When A Present Doesn't 'Fit' The Occasion & Children's Safety Comes First

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

DEAR CAT: For my birthday my cousin gave me a bunch of her nice “worn but still like new” designer clothes. She is quite wealthy and buys very expensive clothes often and ends up giving a lot away every year to charity. I appreciate the clothes because I could never afford them but the problem is she is much bigger than I am; I am a size 4-6 and she is more like 12-14, maybe 16. I can’t wear any of them and family members are starting to ask why they never see me in them. I inquired with a tailor about sizing them down but honestly it is expensive because it’s not simple, like shortening a hem. My cousin has mentioned to everyone that I’m not wearing the clothes and I hesitate to say why because I don’t want her to think I’m saying “she’s fat” because I don’t feel that way. Should I just fork over the $100 plus (which I really can’t afford) to resize one or two items, or wait until the dust clears when everyone forgets and moves on to some other family drama? — DON’T WANT TO SEEM UNAPPRECIATIVE

DEAR DON’T: Wait until the dust clears and in the meantime eBay the clothes and get yourself a birthday present you can actually use. Sorry but I’m still stuck on “she is quite wealthy and buys expensive clothes often” because that means she’ll take plenty of time to indulge herself (which she has every right to do) but she won’t take one minute to get you a little something for your birthday. Cat’s Call: A funny card or a $20 gift certificate would have been more thoughtful than a bunch of hand me-downs that don’t even fit you.

DEAR CAT: My ex’s schedule of working every third day, plus flying in the military, makes scheduling visits with him and our kids a nightmare. We split custody of our children 50/50 but he can only take them 8-10 days per month. I love spending time with my children and I’m dismayed that he, apparently, does not. I’ve asked him repeatedly not to leave our 10 and 13 year old children home alone for more than an hour or two. Yet over and over I learn from them that he has left them for more than 8 hours at a time. This past weekend I came home from a trip I’d planned months ago and learned that he left them alone on Saturday until 10 p.m. to go to a haunted house with his girlfriend, and again the next day to go with her to a football game. I fear for my kids’ safety first, but secondly, I fear that he is sending them the message that his girlfriend is more important than them. He feels no guilt whatsoever about leaving them because he, “discussed it with them and they agreed to it.” Of course they’re going to agree, they’re children! While my older child is more mature, my daughter has frequently told me she’s scared to be alone at his house. I’ve tried to discuss this with him but he yells and says I’m telling him how to parent. I think if my children’s safety is an issue that I have every right to say something. Your call? — CHILDREN FIRST

DEAR CHILDREN: You have a right to say something about your children’s care no matter what the topic – safety, education, fun, nutrition, sleep, you name it. Maybe I’m old-school but a thirteen year old is too young to be in charge of a ten year old for eight hours, especially until 10 pm. But they are old enough to go to a haunted house with their father – if it was just for adults I’m sure dad could have skipped it and found a way to continue on with his life. I truly cannot imagine anything in the world except for an emergency that would require him to leave his young children at home, unsupervised, for more than two hours. If he insists on making plans without them and doesn’t have the wherewithal or sense of responsibility to hire a babysitter….Cat’s Call: Perhaps 50/50 isn’t the wisest time split.

What’s YOUR call? Share it below! Submit questions to: or click here!.

  1. Agreed on the first question absolutely. To give one’s own used clothing as a gift is offensive when you have the money to get something new and just for that person. I agree a $20 card would be better. Also this gift is not usable and the cousin is rude as hell to look at her thinner cousin and say “wear these, I’m done with them!” It’s a slap in the face.

    — Sarah in East End    11/29/2011    Reply


    Your size 14-16 cousin giving you clothes while you are size 4-6 just doesn’t make sense or add up [pun intended]. I mean, how can she not tell that you would literally swim in her hand-me-down clothes and still give them to you as a gift? Unless, she secretly hopes you catch up to her girth one day.

    I would have put a stop to it right away, and you still can, without telling her she “large” by simply saying, “Thanks cuz, I appreciate the gift, but your clothes just don’t fit me and I can’t ever wear them, so in the future, please give them to a needy person who can actually wear them.”

    If her feelings get hurt, then maybe they need to be hurt first in order to heal second… wealthy or not.

    — LeBron from Pittsburgh    11/29/2011    Reply


    I think LeBron hit it on the nose, except you might phrase your reply a bit more tactfully. “Thanks for the clothes, but they’re not really my style,” might be just as effective in making the rubenesque cousin take another look at herself. But the idea to give them to a needy person who can wear them, or even auction them off at a charity event is a great suggestion.


    You have every right to be concerned about your ex leaving the children on their own for extended periods. As you’ve spoken to him about the issue several times and he’s all defensive about it, maybe it’s time to bring in a mediator or lawyer.

    — Elizabeth - Pittsburgh    11/29/2011    Reply

    1. Actually, I think LeBron’s advice to DWTSU is spot on. Insulting the cousin’s sense of style could wind up being equally or more offensive than simply telling her the clothes don’t fit, so I don’t see how LeBron’s advice is any less tactful. Besides, giving oversized hand-me-downs as a birthday gift is tacky, insensitive, and downright insulting, especially coming from someone who is wealthy and can clearly afford to buy a new gift. I don’t see why DWTSU and others are so concerned about sparing the cousin’s feelings.

      Since CF has no control over what the ex does (or doesn’t) do with the kids during his custody time, the only useful advice for her would be to “call your attorney”.

      — Matt in Pittsburgh    11/30/2011    Reply

  4. DWTSU,
    It’s really simple. Say thank you. Then call her up a few days later and tell her that you’ve gone through the box, but nothing seems quite right for you. Ask if she’d like the clothes back – or would she like you to pass them along.
    I’d avoid giving specifics – in terms of size, and I wouldn’t make up a story about any other reason.

    Time to call your lawyer. really.
    Why are you fooling around on this one?
    It already a 65/35 split on time – why do you even have a 50/50 shared custody?
    How about an “up to 50%” agreement” – with the stipulation that the children cannot be left unattended.
    What do you do when you go out? – I assume that you get a babysitter?- or take them with you?

    good luck!

    — no hand-me-downs    11/29/2011    Reply

  5. @DON’T WANT:

    You can shut your family up for good (and likely end any future “gifts” from your cousin) by simply appearing in one of the outfits. Pick an all-family home get-together, show up wearing the most attractive outfit you were given, and smile as if nothing were wrong with your appearance.

    — Michelle, Verona    11/30/2011    Reply

    1. I think Michelle has a great solution: wear something so everyone will see just how big they are on you, it will end the talking and backstabbing immediately. If your family really has that much drama, you need a new family.

      As for the Child First situation: get your lawyer on his case, and threaten legal action. It may be a case of ‘endangering the welfare of minors’ and you can get full time custody from the idiot. He sure sounds like one selfish immature sperm donor, I won’t even call him father or dad, since he doesn’t seem to want the job.

      — wertzro in pittsburgh    11/30/2011    Reply


    I sense a bit of jealousy in your words. Your ex-husband has a girlfriend. I wonder if she was the reason for your divorce.

    I don’t know if your ex-husband lives on base in base housing, but if he does, leaving those two alone should not be a concern for their safety.

    I don’t know, even if he lived off base, I still don’t see any problems with it – in regards to their safety. Maybe times have changed. But when I was little my 12-year old sister watched us other three when the parents went out. I think it depends more on maturity at that age then age itself.

    Leave the lawyers at home and go find yourself another man and get over your ex-husband.

    — LeBron from Pittsburgh    11/30/2011    Reply

    1. @LeBron from PIttsburgh – Wow, thanks for assuming that I am hung up on my ex. If I had said he leaves them frequently to go out with his buddies, I guess that would change the story. First, he does not live on base. Whether he did or not, would not change the fact that he is clearly sending the message that he does not value his kids as much as GF.

      You’re right that it does depend more on maturity – and my daughter is not ready. That being said, my whole point was that if he only has the kids 3 days max each week, can’t he bring himself to show them that they are important to him and spend those days WITH his kids, instead of leaving them at home?? He has several other evenings per week to socialize with other people – girlfriend or friends.

      Thanks for the advice to get over my ex and find another man. I guess you assume that I’m sitting at home crying a river and pining over him, when that couldn’t be less true. The trip that I took last month when EX was supposed to care for our children, was with my boyfriend, whom I love very much and is 100,000,000 X the man my ex ever was. This wonderful man chooses to spend time with me AND my kids when I have them. I don’t leave them at home and if he and I go out (not often) when I have them, I arrange for a responsible sitter, or I don’t go. Period. End of story. The message sent to my kids by my BF is that he respects and cares for them and understands that I am not always able to go to social events. Unfortunately, EX and his GF think that it’s more important to go to social events that DON’T include the kids and I think that’s just wrong.

      There is no issue of jealousy. The only feelings I have about the two of them is pity. He’s missing out on his kids and won’t be able to get that time back.

      — Children First    12/01/2011    Reply

      1. @Children First,

        I am happy to hear that you are not jealous and that you have “moved on” into another relationship. Quite often, after a divorce, one or the other spouse can’t let go for a long time and if children are involved, bring the children into the middle of it all.

        I still don’t believe bringing an attorney into this matter is justified or necessary.

        — LeBron from Pittsburgh    12/01/2011    Reply

  7. I’m inclined to somewhat agree with LeBron. I don’t think that leaving a 13 and 10 year old home alone is that big of a deal as long as they are mature. I was often left home alone at that age and then would be home alone caring for my infant brother when I was 13 and older. I’m not sure that leaving them home alone for 8 hours is appropriate though- are they left food to reheat, is the older child able to safely cook, is there a safety plan, etc?

    Is there another person that might be able to voice your concerns to your ex-husband, such as a grandparent (preferably one of his parents)? It’s just a thought that if someone else respected brings up the same issue that he’ll consider it rather than just lash out and fight with you about parenting. I’m not sure that an attorney is necessary at this point, but I don’t know your ex, your temperaments or your relationship with one another (if you’re friendly or just civil), etc.

    — D, Pittsburgh    12/01/2011    Reply

  8. @ DON’T WANT
    I don’t think there’s anything at all wrong with saying the the clothes don’t fit. She’s not going out of her way to buy them for you. Getting someone’s unwanted clothes is great, but generally this is done out the goodness of the giver’s heart, not as a replacement for an actual, thoughtful birthday gift. Leaving that aside, if they don’t fit, they don’t fit, and aside from paying a tailor a lot of money, there’s not much you can do about it. Even if you guys were the same size, you might have different body shapes and the clothes still wouldn’t work. There’s really nothing wrong with saying that they didn’t fit. If she takes offense at it, you either phrased it wrong (“sorry, cuz, but I was totally swimming in those clothes. I could have fit two of me in there!”) or she’s looking for a reason to be offended. Also, as someone else said, if your sizes are as different as you indicate, she should know the clothes won’t fit.

    Michelle’s suggestion is right on, though. Wear one of the outfits around the family (make sure your cousin is there, by the way), and when they ask why your pants keep falling down to your ankles, just explain that they’re a pair that your cousin gave you, and they’re the ones that fit you best.

    — Megan, Point Breeze    12/02/2011    Reply

  9. Don’t Want – I agree with most that there is no reason not to tell your cousin the clothes are not your size. Not “too big,” just “not my size.” Avoid comments about the style. Wearing one of the outfits is bold and funny, but only do that if you are comfortable with it!

    Re Children First, ya’ll need a reminder that safety isn’t the only issue here. The so-called father putting his children last is a deeper and more hurtful act to the kids, and a message they are getting loud and clear (I’ve been there). In addition to that, one of the kids has expressed fear. Here is a Mom who has her head on straight. There may be an agency you can call who could deal with the situation for you. CYS will remove neglected children from a home, and it sounds like the situation with “Dad” might qualify. Perhaps that could enable you to get full or nearly-full custody without engaging a costly lawyer. It might be worth a phone call to CYS or a similar agency asking. The kids are depending on Mom to help them.

    — Nancy in Pittsburgh    12/12/2011    Reply

    1. @Nancy,
      Thanks for your advice and for actually getting my point!! While I appreciate everyone else’s suggestion to seek out a lawyer, that was never my intention. I don’t want to bring any more grief or unwanted change into my kids’ lives. They didn’t ask for this and it has not been easy for them. I really don’t want to bring in a lawyer or disrupt our lives by involving other agencies. What I want is for my EX not to get defensive simply because I suggested something, and look at the big picture and how his actions affect our children. I’ve realized, however, that it doesn’t matter what I say or do, I can’t change his behavior. The best I can do at this point is simply let him choose how much he wants to see the kids by putting the ball in his court. He has the ability to look at the calendar (planned out for a year in advance) and choose to spend time with his kids when he’s scheduled to have them, or choose to schedule other activities that don’t include them when he has them. In the latter case, if I see he’s made other plans, I’ve just been keeping the kids at home without mentioning to them that Dad was supposed to take them but elected to do XYZ instead. It’s his loss, but I think with this solution, the kids don’t know that he was supposed to take them but chose not to. The result is that he spends less time with them, but so far he hasn’t really made any fuss over seeing them less and less.

      — Children First    12/13/2011    Reply


You must preview your comment before submitting.

Back to top