"When my younger son, my partner, and I were homeless, we ended up in a shelter that was supported by a number of local churches. I truly, deeply, appreciate everything those wonderful people did for us while we with them. Being in that shelter was the first step to getting out of the downward spiral and back on our feet.
But, we were there during Christmas. And we're Jewish.
The whole time we were in the shelter, we were dealing with VERY religious Christians. I understand that their religion was the main drive in them helping us. But, by the time Christmas rolled around, I was kind of rubbed raw with the in-your-face religiosity. Also, being in a shelter is really stressful, not just because you are homeless but also because you have no control. Imagine moving back in with your parents at 30 years old and needing to abide by the rules they set. No matter how grateful you are for the roof over your head, having a curfew is going to rub you wrong.
Christmas was very much salt on the wounds. No one asked the shelter residents if we wanted a Christmas tree or Christmas decorations. If they did, I'm sure the other residents would have wanted them and that's OK. But, no one asked. It was just assumed. No one asked us if we wanted to participate in a Christmas celebration. It just happened.
They did ask what stuff we wanted for Christmas gifts. I don't remember everything we asked for, but I remember gritting my teeth when my son unwrapped the Christmas-themed coloring books.
The shelter knew we were Jewish. We had celebrated Hanukkah while we were there and made sufganiyot to share with the staff and residents.
To this day, we have those coloring books, because years of not having anything and making due makes me resist throwing anything out if it can possibly still be of use. They are just about the only coloring books we have. My daughter scribbles in them sometimes. I encourage her to because she doesn't know Christmas or Santa. She just knows crayons make pretty colors.
I still grit my teeth every time I see them."
"I didn't have the greatest father in the world, but I loved him very much and I know he loved me. He tried to be a good father, but he had some major shortcomings, primarily the fact that he was a major, semi-functioning substance abuser. He was very selfish with his time and emotions and the search for the next drink often consumed the waking hours of his life.
I played little league every year. Although my father had his priorities, I never missed a game. He would always have time to get me there (with his drink, or 'road soda,' in a koozie), just not the time to stay. He didn't like to do things that didn't revolve around drinking, so he didn't have much time for activities in which it would be inappropriate to have a brew in his hand. This didn't leave a lot of time for recreational activities. I don't ever remember playing catch with my dad, or ever having a real conversation about anything meaningful.
As for how this is relevant to the story, my parents had a good friend named Jack. His family had their own construction business. Jack was not what I would call wealthy, but he provided for his family and they were comfortable. He was a good man and he taught me a lot. He even gave me my first job in which I learned a great deal about work ethic and responsibility. After doing construction all summer at 14 (mainly grunt work like cleanup and hanging wires from the ceiling), I certainly knew I wanted to go to college.
One summer, when my parents went out of town, I stayed with Jack and his family. Early one Saturday morning after breakfast, he took me out to play catch. We laughed, talked about things and played ball. It was wholesome, and I really looked up to him.
'I thought you played catcher?' he said, after a while. I told him that I did and he asked if I wanted to get my catcher's mitt and field some balls in the dirt. I told him that I would do that at practice, but that I didn't have a catcher's mitt. He looked at my ratty old mitt and asked if I wanted one. It was an innocent gesture and, at the time, did not seem inappropriate. Having never owned a new baseball glove, I eagerly agreed.
We drove to Sports Authority. Not wanting to take advantage of his generosity, I picked out a mid-grade glove. It wasn't top of the line, but it was a brand new Rawlings in black leather. It was the least expensive glove they made, but it was new and smelled of fresh leather.
Jack showed me how to condition the mitt and took me out to play catch a few more times to break it in. Looking back on it, I think Jack was doing things with me that he would have liked to have done with his own son. He had raised daughters and I think he enjoyed getting to teach a young man some things that his father had shown him.
A few days later, when I was back at home, my father saw the new glove in the garage and asked me where I got it. I told him that it had come from Jack and that he had shown me how to oil it and break it in. My father got very upset. I didn't understand why. He told me that it was inappropriate and that I needed to give the glove back to him and that I should not have accepted the gift. Begrudgingly, I agreed and we drove to Jack's house.
I don't remember exactly what my father said, but I do remember the sentiment revolved around, 'That is my son! and 'What, you don't think I can afford to buy my son nice things!?' I don't remember exactly what was said, but Jack was the type of guy who was hard to be mad at. He brushed it off as a simple gesture to help kill some time on the weekend and that it really wasn't a big deal.
'Well, we can't take it back after putting all of that oil on it,' he said to my father. 'I'll throw it away if you want me to, but he really seems to like it, so just take it and enjoy it."
He also apologized and said he didn't mean anything by it and that I was a good kid. Ultimately, I ended up getting to keep that glove and I cherished it all through my short little league and high school baseball career.
It bothered the heck out of my father. I always felt bad about that situation, especially for Jack. Looking back, I know my father was never really mad at him. I think he was mad at himself and his shortcomings as a father. I think the connection that Jack and I had made him jealous, but not jealous enough to ever take me out to play catch, or stay and watch a game. As a new father of two daughters, I hope to do better."
"It wasn't the gift, really. It was the reason: hateful, childish spite. THAT bothered me.
I have an old friend whose mother I never got along with when we younger. I was, in her eyes, a bad influence. For whatever reason, her mom never kept us apart. She did, however, make it abundantly clear that she didn't like me. I saw the snarky crap she would say to try and hurt my feelings, but I was and am really good at blowing people off.
She isn't MY mom. Why do I care what she thinks? I didn't. She could have very well told her kid to stop hanging with me or that she and I weren't allowed to come over to each other's places. Instead, she LIKED being a jerk to me. Whatever. I never told my parents. I probably wouldn't get to see her other than school if I had and I knew this.
Ten some odd years later, I was throwing my son's third birthday party. I had still been in touch with that same friend throughout the years. She had two boys close to my son's age, so I invited them. From what my friend told me, her eldest spilled he was going to my kid's birthday and then suddenly, good ol' granny invited herself.
My girlfriend showed up with her two boys and my favorite enemy. That woman had a look of pure disgust as soon as she saw me, too. My girlfriend apologized. She knew her mom was doing this on purpose and was unable to coax her to stay away. I told her not to worry. Her mom didn't bother me then and still, had no effect. I didn't care then and still do not give a crap.
So, time for gifts!
Can you believe this woman spent about $80 on a toy plane?! I had looked at it before. It was really too advanced for a toddler and the price... Geez, ain't no way.
My boy opened her gift and was completely thrown about how cool it was. Grandma Peevy Pants looked quite pleased with herself.
'Mom! LOOK AT ALL THE BUTTONS AND LIGHTS! AND IT'S SOOOO LOUD TOO!' my son exclaimed as that wench perked up smiling.
'I got the loudest and brightest toy I could find!' she said. My girlfriend looked like she very well might have dug a hole and crawled right in.
I am so done with this woman.
THAT was what she wanted. She wanted MY KID to be stoked about his gift from her, a complete stranger, and purposefully bought the most obnoxious toy she could get, just because she didn't like me. Real mature, huh? She got what she darn well wanted.
My turn... I was just about to make an epic comment but, my baby boy set me up for it and beat me to it!
'Wow, brother!' my other son said. 'That is an awesome toy you got! That's so cool! That's a big boy plane!'
'I CAN'T WAIT TO TAKE IT IN THE TUB!'
AHHHHHH! HE DID NOT! I WAS JUST ABOUT TO SAY WHAT A GREAT BATHTUB TOY THAT WOULD BE!
'THAT sounds like a fantastic idea there, little man!' I told him.
I glanced over to see my girlfriend doing her darndest to keep from laughing. Her mom was there just dead still, deer in the headlights, stone cold silent! That pleased face had quickly morphed right back to her familiar disgusted face I knew so well. It never actually went in the tub, but who's gonna tell her?
Like me or not, you will not use my kid as a pawn to please yourself and to try and tick me off. And yes, my girlfriend and I still joke about it to this day. That was over 10 years ago. Her mother no longer talks about me either. I got mine and the last word. Being the bigger person and ignoring her never deterred her, so I basically stooped down to her level and effectively, with almost no effort thanks to my son, shut her right down."
"A family next door gave my children NIV Bibles.
The Bible itself does not bother me, nor does Christianity. As a matter of fact, we're homeschoolers, so we'll be using those Bibles as textbooks for a Religions of the World course we're taking this year.
What did bother me is that these individuals know we are not Christian. My family practices no religion, belief system, or doctrine, while they are very strictly Christian. Their children have said things to my children that bother me very much, such as implying they are going to the bad place, asking them about how they want to make love with their husbands and wives, and blessing the number of children they plan to have. My children are 8 and 9 years old.
Aside from all things, the gift of the Bible was the most bothersome. If they had asked me first, I would have been fine with it. I got over the actual gift itself, but what I couldn't settle with was the obvious disrespect for me as a parent and the blatant attempt to undermine our non-beliefs by handing my children their religious doctrine behind my back and telling them they should go to church. They don't understand how we work. They were just trying to 'save' my kids behind my back. I also understand that they feel a need to educate children they believe are being misled (for the greater good).
I can forgive the action because I do understand Baptist Christianity and the fact that they are urged to 'spread the word,' if you will. Exposure to this religion does not bother me. I don't hide my kids away from any religion. We learn about them all. That's not the point.
The point is, they did something with my children that would highly upset them if it was done to their children. It is a double standard piled on thick. I know this because they' have told me. They are homeschooling their children for different reasons than I am. We homeschool because we travel for work and I was tired of never seeing my children. We decided to just do this together and it has been a beautiful experience. They homeschool to avoid their children being exposed to any values that are not Christian. To protect their kids from worldliness. These were their words.
Shoe on other foot, had I given their children a copy of my pagan encyclopedia or Quran or a guide to atheism, they would have flipped out. Because I'm not Christian, I don't have the same respect from those parents. They do not treat my parenting as they would like theirs treated because, to them, I'm inferior.
I also know this is a battle I cannot win. Because of their belief system, they feel this is their duty. According to their ethics, this is a burden they bear, even if it means they make enemies along the way. You cannot convince someone like this that it's not OK to give another person's child a Bible and also say, 'If I gave your kid a copy of the Satanic doctrine, you'd be upset,' because duh...their Bible is the truth! All other religions are wrong! The more children influenced, the better, in their belief, so I cannot reason with them.
Again, I don't care if the kids have Bibles. We kept them and we're going to use them along with a copy I already had, and had they been courteous enough to ask (considering their own feelings about beliefs), I would have been okay with the gift. If my kids asked for them, I would have been fine. If my other neighbors who I know are also open to education in every religion, although they're Sufi, had given my children copies of religious doctrine, it would not have bothered me because we've discussed this subject. They understand my feelings and respect me, as I do them.
Their kids don't tell my kids they're going to the bad place. That helps, as well. The mere idea that this was done as some attempt to save and/or convert my children, topped with talks about going to the bad place and church, really ticked me off.
'Do unto others,' yeah? Unless..."
"My son's birthday is between Christmas & New Year's. When he was younger, and still to a certain degree now, the UK pretty much shuts up shop in that period of time, unless you're a shop having a sale. There was nowhere open to booking kid's birthday parties. Nowhere. Wacky Warehouse, Pizza Hut, even McD's were not sold on the idea. As every kid knows, having a birthday on a school holiday tends to mean you get a bit forgotten about. If you live more than 10 minutes away from the school you attend, you may as well vanish off the face of the earth for the duration of the holidays, too.
With that thinking, and having thankfully been living in what can only be described as a HUGE Victorian basement flat, I always held birthday parties for him at home. He always enjoyed them, had crowds of people, loads of food, great games, and good times all around. But, the presents he got...
I'll add that my child is not materialistic in the least. The best part for him was having a houseful of his mates and a party going on. He did not care if there were gifts or not. I loved seeing my child enjoy himself. I loved having the place full of laughter and fun. I loved catering it, setting it up. Just the whole buzz of the day was great. Bring a gift or don't - we invited you because we wanted to share the day, the celebration, with you. Each child always went home with cake and a party bag. If I knew the parents, then cake for them too! That's how we have always been and I hope we always are.
But the presents my kid was gifted...
You know those shoddy, afterthought gifts your kids get from a distant relative? Or the crappy 'Visits to Santa's grotto gifts' (think one step up from a gumball machine)? Or even the opened on Christmas Day & broken by Boxing Day gifts? Those are the kind of things my child regularly received. Sometimes, it was still in the original Christmas paper the giver had received it in.
Although, once, a mother did that without checking the contents, assumed it was a crappy DVD without checking, and it turned out to be a new console game with a monetary gift card inside. The inside tag wishing her son 'Happy Christmas' was a bit of a giveaway.
He received obviously pre-watched DVDs or console games, pre-read books, games missing pieces with crumbs of Christmas cake in the box, and countless broken toys. I hope I do not sound ungrateful here. I'm a huge fan of recycling and using second hand or charity shops, but I just found this to be so rude.
Now, I just think back and I think it was sad. I know the people who did that to him and I knew each of them, without exception, to be much better off financially than we ever were. It was not the money, it was the lack of thought. We would send out invites a month in advance and the majority of the time the parents would stay a while too, have a drink, something to eat, and chat too whilst their kids spent a minimum of four hours eating, screaming, and burning off Christmas' energy at my place.
The absolute jaw-dropper was the mother who gave my child his birthday present, wrapped in Christmas paper, whilst handing me the receipt, and told me her own child had received it for Christmas and broke it Boxing Day. However, if I wanted to return it and get a replacement I could!
"Someone sent a Christmas package with LEGOS for the 15 year-old, American Girl clothes for the three-year-old, and a 5-pound slab of Filet Mignon roast for the 12-year-old, along with a note that said, 'I know how much he loves meat. I thought he would enjoy this more than LEGOS or Star Wars.'
As it happened, our 12-year-old grew nine inches that year and this person had seen him consume two full pounds of turkey at Thanksgiving. So, it wasn't that it was a bad gift, exactly. It was that he mailed the meat. At Christmas.
When the meat arrived, it had been en route for ten days, had exploded through the heavy plastic packaging, soaked the other contents and the box itself in blood, and smelled... well, like rotting meat.
I asked the postman (a holiday substitute) later why he had delivered that package at all. He said that his job was to deliver, not judge. These days, of course, such a thing would never make it through the scanners. But, back then, people could mail anything at all."
"My husband and I had long suspected that our kids' biological mother was not exactly on the 'up and up' where her finances were concerned.
The kicker was one Christmas when they each got computers, Beats headphones, accessories for said computers, miscellaneous gift cards, tickets to see a professional sports game for a team that was at the height of their careers and even nose-bleed seats were going for well over $100 per person. One of their friends was also included for the game. This did not include the parking for the game, food, dining out, etc.
Mind you, she never had custody for more than 25% of the time and only over weekends. This was at the same time when she was also arguing for a reduced rate with the kids' therapist saying she couldn't afford the co-pay. I calculated that to be roughly a $2,000 Christmas between the two kids.
We make decent money, certainly far more than said mom, but never could have justified this sort of extravagance. When she was called out for asking for a reduced rate, she became incredibly indignant and insulted. She claimed she had scraped and saved for months and months to provide for the kids. Rather than a holiday bonus, her boss had given her access to his company discount.
For half a second, I felt like an imbecile for questioning.
It was really no surprise when, a few months later, we discovered the truth as what had really gone on and to the discount - a big, fat five-fingered one. She was arrested for felony embezzlement and her trial is in a few weeks.
It has been all I can do to not throw away everything she has ever given the kids as chances are pretty solid that nothing was gifted with 'honest' means. She is no longer permitted to gift anything to the kids. Of course, she is also no longer allowed to see the kids unless with a court-approved paid supervisor and just for a few hours per month."
"I have two young children. They are both girls. The oldest is said to be my spitting image but, unlike me, she's a chatterbox, is super friendly, and people love her. She's popular with both children and adults. The youngest, on the other hand, is much more reserved and tends to ignore people when they speak to her.
I take them to the hairdresser twice a month. It is quite far from my house and I prefer to make the journey by public transport. I do not really mind driving to the place but I want it to feel like an adventure for the girls. They don't get to travel by public transport often. The first time a random guy gave my daughters money was on one of our journeys.
We had just gotten off the bus and were walking to the salon when a guy in his 20s raised his hand and said, 'Give me five.'
My daughters gave him a high five.
'You girls are so pretty,' the man said, before putting his hand in his pocket and giving them some coins. It was so unexpected. I didn't know what to say. I just stood there silently while he walked away.
The second time it happened, I was at the doctor's office with my youngest. I was reading a magazine waiting for her name to be called when I noticed an old man staring at my daughter who was asleep in her pram. He didn't take his eyes off of her the whole time he was there. He would look away for a while, then look right back at her. It made me uncomfortable. I started thinking, What's wrong with this man? What does he want?
I didn't say anything and just pretended to read a magazine while keeping an eye on him, when his name was finally called. He stood up, came close to us, and looked at my sleeping child again.
'She's gorgeous,' he said. Then, he took £5 out of his pocket and put it in my hand. I almost jumped out of my seat.
'What's the money for?' I asked.
He smiled and said, 'Buy her something when she's awake.'
I smiled back and said, 'Thank you, but there is no need. I appreciate the gesture, though.'
He insisted. When I wouldn't take the money, he put it in my daughter's pocket and left. I was both annoyed and embarrassed. What's up with this old man? I thought as I watched him walk away.
More recently, my daughters and I got on a bus home from the hairdresser's. The bus was kind of full. My daughters sat on the last empty seats and I stood up. They were chatting and playing with each other's hair when a guy stood from his seat.
'Are you alright?' the man asked, looking at my children. 'You girls are so pretty.'
Then, he put his hand in his pockets and gave them money.
'Mom, look,' one of them said, 'we've got money.'
I couldn't look up. It felt like everyone on the bus was staring. I told them to thank him. He smiled then got off the bus.
I had never been so embarrassed in my life. I felt like I could not say anything even though I didn't like what he did. Who gives a stranger's kids money? I kept my eyes down until we made it home, I couldn't look people in the eye.
I don't know why it has happened. I'm kind of paranoiac now whenever a man talks to us when we are out. I just think, Hey, man, don't give my kids any money. Don't you dare embarrass me.
Does it keep happening because I'm too shy and polite to speak out?"
"Five or six years ago, my kids went to my daughter's friend's little sister's birthday party. Back then, Monster High dolls were still dominating every little girl's wish list and a new fairy tale series had come out so we were really excited about the two dolls we gifted her.
Monday came along. They went to school. From the pick up line, I saw my two kids and I could tell immediately that something was wrong. Did they BOTH get in trouble?
When they got in the car, they explained to me that when the little girl opened her gifts, our gifts, all heck broke loose. The mother of the little girl was furious that someone, anyone, would gift any one of her kids a brown doll. So angry was she that she got up, picked up the doll, and told the little girl she was throwing it in the trash. The little girl started to cry. She wanted the doll. Her mom ended up giving her the doll. Begrudgingly.
I do not remember the first doll we purchased. The other doll, the doll in question was none other than Cedar Wood, the daughter of Pinocchio. I kid you not. She was made to look like she was carved out of wood with swirls and wood grain on her body. It was a beautiful little doll for a sweet little girl and that racist animal of a mother turned it into such an ugly thing. I was not there when it happened but the taste that incident left in my mouth allowed me to distanced myself. For good.
I was disturbed by her ignorance, but I was so proud of my kids whom, at their young age, knew that type of thinking just does not fly anymore. After all this time, they still remember."
"I was a small child at the height of Care Bear madness but, even as a toddler, I disliked them... Make that HATED them. I'm not sure why. I just did. When they began making a comeback when my daughter was born in the early 2000s, I sent out a strict proclamation that no one should ever buy her anything Care Bear related.
It worked for a while, but when a close friend was packing up her singleton flat to move in with her boyfriend, she donated her entire Care Bears collection to my kid. I could not say no because she turned up at the door with them and let my kid see them all... and she loved them. My friend knew this would make me angry, but this just added to the fun of it all (for her).
From then on, my daughter became a collector. But now she just left for college, so we are stuck with these devil things. Thanks so much, Gina - not."