Don't get me wrong here. I'm grateful that the process of keeping my kids in touch with their Great Grandparents has been relatively smooth and not fraught with bitterness and resentment. And I'm very thankful for the grace God has given me in having to deal with them on a regular basis.
But I am still frustrated with their behavior.
They have been told repeatedly they are not to give the children things unless it is a birthday or a holiday, and even on those times, they are given a spending limit and we have to approve their gifts before they are given.
Lest you think we are cold-hearted and controlling, take a moment to imagine a nine year old knowing he is going to get a Play*station 3 for Christmas simply because "My Grandpa asked me what I wanted and that is what I told him, so that's how I know what I'm getting." Imagine a two year old who wants her brother's DS and refuses to leave him alone when he is playing it, and so because she wants one "so badly," her Great Grandparents buy her one of her own. Imagine two children returning home after six hours with said Great Grandparents, hauling enough stuff to fit into EIGHT garbage bags, and then not missing the two-thirds of it that is subsequently given away to charity.
These are just a few of the reasons we have rules about gift-giving. I also believe that is the right and privilege of the parents to buy the children their most "extravagant" gifts, and I do not think it is right for parents to be upstaged by other family members (if they don't want to be). Don't take that the wrong way; it's just that these particular Grandparents are like dealing with ex-spouses: they use gift giving as an attempt to buy the children's love, and since I have the power to stop it (unlike with exes), I'm going to exercise that power.
Back to the issue at hand. Even though they have been told - not just once or twice or even six times - numerous times not to buy things for the children, they continue to do it. "Oh, I had 30% off at Kohl's and I just couldn't resist." "Oh I just saw this and I knew s/he wanted one." "This was so cute I just couldn't pass it up."
For Hunter's birthday, they were told to spend no more than $35, and I strongly suggested a Lego set, since there are some decent ones for around that range. What did they show up with? A $100+ Lego set. "Livid" does not begin to describe it. We confronted them then and there, but didn't feel that we could tell Hunter he wasn't getting the gift, since he had already seen it. We did, however, tell them that if that ever happened again, they would not be allowed to give the gifts. We also prepped Hunter for the possibility of that happening at Christmas. (I explained to him that his Grandparents are allowed to get him one gift, just like all his other relatives, and that if they don't follow the rules, they will be returning the gifts.) This was important for two reasons: 1) the possibility of disappointment if they showed up with a bunch of gifts and he thought he would be keeping them, and 2) he is notorious for asking them for tons of things because he knows they will buy whatever he asks for.
Earlier this week, it happened again, this time with Kaleigh. I show up to pick up the kids; I am met with a PILE of clothes on the couch - oh and by the way, these clothes were shown to me THREE WEEKS AGO and I told her to give a few of them (told her specifically which ones) to Kaleigh for Christmas and return the others to the store. Now she is showing them to me again, asking me YET AGAIN "Can Kaleigh take these home?" It was all I could do not to explode. And to top it off, half the clothes she picks out are either just plain U.G.L.Y. or so grown up I wouldn't let a fourteen year old wear them, let alone a four year old.
The Great Grandparents wanted to know if they were going to get the kids for their own "Christmas" like they did last year.
"Last year was a different situation!" I wanted to scream. We are a FAMILY now. They don't go separately to separate extended family's houses and have a whole bunch of Christmases. They have Christmas on Christmas Day with US and all of their family who chooses to spend Christmas with us.
I am beside myself as we get ready for Christmas. These people still don't get it that these are OUR children. They live at OUR house. They do not have multiple parents; they do not have multiple houses. They have the mindset of a divorcee who still has rights to her children and a separate home where the children live part of the time and have different rules and belongings and behaviors.
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. That is not the situation we have here!!!!!!!! Why do they not get that WE. ARE. IN. CHARGE.???????
Sorry. Almost had a meltdown there for a second.
Seriously, though. I don't know how to deal with it anymore. I'm tired of saying "I don't want you buying things for the children anymore," and being met with the oh-I-was-just-trying-to-do-something-nice eyes. Because it's not because they want to do something nice. It's because they still want to believe THEY are parenting and controlling these children (not that I believe for a second the two go hand in hand, but in their case, it did).
Because I swear before God and all of you as witnesses, if they cross the boundaries of what I told them to buy for Christmas, they will lose their gift-giving privileges across the entire board. I am truly at that point.