Children who don’t conform to gender stereotypes are labeled by society.
Girls can be “girly” if they conform or “tom-boys” if they don’t. Either is an expression of the child’s personality.
But what do you do if family members refuse to accept the child as they are?
A mother—fed up with her in-laws—addressed the issue, but was chastised for it. So they consulted the “Am I The A**hole” (AITA) subReddit for feedback.
Redditor somerandomu asked:
“AITA for telling my dad-in-law (DIL) to stop giving my kid girly stuff?”
The Original Poster (OP) explained:
“I (40) and my boyfriend (42) have a daughter (7) who is a bit of a tomboy.”
“She’s honestly a great kid who’s into dinosaurs, Star Wars, climbing trees, swords, playing outside—that sort of stuff. She likes wearing dungarees and clothes she can just play in. She DOES have some dresses but it’s more ‘dress up’ where she’s doing like a little theatre performance.”
“This is certainly not something we forced on her, though I guess it runs in the family, as I also was more into traditionally ‘boy’ stuff as a kid.”
“My family has sort of caught on to that.”
“My boyfriend’s father (who I’ll call DIL here) and his 2nd wife have not really. They have two daughters (partner’s half-sisters) who were very much ‘pink frilly girls’ (And that’s totally ok).”
“When they were smaller, we sort of went out of our way to try and get gifts for them that matched their interests (Hello Kitty shirts, merch from a band they liked, etc…).”
“So anyway, this is my problem. DiL and his 2nd wife have been giving my kid stuff like that, consistently. When she was very little it did not matter that much, but now she has a lot more agency and is vocal about what she wants.”
“My feelings on it are mixed, as I was raised to just be thankful for gifts in general. But as her parent, I see my little girl not being seen for who she is and being disappointed.”
“Over the years, we have tried to give the in-laws subtle and not so subtle hints on what our child likes, but to no avail. They keep giving her stuff that looks like it would be for THEIR daughters.”
“So this year I finally said something about it. DIL had dropped off Christmas gifts (we’re distancing) and we unpacked them without daughter.”
“I could just see the pouty look on her face. She literally asked me ‘Why does grandpa give me girly stuff when I don’t like that?’ And it kind of broke my heart.”
“So I called my DIL and said that while we really appreciate his effort, we would REALLY like him to stop buying girly stuff for her now. That we have told him before, but that it’s starting to make daughter upset and that if he’s spending money it’s better to spend it on something she actually likes.”
“(Stuff they gave us doesn’t have a receipt so we can’t really return it for something else.)”
“He got huffy and said it was perfectly nice stuff. He turned it on us, saying that this is our ‘college grad way’ of educating our child (my DIL was a factory worker, boyfriend was the first of the family to go to university).”
“To be fair, it IS perfectly nice stuff. Just not for her. But the last thing pissed me off.”
“I talked to it about my boyfriend and we have mixed feelings. On one hand I do not think my kid should get everything she wants and be entitled.”
“On the other, I do sort of expect her granddad to actually acknowledge her interests.”
Redditors weighed in on the situation by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
Redditors decided the OP was not the a**hole.
“NTA. By buying these gifts he’s sending two possible messages.”
“1. That he doesn’t know her.”
“2. That he DOES know her and doesn’t approve of who she is.”
“Both of these are harmful and your daughter deserves better.” ~ Rtarara
The OP responded:
“Yes, I feel this is exactly it. ‘Grandpa doesn’t know me’ is the vibe I am getting from my kid.”
“The alternative is worse, but I don’t think she caught on that might be an option. I’d rather prevent that from ever happening.”
Redditors provided advice in addition to judgment.
“I think this is the conversation you need to have with Grandpa. Tell him that your daughter, whilst very grateful for the gifts, loves him but is wondering why he doesn’t care enough about her to know her tastes.”
“Children love unconditionally, until they are given a reason not to. Let him know that he is building a case to test that.”
“It is as if he is trying to change her into what he thinks a grandchild SHOULD be, instead of loving her as she is.” ~ Aussiealterego
“Except [her] boyfriend should have this conversation, not you. Why are you the one dealing with his family?”
“Also, I think this is a bit of an NAH situation so far, more than NTA. I don’t think FIL is being an a**hole yet.”
“I can understand why someone from his generation and social class would have trouble figuring out what your daughter likes. And if I were told my gifts sucked I could imagine being a bit butthurt too right off the bat.”
“But if he refuses to change his ways then he becomes the a**hole (AH).”
“Although maybe your boyfriend, honestly, is a bit of an AH, because he should be the one handling this, not you.” ~ MathHatter
“Setting boundaries is hard. It necessary to protect your kid.”
“It may be requiring them to give you the gifts unwrapped in advance so you can see them. It may be requiring that they always provide you with a gift receipt so you can return the unwanted gifts.”
“It may require you to tell them they aren’t welcome to give her gifts anymore. If it gets really bad with them trying to force their ideas of what a little girl should like on her, it may require limiting contact.”
“You have to make and hold these boundaries to protect your daughter. And that’s hard.”
“A couples therapist could potentially help you both with ideas on boundaries you want to place, how far you want to push, and how to communicate and hold those boundaries moving forward.” ~ kmatthe
It is the thought that counts, but that doesn’t mean we can’t ask friends or family members to be a bit more thoughtful.