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Do you favor one kid over another?
Old 12-19-2007, 08:45 PM   #1
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Do you favor one kid over another?

I was wondering if those of you in retirement have any difficulties dealing fairly with multiple children who are grown and on their own? Do you favor one child’s family over another? By that I mean do you spend more time with them, provide more financial assistance, or otherwise treat their children and their families differently?

My parents retired about 10 years and promptly moved across state, about 5 hours away. In doing so, they moved away from my sister’s family to be 5 minutes away from my brother’s family. Since then, they have become very involved with my brother’s family, spending all of their time babysitting, attending out-of-town sports events for the grandkids, etc. In addition, it’s come out that they have been supporting my brother’s family financially – paying for the grandkid’s braces, picking up all the travel costs when they all go on the road for the grandkids’ soccer games - contributing what is no doubt tens of thousands of dollars.

I’m the third kid who lives on the other side of the country so I am much less involved with all this, but I will admit that when my kid had $7000 worth of braces and my parents didn’t offer to pay for them, I felt hurt by what I considered the unfairness of the situation. This situation has caused a tremendous amount of strain within the family

Is it reasonable for an adult child to expect their parents to treat their kids in some sort of even-handed way? Or are parents entitled to spend their time, energy and money anyway they want and not have to worry about “keeping things even”?
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Old 12-19-2007, 08:52 PM   #2
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This is a great post. We have two adult kids with grandkids, one in Missouri, one in California. We favor neither, but the obvious reality is that we can't be near both. At this time we are near neither, but when I retire...

The dilemma is that you risk hurting one set when you move near the other ones. Never mind issues of climate, cost of living, terrain, and all the rest. The only way to achieve "parity" is to live near neither one, unfortunately.

I'll be interested to hear how others have approached this, but if forced to choose tomorrow, we'd choose California for the climate and amenities. But we'd likely commit to spending serious time in extended stay places near the Missouri crew every year. We could stay where we are, too, but I think the need to be closer would eventually prevail.
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Old 12-19-2007, 08:59 PM   #3
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Or are parents entitled to spend their time, energy and money anyway they want and not have to worry about “keeping things even”?
Entitled to, yes. Good idea, no.

I can understand babysitting, attending sports events, and spending more time with with children/grandchildren living nearby. That's just the way it goes. But when it comes to paying for things, an effort has to be made to maintain a basic level of equity. Otherwise you have a crappy situation and hard feelings...like yours.
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Old 12-19-2007, 09:04 PM   #4
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What a great question. I've been pondering this question lately. My oldest son (age 38) lives in another state, works in a blue collar job, has no money for travel so I always pay for his ticket when he comes to visit. I also help him out with $$ when he is in difficulty (about once every two years for about $500-1000).

In contrast my two college age kids from the second marriage, whose dad is very well off, had their college paid for, cars, and study abroad, etc. They turn to him when they need something.

This Christmas I have been pondering whether to give them all the exact amount or to give my older son something extra, in addition to the airfare. It makes me feel a little guilty to think of doing so, even though I realize my two youngest are not hurting for anything. I just don't want them to think I'm favoring my oldest, even though he is the neediest financially.

I think this is only one of many parents' delimmas that has no good answer.
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Old 12-19-2007, 09:06 PM   #5
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My sis keeps asking my folks to move closer...While I know she loves my folks and misses them greatly, when she was in the same town mom was ALWAYS babysitting. And, she and her DH move around so much, they wouldn't likely be near each other for long...leaving mom and dad in an unfamiliar town with no friends, and no family...again. They have decided to stay put, and I think they have made the right choice. The four of us siblings can and should come to town to see them...

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Old 12-19-2007, 09:06 PM   #6
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Over the years, I've had many discussions with my parents about the fact that they moved to be close to one kid vs. another. I think our problem was that they made no attempt to even things out. In fact, the time and energy they spent on the one kid's family seems to have been done at the expense of the other two kids' families. Although they continued to make a 4 or 5 day trip each year to see us (and we visited them the same), they made no attempt to visit my sister's family, which was only about 5 hours drive. And the dates they picked to visit us were worked around their oh so busy lives supporting my brother's family.

I really don't believe the answer is for the grandparents to live in neutral ground, but to try to compensate with extended stays at the other kids place or maybe coming to visit at a time that would be special for us (like when my kids are involved with sport competitions) instead of when it can be squeezed into their schedule.

My only advice to grandparents is to treat the situation with care as it took a very close and happy family and caused rifts that might never heal.
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Old 12-19-2007, 09:15 PM   #7
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Curious...you have had th discussions, but still "no attempt to even things out". Why not?

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Old 12-19-2007, 09:23 PM   #8
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Interesting question. I definitely feels that it only matter because you include the financial aspect of it. For instance, your parents are broke, poor and desperate then they would be a "burden" instead of assets. If you have 3 millions dollars in the bank then you don't really care where they live.

Enjoy and love them for who they are and forget about the financial part, you will feel much better.

enuff
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Old 12-19-2007, 09:26 PM   #9
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We don't have kids, so it's not an issue. I was an only child, so there wasn't an issue there.

DH's folks favors his sister over him. She was and is the "squeaky wheel" and he is the quiet one. MIL was not happy about her son marrying me. Even though it was never said out loud, I knew that she felt that I was not worthy of her son and considered me as used goods. It took 25 years for her to accept me.

It still stings from time to time, but my husband and I have lived a successful and responsible life. I know my worth and no one can take that away from me.
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Old 12-19-2007, 09:30 PM   #10
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Curious...you have had th discussions, but still "no attempt to even things out". Why not?

R
Great question!

The answer is that my parents tell us that they are entitled to live where they want and spend their time as they please. They love us all but since my brother's family is bigger (3 kids vs. 2 vs. 1) and they have always struggled financially, their need is greater. They've said that if we needed and asked for financial help they would have given it to us.

Now it's true that I have never needed any sort of financial support and my brother's family has. However, I must add that at the time my brother's family was struggling to pay for their kids' braces, they had a boat in the driveway and the largest truck known to mankind and all kinds of other toys. They have always been financially irresponsible so that makes it even harder to swallow.

I really am trying to develop a better understanding from others to help me and my DW deal with all this.
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Old 12-19-2007, 09:53 PM   #11
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Sounds like your folks might be enabling your brother.

Maybe you should tell them that your kids could use a college fund.
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Old 12-19-2007, 10:18 PM   #12
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My parents are even handed. We get the same amounts for our birthdays plus when we visit, they pay for our trip because they pay for my sisters' trips. We make it up by buying bigger gifts for thm.
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Old 12-19-2007, 10:27 PM   #13
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My parents were very fair. They spent more time and money on my sisters family, who lived very near them., But why not? They got more from them too. I feel it was fair and well done.

I am fair and even with my kids. They both live very close- within 5 miles. I do see the one who can stop by on his way home from work more often than the one who would have to go out of his way.

When it comes to money, they are both self sufficient and educated, but the older one is wealthy, so I haven't figured out how to handle inheritance issues. When a child is truly wealthy it introduces all sorts of odd questions.

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Old 12-19-2007, 10:40 PM   #14
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Interesting question. I definitely feels that it only matter because you include the financial aspect of it. For instance, your parents are broke, poor and desperate then they would be a "burden" instead of assets. If you have 3 millions dollars in the bank then you don't really care where they live.

Enjoy and love them for who they are and forget about the financial part, you will feel much better.

enuff
I tried in my original post to describe the problem in terms beyond just money. However, I can't deny that money plays a role and since it's easy to quantify it becomes part of the discussion. But it terms of my earlier situation with the braces, I felt rejected when they did not offer to pay for the braces and it hurt. But not because I needed the money - I didn't. I guess I just have a strong sense of "fair play" and believe that parents should be fair to all. That's what I'm struggling with - should I really feel this way or not?
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Old 12-19-2007, 10:52 PM   #15
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Sounds like your folks might be enabling your brother.

Maybe you should tell them that your kids could use a college fund.
Funny you would say that.

A few years back, my brother wanted to buy some vacant land near them but didn't have the money. My parents bought the land and ended up with about $20K of profit in less than a year. They took the profit and opened up 529 plans for their kids.

About 15 years ago, my parents and I bought a rental property together (50/50). My wife and I managed the property for the 15 years and we recently sold it. I was fully expecting for them to hand over their share of the profits (about $16K - it was a very cheap condo that had not appreciated much) to us in the same way they did for my brother. Since I had never taken any money from them in the 25 years since I graduated from college, I was uneasy about how to handle it. To my surprise, they never offered us the money for our kids college!

When I asked 6 months later why they treated the situation so differently, they denied any similarities. I didn't know what to say so I just moved on. I think they're just gone blind to the inequities.
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Old 12-19-2007, 11:31 PM   #16
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I can't deny that money plays a role and since it's easy to quantify it becomes part of the discussion.
This is a shame. If you have needs and your parents can help, ask. Otherwise, don't worry about it. If you love your paents and miss them and are hurt by not having more of their time, communicate that to them. But, don't ask for $$$ in compensation.
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should I really feel this way or not?
Absolutely not. Have you given much thought to what more you can do for your folks? How can you let them know you want more of their time....... not their money?
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Old 12-20-2007, 12:23 AM   #17
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My folks have been very fair among the 5 of us. They've been pretty generous even though they're living in a cheaper house than 3 of us kids. Generally if they give one kid money, they give the same to the rest of us in due time, and each grandkid gets a nice check at HS graduation. They've probably distributed about 1/5 of their wealth, though it's by no means a fortune. I'm just hoping they don't run out for themselves.

In the last few years I've told them I don't need it and would rather they use it on themselves, so I'm behind. And one brother probably has a few more "loans" than the others, but he's straightened out his life considerably in the last 10 years so nobody is complaining. Dad says he will even it out in his will but I don't think anyone will really be bent out of shape if he doesn't.

I have just one kid so there will be no concerns about giving money evenly, but their way certainly seems fair.
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Old 12-20-2007, 12:58 AM   #18
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Is it reasonable for an adult child to expect their parents to treat their kids in some sort of even-handed way?
Geeze, you must have had a pretty good childhood to be seeing inequity only now!

If you feel the situation is unfair, and your parents are mentally competent, and you can communicate with them, then perhaps you should have a discussion with them about it just to explain your feelings. They may not have even considered the situation.

But I figure once someone turns 21 or has children, they should take responsibility for their own lives and any children they bring into the world, absent disaster.

Having a child-free life myself, I can only conjecture how I would treat grandkids. I know I try to treat my nieces and nephews equally, but they are all siblings so the situation is different. I would hope that any over-21 kids could discuss the situation with me in a reasonable manner. But then I'm still hoping for a balanced federal budget, paying off the national debt, and world peace.
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Old 12-20-2007, 01:24 AM   #19
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One thing my sisters and I agree on is that are parents don't treat us equally...we all feel like we are being left out, treated unfairly, or being put upon...of course we all can't be correct.
What happens is we all have our own personalities, abilities, needs and expectations. So if mom and dad pay for a new stove for one sister, depend on another sister to take them to Dr.'s appointments, and spend more 'quality time' with a third sister, is it wrong or unfair? I don't think so. Parents interact with their children as individuals.
I know my parents love us all, that doesn't mean we all have the same needs, desires or expectations. I don't judge my relationship with my parents based on their relationship with my sisters, I simply enjoy the relationship I have with them.
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Old 12-20-2007, 06:21 AM   #20
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I got 4 kids, all college graduates, married, well off (well better off financially than we ever were at their age). We did buy them all a MAJOR appliance or two when they purchased their FIRST home but nothing major since. Told them all, a long time ago, we will visit when we can, don't look to us for dollars (although a couple did and then it was a REAL loan (with paperwork) and all was paid back, with appropriate interest). For years now we have just sent checks to all of the grandkids for Christmas and Birthdays. Treat all grandkids the same (they get the same dollars). Some may think this should be in the "mean" thread but we have no financial hassles, no personal financial discussions, no shopping for gifts the kids may or may not want (hence no return hassles , they can get what they want with the money (Grandkids). I do not care for our totally commercialized holidays these days and will do what I can to keep the commercial part of it toned down.
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