It's sometimes hard to have conversations with your significant others about their negative qualities.
Boundary work is messy, it's difficult, and people don't always appreciate it, which is why sometimes you need help from the internet.
Silas_Of_The_Lambs went to the popular subReddit "Am I The A**hole?" to ask a hypothetical question:
"[Would I Be The A**hole] (WIBTA) if i told my wife it's her fault the kids don't care to give her gifts?"
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He began with the description of his wife never being great at receiving gifts:
"So look, my wife is a great mother in many ways and I love her dearly, but she is sh*t at getting gifts. Back when we were dating, when I rang her doorbell with a dozen roses, she opened the door and immediately said 'you can't afford that!'"
"This, I'm afraid, is fairly typical of her response when given anything. Not even strained politeness but usually a directly negative response. It's hard for me - my family are big gift-givers- but I'm an adult and Iove her enough to find other ways to show it."
"So on birthdays I buy her the exact thing she requests and other times I just restrain myself entirely."
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But then it turns out, the kids can't get into the husband's mindset so easily:
"Our kids (5 m(ale),2 f(emale)), though, lack this perspective. They do what kids do ('look mommy I found this stick in the yard for you!'). They find her response to this as demoralizing as I do."
"I work nights and sleep in late. I woke up this morning to a text to the effect that she had asked the kids to make her a card for Mother's Day and they responded with great enthusiasm that they wanted to make them... for MY mother."
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Mother-in-law tension notwithstanding, this definitely bothered our original poster, or OP's, wife:
"The longstanding tension between wife and mother is largely outside the scope of this post, but it is sadly quite severe, which partly explains why this bothered her as much as it clearly did.
"She thinks the fact that the kids 'prefer' their grandma is my fault. I didn't point it out in the moment for obvious reasons, and I ultimately pestered the kids into making her 'cards' (kid scribbles that I helped them sign their names to), but WIBTA if I found a good moment to remonstrate with her?"
"To explain that the reason nobody wants to give her nice things is because she habitually shits all over any she gets that she didn't pick out herself in advance? And that my mom always shows enthusiasm and delight in every bunch of dandelions or lump of dirt she gets, so the kids naturally think of her when they think of giving nice things to people?"
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After reviewing the circumstances, Redditors declared whether or not the OP's desired approach would work by saying:
- NTA - Not The A**hole
- YTA - You're The A**hole
- ESH - Everyone Sucks Here
- NAH - No A**holes Here
- YWNBTA-You Would Not Be The A**hole
"NTA. This needs pointed out to her, not necessarily for her sake, but for the sake of your children who don't need to be treated this way by their mother when they're trying to do something kind."~NUTmeSHELL
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"NTA but I wouldn't necessarily compare her gift receiving skills to your mom's, especially if they don't have a good relationship. My mom suuuuckkkssss at receiving gifts and I wish someone would have told her how hurtful she was being when I was growing up."~pinepeaches
"YWNBTA. You need to address this, your wife should not be shaming your kids for getting gifts. Also, in the future, YOU should be the one making sure your kids make mother's day cards and/or gifts. They do not know they are young, this is YOUR job."~AutumnMyth
"NTA IF (big if) you go about this the right way. I can understand why she would be hurt that the kids want to give gifts to grandma instead of her. But if she conditions them into thinking mommy doesn't like gifts, that's something she needs to work on. This isn't a grandma vs mom issue. It's 'your behavior makes them think you don't like any kind of gift' issue."
"I would not frame it as 'it's because of you that the kids don't want to give you gifts.' I'd frame it more as 'sometimes your reactions to gifts can make people feel like you don't want the gift.' And try to make it more like this is a bigger problem that the kids are happening to point out."
"She really shouldn't be doing this to anybody, but the kids are certainly going to be less tactful about it. Gift giving is a two way process. Person 1 needs to like a person enough to feel good about giving a gift. Person 2 needs to show the gift was received positively. Positive feedback gives Person 1 an even bigger high than the actual act of giving the gift itself. Your wife is interrupting that that exchange by not showing the gift was received positively."
"I would also try to offer solutions, so that way it doesn't read like you complaining or insulting her. It also shows that you are interested in helping her, instead of just putting her down. Examples might include:"
"-Focus on the intent behind the gift, not the gift itself. Instead of 'those roses are too expensive' turn it into 'you clearly put a lot of thought into picking those out for me'."
"-Just say thank you and ask questions about the gift. 'Oh thank you for this stick! Where did you find it?' or 'Thank you for this card! Did Daddy help you make it?'"
"-Or if the gift is that terrible, just lie through your teeth about what you plan on doing with it. 'Wow these homemade cookies look so good! I'll be sure to eat them for desert tonight!' (before chucking them in the most discreet way possible.)"
"Be very careful about how you go about telling her. This could escalate into a YTA situation if not done gracefully. Also, if she does take advice to heart, it will still take practice. Sometimes receiving gifts you aren't excited about is like practicing a play that lasts 10 seconds. Even if you know what to say, saying and doing it in the right moment doesn't always come naturally."~bennitori
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"NTA. My mom is exactly like this. I've cried twice today already. I've made her favorite breakfast and dinner and she got to do her favorite thing all day long: get stoned and watch tv."
"Which she does every single day. My sister got her a beautiful necklace, she made a disappointed 'oh' and said 'why'd you get me this you know I'll never wear it' and set it to the side and hasn't looked at it since."~heyyohighHo
"I think you would be an a**hole not to try to explain this to her. Sometimes even the best people lack self reflection on certain issues or don't realize how they contribute to a certain dynamic."
"I think it would help her adjust her response especially when she realizes the types of reactions she gives to the kids might make them feel bad too."~pestulantmangled
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"NTA. Is you wife on the autism spectrum, by chance? I have a friend with aspergers, and she takes things very literally. To the point where she did a lot of reading on childhood development and how to deal with kids before she had her baby."
"She's learned to 'fake it' with most of society, but seeing her let down her act and be 'her normal' is pretty eye-opening. She appreciates it when her friends pull her aside and tell her that she is doing something strange."
"Your wife just might need to be told, 'hun, you need to fake it a lot better'."~blackday44
"NTA. For your kids sake I would bring this up now rather than later. My mother was like this, and as a kid you just never seem to understand it."
"It makes you feel bad, you get older and feel like, it isn't the gift that's not good enough, it's YOU that is not good enough. Eventually you just get to a point where you give up because nothing will ever be good enough."
"Me and both my sisters have been to a lot of therapy because of our mom. Talk to your wife."~bibliophile398
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While our OP's wife seems problematic, OP offered us an update after seeing all the advice he received.
"Thanks, everyone, for the insightful and candid responses."
"Although my judgment (which apparently the community supports) is that my wife is in the wrong here, I want to make it absolutely clear that she is an amazing and capable mother. If our kids (one of whom has serious chronic health issues) survive to adulthood, her meticulous, detail-oriented, and thorough approach to life and parenting will be a big reason why."
"We're looking at the flip side of that here, and most of us are in agreement it's a problem - but it's only a problem, not an indication that she's a horrible abusive wife and mother. She makes our children feel loved and safe and special every single day in a dozen different ways."
"No argument she/we might need counseling, though - it is my view that substantially the entire human race could benefit from some professional counseling :)"
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We hope that OP and his wife find the way through this together.