It is not uncommon for any man or woman to not always see eye-to-eye with their mother-in-law. It is a conflict that can go on for years. Someone lets a hostile comment slip out, an argument ensues, the two settle it over a drink, and everyone lives on. However, if the mother-in-law intends to make it more interesting by involving the grandchildren, that is where things can turn really sour, especially around the holidays or on a child's birthday.
There are more than enough stories to be found on Quora of parents whose mother-in-law gave their children a gift that sent them spiraling. These are some of the funniest, most embarrassing, and even distressing stories that fall under such a topic.
The Gift That Keeps On Stinking
“My ex-mother-in-law made it a point to buy my daughter heavily-scented perfumes knowing full well I was allergic to them. Despite providing lists of perfumes I was NOT allergic to that my daughter also loved AND requested, this practice continued up until my daughter went off on her grandmother for it. In public. It was a glorious humiliation.
It was one thing to consistently do things to try to harm me, but to be so intent on harming me that she did not even consider her own grandchild’s feelings about it was just beyond vile.
My ex-mother-in-law demanded that I make my daughter apologize for humiliating her. I rewarded my daughter, instead. Sorry (not sorry), but I won’t teach my children how to swallow abuse and not defend themselves.”
Grandma’s Dolls Were Total Nightmare Fuel
“My ex-mother-in-law never paid any attention to my kids, but, she did buy them something for their birthdays and for Christmas. It would mostly be things that had no thought put into them. She insisted on buying my younger daughter a doll for at least one of those occasions every year, even though I had repeatedly explained to her that she NEVER plays with dolls, nor even looks at them.
The last doll she bought her was this hideous looking thing that she found cute. It had a really strange mouth, which made its little face one of the ugliest dolls I ever saw. I told her this, but she insisted it was cute.
I ended up throwing it away after about a week. I seriously would have never offered another child a doll that ugly. To this day, I think she bought dolls because it was easy and ‘every’ girl plays with dolls.
Before anyone complains about how ungrateful I am, let me tell you this: the woman is a snake in the grass. A two-faced one.”
She Would Not Take No For An Answer
“My eldest was seven when my former mother-in-law called me up around September, asking if she could buy my son a Nintendo gaming console. I told her NO, in no uncertain terms. NO, he did not need one of those things around. But, he loved books so she could send him books.
Christmas arrived and so did a Nintendo gaming system. She called me on the phone and informed me that her grandson deserved to have one and she was not going to accept me saying no.
That was when I lost my son. The only way to pull him out of the game was to hide the controller. Then, his father would go buy another one. Then, I’d have to hide that one. When my ex moved out and I went through everything we owned, I found that I had half a dozen Nintendo controllers.
My son still hates me.”
Only The Best For Grandma’s Favorites
“Earlier this year, my mother-in-law brought gifts for her grandkids for some obscure holiday. She happily pulled out gifts for my 10-year-old niece and 7-year-old nephew (chocolates and toys). My 10-year-old daughter was given a small set of doll accessories.
For my 12-year-old son, my mother-in-law pulled out an empty, dirty, used Star Wars-themed popcorn box from the movie theater and a small Star Wars-themed box of Kleenex. To his credit, my son did his best to hide his disappointment. He thanked his grandmother, but it was a difficult ride home to be sure.
My mother-in-law isn’t that old, by the way. She’s not even yet 65 years old. I cannot even make an excuse for her. She does the same thing with my sister-in-law and my husband. She will shower my sister-in-law with expensive concert tickets and puppy grams, despite being on a very tight fixed income.
Meanwhile, she will give my husband a pair of mismatched socks covered in dog hair that are two sizes too small for his birthday (when she remembers).
We really have not done anything but support both of them when my sister-in-law’s marriage fell apart (thanks to her infidelity) and my father-in-law passed away more than five years ago, we saved my mother-in-law’s house, worked on her house and yard, cooked dinners, etc.
After six to nine months of this with no thanks from her, we realized she expected it from us while going out to ‘play’ and have fun with my sister-in-law. We slowly scaled back our efforts.
When it comes to her grandkids, she feels she needs to spoil my niece and nephew.
That’s what grandmas do, but I’ve never seen someone do it in such an unbalanced fashion. My kids noticed a few years ago. There would usually be a lot of tears on the way home from her house.
One time, my daughter gently asked her why she would give her other grandkids unlimited candy and toys, including more than five American Girl dolls, while not doing it for her and her brother.
She replied, ‘You have a daddy. They don’t.’
It’s a terrible reasoning to give a child, especially when my former brother-in-law has partial custody of his kids. We had a huge blow-up not long after that conversation, for a variety of reasons. The relationship between our family, my mother-in-law, and my sister-in-law has never really recovered.
I suppose we should be happy that she at least knew my son loves Star Wars. It was also a good way to begin teaching our kids that life isn’t fair, forgiveness isn’t easy, and sometimes people confuse material things with love.”
Silent Wrath Of The Stepmother
“My grandmother-in-law is a wonderful person. However, she once gave my step kids a gift I cannot forgive her for.
My three stepsons live with their father and I full-time and see their mother every other weekend. My grandmother-in-law printed out and framed pictures of their mother and father (my now husband) on their wedding day. Cutting the cake together. Hugging each other. Posing together. Dancing together. Framed. To display in MY house. For ME to see every time I tuck in my kids.
I do more for them than their mother ever has besides push them out of my body, so I do consider them ‘mine.’
It makes me so mad every time I have to see her ugly face hanging on MY husband, in MY home! If these horrible pictures were ever to disappear, you know they would have my head. I am to silently see them day in and day out and not say a word of complaint.”
She Could Not Seem To Get The Hint
“My mother-in-law, who is no longer involved for separate reasons, always went to auctions and found the most awful looking ‘toys’ to give my children for their birthdays and Christmas. These would include old, creepy dolls that a 1 and 2-year-old cannot play with.
My oldest had a Trolls themed birthday party and my mother-in-law happened to find this super old and creepy looking ‘troll’ doll. I had never seen a troll doll that looked like this thing and I’m not even sure it was a troll doll. She kept buying them jelly sandals that were known to have lead in them. We had told her the girls would not be wearing them. She continued to buy the same sandals.
We throw them out every time.”
She Just Wants Her Children’s World To Be Less ‘Virtual’
“Christmas has always been a huge deal for my mother-in-law. By that, I mean her focus has always been on the gifts. It is to the point at which the excess makes me uncomfortable. It is just not how I was raised, but it’s her deal so I let her be.
Last year, my husband and I announced we would be moving four hours away for a job opportunity. Four hours is a big deal for his family because they all live within 10 minutes of each other. His grandparents, his parents, aunts, uncles, sisters, everyone. Without asking either my husband or myself, she bought my 7 and 8-year-old an Xbox.
We don’t normally limit TV or electronics a ton, but this was totally different.
I felt they were way too young to play video games and the games she did buy them (Farming Simulator) were something they had previously used their existing toys (tractors, cows, barns) and imaginations to play.
The reason she bought it: ‘Oh, they won’t have any friends when they move. This will give them something to do.’
The Xbox only caused more fights between me and my kids and between them. I hate it.”
She Was Punished For Her Mother’s “Transgressions”
“I can remember gifts I received during my childhood that really bothered my mom. To explain the reasoning for my gifts, I need to explain something first.
My paternal grandmother does not like my mother much. My parents have been happily married for 29 years, yet my grandmother still is not very nice to her. We honestly don’t even know why. She dotes on my dad and my mom has never once been rude or even stood up for herself when grandma is disrespectful to her.
When I was young, I was often the one left out at Christmas from that side of the family, probably for this reason. My cousins would get hundreds of dollars worth of toys that they would sometimes complain about and, typically, I got nothing. The few times I did, though, they were usually IOU’s from my dad’s mom. These were sometimes paired with the type of lip gloss that costs less than a dollar. I remember that bugged my mom a lot.
What bothered her the most, though, was my 12th birthday when my dad’s mom gave me Dora the Explorer stamps. It was not so much the fact that the gifts were bad. I think it was more that they usually seemed like an afterthought. Mom felt like it was because they didn’t like her that they treated me like that.”
Favoritism In The Family
“My mother-in-law treats my 3 kids differently and that is reflected in her gifts to them.
I have 3 kids, 2 boys and a girl in the middle of the 2 boys. My MIL is a bitter, self-absorbed person who cares about no one but herself and her own 3 children. She is wealthy (family money) and has never worked a day in her life. She also has 2 boys and a girl. She favors the middle son and younger daughter, and takes every opportunity to belittle my husband, the oldest. It has been like this his entire life. She especially spoiled her daughter.
My husband and his brother both are wonderful, hard-working people, well-liked and respected in their communities and job fields. My husband has had to fend for himself his entire life, and shielded his younger siblings from his mother’s behavior up until he left for college.
When I came into the picture, I was his first girlfriend, his brother and sister had never had a partner either, so I was pretty much the first to ‘enter’ the family. I was met with hostility, of course. When my husband introduced me to his mother, she stared at me for a moment before turning to my husband and said, ‘Why do you bother? She’s a college freshman, she’s going to lose interest in you and leave you for the first thin, good looking guy that comes along.’ We’ve been together 14 years now, and I love my husband, big belly and all.
It didn’t help that I am part Native American, and she has used colorful terms to describe that part of me, which she uses when she ‘thinks’ my husband and I aren’t watching. Also, I come from a ‘lower class’ family.
Our kids: my boys have my coloring – dark hair, dark eyes, (lighter than me) olive skin. My daughter is blonde, fair-skinned, and blue-eyed. She favors my daughter ENORMOUSLY.
She gives my daughter lavish, age-inappropriate gifts, like a huge, fancy dollhouse that’s more suited for a 8 year old than a 2 year old. That dollhouse was destroyed in 6 months, just because a 2 year old, even a gentle one like my daughter, is not going to understand the limits of fragile items. Not to mention we do not have the space for big, fancy toys. My MIL is aware of this and takes the time to make jabs about how we need to stop living like serfs and get a bigger house.
The boys? She often ‘forgets’ to give them gifts. When she does remember, it’s usually used clothes (which we don’t mind because we get thrift store clothes for the kids already, but it just goes to show the difference in gifts for the boys and my daughter) and used toys or cheap, already-broken toys.
My oldest son (5 years old) is a sweet, gentle kid who loves cars, animals, dolls, dollhouses, and the colors pink, purple, and green. My MIL takes every opportunity to try and ‘make him into a real boy.’ He overheard her say this once and was upset because he thought he was a ‘real boy’ already, and didn’t understand why Nana said he wasn’t.
He is also old enough to notice the discrepancy in the gifts Nana gives him and our youngest son, and the gifts she gives our daughter. It hurts his feelings so we’ve started to hide and check Nana’s gifts for our daughter so we can get gifts for the boys that’s as good as what our daughter gets.
I hate this. I’m perfectly fine with cutting the woman out of our lives, because there is nothing that benefits us in continuing this. But my husband doesn’t want to. I think a small part of him believes and hopes that she will have a change of heart (I say ‘what heart?’).
Not to mention- in the 14 years my husband and I have been together, she has never once remembered my birthday. For the first 5 years of our lives together, she would misspell my first and last name, even giving me entirely new names on occasion.
Christmas gifts, she will give my husband a gift and say it is for both of us when it’s clearly for him, or clearly used to make a jab at me. Once, she gave us used cleaning tools and said that it was so he could try and help me keep the house clean.
Last year, she gave ME a gift. It was only because my brother in law had his first serious girlfriend and she was spending Christmas with them. My MIL likes her. She’s thin, beautiful, and comes from a well-to-do family (please don’t get me wrong, I love my BIL’s girlfriend, it’s just how my MIL sees things). So, my MIL got her a gift, a really nice, expensive gift. She knew my brother in law would have chewed her out if she didn’t get me a gift too, so she got me one. I opened it, and it was a stack of dirty old magazines. Not ‘dirty’ as in nudes, but dirty as in she pulled it out of the garbage bin.
I burst out in uncontrollable laughter, because this was creative and took her a lot of EFFORT. She had collected magazines that were all related to how to decorate houses, how to design and stage luxury homes, how to keep homes clean, etc.
I just feel so, so bad for my husband because he’s the sweetest person and to have endured the emotional and mental abuse his mother put him through growing up…
I have learned to turn my anger towards my MIL into pity. We have a wonderful, happy family and she misses out on this. She’s dying (cancer) and while her children do their “duty” as her kids, they don’t do it out of love. My husband doesn’t mourn or fear her passing like he did when his father died. That’s just so sad.”
They Couldn’t Hold Back Even A Little Bit
“We had had recently had our second child and things were tight.
Our in-laws had a habit of asking a few months in advance what we and our kids wanted for Christmas presents.
I had asked for clothing and necessities for our daughter’s Christmas so the in-laws gift’s wouldn’t outshine our humble gifts for our daughter that year. I had also talked about avoiding gifts with small parts to protect the baby. Our daughter was still leaving her toys around the house.
Guess what the relatives did? The exact opposite! They got her fancier gifts than they ever had before. All had a few teeny-tiny parts each as well. Not a scrap of clothing was given.
I was torn, but had to let my daughter down about sending all of the little accessories that came with the toys she got to thrift stores. It was rough that they put me in that position after I made specific requests.
I get not wanting to be the ‘boring relatives’ who only got clothes, but the little accessories were kind of over the top.”
“We were broke and my mother-in-law promised my 3–1/2 year old daughter a red velvet dress (it was $16 or so). She PROMISED. We’d seen it in the store and MIL said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll get it.’
Christmas morning, my daughter opens the box and…cheap burgundy velour pantsuit. Scratchy, itchy, wrong size, real piece of garbage.
My daughter started to cry, ‘It’s not red. It’s not velvet. It’s not a DRESS!’
MIL, ‘Oh, iI didn’t think she’d be able to tell the difference, this was only $11.
Really!? She’s your first grandchild and you can’t buy the thing she wants? You bought your grandson a $40 suit, a carton of assorted toys, and your granddaughter who has NO OTHER GRANDPARENTS, you can’t spend the extra $5 after you PROMISED?
Yes, the list goes on.”
An Unwelcome Addition To The Family
“When my son was four, his paternal grandparents bought him a modern version of the cymbal smashing monkey toy.
It walked, banged cymbals together, and made a horrible screeching sound that was intended to resemble monkey noises, but didn’t. It was clearly intended to punish me, and it did. For about 30 seconds. My son wasn’t a huge fan. But, it was a special gift from his beloved grandparents, so we placed it on his dresser so that he could appreciate it, and maybe play with it again if he felt like making a horrible racket.
About three weeks later, he told me he was sick of the monkey staring at him all the time and he put it in his closet. Then he warned the cat that if it (the cat) slept in the closet, then it would get stared at (by the monkey). My kid was seriously creeped out. We happily pitched the horrible monkey shortly after.”
She Didn’t Want Her Kids Exposed To Dangerous Weapons
“My mother-in-law knew very well that we did not want our boys to have toys weapons of any kind in our home. My husband used to leave his military stuff at the base so we never had to worry about the boys getting into his stuff. Every year for birthdays or Christmas, my MIL would buy the boys some type of weapons toys or violent games and I would put them in the trash while she watched. She even bought the boys a bebe shooter when they were around 8 or 10, it was time to go crazy on her.
I took it to her place and politely started using it. When she realized I had no idea what I was doing or how to use it, she ran into her room and locked the door and called my husband to come ‘talk some sense into me.’ I think she got the message that day because I scared the devil out of her. You like bringing weapons into other’s home, let’s see how you like having weapons in your home!”
Not Age Appropriate
“When my daughters were just entering puberty (9 and 11 years old), my mother in law said she wanted to give them a book on ‘female development,’ which I was totally supportive of. It was after they returned from a visit with her that I discovered the book was actually a collegiate level text book on women’s development. It went way more in depth than I felt was developmentally appropriate for their ages. Because it was from his mother, my husband didn’t want to admit it was a poor choice or confront her about it. I’d never had any problems answering questions from my kids but I don’t think young children need to know about such adult topics.”