Taking Mom to Court for Bad Birthday Card, No $$$

Two children, now in their early 20s, have taken their mother to court charging damages for:

  • Sending a bad birthday card – and no money
  • Neglecting to take one child to a car show
  • Telling the other child, at age 7, that she would call the police if he didn’t buckle his seatbelt
  • Failing to buy enough toys
  • Haggling over the amount she would spend on a party dress
  • Calling her daughter at midnight to insist she return from a homecoming party

The Chicago Tribune itemizes the complaints, saying that last week the court record stood about a foot tall with the children seeking $50,000 for “emotional distress.”

Come on, isn’t all of the above called “typical parenting”?

Steve Schmadeke, of the Tribune filled in details on the card:

On the front of the American Greetings card is a picture of tomatoes spread across the table that are indistinguishable except for one in the middle with craft-store googly eyes attached. “Son I got you this Birthday card because it’s just like you… different from all the rest!” the card reads. On the inside (his mother) wrote “Have a great day! Love and Hugs, Mom xoxoxo.”

I can see why her son felt this was “inappropriate” and sued.

An appeals court dismissed the case saying that ruling in favor of the children could open the floodgates to excessive judicial scrutiny and interference of families. Really? The court was tempted to rule in favor of the children? How this case managed to get as far as an appeals court is beyond me.

I’m not sure whether the children, who were raised in a $1.5 million home, are just spoiled or whether their father is manipulative and abusive.

Turns out the whole thing was dad’s idea. He not only came up with the scheme, but volunteered to represent the kids in court. Luckily, he’s a lawyer.

Mom and dad are divorced. This could be revenge.

But how did dad rope the kids into his evil web?

I don’t know the details of their family life, but the whole thing reminds me of something I read from Kathleen Krenek, Executive Director of Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence. In an op-ed piece for the San Jose Mercury News she says, “Father’s often use their own children as pawns to abuse their victims, creating family rifts that position the mother as inferior and the father as the good guy.” She continues:

An abuser hits his wife when the children aren’t around, then turns into the “fun” parent when the children are around. The victim, their mother, is frazzled, anxious and stressed out. The children see their father in a good mood, then see their mother: stressed out, annoyed and scared. Then their father says, “Hey let’s go to the movies.” The mother doesn’t want to go, spoiling their family fun. In the eyes of the kids, the father is the good guy.

Who knows whether dad found a way to make himself seem like the “fun” parent and turn the kids against a sullen mom. Regardless, dad, daughter and son should all be embarrassed for, at the least, being such spoiled brats.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on September 2, 2011, in feminism, gender, psychology, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. Karine Alves

    Really? I’m shocked that there was even such case in Court! With all respect, I think there are way too many other serious issues to be addressed! There are many families that endure difficult financial situation and can afford such luxuries. I just still can’t believe someone would sue their own parents for those reasons. How about everything else they have done for these kids their whole lives? I value my parents for what they have taught me, and not for the gifts I received. So many cases of real neglect and abuse, that this silly case is a waste of time for the Court, in my opinion!

  2. It’s funny but sad. I do not agree the main reason why these two children sue their mom is that “children see their father in a good mood, then see their mother: stressed out, annoyed and scared” after domestic violence. People at their 20’s should be able to judge on their own. How could a father instigate his children to sue their mother for these trivial matters? Is this really a good father? This sounds ridicules to me as my culture initiates filial piety. Mother is the person giving birth to us. She gives us life and brings us up. These two children should not sue their mother. It would make her down.

  3. Reading this article makes me so sad that these children would be so ungrateful that they would take their mother to court and try to sue her over her mothering ability which in the end calls her a bad mother. I feel bad for her that she did all she could in raising her children and they do this to their children are in their 20’s and should know better and appreciate their mother. Also what kind of father would pin his children against his ex wife to represent his children and sue their mother? Parents who are divorced should never talk bad about the other parent with their children because that is not healthy for anyone especially the children. I can’t believe that his father would represent his children in this law suit. All of the things that the children were suing for were all things that happened to me in my childhood and I don’t think that my mother did anything wrong. I feel like these things happened to most children and the children who tried to sue their mom are spoiled and are completely ungrateful for what they have.

  4. This was such a crazy read! Not only am I shocked I am also wondering if this is some kind of joke, it simply seems unreal. As a mother, this poor women must be appalled at the behavior of her children. Also of her ex-husband. One has to wonder if there is any substantial reason for her children to hold such a grudge against. Perhaps a messy divorce where they were not able to see their father that often. Nonetheless, their is no reason for her children to attack her in such way. Especially because the instances mentioned above are typical situations where most mothers would react in the same ways.

    I think this article goes to show that in many cases women are made out to look like that bad guy. The ex-husband most likely instigated his children with discussions of how horrible their mother is. Parents should never bad mouth each other like this to their children because it so unhealthy for the children. It creates unavoidable resentment in some sorts. Either against the father for talking poorly of the mother, or believing all the negative things the father is saying and having resentment towards the mother.

  5. This was so sad to read. I feel horribly bad for the poor mother who probably wanted the best for her children and I am sure put some thoughts into their cards and presents. The fact that this case got into court is shocking. It is inconceivable to think that the kids could do this to their mother.
    One thing is when they are small, but in their 20s i hope the kids to be beyond the “fun” parent idea.
    Additionally it seems that the dad has a clear case of some sort of disorder that does not allow him to relate to people or to foresee the emotional consequences. Not only he does not feel any compassion towards a woman who mothered his children, he also clearly is not thinking about the psychological damage he is doing to children (adults) who one day might in fact realize the horror of what they have been doing to their mother and live with the feeling of guilt for the rest of their life.
    Lastly think how horrible it is to be these children missing out on one of the most useful emotional connections of their life. It probably feels really lonely and really scary.

  6. It amazes me that this ‘case’ got so far as an appeals court. What also amazes me is the fact that the dad was able to get his kids to go along with his ridiculous scheme. It is easy to see that this is a case of divorce revenge, and the courts should have been able to see this, if the divorce was initiated and filed before these proceedings. But it is also a sad fact that most judges (at least the ones that I have been exposed to and have sat in on) don’t take the time that is required of them to read the cases that are assigned them. $50,000 for “emotional distress?!” Emotional distress would be the mother suing the children in return. Then, this would have the makings of a real case. This ‘case’ should have been tossed out of court. Evidently it was, which is why the children appealed it. This ‘case’ is just one more example of what is wrong with our American judicial system, and the problems that exist within American families. If I was the mother of these kids, I wouldn’t speak to my kids until they apologized to me for what they did. And I would want to know why they let their father talk them into this. Then, and only then, would I feel comfortable letting my kids be a part of my life again. But the real blame lies with the father, who should be ashamed, if not prosecuted, for what he did. He should be made to realize this, and to make amends.

    Elaine Balliet.

  7. this article put me in shock, not only are the kids spoiled little brats, that need a serious reality check, but the dad is seriously desperate and need some help, really, your going to use the kids to help you in your evil plan to sue the mother of your children for not giving them a suitable birthday card? whats wrong with you? its fine if you have problems with your ex wife, what ever, that’s the two of your individual problems, but don’t bring the children into it. they have nothing to do with it, your just having them turn on there own mother, for no reason. your ruining the mother’s life because of your own spite, and your own issues with her, he should grow up and talk to her like an adult.

  8. This is absolutely ridiculous, why would a father in his right mind make his children testify against their mother, especially with such ludicrous accusations. Everything listed that they tried to say was “damaging” is what a normal mother would do. I do not know how many parents tell their children they have to buckle their seatbelt because it is against the law. Sometimes it is the only way to make them wear their seatbelt because they do not like to. I do not know how the court system even let the children get into the courts and even thought about ruling in the children’s favor. It just goes to show you how some of our courts are.

  9. First of all, I really like the three earlier responses to this article; they’re very thoughtful.

    When I started reading the list of reasons they’ve taken their mother to court, I was appalled. Like seriously! They could even do that?! I would have thought that the court would have taken it as a joke and immediately dismissed it as nonsensical.

    I’m further surprised that these ADULTS are in their 20’s and are actually doing this to their mother. They have a fully developed brain and yet are still going along with this scheme that their father has set up. The father must have certainly bribed them.
    I agree with you Cassie, parents’ responsibility is to provide their children with needs. If they want, they can give their children extra stuff such as toys, parties etc. but it’s certainly not a clause of good parenting.

    I can imagine these kids were already spoiled and on top of that they are essentially saying “you didn’t spoil us enough, remember those times when you didn’t do X,Y, Z for us.” And they call it “emotional distress”? I would think that beatings and constant profanity towards the kids would describe that term better.

  10. I know some children are incredibly spoiled and feel that they should get whatever they want and exactly the way they want it, but to sue your own mother because you didn’t get to go to a car show or because she haggled when buying a dress for you to wear to a party is definately over-the-top in being ridiculous. I can’t believe they let this case stay in the courts for as long as they did. And if this is another tactic of manipulation the father is employing to put the children agianst their mother I wonder what other abuse she had to deal with from the three of them before this reached court. It is sad to see just how far people will go because of greed or a need to feel superior. My understanding of the parent /child relationship is that your parents are responsible for providing for your needs as best they can, that is NEEDS food/clothing/shelter, not giving you everything you want.

  11. Domestic abuse is a very touchy subject. The idea is that the abuser is manipulative, but is cool under the pressure. I can relate to this topic growing up. I remember my mother always fearful and would always be tip-toeing around my father. At one point in my life, I resented my mother for never being around me and I assumed that I was only loved by my father, yet I didn’t know the pain that my mother went through alone. Then my father turned his attention to me and I finally understood the vicious cycle of domestic abuse and the need for the abuser to be in control of every situation. As difficult a task, my mother broke away from the situation and we started a life without my father. My younger brother was fortunate enough to not have any involvement, but the subject opens up scars that I know is true.

  12. Nicole McCalister

    This is an appalling article to read. If this is considered bad parenting then I would have to question my own parenting skills. I feel that it is horrible when men, or anyone, use children as weapons in a family quarrel. The kids are acting spoiled and bratty, and the father is being immature and out of line. I guess everyone has a different set of morals, but using your adult children to bring their mother grief, anguish, and punishment is down right wrong. I hope that this poor woman has thick skin and can handle the betrayal she must be feeling. I wish her the best of luck and hopefully her children and ex-husband can grow up and move on in their lives….they must have something, or anything else they could be focusing on!

    • I thought this was a joke? So parent divorce and dad seeks revenge for some reason or another and decideds to persuade his children into thinking that their own mother is bad for sending what seems as a thoughtful birthday card with the picture of rotten tomatoes and one good one. The article states that the children were raised in a 1.5 million dollar home and that their farther is a lawyer, and represented them in this lawsuit against their mother, so in my opinion I cant see these kids having much to stress about. Perhaps there was some sort of subliminal message to the card? Maybe the mom thought that her daughter and father were rotten and the one ripe tomatoe was “different from the rest” as stated in the card. Either way, shame on dad for initiating and or going with the whole law suit and representing his kids, as well as wasting the courts time.

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