Q. My mother likes to buy my daughter expensive clothes, which is just impractical for an active toddler. This winter I tried to explain how a waterproof snow jacket would get so much more wear than a pricey wool dress coat, and my mom shot me down, saying, "I didn't ask about buying her a jacket. I asked what size she'd take in a coat." I feel like my mom is wasting money on things my kid won't wear, but I don't want to seem ungrateful or deny her the pleasure of buying what she wants to buy. Is there a more delicate way I can redirect her?
A: Well, if you come up with some delicate redirection tips, can you pass them on to me so I can inform my mother-in-law that the tweedy wool pants, dress shirt, and pint-size tie were not what my toddler needed for Christmas last year? I mean, the outfit was so adorable, but it got no use. He needed sweatpants for daycare, indestructible jeans for the park, and so on. Yet there is no way I could (or would) tell my mother-in-law what to buy, with her money, for her grandsons. It kills the practical side of me to know that these outfits hang virtually untouched in my sons' closets, but I do realize that she derives enormous pleasure out of poking through the racks, picking out the clothes, even spending the money. Sounds like your mom feels the same way.
Surely you can find an occasion or two for which your daughter can wear her special coat (fancy tea and cookies with Grandma, holiday visits, a date with that adorable boy from preschool? Kidding!), and you can pick up a practical waterproof jacket yourself. I'm willing to bet that when you were a tot, your mom would have loved to have bought you a fancy dress coat yet had no choice but to spend her hard-earned money on something more useful. Now that she's a grandmother, she's earned the privilege of indulging frivolity. (It's the same principle by which once-stern parents, who'd only give their child a cookie if she ate all her broccoli, gleefully hand their grandchildren cookies for breakfast.)
Unless your mother isn't paying her own heating bill in order to dress your child like a Rockefeller, she's doing no harm. When your daughter outgrows the coat, you can donate it to charity. Let me know which one; I'll add my son's fancy pants to the pile.
Denise Schipani, a freelance writer in Huntington Station, New York, is the mother of two boys.
Originally published in American Baby magazine, April 2007.
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