Gift To Estranged SD - Advice Requested

hamsteve

Hi Folks,

As many of you will recall, our 17 yo SD moved (from our home in VA) to live with her single biofather in FL after years of his promises of a BMW sports car, living in a big new house he "bought for her," endless list of big ticket toys, few rules, and even the offer to have her girlfriend move in with them also. Nothing would be delivered unless she moved in with him. After SD's move in January she has estranged herself from us now, almost totally. SD will not return phone calls from her mother, and only replys to occasional text messages from her mother.

My wife asked that we plan a 1 week vacation in FL at a beach that puts us conveniently only 1 hour away from where SD lives during the week of SD's 18th birthday in early November. This way we get a nice vacation, we can visit other friends in FL, and also ask SD out for a Birthday dinner since we will be in the area over her birthday week. Goal is to try to start a normal communication with SD, to simply see her, and to celebrate her 18th birthday with her. We would keep the dinner conversation very light, and have no motives except to see her and maybe start to regain normal communication; a baby step in the right direction hopefully. SD has not yet agreed to meet with us, as communicated through text messages which is the only way SD will communicate with her mother.

Here is the issue. My wife insists on giving SD a significant dollar value gift certificate to Tiffany's for SD to get herself some exotic jewelery as a gift from us. Sounds nice on the surface, however SD has used this "cutting off of communication and estrangement" technique with her father for many years and he was driven to the point of promising everything under the sun to get her to have a relationship with him. And it worked! Once all of the big promise offers, the big fancy home, and an offer to have SD's 17 yo girlfriend move in also was secured, SD made her move to live with biofather. Now we are the recipients of the "cutting off of communication and estrangement" just like she was treating her father. My concern is that if we give her this high dollar gift certificate to Tiffany's, are we now reinforcing her behavior effectively saying to SD, that this technique of estrangement works over time to get the big ticket gifts and behavior from parents that she wants? I do not want to reinforce this type of "estrangement" behavior. And I must say that to me, it just doesn't feel right to offer an expensive gift to SD when we have been treated so badly for the last 11 months. SD is acting like she doesn't want anything to do with her mother and me. I feel that just going down to see her and having a very nice dinner together, giving her a nice birthday card, and our best wishes to her, treating SD like an adult of course, is adequate and appropriate.

Please let us know what you all think about the gift certificate to Tiffany's (SD's favorite store) idea. I think that my wife is trying to "buy" her affection and I think it will not work, and that this will just bring on more estrangement behavior, since it worked this time! We sincerely appreciate your comments. Thank You!

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jeri

Hi Steve is it? :-)

IÂm new to this forum and to your story. However, I think you presented it very well. I have to agree with your assessment 100%. I can understand your wifeÂs desire to give her daughter a lovely 18th birthday gift - - a desire that may have nothing to do with trying to buy her affection, but that is really neither here nor there. You are correct that it would be sending the wrong message to the daughter at this time. I think, as you stated, that just going down to see her and having a very nice dinner together, giving her a nice birthday card, and our best wishes to her, treating SD like an adult of course, is adequate and appropriate is actually more than she deserves. I hope for your wifeÂs sake that the daughter can act like an adult and not a spoiled child.

I once heard somewhere that until a child has a child of their own, they just donÂt understand what parents go through  and this makes sense. Some day your sd will have a child of her own and may ask for forgiveness at that time. Your wife is fortunate to have you, a loving and level headed partner to help her through this. :-)

I just wanted to share one other thing. Years ago Carl Burnett had her daughter Carrie committed for drug abuse. I will never forget what she said at that time. She said: "you have to love them enough to let them hate you". I hope when my time comes (if it does) that I will be strong enough to let my little girl hate me and do what is right for her regardlessÂ

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jeri

Oh! I just had another thought

If it would make your wife feel better, why not go to Tiffanys and buy something lovely for the daughters 18th birthday. Someday, when all of this is water under the bridge, she can give her daughter that gift.

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sweeby

I like the Tiffany's gift certificate idea. What a lovely carrot to dangle to entice SD out for a relationship-normalizing dinner. (Of course, there's not a whole lot you can buy there with $5...) Maybe a nice golden-shovel charm?

If this were a one-time attempt to buy time, I'd consider it. (In fact, we did it once, to re-establish a relationship with DH's daughter -- a back-to-school shopping weekend.) But you say it seems to be a pattern with SD, and I'd definitely agree that it's not one you want to reinforce.

Guess I'd probably have two gift cards, and choose to give her either one or the other at the conclusion of your visit. One that's "disappointing but not disowning", and another that's a bit more generous.

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sylviatexas1

What would you give her if she were still living with you?

An 18th birthday is a milestone;
give her something of substance that shows that you acknowledge, honor, & commemorate her coming of age.

If a diamond pendant is what you & her mother would normally give her to commemorate this birthday, then that's what you should do.

You are an adult, while she's just learning to be one.

It's up to you to take the long view:
make sure that what happens today doesn't poison your relationship in the future.

You won't get another chance at her 18th birthday.

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theotherside

"And I must say that to me, it just doesn't feel right to offer an expensive gift to SD when we have been treated so badly for the last 11 months."

How much you spend on a birthday gift for a child has NOTHING to do with how well they get along with you. A gift is an expression of love, not a reward for good behavior. The cost of the gift should be based only on what you can afford, and what is traditional in the family.

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plasticgarden

Sorry theotherside,gonna disagree with ya.
If a child is acting spoiled ,giving them an expensive gift will only make it worse.It is clear this daughter is already somewhat materialistic since she went with her dad who promised her all these things.

I think a gift of sentimentailty is better for a situation like this now.How about a scrapbook of pictures from fun times you all had together? Something to tug at those heartsrings,not purse strings.While still going out to dinner together sounds lovely.
If you still want to buy it for her then the suggestion of doing so to give at another time is the best idea.And if it were me I'd probably say,
"We also got you something really special.But we'd prefer you to have it when you're ready to come home"

Also, if a gift is supposedly an expression of love,if you arent feeling loved,than how can you really express it with a gift? I do think good deeds merit rewards,bad ones dont.
There have been a few birthdays my sister didnt get presents from me or my mom because she was being selfish and we werent getting along. Yet,my sister always expected something anyways~because she is like alot of spolied kids and feels ENTITLED.
If you cant show your love year round,then dont expect to get love just on Christmas and birthdays.My two cents.

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theotherside

I believe that a gift is an expression of the love of the giver for the recipient, and is not dependent on whether the giver is feeling loved by the recipient. The girl's mother undoubtedly loves her child in spite of the fact that she has chosen to live with her father.

I don't see a birthday gift as a reward. I give my children birthday gifts because I love them.

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sylviatexas1

what tos said.

A birthday, maybe especially a milestone birthday, is not the time to keep score.

It's an opportunity to be generous, to take the long view, to express love.

Giving a birthday gift is *not* the same as baiting a hook with "I'll get you a nice car if you'll do x, y, or z", which is what stepdad says dad did.

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jeri

So, if the bio-dad gave his daughter the BMW for her birthday and a house for Christmas then it would be OK?

Children need accountability. How else are they to learn? Sixteen was a milestone. Eighteen is a milestone. Twenty-one will be a milestone. Graduation will be a milestone. There is an endless list of milestones. When does accountability come into play?

IMO, the OP is taking the long view by making the effort to travel from VA to Florida for the daughters milestone birthday.

Goal is to try to start a normal communication with SD, to simply see her, and to celebrate her 18th birthday with her. We would keep the dinner conversation very light, and have no motives except to see her and maybe start to regain normal communication; a baby step in the right direction hopefully.

If this isnt the long view I dont know what is. A diamond necklace from Tiffanys is the long view??? I respectfully disagree.

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notwicked

I also agree that extravagant and large material gifts are not leading in the right direction. Getting together with the daughter and spending time with her - maybe inviting her for some type of entertainment after dinner also - might be the best thing to do. Travelling far to get together with her will tell her that you care about seeing her.

Mixing money & love sometimes have a way of causing confusion, so why not simplify and begin to make your time together more face-to-face and personal?

Good luck to you!

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sylviatexas1

On previous threads, OP blamed this girl's bio-father for enticing her away from him & her mother, & now he's put the shoe on the other foot, blaming SD for manipulating her dad!

In every instance, he goes on at length about her father's "lifestyle", but it always comes down to the girl not being under her stepfather's thumb & the father having a nice home & providing the daughter a nice car.

At no time has stepfather accused the girl's father of encouraging her to rob liquor stores or sell or buy drugs or sleep with rock & roll singers.

Stepfather says he only wants the best for her, etc, but on every thread, the emphasis is on his own anger & on how he can re-gain control or how he can punish her.

The only thing I can see that SD has done to provoke this big hoo-hah is...she grew up, & she moved in with her own father (escaping her stepfather's rigid control?).

& stepfather tried every way in the world to keep her from doing it.

On every thread, the claim has been love & concern, but the emphasis has been on retaliation & punishment.

Girl's *mother* wants to give her daughter a nice gift, but stepfather most definitely does *not* want the girl to have anything nice, or even decent.

He wants to take her to dinner & give her a "card";
hmmm...does that sound like dangling a carrot to manipulate her into doing something?
Only he intends to bait & switch, which is guaranteed to be seen as rejection & punishment (which I think it is).

the animosity between stepdad & stepdaughter will only be aggravated, *not* eased, by "a card" or "a $5 gift certificate".

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jeri

I have no prior knowledge of this family. My responses were based on this one question and the information provided. I do realize there is always more to every story than one can read from a single post it does make it difficult to answer at times. I suppose if someone is genuinely looking for help they will be as honest in their delivery as they can be. If one is only looking to reinforce their position then it wont matter what anyone says anyway So Ill keep responding as if they are genuine or until I know better :-)

Sylvia it sounds like you are familiar with this man and his sd.

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hamsteve

sylviatexas, with all due respect you have the situation completely wrong. Please look at the statement of facts below, I request your repsonse.

Biofather physically abused the mother, black eyes, affairs, and left her and the 6 month old daughter in bankruptcy, and without any support or health insurance.
I met my wife and SD when SD was 4 years old and assumed all responsibility for SD with no financial support from biofather.
I agreed to provide all summer camps, bed time stories, braces, everything. No problem.
My wife then was able to go to college and after 4 years of full time school she has her RN degree and she is very happy. She loves her work.
We are very happy as a married couple.
I have always encouraged my SD to have a free and open relationship with her father. Yes, true!
Biofather has been extremely jealous of the life his ex wife has made and that she is happy, he has told me so. Biofather is single, very lonely, and he has a long list of run-ins with the law, arrests, etc. True!
Biofather has been poisioning our daughter against us with outright non-truths, saying her mother is a terrible parent, and that I am this and that. Biofather is a master of Divorce Poision. We have chosen not to go this way. When we did not promise SD the big ticket items, our daughter became increasingly angry and was promised all sorts of things that are great, sure, but she had to move away get anything at all. Biofather never even sent birthday cards or gifts to SD ever! This is conditional love and outright controlling behavior that we Never have done. We have taught our daughter that love is unconditional and hopefully she remembers this in the future. We did NOT try to stop her from moving in with her father. OUR ADVICE WAS TO NOT CHANGE SCHOOLS IN THE MIDDLE OF HER JUNIOR YEAR (December), AND TO MOVE IN THE SUMMER BETWEEN SCHOOL YEARS. SHE WAS FREE TO MOVE! YES! We were lied to and told by biofather that only our daughter was coming and then we find out all of the girlfriend moving in business, planned for 6 mo's and we knew that this was not a good situation. We objected to this only. Girlfriends father later called me and thanked me for my wife getting them the facts on the move. They were lied to also, and they did not like it.

I have been a very kind, generous, loving, and open Stepfather. My wife and I love our daughter and we have been honest and not controlling of her. She had a very rich life in our home. Just no promises of a BMW, and on and on. We chose not to compete with the biofather's promises as this is not parenting. Our daughter now lives with her biofather, and we agreed to this move! We just want a normal communicative relationship, and we want to be careful to do the right thing, not something that will inadvertently continue the estrangement. That is why I am open to all advice here, and we appreciate it all.

I have never done anything to control, hurt, or limit my SD or her mother. For this loving and sensitive stance, and sharing some very hurt emotions, I sometimes run into criticism that is so out there that I know it is not real. My wife and I are hoping for the best and I hope you will wish that for us too. Our decision has been and is at this time to give our beautiful daughter a very nice Tiffany's gift, selected by us. More personal than a gift certificate. If SD does not agree to meet with us we will then mail the gift to her. No strings, just pure love. That is the way we have always been, and always will be. I am stunned at your perception of our situation. Interesting.

It is OK that you cannot see the truth here and I am sad that you have such a negative view of me and our situation. My wife has overcome her very unfortunate situation, we have a great marriage, and a great daughter with many years of happy memories. Loving men are not weak, they are strong and can ask for advice in a forumn such as this. My wife and I are very happy and proud of our decisions and we are anxious for our daughters long term future. I just can't imagine how you have this so wrong. Thank you all for your sincere advice.

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dirt_yfingernails

You still have my best wishes to return to a communicative relationship with your SD. You and your DW deserve that.

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hamsteve

One additional clarification here. My wife and I originally decided to purchase a very nice jewelery piece as a personal 18th birthday gift to give our daughter. Then my wife thought that a gift certificate would be better, possibly avoiding some potential disappointment with SD. Then we thought that maybe we would be making a mistake by giving such a big gift, given the total lack of return phone calls, etc. I feel that in the long run, the fact that we traveled down to FL to have a nice positive celebration dinner would be the most important, memorable, and that the gift was maybe "over the top" and might inadvertently bring us more estrangement. I suddenly felt funny about it and my wife was also. Thus the sincere question here looking for a variety of points of view. In my family growing up big expensive gifts were not the preferred method, but actually spending quality time with each other and family celebrations was. My wife has very mixed emotions on giving SD the expensive gift right now. Our original decision is still the one on the table, buying a very nice piece from Tiffany's and giving it to SD, even mailing it to her later if she will not see us. My question in this original post reflects our internal debate, and all advice is welcome here. I suspect that we will stay with the plan of giving or mailing the gift, no matter how confused my wife, and I may be. Wow! This is a difficult time for us. Thank you.

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sylviatexas1

Well, okey-dokey, I'll grant you my response:

it doesn't *sound* like you're asking for advice...

It sounds like you're steering forum members to tell you what you want to hear, like you're wording your posts so that responses are likely to encourage you to do what you want to do anyway, like you're lining up approval to punish this girl for defying you & getting out from under your control.

every thread, every time.

If you were really the gem of a guy you describe above (when you're not talking about how bad your wife's daughter is for defying you & moving away at an age when many people do move out of their parents' homes)...
you would not do that.

That guy would likely honor his wife's (the girl's *mother* for crying out loud) wish to give her daughter something that shows her love & esteem.

I can't imagine that guy trying to get a bunch of people on the internet to agree with his self-serving version of events so he can use their well-intended advice to veto his wife's wishes & "give" her daughter a "gift" like "dinner & a card".

(There's nothing wrong with dinner & a card, depending on the circumstances:
Dinner & a card is what you get for someone who's 80 years old, who has all the "things" she wants, & who begs you not to get her one more thing to lock up in the jewelry box or to dust, & who can't get out to use ballet tickets.
It isn't what you get an 18-year-old.)

Petty vengeful behavior like that does not cure "estrangement";
it aggravates it.

You know what?

I'll do just what you want us all to do:
I'll agree with you.

Get her dinner & a card.

She likely expects something like that anyway;
I bet she has a pretty good idea that her stepfather's "love" is all about control anyway, which might be why she won't talk to you at all & limits her contact with her own mother (how much do you pressure her mother to get her to come "home"?)
......
......
just read your latest post, & it doesn't even jive with your earlier position:

You had the thought that "the gift was maybe "over the top" and might inadvertently bring us more estrangement"

(Well, that's a thought:
people *do* tend to get offended & distance themselves from loving parents who buy them nice presents & acknowledge important birthdays, don't they?)

Your original post said that *you* didn't want to get her a nice present because you didn't want to reward her for manipulating you & her mother into buying her a present, but that her mother wanted to get her a nice present.

can't have it both ways.

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jeri

SylviaTexas you seem highly provoked Way beyond the context of this thread...

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sylviatexas1

I am indeed provoked.

Read the previous threads.

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plasticgarden

I have read the previous posts by hamsteve and I dont remember anything such as you are suggesting sylviatexas.
I certainly dont remmeber anything from him saying,

" How he can re-gain control or how he can punish her."

I think his main concern in the other thread was for her saftey when she was moving so far away with a bio-father who was questionable.

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plasticgarden

I bumped one of Hamsteve's first posts about this issue.I have read nearly 5 posts about it and still dont see where sylviatexas is coming from.Further more,she keeps saying that 16 year olds should have a right to "spread their wings" when I think the law would disagree with that.
Hamsteve has repeatedly said how abusive the bio-father is and how he isnt a good role model.I think he has every right to be concerned.
All his posts are filled with heartache and you can see he loves his stepdaughter.I think this is very hard for him and his wife.

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sleeperblues

Steve,

I read the bumped post and now this. I think your SD was lucky to be raised by you. I don't agree with Sylvia, and don't understand the tone of her postings, but we all bring baggage with us in our thought perceptions.

I do get a sense that you and your wife were hoping that your SD would not stay in Florida with bio-dad, and maybe there is some resentment that things seem to be going well?

You never mention how she has been doing in school. You are obviously intelligent, as is your wife, and I assume that you value education. Were you in contact with SD's school, and if so is she on track to graduate this year? I know that has nothing to do with this topic, but I am interested.

As to the gift, I would certainly buy her something of quality to mark this milestone. I understand your hesitancy, but I truly believe that your SD will come to realize that she was raised in a loving home. I also believe that while children may say they hate rules, they feel more secure when their parents care enough to enforce them.

Best of luck to you and I hope you have a great visit with your daughter.

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cawfecup

Isn't this the SD and BM who within a few weeks of the daughter moving to florida with dad .... daughter came home for a week "surprise visit" and they had disassembled her room and put in a den or something?

I thought that was a clear message to daughter .... but I could be wrong....

Parents of a child who died .... wait longer than a couple weeks to disassemble the child's room.

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sylviatexas1

cawfe I hadn't remembered, but I think you're right.

& the one post that was bumped was pretty mild.

so I bumped another one.

& 16-year-olds do spread their wings;
everybody spreads their wings.

Rearing a child calls for gradual lessening of parental control & decision-making & gradual increasing of self-control & decision-making on the part of the child.

Living with one's father (whose character is depicted in different melodramatic ways on different posts, although it's always bad) is not joining the circus.

& since she isn't joining the circus, selling or buying drugs, or robbing banks, what the heck does "the law" have to do with it?

& she is now 18 years old.

Mother & stepfather aren't in a position where they can force their own position on her;
if they want her to like them & to come around them, they need to be nice.

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redheadedstepchild

Gifts are pretty variable depending on the family culture. My own view is that a gift certificate is rather distanced, all the thought it takes is 'what store do they like?', though there are times when that isn't the case ie recent move, starting school, or they're an absolute bookworm and it isn't possible to tell what they haven't read. I'd go with giving a gift rather then a gift certificate and of a price that you would have normally felt comfortable with.

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cawfecup

I was wrong it wasn't a few weeks after leaving it was a few months.... Left in Dec/Jan. came home in May didn't have a room had to stay in the guest room.

But at 17 she's thinking .... see they don't care that I am gone they removed any trace of me in the house like this is what they were waiting for. Or something like that.

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plasticgarden

"& 16-year-olds do spread their wings;
everybody spreads their wings."

Well,we are just going to have to agree to disagree,because I think 16 and 17 year olds are still not mature enough to make life altering descions such as these.
Even at 18 is questionable. I made tons of mistakes I wished someone would have stopped me from doing at that ages.
It may not be the circus,but hamsteve has said that bio-dad is a bad role model.Several arrests,beating his ex wife,and shady character. I wouldnt want my daughter living with someone who sounded like that.Just my opinion.

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hamsteve

Just to answer some of the questions in previous posts;
SD unfortunately did not do well in school in the second half of her Junior year in the new FL HS, mainly C's and D's. When the girlfriend did come down to visit during the VA schools spring break (not the break period for FL schools) SD skipped school for 3 days to hang with her girlfriend. Biofather was not happy and told my mother-in-law during a phone call that the girlfriend was a bad influence and was no longer allowed to visit. This was the same girlfrined that was planned to live in the home in FL.

SD was allowed to lay around all summer, no job, no vacation, no activites. SD has not been "allowed" to get her learners permit or drivers license, thus no BMW car and no driving (as of 10/1). In the fall (senior year) SD has enrolled in just a few classes for 1/2 day opting for a work-study program where she is to work 1/2 day for real world work experience. Her job is working directly for her biofather as his personal secretary at the pizza shop he manages. Biofather is not a college graduate and he does not "see the need for his daughter to go to college." From phone call with mother-in-law.

To clarify the SD room issue, when I returned from a 2 week business trip I found that my wife had cleaned up SD's room and taken apart the bed to thoroughly clean the room (room was a mess,smelled, and SD had responsibility and freedom with her room). Next day SD shows up completely unexpected for a 3 day visit with instructions to "pack" from biofather. Boyfriend picked her up at the airport and we had no idea she was coming. I immediately told my wife that the room was a negative signal and she did not agree with me at the time. Nothing premeditated or planned/intended here, just very unfortunate timing and my wife did intend to keep this as SD's room. I could see that SD was unhappy even though she was rarely home those days, opting to spend all 3 days of her visit time with her boyfriend. SD did no packing at all during her visit. After my post on this forumn and discussions with my wife, she realized the possible negative signal inadvertently sent and SD's room was certainly re-assembled with an apology message sent. SD's room is complete and is there for her. Wish my wife (and I) were perfect people! Bad luck on this one.

My wife and I have decided to return to our original plan from some time ago; to select a very special Tiffany's gift and either give it to my SD at our celebration dinner in FL, or mail it to her promptly if necessary.

SD is in BD's care and we are moving on.
Thank you all for your best wishes and the sincere advice.
I really appreciate it.

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