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Going Hungry To Keep The Gimme Pigs At Bay

My partner and I recently moved to Sydney from Melbourne so my partner could attend a very specific college. We are currently living paycheck to paycheck as I am the only one working, as it is sometimes we get to the end of the week and have no food. Recently my partner’s niece had her 9th birthday and we sent our very last $30 in a card to her, which means for 2 nights we just ate bland plain rice for dinner as it was all we had.

Previously to this my partner had told me that when we were still living in Melbourne he had given his nephew $30 for his birthday and if he wasn’t the send the same amount to his niece she would get upset and throw a tantrum of epic proportions. Then when she got her card with the money in it, we didn’t know. My partner had to ask his sister if his niece had even received the card.

Growing up my family never had a lot of money so if someone made a gesture of even sending a card then as soon as we received them we would call the person, thank them and then send a thank you card after our birthday which would usually be a beautiful hand made card. I was shocked that his sister wouldn’t even ask her to call us and say thank you at the very least. I was also appalled when he told me that “no one ever does that in my family.” I thought was we did was very generous considering our financial circumstances but if our gift was that unappreciated that it didn’t even warrant a phone call at the very least then I have to say, next year I might not be feeling as generous.

My partner said that she is only 9 and it was a bit unfair to expect so much from her, however I remember at 9 my mum would have taken all my presents for the next year and sent them back, or donated them to a charity and then told me send thank you cards. He has said I am being unreasonable, but I don’t believe I am. If she can’t take the time to even make a simple phone call to say thank you, then why should I have to go without food so she can have a small gift?   0714-12

Generosity is a good thing but not if you have to starve in order to stave off histrionics from a deprived nine year old.   Because that is what you and your partner did.   The gift doesn’t appear to have been given as a gesture of affection but rather as an obligation to equalize the monetary gift amount between the two siblings lest the one receiving lesser throws the greater fit.

I would suggest decreasing the gift amount to both children next year to maybe $10.00 or even none at all.  You are not helping them develop good character qualities be feeding their greedy, unappreciative attitudes.   Instead, have your partner arrange a special yearly outing with them, like hiking or camping.   Give them an experience instead of a card.

And btw, plan a yearly budget that factors in birthday gift costs as compared to your living expenses and then stick to your budget.   No one should have to miss meals just so a young lady doesn’t have a nuclear meltdown.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Sallyann July 17, 2012, 6:17 pm

    First off I think it’s reasonable to want to give the kids the same value of gift. Sending one a $30 birthday gift and the other nothing in the same year could easily feel to the kid as if you didn’t care about them as much as their sibling. Favouritism really stings when you’re young.

    But money isn’t the only way to give ‘value’, so if I was that poor I’d probably try to do something more creative (i.e. send a nice but cheap gift, or give the gift of an outing, so the kid knows you still care without the outlay). I wouldn’t demand my partner to shell out the cost for me to prevent children having tantrums.

    I definitely agree with everyone saying not to blame the kid. We have no idea if the child really would have ‘thrown a tantrum’, or if its just the adults projecting, and if ‘thank yous’ aren’t done in family culture you can’t expect the kid to know.

    I feel like the 9 year old is being scape-goated so the OP doesn’t blame his partner and the parents of the kid, who are the ones at fault.

  • OP July 17, 2012, 6:39 pm

    I think what bothered me the most at the time is that no one even told us that she had received the card.. I wouldn’t have known if it was lost in the mail etc.. unless my partner had contacted them.

    I have met this child and she threw a tantrum when I refused to read her a book, or go to her bedroom at the very end of the evening when we were leaving her parent’s house after having dinner there.. She is a very spoilt child, she gets anything she wants and often around her birthdays it is a fight between family members over who can give the most extravagant gifts.. I refuse to be a part of that.

    This family has 3 children and just before my partner and I moved to Sydney, we were staying at his mum’s house and they were always in the room we were in swinging off the chair, swinging on my arm while I was eating dinner, rummaging through our bags.. I asked them to stop and leave the room and they never did.. usually I would have to tell my partner ( while he was working ) and he would contact his mum to get her to put a stop to it.. including one time in particular when they broke a necklace of mine while fighting over it while I was in another room. I guess I am trying to highlight the fact these children are spoilt, they have no boundaries.

    I understand that if she has never been told to say thank you then she wouldn’t know to do so, but it amazes me how so many people have brought their children up with no manners at all. No saying please or thank you..

  • TheaterDiva1 July 17, 2012, 7:14 pm

    Don’t tell me a 9-year-old is too young to write a TY note. Kids younger than that write letters to Santa. They can ask for gifts but conveniently not be able to show appreciation? Sounds like a priority issue to me.

  • gramma dishes July 17, 2012, 8:42 pm

    OP ~~ Now that Niece and Nephew have each received the same amount of money, they are evenly gifted. Neither can complain that one was treated differently from the other. Next time, please just send a card or arrange to do something free or very low cost with each child individually. If they don’t want that as a gift, then give nothing. You’ve offered.

    This isn’t just about the lack of thank yous. It’s also about the whole concept of handing out money you don’t really have to people who don’t need or appreciate it just for the sake of looking like ‘good guys’. You and your partner need to have a heart to heart discussion about this and decide together how you’re going to handle this in the future.

  • Clare July 17, 2012, 9:00 pm

    Sending thank you cards is not an Australian custom – at least not where I come from.

  • twik July 17, 2012, 11:12 pm

    Kirsten – he could be earning all the money for the household himself. He STILL would not have the right to demand that the OP go without food for fear that his niece would throw a tantrum.

    His niece’s opinion of him is clearly of more importance to him than his partner’s comfort. That is a problem.

  • StephM July 17, 2012, 11:47 pm

    TheaterDiva1: A letter to Santa and a thank you note are vastly different. One is just a request, e.g. “Dear Santa, please get me a Barbie. Thanks. Love, Susie”

    In the other, you have to properly convey just how much you liked something. It can be hard for a child find the right words, even with a parent helping them. While “Dear Aunty, thank you for the Barbie. It is very pretty. I played with it for three hours yesterday. Thank you again. Love, Susie” is a very simple letter for an adult, a child does not see it that way. Especially if they are told that writing this letter is extraordinarily important – if they don’t get the letter just right, all the toys get binned. Then there’s the fact that they have to send out 10+ letters and they must all be correct. Imagine having only recently learned that saying “I don’t like this present” is inappropriate, and lying is wrong, and then being told that you have to thank Granny for that neon orange and green sweater with glittery kittens on the front. With a child’s limited vocabulary, so you don’t know how to wiggle around lying by calling it an “interesting” gift.

    I think we’re all underestimating how stressful that can be to a kid. While I hope that the parents here try to keep the letters fun, not every parent will be that successful. Some will end up writing the letters for the kid (with no input from the child except their signature), some will rage at mistakes, and some will make it a dreadful chore. Let’s all cut kids some slack on this issue; if you want a thank you note, talk to the parent!

  • Agania July 18, 2012, 1:39 am

    What a load of crap “Clare (#54)”. I’m Australian, born and bred and I have been sending thank you cards since I was old enough to hold a pencil. Birthdays, Christmas, Engagement, Wedding, birth of twins and their subsequent birthdays, I have written literally hundred of thank you cards over the years because I am blessed with generous family and friends. I am a stickler for timely, thoughtful thank you cards and get miffed if I don’t receive them or they are sloppy pre-printed rubbish ones. My Mum brought me up right.

    Gratitude is not a national thing or cultural thing – it’s a human thing – or should be!

  • OP July 18, 2012, 6:02 am

    I lived in Sydney before I moved to Melbourne, when he decided to attend a college up here I transferred my studies up here as well. We discussed it before we moved and I agreed to support us both until the end of year as I’m doing less hours of study a week than he is.

    His family knows how little we are surviving on at the moment, but his niece and nephews do not.. I would never tell a child about our circumstances nor would I ever guilt anyone, we chose to do this ourselves and no one else should feel bad about our choices.

    Clare – No it isn’t, but that isn’t what is bothering me most, it is the fact she didn’t even say thank you over the phone or email or anything.. No appreciation for the gift was ever shown, I had to ask my partner if she had even received the gift and he said he didn’t know.. If he hadn’t asked his sister if his niece had received the gift it would have gone completely ignored.

    I understand not everyone writes thank you cards, but to not say thank you at all?? That just seems horrible to me.

  • Jenny July 18, 2012, 6:23 am

    OP – those kids sound like horrible brats. If you are planning on ever raising kids together, I suggest you discuss parenting styles with your partner. If you have some big fundamental differences, you want to work them out before they arrive on the scene.

    But your partner needs to develop a spine with those kids. Honestly, NOT spoiling this kids may help them out.

  • Spuck July 18, 2012, 8:21 am

    OP you still misdirecting your anger. As horrible as these children sound, it was out side forces that were pressuring you to send the money in this situation. In the end now you have to let your anger go, but remember it for next time so that you don’t send the money again. If your pressured by your partner/his family, stand your ground. If monetary situations are some how ever brought up by the children in a social situation, you firmly look them in the eye and tell them “I am not talking about this now” and privately bring up the situation with your partner and their parents. Whenever you return to the family city make sure to stay in a hotel or with people who have proper boundaries. You learn from past mistakes and move on. Holding onto or directing your anger at the wrong person (you have the right to be angry with your partner and this situation does earn a serious discussion) is just going to be painful for you in the end.

  • Meegs July 18, 2012, 9:30 am

    @ StephM, the child in nine years old, not four years old. And has parents who could be helping her.

  • Gina July 18, 2012, 10:20 am

    You sent a 9-year-old your last $30? Yikes. That’s the heart of the issue here, not the kid’s ingratitude.

  • Kendra July 18, 2012, 11:38 am

    I’m going to agree with many of the PPs that the OP is directing her criticism at the wrong person. While a 9 year old is not to young to make a phone call or write a thank you note, it IS too much to expect from a 9 year old who has never been taught these things. Walking, talking, feeding themselves, using the toilet—these are things that children are taught, children do not just intuit them when they reach a certain age. It is the same with gratitude. If a child had never been taught to walk, would you be angry if they couldn’t run a marathon?

    “I understand not everyone writes thank you cards, but to not say thank you at all?? That just seems horrible to me.” But OP, you stated earlier that this child has no boundaries whatsoever and that she and her siblings have NEVER been taught gratitude. Why would you think she would intuitively know that she should call you, especially, to thank you for the gift you sacrificed for? It seems to me the person you should be criticizing and feeling disgusted with are the child’s parents who clearly didn’t direct her to make the call, write the note or make the call themselves. As adults and parents this is their JOB.

    It is not your job to raise your partner’s nieces/nephews, so it is not up to you to “punish” the neice for being ungrateful. In my humble opinion, this would be best dealt with among the adults. You might contact your partner’s sibling and explain to them that since you didn’t receive an acknowledgement, let along a thank you, of the gift you sent, you are now rethinking the whole gift giving to their family thing, and leaning towards the “never again” side. These people sound like entitled people raising entitled kids. It’s the adults you need to be angry with and work with. The kids are only doing as they have been taught.

  • JeanFromBNA July 18, 2012, 11:41 am

    If there is a custom to not write thank you notes or acknowledge gifts, there should be a corresponding custom not to give gifts.

  • Echo July 18, 2012, 7:41 pm

    Clare, I’m an Australian and I’ve been writing thank you notes as long as I’ve been able to write. And I was ten when my mother cancelled my (January) birthday party because she discovered I hadn’t written thank you notes for my Christmas presents.

    Having said that, I think there’s a bit of a disconnect regarding thank you notes amongst some of the commenters. As far as I was taught, you send a thank you note if you are unable to thank the gifter in person. I didn’t write TY notes for my grandparents who lived five minutes away because they gave me presents in person and I thanked them in person – but my interstate grandparents who sent presents through the mail received a note. Perhaps admin can weigh in – is that right?

  • NocturnalSilence July 18, 2012, 8:38 pm

    I was taught that no matter what it was, be it a phone call or a card, I ALWAYS acknowledged that I recieved the gift from the gift bearer. My parents did it for me until I was old enough to understand that when someone gave me a gift, no matter how small, that I should at least tell them I recieved and appreciated it — even if I did not like or kept the gift. Some of my family members do not recieve even a card from me and have not for the past few years for gifts, because I still do not know if they’ve been recieved or not.

    I don’t think the 9 year old should be fully responsible for not at least giving a phone call, she was not taught how to do so. But perhaps in the future just a card will do, with the explaination that the OP did not know if the gift was recieved and did not want to chance it again in case it was ‘lost’ should any complaints arise.

  • Laura July 19, 2012, 1:54 am

    I’m Australian, & hadn’t heard of thank you notes until the US-dominated internet.

  • Lilya July 19, 2012, 3:08 am

    I can’t wrap my mind around the fact you sent them money through the mail and they didn’t even think to pick up the phone and tell you your gift had arrived, but maybe it’s because the mail service is notoriously unreliable in my country (and postal workers with sticky fingers don’t help).
    I mean, if somebody mailed me money and I actually received it, it would be nothing short of a miracle.

    This whole family is incredibly rude. I can understand not writing thank you notes, but not even a phone call or a text? I’d cast all of them into e-Hell.

  • justme July 21, 2012, 12:45 pm

    A few people have said that the OP should shouldn’t be angry at the children, because they’ve never been taught good manners. I agree, but I don’t think the that OP sounded angry at the children, so much as she sounded disappointed that the children were raised so poorly. And this is true. It really sounds like her partner’s sister needs to be firmer with her kids (and teach them proper gratitude). Parents do their children no favors by spoiling them–they’re only setting them up for disappointment that they’re unable to handle later in life.
    I also agree with the commentor (twik) who said that the OP’s partner needs to consider their finances before giving their last dollar to a relative who doesn’t need it. This is definitely true. It is not HIS money, it’s THEIR money (especially since the OP is the one working for it). And if they don’t have enough to eat, he doesn’t have the right to be giving money away.

  • Morgan July 22, 2012, 1:21 pm

    Geez, so many excuses for poor etiquette (not thanking someone for a gift–real basic stuff, here)! What site are we on again? Maybe it’s not the girl’s fault for not being taught basic manners by her parents, but the fault sure doesn’t lie with the OP just because she gave the girl a birthday gift. I don’t believe she wrote in to ask for an analysis of her relationship with her boyfriend, her finances, or her lifestyle choices. Sure, it’s nice to give gifts freely out of the goodness of your heart, but that doesn’t absolve the recipient of the responsibility of acknowledging that gift and expressing gratitude, and to castigate the gift giver for feeling hurt that their offering has met with complete indifference is once again simply making excuses for rudeness. As is “kids have bad handwriting,” or “that’s just the way their family does things.” The girl can be taught to pick up a phone and call to tell the OP thanks, if nothing else. I’d just send the girl a card for her next birthday, and if she or her parents say anything to the OP, she can say that since no acknowledgement of previous gifts have ever been received, she could only assume that they were either never received or were unwanted.

  • Mike in London UK July 23, 2012, 12:14 pm

    I would have sent $10 with a note to the childs parents explaining that circumstances are hard and that right now you really cannot afford more.

    Suggest that the child should send a reply and you’d be happy to explain it to the child personally by letter (not phone).

    Grabby children get zilch.

  • Pat E. Cake July 24, 2012, 11:38 am

    OP, you are very gracious. Not many would do what you did for your cousin in-law. You’ve earned your way in to Etiquette Heaven, IMO. Just don’t do it again – it’s not right to sacrifice yourself to the gimme pigs!

    Just my observation, it’s not just the 9-year-olds that do it. I’ve had a 20-something-year-old young woman (who married my cousin) do that exact same thing to me, and if that weren’t enough, later on she acted like she’d never met me – after I had sent her THREE presents for wedding and baby showers. Gimme pigs come in all shapes, sizes, and ages.

    Note to those calling the children “brats”: kids aren’t born brats, their parents make them brats by not setting rules, boundaries, and limitations (yes, I’m quoting Cesar Millan). Those same children could be angels instead of brats if they were disciplined well.

    OP – I hope that your graciousness somehow rubs off on those children. They obviously neeed it when they turn into adults, otherwise they’re going to be terrible human beings as adults.

  • Mona July 25, 2012, 10:10 am

    The best, most culturally universal etiquette I’ve known is kindness, open-mindedness and good intentions, supported by a large helping of assertiveness. Without those two elements (the former being outward-looking, the latter inward-looking) any discussion of etiquette reverts to shallow bourgeois posturing – the kind of thing that gives the whole topic of etiquette and manners a bad name as an antiquated, irrelevant practice.

    In this case, I’m rather disappointed to say I can see a lot of both – not just in OP, but in many messages. the whole bit about binning presents, in particular, why that is nothing but a sordid mind game – played by an adult carer against a defenseless child! Nothing classy about that.

    I agree with StephM, and would urge OP to do some quiet thinking (and possibly communicating with her partner) to establish where the boundaries of her own best interests lie, and to develop strategies to defend those boundaries. In parallel, I really wish she would make a concerted effort to err on the side of kindness. I know it’s not always easy, especially if you feel like the world is grinding you down (and being cash-strapped is one of the top reasons most of us will feel like that) so it does take systematic work; but I believe in the long run it is worth it, if only for the way that growing older the lines on your face will etch in sweetness and openness rather than settling into a pinched expression! More seriously, taking this effort will eventually lead to you becoming better at picking your battles – choosing when something is REALLY worth making a big deal of – and saving your strength this way will make you more likely to be able to enforce those boundaries I mentioned earlier. A virtuous circle of sorts 🙂

  • Enna July 30, 2012, 12:04 pm

    I don’t think you send them anymore gifts if you can’t afford it. I can understand your frustration but if they are going to be ungratful then just don’t do it. There’s one thing being nice, polite and courtous. You owe them nothing if they are disrespectful to you what’s the point?

  • Kay August 9, 2012, 9:49 pm

    Ok, so I’m going to take a slightly different tack here, and no doubt be cast into eHell for my trouble.

    To me, gift giving is like charity. You do it because you want to show you care, and for the love the act conveys. If you receive gratitude, then it sweetens the experience, but a lack of thankyou does not negate the sentiment that the gift represents, or the pleasure it gives the giver and recipient.

    Children in my family are taught to say thankyou face to face or via the phone, but hardly ever via letter. Like some previous posters, I was unaware of thank you notes before American culture became more prevalent in Australian society.

    Furthermore, sending your last $30 to a niece, and living on rice thereafter, only to gripe when not thanked, is either passive aggressive or foolhardy in my book. Thankyous are nice , but they don’t put food on the table.

    If you know you’re going to be short of cash, why not make a gift, such as jewelry, or look online for a good deal to save money. I grew up extremely poor, and we never let anyone miss out on a gift, but we never missed out on a decent meal, either.

  • Agania January 20, 2013, 10:53 pm

    Boyfriend: My family doesn’t do thank yous.
    OP: Really? Well MY family does.
    Maybe traditions should be tweaked in your relationship and thank yous become part of the norm.

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