Friday, November 4, 2011


This weekend my stepdaughter and I had a delightful talk about the Easter Bunny and how she is hoping he will bring her a toy in his basket. Not so long ago the toy situation around our house was drastically different.

There was a long period when SD brought a new toy with her every time she came over to our place (which is about every other day). Even if her mom had to stop at a store on the way to our apartment, she always seemed to walk through the door with something new.

Despite the plenitude of toys at her other home, she always threw big tantrums about wanting to take toys from our house back to her mother’s. This ended up being frustrating because her mom would never bring them or send them back to us—but at the same time SD would whine and complain that we didn’t have enough toys at our place.

For a long time I felt compelled to replace them. I added toys to our grocery list, squeezing them into our tight budget so I didn't have to hear her yell, "you needed to buy me a new toy at the store! Why didn't you buy me a new toy!" over and over again.

Eventually I realized how ridiculous that was and I stopped buying new toys. Instead, I tried getting her to leave the Daddy's House toys here--but that didn't work either. I'd tell her no but she'd throw a tantrum and my husband would end up giving in.

One night SD was digging through a green Rubbermaid bin in the living room when she pulled out a plush cow with magnets in its feet. It's little black hooves snapped together and hugged her hand. I thought it was so cute that I'd bought a second one after the first went back to Mamma's a few months before.

"I remember this," she said. "Mamma put ours in the trash can and the trash man took him away."

"What?" I slopped tea onto the coffee table.

"Yeah. The trash man took him away. So you need to buy me anudder for my Mamma's house. You need to buy anudder one at the store."

I made what DH calls The Spock Face and asked her, softly, about the other Daddy's House toys. From her description I gathered that they'd suffered the same fate.


I sucked in a breath and leaned forward on the couch. I wasn't just mad; I was pissed. I wanted to say that it wasn't a nice thing for her mother to have done, or why would she do such a thing, but luckily I caught myself and kept mum.

She went back to digging through the bin and I flopped back into the couch cushions. That’s it, I thought, I’m officially done with this.

I spent a lot of time thinking that evening and finally came to the realization that it wasn’t my responsibility to fight that battle. It wasn’t my job to replace all the toys she kept taking away, let alone to buy them all.

From then on I kept my mouth shut when the subject came up. The situation ended up resolving itself over time as the toys drifted away, but looking back I wish I’d put my foot down in the beginning. Now we only buy her presents for her birthday and holidays, plus a surprise treat here or there.

Have you faced a similar situation? If so I'd love to hear how you handled it.

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