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What's a gifter to do with unwanted gifts?
August 11, 2008 8:41 AM   Subscribe

My wife's battled depression for a while, and though she rallied and had a decent few months, she plunged back into the depths of it for the few weeks around her recent birthday (which seems to happen every year, but this year was the worst yet). She had us cancel any birthday plans, cake, etc -- didn't even want anybody to say "happy birthday". After asking a few times and receiving this same answer, I went along with it; it was her birthday, after all. Her mood has lifted since then, but she still doesn't want her presents -- says to return everything, and shuts down when I bring up the subject. Fine, I can return them, except for one, a custom order meant as a present from our four-year-old (call her "Olivia"): a set of coasters printed with Olivia's scanned artwork. What do I do with them?

Ideas:
A) Trash them.
B) Give them to her anyway, wrapped, and say "open or trash this, it's up to you". Seems blatantly disrespectful of her explicit request, though.
C) Unwrap them and then give them to my wife, saying "would you, uh, like some coasters?"
D) Save them for another holiday
E) Use them myself, in my own space.
F) Olivia was excited about them, and would love having her very own special set of coasters. I could give them to her instead. They would be a reminder of this episode to my wife, which could be bad (always reminding her of the ongoing depression that caused her to turn them down in the first place, and of the fact that she refused to accept a gift from her daughter because of her own issues), or -- in a way -- good (reminding her that her depression and actions affect those around her). (There's a small chance this could backfire if Olivia insists on presenting them to my wife as a gift; she's been, for instance, occasionally wrapping up her toys in packing paper and giving them to my wife since the non-birthday, though my wife hasn't connected the two as far as I know).
posted by UtterlyDrained to Human Relations (65 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
(For those wanting more background on my wife, see my previous question. To connect the dots since then: I came close to pursuing a divorce -- even acquiesced when my wife suggested I trade in my coupe on a four-door, as I knew I'd need something more practical if we divorced. Since then, she pulled out of her low was doing reasonably well, so I figured I'd see if things improved. That continued until this latest episode, which was the worst yet but also much shorter than the last. We talked a lot about getting help, but she wants none of it).
posted by UtterlyDrained at 8:42 AM on August 11, 2008


Don't be passive aggressive. You know your wife doesn't want them. Throwing them in the garbage seems ridiculous. Just use them yourself, or set them aside till your wife deals with her depression.
posted by chunking express at 8:48 AM on August 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


Christmas
posted by Bonzai at 8:49 AM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Save them. Don't use them or give them to your daughter or anything that might cause the "where did these come from?" "oh they are the very special gift you rejected when you were depressed on your birthday" conversation. You know that's counterproductive and possibly cruel.

But save them. And as your wife recovers and is able to talk about how you and your daughter suffered or address how her depression affected anyone else, tell you have them and ask her whether she wants them now.

If you do get divorced, just use them yourself.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:54 AM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


If the coasters were important to the 4-year-old, I think you should gently suggest to your wife that she get over herself, and make a big show of unwrapping this present for her daughter's sake.
posted by Leon at 8:55 AM on August 11, 2008 [36 favorites]


There's depressed, and then there's self-absorption. Wrap them up, have Olivia give them to her, and if she's so self-absorbed that she can't set a gracious example for your daughter, that's pretty shitty.
posted by notsnot at 8:56 AM on August 11, 2008 [16 favorites]


I don't think you can consider yourself totally disrespectful if you chose option B. Her *4-year old child* has spend time and care in creating a gift for her mother, and that mother is going to refuse the gift?

I'm sorry for your situation, but I think you should approach the subject from the childs point of view, even if Mrs UD doesn't want the present, she should at least fake it for the childs benefit. If my parent plain out refused a gift I gave them, I would be terribly hurt, and I'm in my twenties! Obviously you are better informed to know whether your wife is more emotionally strong in this regard then your daughter.

If that's the case and Olivia is pretty mature for her age, you can try and explain the situation with her mummy current problem and hopefully she'll understand.

I hope it works out well for you, sounds incredibly tough.
posted by Static Vagabond at 8:59 AM on August 11, 2008


I understand depression, but I also understand how excited your daughter must have been to make these as a gift that would make Mom happy/proud.

She needs to "Mom up" and unwrap them, coo over them, and put them in a special place. This gift ain't about her getting older; it's about accepting and showing appreciation for a daughter's love.
posted by availablelight at 8:59 AM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


If your wife can't bring herself to accept a gift from her four-year-old daughter, then don't present it as a "gift." Your daughter made them and is proud of them, so it would be nice if she could see them being used in the house. Just set them out matter-of-factly and start using them, saying "Olivia made these, aren't they beautiful" and leave it at that.
posted by amyms at 9:04 AM on August 11, 2008 [5 favorites]


Holy mackerel. Totally, utterly, completely unacceptable. One does not hurt the feelings of a four year old. Particularly when the four year old is your daughter.

My guess is she's doing this to prove once again what a foul, worthless person she is to herself. She feels worthless, she behaves deplorably, thus proving her worthlessness. Repeat ad infinitum.

That's not your problem, however. I think your life would be improved somewhat (I read the other post) by reducing the scope of your problems down to the feelings of your children. You should tell your wife in no uncertain terms that you will not participate in any emotional fuckwittedness that involves your children. Never, ever, ever. She can sit there and make sounds of delight and say thank you to her child.

You didn't ask, but this situation sounds horrific and damaging to you and your children. It's not your wife's fault that she suffers from depression, but it sure as hell isn't your daughter's either.

Sorry about getting all internetty-outraged on you. But she's just a kid. She needs to be protected from this.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 9:09 AM on August 11, 2008 [14 favorites]


Forget the coasters and concentrate on your wife who sounds like she really needs professional treatment. Or if she continues refusing it, some time alone from you and your daughter. Good luck, it does not read like a happy situation for you and your daughter.
posted by fire&wings at 9:13 AM on August 11, 2008


I have been through some pretty awful depression in the past, and I think your wife is being a shit. If she can not "Mom up" as suggested, hurting her feelings over what you do with the coasters is not worth your worry.

There's a sort of depression where anything somebody else does is the wrong thing for the depressive; stop worrying about it. It sounds like things are bad no matter what you do for her, so do what's best for your children instead. Give them to Grandma if Grandma will be excited to receive them; make them special Olivia-and-Daddy coasters, whatever, but stop indulging such lousy behaviour on your wife's part.
posted by kmennie at 9:13 AM on August 11, 2008


nthing the suggestion that she "mom up" and accept the gift. I'm a mom. I deal with depression on a daily basis. Above all, my prime directive is to hide my illness and issues from my son at all costs.

Honestly, my gut reaction to the statement "We talked a lot about getting help, but she wants none of it" (I, too, read the other post) is that your wife needs some serious, in-patient help if she can't get out of her own head enough to make her four year old daughter happy.

Both your children are being hurt by your wife's illness. She needs to understand that, and do something about it.
posted by anastasiav at 9:22 AM on August 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


It's not clear whether she knows yet that there is a special present from Olivia. Does she?
posted by the jam at 9:23 AM on August 11, 2008


Save them for a better time.
posted by Artw at 9:24 AM on August 11, 2008


If your wife can't bring herself to accept a gift from her four-year-old daughter, then don't present it as a "gift." Your daughter made them and is proud of them, so it would be nice if she could see them being used in the house. Just set them out matter-of-factly and start using them, saying "Olivia made these, aren't they beautiful" and leave it at that.

I absolutely agree with this - and would like to caution you about using the coasters as leverage with your wife. As unpleasant as this all is for you - your daughter is the one who is going to be the most hurt by the situation. I would be sure that those coasters are acknowledged and used - but don't play chicken with your wife over them - just put them out, point them out, and use them.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 9:27 AM on August 11, 2008


Your "Short" version reads: "What's a gifter to do with unwanted gifts?"

I don't think that's the issue here. You've both explicitly and implicitly roused about 15,000 issues in this post. The gift is a casualty of those issues. If your wife can't pull it together enough to accept a gift from her 4-year-old daughter, then she needs serious, serious help. Don't let your daughter get hurt by this.
posted by GilloD at 9:28 AM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


... and because I pressed post too soon, I'm going to remind you of a comment that you marked as 'best answer' in that previous question:

"He couldn't have forced her not to be depressed, but he could have prevented her from forcing her depression onto us kids. He could have made it so that we didn't have to walk on eggshells the whole time we were growing up. He could have made it so that my little sister, whom I love more than my own life, isn't today afraid to express any opinions of any kind for fear that she'll upset someone and make them not love her.

My mother didn't hit us or rage at us or throw things. She simply faded into the background and was unhappy. And to a child, "Mommy is always unhappy" is indistinguishable from "I have made Mommy unhappy, and nothing I do is good enough to make her happy again." No matter how many times a child is told that Mommy's feelings are not his fault, the child doesn't believe it, because a child can't separate his ego from anything else going on in the world. So when my mom was sad, that was the center of my world, and all I knew was that I had to be more perfect in order to make my mom not be sad anymore. I still feel like everything is all my fault when other people are unhappy, and I suffer from deep anxiety about it.

I'm just now starting as an adult to move past my childhood. My sister is still suffering with it, and because she has only ever known a depressed mother, I'm afraid that she idealizes depression and seeks it out in her relationships with friends and romantic partners. She's scarred. I'm afraid we both are. We both take medication for depression and anxiety. And I'm not sure how to forgive my father for not seeing how damaging that would be and for not protecting us from it. Because even though he made a vow to love and honor my mother in sickness and in health, I feel like when he became a father, he made a more important vow to protect us from harm, even when that harm was coming from my mother."


You need to find a way to protect your children from the very real harm your wife (even in her "better" state) is doing to her children.

Please, if nothing else, find a good therapist for your older child and do everything you can to make sure the baby grows up in a loving, warm environment.
posted by anastasiav at 9:29 AM on August 11, 2008 [8 favorites]


If my gift was rejected by my parent when I was 4 years old, I would still be dealing with it today, as an adult. That kind of rejection can be long lasting.
posted by Vaike at 9:32 AM on August 11, 2008


There's depressed, and then there's self-absorption. Wrap them up, have Olivia give them to her, and if she's so self-absorbed that she can't set a gracious example for your daughter, that's pretty shitty.

Yeah, and I think it is pretty shitty to use your child to prove something to yourself about your spouse.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 9:34 AM on August 11, 2008 [6 favorites]


Save them and just give it to your wife on a random good day.
posted by doorsfan at 9:40 AM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think you need to talk to a doctor about your wife and see if it is theoretically possible to persuade her to check in for an evaluation. Has she ever threatened suicide? Has she ever done anything to indicate she could be planning to harm herself?

This woman needs treatment. She is either clinically ill or she is clinically manipulative. If she refuses to get treatment I highly recommend you separate and take your child with you. Your wife needs to see that this is serious. That child needs to grow up in a stable home where her mind is not getting screwed up with.

I am not saying divorce here. I am a firm believer that sometimes separation can be the very best thing for a marriage. In this case your wife needs to KNOW that this depression is not just about her and that she needs treatment not just for herself but because of the whole family.

As to the gift, tell her about what it is and tell her that it is horrible beyond the extreme to reject her child's gift. If she is too depressed to suck it up and pretend to be happy about a child's gift then she is too depressed to refuse serious medical treatment.

I speak as one who has suffered severe clinical depression. It sucks to be her, but it's time for her to woman up and allow herself to be helped.
posted by konolia at 9:45 AM on August 11, 2008 [7 favorites]


Glue magnets on the back and you and your daughter can stick them on the fridge, then use them as needed. At the very least they'll be a reminder to your wife that she has a daughter who loves her.
posted by Gungho at 9:49 AM on August 11, 2008


Save them and just give it to your wife on a random good day.

This, for this particular question.

Beyond that, I think you really, really need to reread the best-answers in the previous thread. Because as a generalized rule of thumb, this:
...Since then, she pulled out of her low was doing reasonably well, so I figured I'd see if things improved. That continued until this latest episode, which was the worst yet but also much shorter than the last. We talked a lot about getting help, but she wants none of it...
...is going to keep happening. It'll always be easy to backburner easing up, not worrying and wondering so much during those cyclical times of improvement--and each time, the cyclical return to the troughs is going to inflict more damage on the family, on the child. It sucks, but it's not going to stop until something forces it to, and that something's only likely to get more damaging as time rolls on.
posted by Drastic at 9:51 AM on August 11, 2008


If the coasters were important to the 4-year-old, I think you should gently suggest to your wife that she get over herself, and make a big show of unwrapping this present for her daughter's sake.

I disagree with this a lot. Kids need drama-free relationships with their parents a lot more than they need recognition for the gifts that they give to their parents. The four year old probably doesn't even remember the coasters. Why make this into a big deal that directly involves your daughter when it doesn't have to be? I don't think that your wife's behavior is at all productive but dragging this out will only make things worse.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:54 AM on August 11, 2008


Your wife's depression owns you and your children. Your entire question is a series of "this might set her offs". You cannot control your wife's mental health. You can exercise some control on how damaging her behavior is to your children.

You said Olivia would enjoy the coasters. Good. Give them to her. There's really no reason to deny Olivia such a simple pleasure.
posted by 26.2 at 9:56 AM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Shit, I'm on the tail end of 20 years of depression and I think your wife's behavior is DEPLORABLE. Now being that she is probably quite depressed, I wouldn't tell this to her in this way, but you're also not reacting so well to this either.

"...She had us cancel any birthday plans, cake, etc -- didn't even want anybody to say "happy birthday". After asking a few times and receiving this same answer, I went along with it; it was her birthday, after all."

Kind of rude and mean on both ends. Birthday plans I can understand, because my birthday was two days ago and I got fairly sour about being roped against my will into an excursion that I didn't want to go on - I'm an introvert, my mother is not, and I do NOT want to be exposed to massive crowds of people in hot weather for that long a time - but cake and happy birthday? Shit. A happy birthday is small and cake can be eaten later.

"Her mood has lifted since then, but she still doesn't want her presents -- says to return everything, and shuts down when I bring up the subject. Fine, I can return them, except for one, a custom order meant as a present from our four-year-old (call her "Olivia"): a set of coasters printed with Olivia's scanned artwork. What do I do with them?"

Also ridiculously rude. If she returns them to the people who bought them directly, she's going to hurt feelings, and she's basically saying she doesn't appreciate their caring gesture. If she genuinely doesn't like the gift, she can regift it, but at least she doesn't need to be outright rude to the gifters.

And she really needs to learn how the hell to be nice to her daughter about this.

Suck it up and stand up to her, even if she is depressed.
posted by kldickson at 10:00 AM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Meaning I'm almost done with emerging from said depression, to clarify what I said.
posted by kldickson at 10:09 AM on August 11, 2008


She is being really manipulative and controlling here. Really. You're supposed to pretend like her birthday doesn't exist and never happened. Well, it did. At some point she's going to have to deal.

I am so pissed off on behalf of you and your daughter. Why should it be your responsibility to help her avoid reality? Return the presents, wow, that's such an easy answer when you don't have to go from store to store with a bunch of receipts and a huge "fuck you, you can never make me happy" from your wife.

It is so fucking ridiculous that you and your daughter are walking on eggshells here because you and your daughter DARED to get your wife a thoughtful birthday present.

If she really can't deal with the coasters, why doesn't she throw them away herself? Would that be so hard, really, instead of forcing you to do it? Oh, right, all the responsibility for her happiness falls on you and your children, so you'd better make decision.

My suggestion is to get a divorce after you document enough of her disorder to get custody, but if you don't feel like doing that, my other suggestion is to give your wife the coasters and let her deal with them. Hopefully she'll suck it up and smile on her daughter's behalf.

Cruel? It'll hurt her feelings? Well, tough shit, having children requires that you hurt for them sometimes.
posted by sondrialiac at 10:25 AM on August 11, 2008 [5 favorites]


my other suggestion is to give your wife the coasters and let her deal with them.

I want to emphasize that I do not mean for you to do this in front of your child.
posted by sondrialiac at 10:31 AM on August 11, 2008


To add to my comment, I am surprised that you have not DTMFA'd.
posted by kldickson at 10:45 AM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


"There's a small chance this could backfire if Olivia insists on presenting them to my wife as a gift; she's been, for instance, occasionally wrapping up her toys in packing paper and giving them to my wife since the non-birthday, though my wife hasn't connected the two as far as I know."

This is already affecting your daughter.
posted by kldickson at 10:47 AM on August 11, 2008 [5 favorites]


It seems like this questions isn't about you child, or the gift, it's about you. .

So take Olivia, take the coasters, take off. It won't be pretty now but it might make things better in the long run. And, I know you're probably at the end of your rope but, what YoBananaBoy said.
posted by freya_lamb at 10:50 AM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah, and I think it is pretty shitty to use your child to prove something to yourself about your spouse.

YoBananaBoy (and freya_lamb by proxy), I just wanted to clarify -- were you referring to notsnot's suggestion, or something in my original post?
posted by UtterlyDrained at 11:02 AM on August 11, 2008


Sounds like Mom doesn't want to deal with the passage of time. Let's not address this, but I would like to introduce you all to a holiday I invented:
Happy Why Not Day

Want to give presents to someone? Want to inflate a bunch of balloons? Want to try unusual fruit combinations and plan a picnic? Want to buy yourself a new steering wheel cover?

There are always reasons to be found for not doing things. One day a year, just do them anyway. Pick whatever day you want, decide to be happy. Why not?

A side note: Many of these responses seem to assume that the daughter has helped make this gift. It may be (ideally) that Dad just scooped up some artwork, had the coasters made, and little Olivia is so far none the wiser. In which case, it's not nearly as bad a situation.
posted by amtho at 11:14 AM on August 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


Looking back on your prior post, and now seeing this one -- your wife needs medical intervention. Speaking as someone who has chronic Major Depressive Disorder, if I were in this deep, I would hope that my spouse forced me into treatment -- for his sake and our (hypothetical) childrens' sake, if not for my own.

She may not go on her own; she may need an intervention. Maybe, if it's as bad at it sounded when you wrote that prior post, she needs to be hospitalized until she can be stabilized. This is not about birthdays and coasters... this is about your sanity, your child's mental health/development, and your wife's health.

I really hope it somehow works out for all of you.
posted by dryad at 11:15 AM on August 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


That is not to imply that you can force your wife to be happy - sorry, I didn't express that well. Just that you can give gifts even on non-birthdays. Of course, this may or may not work with your wife, but you could consider it.
posted by amtho at 11:15 AM on August 11, 2008


Has Olivia mentioned the coasters? If she's mentioned them, you need to tell your wife straight out that this is important to your daughter, that she will be wrapping them up and presenting them to your wife, and that your wife needs to figure out a way she can be gracious and loving and thankful. You will do anything reasonable to help -- choose the right day, etc -- but full stop, she needs to accept them and not hurt your daughter.

Actually, even if she hasn't mentioned them, she certainly remembers them and would like to give them to your wife. So you'd better work with her to figure out a way she can accept these -- and use them -- in the near future. This means a deadline. Give her all sorts of warnings. Choose a day when your wife is in a good mood. Make plans to take your daughter out for ice cream or something later, if your wife would like to be alone. Make it reasonably easy on your wife, but she has to accept those coasters as a gift from her daughter, because you need to sometimes ignore your own wants for your children. This is one of those times.
posted by jeather at 11:18 AM on August 11, 2008


People have a right to not accept gifts, but not to say what will happen to those gifts afterwards. Use the coasters, and praise your child's talent. Don't play into your wife's depression when she wants to be martyred, or refuses to be a good parent. You are walking a very fine line. Get lots of help. Your children need and deserve good parenting.
posted by theora55 at 11:37 AM on August 11, 2008


Amtho, you are right, Olivia did not help make these coasters, I had them made using her existing artwork. However, she is aware of them -- when they arrived, I went over them with her and told her she was going to give them to Mom for her birthday. She has mentioned Mom's birthday and presents several times since, but hasn't mentioned either (or the coasters) recently, and apart from the toy "gifts" she gave a couple days ago, may have forgotten about it all.
posted by UtterlyDrained at 12:06 PM on August 11, 2008


She has mentioned Mom's birthday and presents several times since, but hasn't mentioned either (or the coasters) recently, and apart from the toy "gifts" she gave a couple days ago, may have forgotten about it all.

She hasn't forgotten.
posted by anastasiav at 12:09 PM on August 11, 2008 [7 favorites]


Just thought I'd point out here that it sounds like mom isn't actively refusing the gift from her daughter - she doesn't know about the coasters yet. So maybe we should all take a moment before we go calling this mom out.

I like jeather's suggestion - talk to your wife and tell her about the coasters and give her the chance to step up to the plate. Tell her your concerns and thoughts and jeather's suggestions - and perhaps ask her what she thinks is best.

Good luck UtterlyDrained. I'm sure you'll do what you think is best - and it will be!
posted by anitanita at 12:48 PM on August 11, 2008


anitanita -- sorry, meant to clarify this in the last post, too: my wife does know that there's a (non-returnable) present from Olivia.
posted by UtterlyDrained at 1:07 PM on August 11, 2008


"my wife does know that there's a (non-returnable) present from Olivia."

And she still doesn't want it? Have you involved any medical professionals in this situation, because I would be seriously worried if my depressed spouse was spurning our children.
posted by saturnine at 1:45 PM on August 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


Just put them away for the time being. There will likely be a non-holiday (and therefore lower-pressure) time for you to give them to her.
posted by desuetude at 1:45 PM on August 11, 2008


Oh, and like the rest of the presents, you can tell Olivia that this present is postponed until Mommy is feeling better. It's true, and it will hopefully let Olivia move on for the time being.
posted by desuetude at 1:47 PM on August 11, 2008


"my wife does know that there's a (non-returnable) present from Olivia."

And she still doesn't want it? Have you involved any medical professionals in this situation, because I would be seriously worried if my depressed spouse was spurning our children.


Repeated for emphasis - what?!?!
posted by tristeza at 1:52 PM on August 11, 2008


you can tell Olivia that [x] is postponed until Mommy is feeling better.

I could be wrong, but I get the feeling that this is already a much used phrase in this household.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:58 PM on August 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


Nobody has suggested this yet, as far as I can see but I think you should save them for Mother's Day, or some other day when the gift will just mean her daughter loves her and have no other strings attached.

I definitely agree with many other opinions expressed, but I don't think a sweet gift like this or anything else having to do with your daughter is the proper mechanism to bribe/persuade/convince your wife to get the help she needs.
posted by hydropsyche at 1:58 PM on August 11, 2008


My mother often said things to the effect that she was a terrible mother, she didn't deserve to have a child, she was a burden on all of us, etc. My childhood take on this was "I am a terrible child. I should not have been born. I am a burden on my mother." She attempted suicide a few times. She did eventually get help, but unfortunately not until I was in my teens. The experience had a profound effect on my life, and I wish to god someone had taken me away from it when I was four. Either Mom gets help, or Olivia is going to experience lots and lots of rejection that will scar her self-image. The coaster gift is probably not the first time, and definitely won't be the last. It really doesn't matter what you do with the coasters at this point. Nothing can repair the damage that has already been done. Only you can prevent future damage to your kid(s).
posted by desjardins at 2:08 PM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


My mom suffered from some pretty severe depression/mania when I was growing up. At times, she said and did things she really didn't mean. She once told me that she didn't love me even though the truth is that she take a bullet for me if it came down to it. These are presents from your daughter? DO NOT under any circumstances throw them out. Even if she's not in the mood for them now, in ten or twenty years she'll be very glad you kept them.

Also, don't worry so much about the presents. Worry about getting your wife help.
posted by bananafish at 2:44 PM on August 11, 2008


A grandparent would love to receive a gift like this.
posted by Daddy-O at 2:54 PM on August 11, 2008


I could be wrong, but I get the feeling that this is already a much used phrase in this household.

Sadly, I agree. But at least it's true.
posted by desuetude at 3:31 PM on August 11, 2008


I just came in to say what Daddy-O did. If the coasters are going to be such an issue that you can't put them away for a while and your wife can't handle them, I would think any grandparent would love them to death and they'll no longer be the tell-tale heart in your house that you seem to think they are. Granted, you'll likely find something else representative of the issues you and your family have to represent the issues that you're going through, and I can't offer you much advice on that, but I do with you the best of luck.
posted by Ufez Jones at 4:21 PM on August 11, 2008


*uh, not with, wish. Take care of yourself and your daughter, and best of luck with said wife.
posted by Ufez Jones at 4:22 PM on August 11, 2008


Wrap them crudely. Have your child write a card addressed to "Mommy". Leave it on the bed where she can't ignore it.
posted by MaxK at 4:31 PM on August 11, 2008


you can tell Olivia that this present is postponed until Mommy is feeling better.

Sadly, Mommy isn't doing anything to feel better. This is giving your child false hope which will only disappoint Olivia.
posted by 26.2 at 7:01 PM on August 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


This seems like it's about lashing out in anger, not only depression - it is so important that you acquiesce to the demand to not give her any gifts, that she can't even accept a personal item from your daughter? Honestly my take on your wife is that she is comfortable feeling terrible and wrong, and if you try to do anything to change that, she is afraid of it, and when people are afraid, some of them lash out and get mean, which includes refusing a gift from their own child. Just saying beware, if she doesn't WANT to change, she is never going to change.

I'm approaching this from a really personal POV because I grew up with a mother who was constantly depressed and anxious and never happy, and it was extremely hard on me & caused me much stress and depression as well. I remember my brother and I did stuff like your daughter has, trying so hard to make her happy (or at least not make her mad) and it took me decades to figure out that it wasn't my responsibility and it wasn't my fault that she wasn't happy, and I'm still not over a lot of it.

Basically I cosign what desjardins said. I worry about your daughter, kids pick up on a lot - already wrapping up her toys as gifts.. :( that strikes me as very, very sad. What I can see happening in the future is your daughter will keep trying to make Mom feel better and Mom will keep rejecting her. This will not be good for your daughter. Holidays will be all about trying to make Mom happy and Mom will usually refuse, and your daughter will understand this to mean she's done something wrong.

I rather believe Olivia hasn't forgotten one bit about those coasters. What happened is, you taught her that if you lead her to believe that this time there will be normal, healthy family behavior, you'll go back on it later, and she will just be disappointed again. So if she doesn't bring them up any more, it's probably because she learned that if someone makes her a promise, she shouldn't expect it to be kept.
posted by citron at 10:49 PM on August 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


As I read through the responses here, I am becoming more and more angry about the situation your wife's depression has caused for you and your family. I find myself wondering what others times has your wife neglected her responsibility to her children. The fact that she is unwilling to seek treatment says that she 1) is unaware of the impact of her actions, 2) is afraid of what treatment might hold for her, or 3) is incredibly selfish and/or very very sick.

It sounds like this is a very common and increasingly serious scenario in your household. Based on your ask history, I know it's already occurred to you to ask whether or not this is really an arrangement worth staying in. I would like to encourage you to reapproach the possibility that your wife's depression is rendering her incapable of being a contributing member of your family.

I would recommend that you begin by seeking professional help for yourself and your daughter to assess the damage that your wife's problems are causing. Document situations like this in which your wife's ability to nurture and protect her children. Feel free to take notes during your therapy. Then use your information to demonstrate that she is unfit to care for your children.

As the adult child of a beautiful and wonderful woman living with mental illness, I know the grave responsibility of parenting my own parent and putting her needs ahead of her own. A child is an innocent and will suffer, even with a mother who is crazy about her children and will do anything to protect them from her illness, much less when a mother is neglectful.

Your child will suffer. She will grow up learning that she is somehow responsible for her mother's happiness, and that she is a failure at keeping her mother satisfied and content.

Think about your child(ren). Think about whether this is the life you want her to have for the next 20 years, and whether these are the memories you want to affect her for a lifetime.

Sometimes the best intervention is the wakeup call that is caused by hitting bottom. Maybe her bottom is losing the people she loves. My heart goes out to you and your children.
posted by mynameismandab at 2:11 AM on August 12, 2008


She will grow up learning that she is somehow responsible for her mother's happiness, and that she is a failure at keeping her mother satisfied and content.

And later in life she will feel responsible for everyone else's happiness, to the exclusion of her own, and she will feel like a failure whenever anyone she loves is upset or discontented, because it must be her fault. She will do anything, including squashing her own feelings, in order to avoid upsetting someone she loves. I'm 33. I'm finally aware that I do this, but it's still a reflex response that I have to fight on a daily basis.
posted by desjardins at 10:39 AM on August 12, 2008 [3 favorites]


Get some help for yourself and your daughter. If you are not going to leave her, at least learn a healthier way to cope.
posted by kldickson at 10:46 AM on August 13, 2008


Addendum: I would highly suggest getting the help anyway whether you leave her or not. My suggestion to DTMFA still stands.
posted by kldickson at 10:47 AM on August 13, 2008


Olivia should give them to her. Maybe not wrapped. But seriously, her daughter should be able to give her a present.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 1:39 AM on August 14, 2008


Out of topic here, but I do believe you need to address the birthday issue from a wider perspective. Have you tried to find out what the underlying issue that she has about her own birthday is? Address it!
Just as illustrative example, I have mild episodes of blues that happen around my birthday and Christmas because of valid (to me) reasons of not having yet achieved important milestones in my personal life: a topic that I might be overthinking. I in advance asked people I love to not do anything about my 32nd birthday. My former boyfriend showed a lot of excitement and gave me wonderful gifts that made me cry. All of which was, conversely, a reminder that our relationship was failing to grow into a lasting union. Thinking from a perspective, replacing the birthday with celebration of our first date anniversary a month later would have solved the issue, and made me very happy. He had no idea about it, and did not believe in celebrating such little anniversaries: so we never did. Yet it was this simple. See the point?
Could it by any chance be that your wife is not suffering depression, just constant deficit of support and/or stress relief?
posted by Jurate at 11:12 PM on September 10, 2008


Previous posts are pretty old so I suppose you have handled the coaster question. Still, unless something enormous has changed, your quandary will recur, perhaps in slightly different guises.
I think you are what is called and "enabler". And you are teaching your daughter to be one too. This is not going to give Olivia a happy life any more than it's given you one. I don't know of any 12-step programs for relatives of depressives. But such programs don't have to be illness-specific to be beneficial. So I suggest you get yourself in one, I believe the AA one is called Al-Anon, and help yourself to discover your contribution to the whole family's problem. This is not to blame you, only to help you discover how your behavior is contributing to the problem. Families are whole systems and you are part of the system. A healthier, more helpful and satisfying response to your wife's episodes can shift the dynamics of the entire situation.
As you will have noticed, the same handful of responses that you use in the situation keeps producing the same results. So, it looks as if it might be time for you to learn some new responses.
Also, your wife does not want professional help. Therapy is notoriously unsuccessful with extreme depression anyway. Usually drugs are prescribed, and although it is not widely known, the available drugs are unsuccessful more often than not.
There is a book, available on Amazon called "Up Without Meds". It is a well- documented book, came out last year. It is a highly successful program for depressives. It is not a simple program and involves a change of life style. Eating foods that counter-act depression, exercising, using meaningful relationships, getting adequate sleep. In other words changing the habits that promote depression to ones that cure it. Yes, I said cure.
You mention that your wife thinks of herself as fat. Perhaps she is. That would suggest that she doesn't eat healthy foods and doesn't exercise. She may not be amenable to the program when she is in the throes of her depression, but you said she gets better for a while. So when she is on her up side, get her in to these changes. I have seen incredible success in people who have used this program. Do it with her. It is a great way to live and you don't have to be a health nut to be successful at it. It will also set a good example for your daughters, teach them a way to live that is better than the fast-food, pill-popping propaganda that surrounds us all, and give them a better chance at a happy adult life than the one they seem to be headed for.
posted by judytaos at 2:00 PM on April 28, 2009


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