Thursday, December 18, 2008

I Opened My Christmas Gift From My Parents Yesterday Morning

No, I didn't open this year's present. The present I opened was from 2 years ago. I opened it yesterday morning because it was cold and raining, and I needed a scarf, but couldn't find my old, ratty one. And, I knew the gift was a $275 Burberry scarf.

But why did I wait 2 years to open the gift? It's a bit complicated. My rambling explanation also doesn't make any sense, but please bear with me.

Unlike Sallies'Niece's parents who are "rich", mine are "poor". When I mean "poor", I mean negative net worth, very little savings, no real assets, and living mostly on Social Security and a small foreign pension. (Sigh... I'm an acorn that didn't fall too far from the tree.)

Nevertheless, my mom always showered my sister and me with expensive purses, jewelry and designer stuff for our birthdays and Christmas. Several years back, I announced to my mom that I was going to buy a Burberry trench coat (current retail price: $995). At that time, I earnestly (read: delusionally) believed that "affordable" meant I have the credit limit to charge the item. My mom shared the same philosophy and still does.

Anyhow, I never bought the coat, but my mom thought I did. She believed I should have a matching scarf and she gave it to me as a Christmas gift.

But why didn't I open it when I received it? Bear with me a bit more.

A while back, I discovered that my dad exhibited early signs of dementia. I was sufficiently alarmed that I convinced my parents to sign: a health-care proxy, a living will and a durable power of attorney. Since my parents live in another state, my sister and I decided to chip in to hire a local attorney to draft the legal documents. We decided having a local attorney on retainer would also be helpful in the event of an emergency. (By the way, this was the best $750 I ever spent.) In preparation for the execution of the documents, the attorney instructed my parents to bring all of their financial information with them.

What I discovered about my parent's financial situation was shocking, devastating and embarrassing. I told my parents that I didn't want them buying me expensive gifts anymore. Despite my plea, my mother gave me a Burberry watch that Christmas. (Current retail price: $325.) I threatened to mail the gift back to my parents, but my mom said she'll refuse it. As a form of protest I refused to take it out of the box. The Burberry scarf came the following year and again, I refused to use it.

My mom discovered the unopened gifts in my closet last year. She was upset, but I didn't care -- I didn't ask for gifts that my parents couldn't afford. I asked that she take it back, but she again refused. (In case you haven't noticed, stubbornness and passive aggressiveness are proud family traits. Not.)

The good news, though, is that my mom has since stopped buying me outrageously expensive designer stuff. Last year, she gave me $100 gift certificate from Trader Joe's for Christmas. (I gave my parents $100 in cash so it was pretty much a wash.)

Now that my mom and I have a meeting of the minds, I considered selling the Burberry stuff on eBay and sending my parents the money. But somehow that seemed inappropriate too. Since I wasn't going to return it or sell it, I figured I might as well use it as needed.

I know none of this makes sense. Family stuff usually don't.

Finally, please note that I didn't intend for this post to be about blaming my parents for their predicament or for failing to teach me the value of a buck. So please kindly refrain from making any negative comments about my parents. It'll break my heart.


jpkittie said...

I am happy that you have chosen to take care of your parents by making sure that since you are not there, getting an attorney to take care of the things they need to have taken care of. kudos to you.

Also - if your mom didn't want you to have the scarf, she would have never given it to you... I am glad that you are wearing it. Nice gifts don't mean that they love you more, but every time you put the scarf on, just know how much your mom loves you... think of that & it will make you happy.

Sharon Rose said...

Hi there-So pleased you've made the decision to wear the scarf, it seems a fitting way to mark your mums new financial wavelength she is on now. Thanks a lot for your well wishes too!

Money Beagle said...

You sound like a great daughter and your parents should be happy to have you. It sounds like they've 'learned their lesson' so to speak about giving you expensive gifts, so I think unwrapping and using the gifts now is appropriate. The fact that you kept the gifts wrapped in the closet shows either tremendous willpower or stubbornness on your part! Probably a little bit of both *lol*

Sallie's Niece said...

Dealing with parents and their choices can be increasingly frustrating as you get older and realize they're not perfect. I know I'm learning that lesson now. But parents love to spoil their children so at least those gifts were special to your mom (even if they were a little too extravagent). I'm glad they agreed to stop buying you things like that.

MoneyMateKate said...

I like how you handled it - you told them you wouldn't use them, you proved it to them by letting your mom see the unopened packages, and she stopped spending too much money on gifts for you, which was the end result you were looking for.

And by the way, $325 may be a lot more than most people spend on a watch, but there are so many more expensive options out there in timepieces that you shouldn't feel as bad about that as the scarf. Geez, a scarf...too easy to lose.

Miss M said...

It's better to use and wear the scarf then leave it in the box. It sounds like your parents got the point you were trying to make, I think you should enjoy the gift. This cold snap is the perfect time to put it to use, brrr.

Sallie's Niece said...

I forgot you were in California, now this gift seems even more luxurious. I'm in the Northeast and have to wear scarves 100 days of the year!

Escape Brooklyn said...

Augh! That's such a frustrating situation. I completely relate; my family is all about stubborness/passive aggressiveness/guilt. It's a no win for anyone!

But the $100 Trader Joe's gift certificate was a GREAT gift and it's wonderful your mom has *finally* gotten the message. And at least you'll be able to enjoy the scarf.

Christine said...

It sounds like the stubborness has paid off!

And I am glad that you kept the scarf, too. I know as a parent that I always want to give them what I never had. So, I understand your mom's view of the scarf.

Happy Holidays!

ps - that was great of you and your sister to have the paperwork drafted up.

Shtinkykat said...

jpkittie: I know my mom is generous to a fault. Growing up she always sacrificed her wants to satisfy my sister and my wants. Moms are the best!

Sharon Rose: Glad to hear from you! Hope the flu didn't knock you out too badly.

MoneyBeagle: Hahaha. It's definitely not will power. As Sallie points out, I live in Cali. so putting on a scarf is rarely on my mind. But yesterday was a bonechilling 46 degrees in the morning so it was a necessity. (I know I'm going to get pelted by people in Great Lakes, N. Eastern states.)

Sallie: I only wear scarves about month out of the year. (If it dips below 55, I'm a goner.) So I'm hoping that I'll keep this scarf for the next 30 years to make the cost worthwhile!

MMK: No kidding about extravagant watches. I window shopped at the Rolex store in Vegas and I nearly passed out when I saw that one of the watches cost as much as my car! I am terrified about losing this scarf. I think I'll safety pin it on my clothes just in case.

Miss M: You and I are cold weather wimps!

Escape Brooklyn: I know how you're very generous with your parents too. I have to admit, I love the TJ gift card more than the Burberry stuff. Mmmmm... Philly Cheesesteak pizzas...

Christine: Thanks! Most moms I know are always putting heir kids first. (That's why I know I could never be a mom!)