Last year, our/my focus was making sure my oldest stepdaughter knew we would provide for her just like her mom's family does. We didn't want the kids to make an argument that they needed to be with mom because she gave them the clothes they want or the gadgets they think they need. We don't need petty arguments like that crowding out the real stuff. We did a great job since the recession has been giving us ample opportunities at big clearances, store closings, and major discounts. We were able to get the kids brand name things for the same price as Target stuff! I, personally, find that to be a success. We were also clever in our gift giving. We gave them things with thought, to show them we know them. We mixed those with the gifts we wanted to give them for our own parental reasons and interests. Smart, right? Well, we didn't expect the people with a whole lot less money to buy her her very own flat screen TV for her room. In the long run, the TV and her own room win out over thoughtful gifts or attempts at perceived equality.
Last year, I was home somehow and decorated the house for her birthday. I hung up blue streamers (fav color), made a chocolate cake, wrapped all those gifts... This year, I barely cleaned the house. Yet, we're going to see her for 2 extra hours (wow!) on her birthday. It just doesn't matter much. She's treated special almost all the time. On her birthday, she is happy to get a hamburger, steak, or ribs and some dessert. She is happy playing with her dad. She's a kid. She's bossy to her sister. She wants to get her way. Those are her priorities. Not anything I do. Not anything I give her. Whatever I give her, usually just upsets me in some way, anyways. It ends up lost, unused, misused, forgotten, or in a litter box (without an attempt to retrieve it).
This year, she's just getting a few small gifts from us and then we'll take her and a friend to a fun theme park. She's of that age where "toys" are less important than digital things we can't afford or don't want to buy, so I remembered how I started asking for theme park passes or birthday parties at theme parks or special places. It works- her big gift is really a special day on our time. Her birthday party with her mom wasn't much of a party this year (one friend, 2 canceled, and a movie with her mom?) compared to last year's Halloween-extravaganza-boy-girl party, so a theme park should be memorable. Or so we hope.
This posting illustrates "normalizing", common to a stepparent dealt a big blow. To be continued next time.