Upset About SIL Taking My Daughter's Artwork -- SWH Added

Updated on February 06, 2018
N.Z. asks from Los Angeles, CA
15 answers

I'm really upset about this and I need your guidance. And this just happened and I haven't really had time to process it so please excuse me if I'm not being coherent and my question is hard to follow -- I'll try to do my best to make sense.

There is this one painting my daughter worked on at school that is very special to me. I put it on top of the piano to display it until I could find the right frame for it to hang on the wall. My SIL just came over and while I was busy doing the dishes, she apparently asked my daughter if she could have it. My daughter, not knowing my plans for her painting, told her yes.

I'm not the super sentimental type nor am I the type of mom to keep every little school project kids bring home from school. But this painting was special. If there was one thing I wanted to keep out of all the school work she brought home from this year, this was it. So I'm upset this is no longer in my possession. I'm also upset that my SIL didn't ask me (or my husband) if she could take it.

I asked my daughter if she offered to give it to my SIL or if my SIL asked for it, she told me that my SIL asked for it. In retrospect, I probably shouldn't have said this (or maybe it's ok?), but I told my daughter that next time, she needs to ask me before she gives away her things. I've thought about calling my SIL and asking for it back, but that seems petty. From an objective person's point of view, it's just a painting, right? Plus, I'm concerned about what that would teach my daughter. At the same time, this was really special to me. Do you think it's okay to ask for it back?

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So What Happened?

Thank you, everyone!

I apologized to my daughter and asked for it back from my SIL (husband's sister).

Having had a few days to think about this, it really was no big deal. I guess I just got upset because my SIL has a history of acting like she owns my place. I felt like this was one of those situations, still do in a way. I feel like she should've at least mentioned she is taking my daughter's artwork home, instead of taking it quietly. Like someone said below, my daughter's not a teen, she's only 5.

The very first time she visited us after having moved back to LA from out of town, she opened all my cupboards and started looking through them. Then she started to take out the beer mugs that she had given us and asked, "are you guys using this?" and eventually ended up taking them back.

There was another instance we had my husband's cousins and their kids over and she started asking one of the little ones who was playing with a toy if he wanted to take that toy home (the toy, obviously, is my kids' toys and it wasn't hers to give away).

More Answers


answers from Boston on

I'd keep this really simple, and call your SIL. Don't make a lot of excuses or explanations - just say, "Hey, Susie told me she gave you the painting on the piano." (Wait for a response to confirm it.) Then say, "I know it might seem silly to you, but I had plans for that and am picking out a frame. I'd like it back. If you feel strongly that you want a copy, I'll be happy to stop at the office supply store and make a color copy for you. When's a good time for me to pick it up?" I wouldn't go on and on about how you feel so petty or that you're so upset.

It's sweet that your daughter wanted to give it to her aunt, and sweet that your SIL admired it and complimented your daughter. Stop there. Unless this SIL has a perpetual problem with interfering and snatching things, let it go. There's no reason to tell your daughter not to give away something she made - her toys and clothes, yes. But a picture she made? How in the world would anyone anticipate that one particular thing left lying about would be so special? It's fine that you really feel attached to it, but not okay that you expected everyone to know about it. Kids make dozens of paintings and we all feel badly getting rid of them - so it's reasonable to think your SIL would have no idea that this, of all paintings, was incredibly special and deserving of framing.

Take a breath, make a call, and keep the emotion to a minimum, lest you cause a bigger problem.

14 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

your SIL didn't 'take' the artwork. your daughter gave it to her. it was hers. you hadn't clued your daughter into your plans for it, nor did your SIL have any idea that this one piece of artwork was special.

the only fault i see in this is chastising your daughter for doing something perfectly within her rights. i'd apologize to her for that.

why is it petty to ask for the painting back? it was an honest mistake, and nobody should have to feel guilty or awkward about it. 'lulu, this is going to sound wacky, but that picture that clarabelle gave you is actually one i particularly wanted to frame and keep. would you mind giving it back? i'll be happy to make a print of it for you if it's something you really want.'

i can't imagine being butthurt if that happened to me.

i've also had lots of artwork proffered me by nieces and nephews and i've always accepted them great delight and promises to display them on the fridge. i've genuinely enjoyed and appreciated every one, and in not one single case would i have been offended if the parent quietly asked me to return it.

i wouldn't turn a small incident into a huge family drama scene unnecessarily.

13 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

If I were your SIL and you called me and said that you had wanted to keep that particular piece of art work and could you have it back, I would say, "No problem."

I'm sure your SIL just saw something her niece made and thought she'd like to have it and show it off. I'd love it if my nieces gave me something like that to put up in my office ... right next to the artwork my sons gave me.

I would tell your daughter that the artwork was hers, so it was hers to give away. She shouldn't have to ask you first. In the future, if there is a piece that you want to keep, you need to tell your daughter that so that she knows. I'm sure that your daughter was just very flattered that her aunt asked.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Apologize to your daughter! Your daughter made it and she is free to give it to anyone. Tell her how much you liked it!

And then call your SIL (or your brother) and say you want it back.

ETA: Julie G makes a good point too about asking your daughter if she minds that you want to try to get it back. (Your daughter might have a specific reason for wanting her aunt to have it instead.)

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

I recommend keeping this a mole hill and not turning it into a mountain. I would ask my sister-in-law for the picture back. You can explain to her and your daughter that you really love this picture and that it is special to you.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

Are you not friends with your SIL? If it were my sister in law, I would tell her to return the stolen artwork or give me a million dollars so I don't turn her over to the police.😜. Seriously, it’s your SIL. Just tell her it was on the piano because you were in the process of having it framed.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I would ask for it back. Your child is young (quite young?) correct?

I think it would be different if she were a teenager, and then she'd have more say of course in who she gave her artwork away to.

But definitely - just call up your SIL and say "I'm sorry .. I know you liked it, and you had no way of knowing, nor did (my daughter) but it was up there because it's the one piece I wanted to keep and frame. Would you mind if I have it back?" and then offer to take a photo of it, and you could even frame (cheaply) it for her as a gift if you wanted to. Or just give her the pic/copy of photo (email it to her).

You're upset because it had sentimental value to you. It's ok. We mammas do get sentimental about this stuff sometimes. I find it odd the SIL didn't mention it to you (my family would never just take my kids' artwork without mentioning it to me at least ..). But people are different. No harm done - just a misunderstanding of sorts. Get it back and take a photo :)

Read the other responses. I get what people are saying. We gave away tons of artwork to grandparents, aunts and uncles over the years. It is theirs to give in general - I guess anything special was made with them in mind, so it just never came up.

(When our kids were very small, we did have a rule that they should run things past us before giving away their belongings away or making trades. That's because our kids got gypped a few times as were very naive. Learning experiences. This is different however.)

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

First off - unless your daughter GAVE IT TO YOU? She brought it home and it was hers to do with as she pleased.

Second off - ask your SIL for it back. Tell her you had plans for it and would like it back. If it means that much to you? It's not petty.

You could take a picture of it. Take it to a ship and have it blown up and framed as well. There are many options you have.

First is to know that unless your daughter said "hey mommy I made this for YOU"? It wasn't YOURS. It was hers.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

I understand where you are coming from, as a military family? We didn't keep much because we would have to purge every 3 to 4 years, depending upon duty stations. There are things that we did keep. I too would be upset if they were missing. However, it was your daughter's to do with as she pleased. Please apologize to her for flipping out.

I think it's just fine for you to ask for it back. Tell her the truth. Tell her that you love it and wanted to keep it and frame it. You love that she loves it too. Maybe they can make a copy of it and you both can have it?

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Anchorage on

There is nothing wrong with asking for it back, it was not hers to take and it was wrong of her to ask the child and not you whether or not it was okay to take it. Tell her that the child gave it away by mistake because she did not know your plans for it and ask her to return it.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Why NOT ask for it back? I have a number of SILs and I know any one of them would understand and hand it back to me right away. I'm sure this was just a harmless, friendly interaction between your daughter and her aunt, nothing more, no need to be upset.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Nothing petty about this. Tell your daughter you are sorry, that it was her's to give, but also explain how important it was to you, and tell her your plans for it. Ask her if it's OK to ask for it back.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

Call your SIL and brother and say you are so sorry, but that artwork your daughter did was extremely special to you and you were about to go get it framed. Tell them your daughter did not realize this. Say you would like to have it back. These things are important!!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

I'd ask her to paint another picture but it be just for me. Then she could sign it To mom, love, your girl.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Miami on

I would tell SIL that you had plans to hang that painting somewhere and already had a frame in mind, and would she mind giving it back, because your daughter was unaware of the fact you were getting a frame for it and planning to hang it. Explain how and why it's so special, if you feel you need to do so. You can then offer that your daughter will make her a pretty painting that she can hang at home instead of this one, and ask her what she'd like your daughter to paint for her. I think that would be a diplomatic and kind way to handle it.

1 mom found this helpful
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