Birthday present quandry - advice?

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by seriously, Dec 19, 2011.

  1. seriously

    seriously New Member

    difficult child 2's 16th birthday is tomorrow. He is still barely attending school - in fact school has called for an attendance hearing that they have scheduled for Thursday.

    His behavior at home varies from annoying to threatening. Yesterday we left the house with his sister and our dog for an hour to de-escalate things. He was threatening us and knocking over small furniture and tearing up papers in anger after we told him point blank we would not be getting him an air soft gun for his birthday and said we were going back to removing the TV every night because he was lying to us about having Xbox equipment stashed (he is getting up and playing it at night unless we take the TV).

    Overall things are better than they were for a while. We haven't called the police in at least 2 weeks. He went to school for 3 or 4 days at least 4 hours every day for 2 weeks but not last week because he said he was sick to his stomach the whole week, throwing up a couple days in a row. He isn't up yet so I don't know if he'll go to school today or not.

    He is not leaving the house except to go to school and sometimes for a walk in the neighborhood. We could not get him to go with us to the new Sherlock Holmes movie yesterday even though he loved the first movie and has been talking about going for a couple of weeks. I'm not sure he will come with us Tuesday to the birthday dinner we have planned to have with his godmother.

    His wish list consists of Xbox games. The Xbox is a huge source of conflict and we don't want to get him more games.

    I talked to him about including some other ideas on his list like books, audiobooks, clothes or gift certificates to places he could get clothes and he just got mad. Informed me that would be like getting socks for Christmas.

    I am struggling with grief today - his birth was such a joyous occasion. It hurts to be reminded of how different this reality is from the one we hoped for 15 years ago. It feels like I can't see clearly how to handle the whole present thing because of the grief.

    So what do we do about a birthday present? On the one hand we want to give our precious son a birthday gift.

    But we don't feel much like giving a present to someone who is treating us like this or giving him what he wants because it will only fuel the fires. But to not give him a gift is unthinkable and anything less than what he wants will almost certainly lead to conflict.
  2. buddy

    buddy New Member

    Tough call. I could easily argue both sides of it. I go through this thought process a lot. In my case I do make some things in life non-contingent. My son has to earn every single thing and everything is at risk for being "lost" in his day... mostly things at school but at home too. So, though I dont think we need to indulge wants that are over the top or interfering with life (the x box games), I would acknowledge his birthday, if it was me. You are upset with his behavior, but he needs to still be told his life is valuable and you love that he was born. (I know, sometimes it is hard to feel that, really I do know that!)

    Whatever you decide... I support. Just sharing my thoughts.
  3. aeroeng

    aeroeng Mom of Three

    If it were me I would minimize the present. I would hand make a lovely card (knowing full well he would not appreciate it), and get a small useful present. (clothing, book, organizer ect). When he complains about the sock equivalent, state that you love him, and care for him, but that until his behavior improves you simply will not focus on gifts. They are not unconditional. Don't react to his explosion, and repeat that you do love him. Anything more just adds to the complication and becomes something else to fight over.

    Good luck our thoughts are with you no matter what you do.
  4. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    I'm with aeroeng... Get him something useful.

    Where is XBox equipment stashed? Find it and stash it yourself... LOL
  5. Bunny

    Bunny Guest

    I know how you feel. Take a deep breath. It stinks to have to admit that your reality is so different from what you thought it would be so long ago.

    Anyway, I agree with what the others posted. I would get him a nice card and something useful that you know that he needs. If you're like me, it's very hard to buy your difficult child something that you know that he really wants when it's a source of conflict and anger. I always feel like why should I bother? Getting him something nice is not going to make him treat me or the rest of the familt any better than he does.
  6. slsh

    slsh member since 1999

    Slightly different take here. He will only be 16 once, and his birth was a joyous event. In spite of all the junk going on and how miserable he is making you guys, it is still something to celebrate as best you can. Don't let him take that away from you.

    I agree with- no Xbox games since that would just be adding gasoline to the fire. ;) But ... music? Itunes gift card? CDs? Get him what *you* think he would like. If he equates it with- socks? Tough. This year you are celebrating his b-day more for you than for him, OK? Some years we have to do it that way.

    We've never tied holiday or b-day gifts into behaviors - if we had, thank you would have had several very barren years there. I think in some ways it's even more important for *us* to participate in the gift of giving when our beloved offspring are being exceptionally difficult. I always found it helped me to rise above for just a little while and be fully grateful for the gift that my difficult child truly truly was.

    Give what your heart tells you to - not what your head does.
  7. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Slsh's approach is more along the lines of what I was thinking.
    We've never tied behavior to birthdays. Birthdays are about relationships... and building positive memories.

    I don't know your kid, but here's a take-off on what we did last year (a tough year...)
    He likes X-box? Get him all sorts of stuff ABOUT X-box. But not x-box games.
    - x-box-themed mug, t-shirt, jammies, pillowcase...
    - x-box books - tips, tricks, history...
    - x-box-themed birthday cake...

    This way, you're not feeding the current issue (more new games), but you are acknowledging his primary interest, and its harder (not impossible, just harder) for the kid to get mad when you've bought into his favorite topic.
  8. LittleDudesMom

    LittleDudesMom Well-Known Member Staff Member

    seriously, hugs for your mother's heart.

    I agree wholeheartedly with slsh - that's what I would do.

  9. KTMom91

    KTMom91 Well-Known Member

    Hugs, PJ.
  10. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I dont know what I would do. I can totally see your point with the xbox stuff because it is such a problem for you. I think giving him a bunch of xbox themed stuff would just set him off into a frenzy of him accusing you of making fun of him. If you give him something nice that is appropriate for age 16, he is probably going to get mad and throw it at you. Sigh. I think I would go with music. Most teens like it. Also I always did a really nice dinner of their choice for my kids on their birthday.
  11. seriously

    seriously New Member

    Thanks everyone.I think I have come up with two alternatives that will work. I just have to decide which to do.

    First is a gift certificate for one or two Lazar tag sessions. He loves this but hasn't gone for at least 2 years because he has no one to do it with. That problem still exists but we "could" do it together as a family if he will go for that.

    The other is that I remembered that there is a new Zelda game out for the Wii that he talked about getting last month. I think it's single player but it may be multi. I asked him if he was still interested in that game so he could add it to his wish list and he said it would be OK. But it takes an upgraded sensor bar for our Wii and the total cost for the game + bar is going to be something like $70. Ouch.

    Dammit Janet - you are so right on about his reaction to the xbox themed stuff - he would see it as taunting him. I think it would definitely invoke the power struggle over the xbox.

    He isn't so much into music. He listens to it some on an old MP3 player but mostly he listens to audiobooks when he can. I asked him last week about the music he liked now and he refused to talk about it. Argh. The kid is so fixated on the power struggle that you cannot hold any kind of real conversation with him.

    Fixing a nice dinner is a complicated dance since he has a twin sister who has very different tastes. He will eat such a small range of foods it is really tough to figure out what to fix for a "celebration" meal. We decided to go out to dinner with his godmother near where she lives (30 minutes away) but now can't get any agreement on what kind of restaurant to go to...

    As if this weren't all enough, we got woken up at 1:30 last night by a screaming fight between the twins. easy child had spent about 3 hours making cookies to give to friends and neighbors. Now, she is a bit challenged in the area of cooking and the ratio of effort to cookies produced is pretty high. She probably only got 2 dozen cookies for her 3 hours of work.She left them out to cool since she didn't start this project til 8 pm or so.

    Her brother got up for a middle of the night roam and ate at least half of them - mostly the nicest ones she had made. There were only 2 of those left.

    She went to put them away, discovered this and went ballistic, partly because he KNEW that she had made them to give away because he was still up when she finished and she had been nice enough to give him a couple already. Along with the info she had made them as gifts.

    He was not remorseful and insisted he had only eaten one more cookie and hadn't done anything wrong. We pointed to the half empty cooling rack that had started out covered with cookies and he just repeated that he hadn't eaten them. He stood there screaming at us that she was lying and he hadn't done anything wrong. I wanted to slap him silly but I didn't. I'm afraid I did tell him that eating the cookies when he knew that his sister had worked hard to make them in order to give them to neighbors and friends made him a jerk, which I think was over the line and I regret doing. Will have to apologize to him for that today. Which totally sticks in my craw.

    We decided that we are going to tell him he has to make replacement cookies but getting him to do that is probably going to be nearly impossible. We decided that the consequence for not making more cookies was going to be loss of computer and TV until he did it...

    I hope he goes to school today. I'm not sure I am going to be able to stand to having him around the whole day, glowering at me and his sister. She's already off on break but his school is in session until the end of the week.
  12. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Oh that is just rotten and he was a jerk. Why apologize? I dont think we need to when we speak the truth.
  13. Malika

    Malika Well-Known Member

    It is better not to use the truth like a dagger, to hurt people... That said, calling your son a jerk in the circumstances seems quite mild and fair enough. Or I suppose one has to make the vital distinction - he behaved like a jerk...
  14. buddy

    buddy New Member

    I have told Q he was acting like a jerk when he does things that I know are developmentally within his ability to know better. If you would say your easy child is acting like a jerk then it is the same for difficult child in my humble opinion. I guess I never thought that jerk was a terrible word, just means you chose to do something that really hurt someone else, not a swear word or anything. He has eaten whole boxes of things in one day that we had just talked about and he does not get those treats bought for often 6 or more months. I just stop buying those things.

    What he did not only hurt her feelings, but it made her efforts a waste of time and money. He owes her. Could you have him sell a game to pay for the new ingredients if he doesn't have cash?. I have made Q pay for things with his things... since he usually does not have money. It helps him to learn the value of things to others. But I understand there are trade offs and for some kids there is a fine line between teaching a lesson and a for sure dangerous blowup....

    On the birthday list of things.... I like the ones that involve interacting with you guys... if he can do it and does not make you miserable. Seems like he would get the message that you want to be with him, but you are not indulging the home gaming obsession. (and believe me to an extent I indulge Q's special interests, but at this point they dont interfere with anything, he would always prefer going somewhere with me or his family .... I would have to do like you and prioritize if that changed for sure.)

    Poor easy child I feel terrible for her. I would probably have lost my cool too. He sounds like he has no impulse control at all, and boy can I relate to living with a child like that.
  15. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not


    First - Happy Birthday to your son!

    What about taking everyone out to dinner at a buffet-style restaurant? Then everyone can have exactly which foods they like (and as much as they like)...and the restaurant may even make a big deal and sing Happy Birthday if you ask them to.
  16. seriously

    seriously New Member

    Ah, the buffet. Thought of that too but difficult child 2 hates buffets. Too noisy and even though there is a wide choice of food he usually only eats a bowl of white rice or plate of plain spaghetti with salt because everything else smells bad or looks bad or he's never had it before or... Those of you with kids with sensory issues will totally get this.

    Ok. well somehow we will find a way to celebrate if I have to MAKE them all celebrate.
  17. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Do the buffet concept at HOME?

    We did this growing up... due the the huge number of extended family that would show up, there wasn't enough tables!

    Make small quantities of a wide range of foods - with some of what each person loves...
    Including a smorg of treats...
    And of various beverages...
  18. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not

    How infuriating!

    A few of Clark Griswald's speeches suddenly coming to mind:

    "We're on quest - a quest for fun. I'm gonna have fun - and you're gonna have fun. We're all going to have so much &%^* fun we'll be whistling "Zippedy De Doo Dah" out of our _____ "
  19. seriously

    seriously New Member

    Yep, whistling away here.

    Thanks all.