AM on August 1, 2007


I would absolutely think of it as sweet. Take a picture of the baby in the costume and make sure gramdma gets a copy.

You haven't mentioned what your relationship with her is like otherwise, but it sounds like you might feel she has crossed your boundaries before. Or, you are just hyper-sensitive, and read negative things into peoples' well-meaning actions.

Believe me, this is just the beginning. Your family and friends will very likely give things to the baby that you will sometimes love, and sometimes think are hideous. Be gracious.
posted by The Deej at 9:34 AM on August 1, 2007


Defintiely sweet. And here's a strategy for making everyone happy:

TAKE ONE PICTURE OF THE KID IN EACH HALLOWEEN COSTUME. Then send said picture to the corresponding out of towner. Then dress the damn kid up any way you freakin please.
posted by spicynuts at 9:36 AM on August 1, 2007


All the children in my wife's family are subjected to grandmother-supplied costumes every year. It has never occurred to anyone to be offended.

The only problem that ever crops up is the fact that the kids want to go as Pokemon or some other trendy character, yet Grandma sent a Smurf costume. So, we invariably take pictures in Grandma's costume and then let the kids go Trick or Treating in their awful store bought costumes...
posted by daveleck at 9:36 AM on August 1, 2007


With the added background info:

No, this is likely not the thing you want to choose to make an issue out of. Think of how it will sound to outside parties, probably other relatives in this case, "Danny boy blew up at me just because I got little danny boy a costume for halloween. It was just so cute, and I couldn't resist, I thought they would love it!"
posted by wuzandfuzz at 9:37 AM on August 1, 2007


I think it's really annoying, disguised as "sweet and harmless". She got to pick the costume for HER baby's first Halloween. You guys get to pick the costume for YOUR baby's first Halloween.

But I wouldn't do battle about it either. I'd take a few snaps and say thanks, as the others suggest, and then put the baby in the costume you guys choose, and have a great evening.
posted by FuzzyVerde at 9:40 AM on August 1, 2007


It sounds like you're arguing with your wife over the proper response to this. I think this is one of those times when any discussion about the "correct", logical response is just going to obscure the real issue which is more of an emotional matter.

To put it another way, people in a relationship are inevitably going to be irrational sometimes. You're better off accepting this and working with it than trying to find a better argument or support for your point of view on the internet.

This whole issue will become much less of a big deal if you can show your wife that you accept her feelings and understand why she's angry. You can do this while still disagreeing about the proper response, but instead of "That's the wrong thing to do because you're overreacting" it becomes "That's the wrong thing to do because while you have a right to be upset, it's not in either of our interests to take that action".
posted by teleskiving at 9:40 AM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


If it's your baby's first Halloween, the baby will likely end up in several costumes in the course of the day--this was true with our first kid. We had gotten several different costumes as hand-me-downs, and I agonized over which one to dress him in--and by the end of the day, I was glad I had three or four. Things get spit up on, spilled on, drooled on, dripped on, and pooped on.

Therefore, to answer your question, I'd call it probably well-intentioned. She probably just saw a cute costume and thought you might like it. And, when the day comes, probably not that big a deal. Perhaps Grandma's costume could be your "out doing errands for the day" costume and the one you choose could be your "first trick-or-treating as the family" costume.
posted by not that girl at 9:41 AM on August 1, 2007


If the child were eight, I could see the problem, because they may have another costume in mind already. However, the baby has no idea what is going on, and wasn't planning to be anything for Halloween.
posted by sweetkid at 9:42 AM on August 1, 2007


Even if she WILL be in town, there's an easy fix. Most towns have lots of different stuff for kids around Halloween. Do one of the small things with gramma's costume, then get the whole family dolled up as you will for whatever you've decided the main event is.
In other words, another vote for the "not a big deal" side of the line.
posted by solotoro at 9:45 AM on August 1, 2007


"Do exactly what Grandma wants" and "go to war" are not the only two options. Whenever possible, look for other options.
posted by winston at 9:45 AM on August 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


Thank you all. I am resisting the urge to explain too much why and how the relationship in question is problematic, as all I really wanted to do was find out whether in normal families a costume-giving gesture might be seen as innocent and sweet. I think we'll just try to roll with it.
posted by danny boy at 9:48 AM on August 1, 2007


This is like grandmothers buying Easter and Christmas dresses. There's nothing wrong with it, there's no boundary being overstepped, and there's clearly an issue on a parent's part if they have a problem with it. Grandmothers tend to look at cute outfits and think they would be adorable on their new grandkid. We get easter and xmas dresses all the time, we get pictures of the kid in them for the grandmas, and if we like them they wear them for an event, or two, or more. In our case they're usually more expensive than anything we can afford on our own for the kids, too. I'm really having a hard time believing this is a genuine question, but since other posters agree that it's overstepping bounds I guess I can buy it.
posted by monkeymadness at 9:50 AM on August 1, 2007


I had this same thing happen when my son was just a couple of months old. My stepmom bought him a furry penguin outfit. While I didn't think that my son was at his best as a penguin, I did think the sentiment behind the outfit was sweet.

If you don't think it's sweet, and I can see why that might happen, you can ask for the receipt, "just in case the costume doesn't fit the little one by the time Halloween gets here". Put the baby in whatever costume you want, and make sure to send photos of the baby in a costume holding mass amounts of candy (that you get to eat - revel in it while you can). Also, do make sure to actually return the costume, pick something that does fit the baby, and send photos of the baby in that, too. Grandmothers, especially new grandmothers, just want to feel needed, and to have physical proof of that need to show off to other grannies.

On preview: what everyone else said, and pick your battles wisely.
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 10:00 AM on August 1, 2007


Halloween is a few months away. Feed the baby so much between now and then that the costume won't fit. Then, come 31 October, it will no longer be an issue.
posted by essexjan at 10:02 AM on August 1, 2007


Of all the overstepping grandma is going to do for the rest of her natural life, this one is not the best battle to pick. Take a photo of your adorable child in grandma's costume.

Oh yeah, and "stop this from happening again."

HA HA. Think twice, Mr. Danny Boy. This will not be the last time. Just try to keep your head and don't let this stuff turn into a proxy-fight for you and Ms. Danny Boy.
posted by desuetude at 10:06 AM on August 1, 2007


The grandmother has some boundary issues. Lots, really. Just trying to decide whether to go to war on this or pick a better battle.

Pick a real battle. (If you can't manage the boundary issue with distance.) Since this is not actually about a Halloween costume, don't give anyone an excuse for reducing it (and your concerns) to that.
posted by caitlinb at 10:16 AM on August 1, 2007


I would find this kind of sweet and totally within accepted social parameters for Grandma. I've know of other Grandparents sending Halloween costumes to their grandchildren across the country.

You could use her costume in the morning of the 31st, as you run errands with baby, etc. Then change the offspring into whatever costume you had in mind when the real festivities begin.
posted by dendrite at 10:24 AM on August 1, 2007


which will make everyone upset but will stop this from happening again

If the "this" which you don't want to happen again is people giving you presents in general, this is a terrific option. I don't see that the costume is a bigger deal than a gift of any other sort of baby clothes, if you don't want it for Halloween maybe it would be cute for baby to wear in public at some other time of year.
posted by yohko at 10:35 AM on August 1, 2007


Did she say something akin to, "You MUST make Adorable Child wear this costume, I demand it" or did she say, "Oh, he would be so cute in this!"?

If she is acting as if it is a requirement for you to dress the child in the costume, then that sounds like it may be something to battle over (though, again, if she's not going to be around, then it'd be a lot easier to just humor her, roll your eyes, and do what you want). If she just gave the costume as she would any other gift, then, hey, that's sweet. The nature of the gift itself is completely innocuous and probably even thoughtful. It's her attitude that should decide how you should feel about it.
posted by Ms. Saint at 11:00 AM on August 1, 2007


I think it's sweet and honestly, putting the kid in the costume for an hour to take pics or visit grandma is a really easy way to keep someone happy. Unless she's demanding it like Ms. Saint said. My parents were constantly making me wear/use items that my grandparents gave me whenever we would see them, even if my parents or I didn't like them. It made my grandparents really happy and was an easy way to maintain bonds. There will be a lot of things that grandma will do that will tick you off, don't let this be one of them. And putting up a fight about this will probably give you some sort of "reputation" from here on out within and beyond the family. Pick a battle that is really worth the sacrifice.

I'd be more miffed that grandma "showed up" (unless this was a planned visit).
posted by ml98tu at 11:09 AM on August 1, 2007


Baby wears grandma's costume. You take pictures, quickly. Baby spits up or otherwise "personalizes" grandma's costume, hopefully after pictures. Baby wears different costume. [Warning: This pattern may repeat itself several times in rapid succession, as not that girl found out.]
posted by Jaie at 11:11 AM on August 1, 2007


I just want to point out that Danny Boy has provided a great example of how to use AskMe effectively. Honest opinions are flowing instead of judgement and snark because of the unbiased phrasing of the question and the inclusion of just enough background material, but not too much.
posted by PercussivePaul at 11:21 AM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


This is a huge issue with your first child. Not so much with 2, 3, 4...
posted by grateful at 11:21 AM on August 1, 2007


Pick a better battle. It's a gift, for a baby.

Definitely worth keeping in mind. As a parent, you will have many important battles to fight on behalf of your child. This isn't one of them.
posted by scody at 11:26 AM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Also important to remember in any family turf/boundary battle is that some issues - and this is a prime example - are being fought uphill from the very start. I, like many others here, looked at this question and thought "how on grod's green earth could this be an obnoxious gesture?" because I don't know your situation and relationship.

So to respond to it in any way as if it's not that completely benign and sweet gesture is to lose the battle by firing the first salvo. Put baby in costume, take a picture or two, dump costume. If it should come up for any reason - and if this is really a turf war with a crappy person perhaps she will force the issue - then you say "oh, it was the first outfit we put him/her in and she spat up on it ten minutes later! Thank you so much - having more than one was a real life-saver."
posted by phearlez at 11:52 AM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


One of the most useful skills I have learned as a parent of a child with 6 grandparents, and 3 great-grandparents is how to graciously accept unwanted and undesired gifts. With a boundary-overstepping grandparent, this is even more important.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:43 PM on August 1, 2007


It could indicate that she thinks you are not capable of picking out a decent costume or just that she saw the cutest one and couldn't wait to give it to you... only you know the truth.

Halloween is still a few months away - you may feel differently about this when it gets here. In my family if I made a stink about a Halloween costume I'd be the laughing stock forever and ever. Give it some time, see if a better example of gramma's controlling behavior comes along and cross the bridge when you come to it.

Personally I'd feel no need to placate a controlling gramma with a photo though.
posted by MiffyCLB at 2:16 PM on August 1, 2007


This is a sweet gesture. Pure and simple. Nothing more to see here. Kids in costumes are adorable. Put your kid in the costume and enjoy it. Heck, put your kid in three different costumes, take pictures, and send 'em out (even to grandma) as "The halloween fashion show."

Mind you, if your grandma has controlling issues I can see how you'd bristle, but that's you bristling over this as an example of ongoing controlling behavior -- in the absence of that history, this is nothing more than sweet.
posted by davejay at 6:01 PM on August 1, 2007


Pick a different battle, like when baby is 9 and gets a giant pink bunny costume for Christmas.
posted by 4ster at 6:23 PM on August 1, 2007


This is a huge issue with your first child. Not so much with 2, 3, 4...
posted by grateful


Wife to husband when first child is crawling age:
"Honey, be sure to keep the bathroom door closed at all time, there's too much in there for the baby to get hurt on!"

Wife to husband when 4th child is crawling age:
"Honey, the baby is playing with razor blades. Next time you're up, can you get them from him?"
posted by The Deej at 9:24 PM on August 1, 2007


Babies soil themselves often - drool, vomit, diaper leaks, etc. If you have 6 Halloween costumes, you'll have ample opportunity to use them all.

...you would make a big issue out of refusing the costume and making your own, which will make everyone upset but will stop this from happening again.

This isn't a good approach to family relationships unless you're willing to not have family relationships.
posted by 26.2 at 11:15 PM on August 1, 2007


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