Banned For Lack of A Thank You Note

by admin on December 9, 2013

I came into the concept of thank you notes late in my childhood – my family had always either thanked the giver in person (when receiving the gift in person) or called to thank the giver (when received through the mail). Until I was fourteen, I honestly thought that thank you notes were only for wedding gifts.

When I was twelve – nearly thirteen, my uncle married my aunt-in-law, and they soon after traveled overseas for work for a year. As such, I did not get to know my aunt very well before this incident took place.

I didn’t communicate with them regularly while they were overseas – I sent my uncle emails for their birthdays, wedding anniversary and Christmas, but otherwise I let my father be the one to communicate with my uncle as they were sending ‘family emails’ back to my dad. I did not receive a birthday present this year, but before he’d moved my uncle had begun joking that now I was a teenager he’d stop giving me gifts, so I assumed that he had decided to do just that.  A year later, my uncle and aunt returned, but they were living several states away near my grandmother, so I was not able to see them until we traveled across country for Christmas.

When we did arrive at my grandmother’s house, my father was told that my aunt had declared I was not welcome in her house. I’d offended her by not sending her a thank you note for my birthday card and gift that last year. The same birthday card, I explained when my father confronted me, that I had never received. After several minutes of interrogation by my father, he concluded that I was being truthful, and that the birthday card had most likely been lost in the international mail. I understand it took much longer for him, with my uncle acting as a character witness, to convince my aunt of this, but the ban was rescinded and I was allowed into her house to celebrate New Year’s.

Several weeks after my family had gone back home, my father received a phone call from my uncle. I was once again banned from their home, as I had not sent a thank you note in the mail; as we’d had Christmas together, I had instead thanked them in person.

Dame Etiquette, I do not believe I was wrong for not thanking my uncle and aunt for a gift I did not receive, but being unwelcome in their house for a first offense – where I’d never been given any indication that they wanted physical notes from then on – seems extreme to me. Perhaps I’m too close to this situation to judge correctly?  Was I really so rude in that I didn’t send a thank you card the second time that the ban was understandable, even when the only previous indication I had that they wanted a written thank-you was when they were out of the country (and thus too expensive for the phone call that I’d grown up with)? 0222-13

Where were your parents in this?    Did your Mom and Dad write and send thank you notes for the gifts they received or is this just etiquette expected only of you?  As a parent, I can tell you what my reactions would be to this….”Really, Sis?  You are going to create family tension and drama during the holidays which effects everyone because you didn’t get a thank you note months earlier? You waited until now to address this offense you have?”   I would have further advised my sister-in-law to not give any further gifts if the lack of a  prompt receipt of a thank you note was going to ruin her gift giving joy.

And where is your grandmother?   You are at your grandmother’s house and yet your aunt-in-law is making declarations that you are not welcome in her own house?   There is a decidedly strong sense of arrogance and a willingness to be offended while creating drama in someone else’s home.

Regardless of your actions, your aunt-in-law is a control freak drama queen who is facilitated by your father, apparently your mother, your uncle and your grandmother, none of whom appear to have put a stop to Aunt’s antics.    And no, you do not need to send a written thank you note for a gift given, opened and the giver face to face thanked by the recipient.

{ 98 comments… read them below or add one }

Rebecca December 9, 2013 at 1:26 pm

That’s insane. Aunt is a control freak and looking for ways to be offended. Perhaps she has decided she doesn’t like teenagers, period. I’d have thought Uncle would put a stop to this nonsense.

And no, I’ve never sent thank-you notes to people I’ve thanked in person, or over the phone, or even by email. I think a wedding or some other formal gift-giving occasion is the only situation where this is required. Christmas, birthdays…no. Any kind of thank-you is enough.

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hakayama December 9, 2013 at 1:27 pm

Pox on the controlling and over-the-top reacting “auntie”! I sincerely hope that she is out of your life, or at least you have minimal interaction with her, and possibly with her marionette of a husband even if HE is “blood”.
My own experience did not come anywhere close to the scenario described by you, dear LW, but it was just one of the eye opening moments with regard to a friend. I even asked the “great woman” to be my daughter’s godmother. After one gift giving occasion, friend dropped a casual remark that godchild did not send a note about the gift that had been thanked for in person. I thought it to be a very rigid interpretation of “rules of good manners”, but set it aside and moved on.
It took me several more red flags to see the light. Yes, for years I had high esteem for that wonderful, generous, idealistic, highly-principled individual until I caught onto her ever so subtle ways of controlling those around her. It was the element of control that made me drift away rather quickly and definitively, not only from her but from a good volunteer organization I used to enjoy.

I suspect that the thank you notes are/were just a starting point for Miss Mannerzilla to exert her will on the unsuspecting friends and relatives. LW: Just be thankful for the geographic distance between your closest family and that wench.

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Daphne December 9, 2013 at 1:57 pm

I agree 100% with Kimstu : “If somebody isn’t thanking you for presents, the only appropriate polite response is to stop giving them presents.”
Your aunt sounds like a kook and she is WAY out of line. Keep your distance.

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Anonymous December 9, 2013 at 2:19 pm

Wait a second……..Aunt and Uncle “banned OP from their home” for not writing a thank you note, but then they still had Christmas gifts for her under the tree, after they “graciously lifted” the ban? Something doesn’t add up here–I don’t think banning OP from their home was really Aunt and Uncle’s true intention; I think they were just trying (badly) to make a “point.” Yes, they were rude, but if they really didn’t want OP around, why would they buy her gifts?

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AIP December 9, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Poor OP, the whole family sound like a dose. Aunties-in-law “banning” people – at the last minute mind you- from the granny’s house, parents not telling said drama llama to cop onto herself, and teenager having to tiptoe through an arbitarary etiquette minefield. Would it have killed them to have called or emailed you to let you know they were upset you hadn’t written before the second “banning”? I know they’re family and everyothing but I would try and limit how much time you need to spend with them, especially when you have left home. It won’t always be possible. You’re probably never going to win with them.

For what it’s worth, where I’m from thank you notes are really for weddings (and good luck getting them even then!) – verbal thank yous are standard.

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Angeldrac December 9, 2013 at 2:30 pm

I would really love to hear a bit more from OP, regarding g her family’s reaction to all this ridiculous – it doesn’t seem right that OP was “interrogated” by the father about this, or that the parents were’t more actively protesting against the whole drama.
I think it’s worth noting, from the commenters, the many different customs and norms of thank-you notes and thank-yous in general. Obviously, there are parts of the world where notes are not the norm at all, and to EVER get offended by the lack of one is foolish, provide the gift was acknowledged gracefully and thanks given for it is some form or other. There’s more to this world than Emily Post! ;-)

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Wendy December 9, 2013 at 2:36 pm

While I think Aunt is over the top I question wether this is all her doing. It is mentioned that uncle delivers the verdict not the aunt (maybe it’s not her at all and he is just using her as an excuse) if it is a family practice to say thank you in person or over the phone why wasn’t this explained to aunt, uncle is increasing or participating in the drama as are all the adults frankly for not mentioning this family practice you can’t expect a teenager to send thank you notes if none of her family especially her parents do and she was never taught. I’m also curious OP did you and your parents get a thank you note for aunt/uncles wedding?

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Goldie December 9, 2013 at 2:41 pm

One thing I did not see in OP’s letter was the part where uncle and aunt apologized to OP, her parents, and the rest of the family that had been dragged into this, for banning (!) her from their home for something she had not actually done. Guess they never did, huh? I’m also guessing the second ban was largely due to the fact that aunt had already made up her mind to ban OP, and felt bad about having to back out. The woman just wanted to be consistent and true to her word, come on ;)

Aunt-in-law is a piece of work. I’d keep my distance from her for a few years, until she’s alienated the rest of the family enough that running into her at family gatherings is lo longer a possibility.

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Lisa December 9, 2013 at 2:42 pm

“When we did arrive at my grandmother’s house, my father was told that my aunt had declared I was not welcome in her house. I’d offended her by not sending her a thank you note for my birthday card and gift that last year.”

So the aunt gets to declare who is not welcome in the grandmother’s home? Presumably Grandmother is Uncle’s mother so she’s banning people from her MIL’s home? This is insane!

OP, I’m sorry the adults in your life didn’t have the spine to stand up for you. As a 14-yo you should not have been pushed around like this.

I would love an update on what’s happened since!

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hakayama December 9, 2013 at 3:03 pm

@PrincessButtercup: It would be most interesting to know WHAT it is that your MIL wants/insists on being thanked for?
If it’s gifts to YOU, the nasty contrarian ;-) side of me would dictate not to accept any more gifts from that wench. Especially if they are of the garbage variety.
If it is her hospitality that needs to be ever so gratefully acknowledged, perhaps it’s something that DH should undertake. Y’know, the principle of HIS family, HIS problem. Also goes for getting THEM gifts and the appropriate cards…

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helen-louise December 9, 2013 at 3:13 pm

“A year later, my uncle and aunt returned, but they were living several states away near my grandmother, so I was not able to see them until we traveled across country for Christmas.”

I read the story as the OP going to visit their grandmother and being told while in the grandmother’s house that they wouldn’t be welcome in the aunt’s house. Not *quite* so appalling as having the aunt try to throw them out of the grandmother’s house, but still not wonderful.

The impression I have is that the aunt is obsessed with “politeness” to the extent of forgetting about her ordinary human decency.

So, the question must be – did this happen last year or many years in the past? If it was last year, then the OP needs advice for what to do this year. My personal advice would be to send the cursed thank you letter for all the effort it takes, but I don’t know whether that is actually the best thing to do.

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Pam December 9, 2013 at 3:20 pm

A child being banned and not her whole family…..with no communication before they got there? The other adults being “ok” with this and needing to question her about whether or not she received a gift from oversees in the mail? How could her father not know? I’m a little skeptical… Maybe it’s just the way it was written but it sounds like the aunt was banning her from her grandmother’s house. Then aunt was upset that the writer didn’t thank aunt for the Christmas present and banned her again from the New Year’s Eve celebration….Crazy!

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Rap December 9, 2013 at 3:30 pm

“Something doesn’t add up here–I don’t think banning OP from their home was really Aunt and Uncle’s true intention; I think they were just trying (badly) to make a “point.” Yes, they were rude, but if they really didn’t want OP around, why would they buy her gifts?”

Anon, it feels like Aunt basically wanted the kid to jump thru hoops over the percieved slight. They may not have really intended to “bann” the teen from the house but the act of inviting someone over and then announcing that their teen child wasn’t welcome due to a thank you is rude because the issue could have been addressed before the family drives several hours. Other people have asked – what was the family supposed to do – leave the teenaged OP in the car for hours since they’re not allowed to be with the family? My opinion? I doubt very much that Aunt intended for Teen OP to actually not be allowed in the house, she just wanted a big public scene where she gets to be the center of attention

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mark December 9, 2013 at 3:34 pm

oy weh, I have to say I agree with the people who say any thanks is adequate, verbal, email, or snail mail. I usually assume if I didn’t get a thanks that they sent it telepathically and the my brain was offline when they sent it and give them credit for saying thanks as well.

Seriously I wonder if she was looking for an excuse to pick a fight. It’s hard to say not knowing the participants, but this seems an unusual item to fight a battle over without more history of other issues.

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Taragail December 9, 2013 at 4:02 pm

I say good riddance to bad baggage. @Anon: I think the OP and her parents were visiting grandma’s house, and aunt annouced that OP was banned from her (aunt’s)house. So perhaps they were at grandma’s to open presents, but wouldn’t be allowed to go to aunt’s later in the day for canasta and dinner. Because obviously OP is a deviant of the extreme kind, and must not be allowed to cross the threshold or the house will become corrupted.

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Elizabeth December 9, 2013 at 4:06 pm

Be glad you are banned. It is a perfect excuse to stay far away from these people. Now you don’t need to interact with them at all. This is for the best: Aunt is a complete jerk and no one dares stand up to her. Be glad you can stay away.

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Jen December 9, 2013 at 4:19 pm

OP, did anyone receive thank you notes for the gifts they gave Aunt and Uncle?

Were there actually “several minutes of interrogation” from your father, of was that just a manner of speech?

I’m a bit confused about who lives in/owns which house. Please let me know if I’m interpreting this correctly: Holiday gathering was at Grandma’s, and Aunt and Uncle (who live nearby) were also in attendance. Aunt announcing in Grandma’s house that you are banned from Aunt’s house, which (because no family gathering were actually happening there) doesn’t matter except for the drama that it caused.

Did anyone else who received a gift from Aunt send a thank you note?

I have to admit, I’m disturbed that your family didn’t stick up for you and stand up to the Aunt on your behalf but maybe details were left out to keep your post succinct? From the sounds of the post, it seems that the family bows down to crazy aunt’s wishes — I hope that isn’t always the case.

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Airelenaren December 9, 2013 at 4:38 pm

I think there is a misconception going around here because the OP phrased things a little unfortunately.
If I understand correctly, Christmas was celebrated atthe grandmother’s house, and that’s where they met the aunt, who then announced that OP would be banned from her house – where the family was planning to celebrate New Year’s eve.
After explaining, the ban was lifted and the OP was thus allowed to celebrate New Year’s with the rest of her family at the aunt’s house.

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startruck December 9, 2013 at 5:01 pm

my jaw litteraly hit the floor when i read this. banning someone from your home because of a thank you note? and on christrmas no less? its people like this that constantly leave me wondering how they have any friends. bitter, tedious people who just want a reason to hate someone. i see being a lonely cat lady in this womens future. what a scrooge!!!!!!

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kingsrings December 9, 2013 at 5:03 pm

Aunt sounds like a very immature control freak who enjoys the superior feeling she gets by banning and unbanning people from her house. Don’t send a thank you note, say the wrong word, whatever ridiculous reason she can think of to enforce her silly ban. She’s using her house as a psychological weapon! Some people are like that. OP, if I were you, I wouldn’t want to even be in this house, because I’d be afraid of her constantly looking for a reason to ban you!

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Bee December 9, 2013 at 5:12 pm

I don’t believe the evil aunt-in-law sent a gift. I think she set the LW up.

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lakey December 9, 2013 at 6:08 pm

Yikes. Banned from a home for not sending a mailed thank you note? I feel sorry for this woman’s husband, and I hope they don’t have any kids.

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AnaLuisa December 9, 2013 at 6:36 pm

Just thinking – OP’s father certainly should have backed her but perhaps he was just caught off guard?

I’ve met my share of psychopaths in life, and before I realized there was something odd in their behaviour, I tended to act as if they were normal people (eg. genuinely trying to answer manipulative questions, of course to no avail), just because it took me some time to recognize that something was not quite right.

Perhaps this happened to OP’s father and this was why he did not back his daughter?

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NV December 9, 2013 at 8:51 pm

LW, you said that you didn’t know Aunt well at all beforehand. I wonder if, perhaps, Aunt felt upon marrying Uncle that the in-laws did not respect her? This could be a desperate attempt to attain respect from someone who feels that she has none. Of course, it may just be an egotistical attempt at gaining sympathy from a drama queen. Either way, Aunt is not a person I would recommend maintaining contact with. Good luck to you.

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crebj December 9, 2013 at 9:22 pm

Please do keep us apprised of Aunty’s next Cause for Excommunication. I’m sure it will be amusing.

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River December 9, 2013 at 10:15 pm

A little off- topic, but if a woman marries your uncle, she becomes your aunt, not your aunt-in-law. The only way you would have an aunt-in-law is if your spouse was her niece/nephew. My husband and I married after both of us had nieces/nephews and I would be quite put out if someone referred to me as the aunt-in-law. Of course, if I were as offensive as the woman in this story I can understand wanting to distance oneself from her.

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NostalgicGal December 9, 2013 at 10:22 pm

If I read this right, they went to grandmother’s… and the aunt banned the teen from HER house. If the uncle and aunt-in-law (to mention she was the one that married in) owned the house and grandmother, (uncle’s mother) lived with them; she had the right to ban the child, only barely. If wasn’t her house but grandmother’s she had no right to ban. And over something so stupidly slight.

When I was growing up my parents got the mail from a post box so they knew every scrap of mail that came in; so I find it hard that father didn’t know if the child had ever received this letter. It wouldn’t have taken several minutes of grilling either.

Then nobody seems to have backed the teen up, which is the sad part. The DramaLlama got her way.
Then hopped onto the train again for another slight that has everyone going ‘huh’?

If I’d been the teen I would have said fine and dandy, and gone back to the car and got comfy. And let the adults have WWIII. If I was coming back to that doorstep I wanted the apology in writing. If I was supposed to write things, I wanted the same back. When Aunt hit E above high C and died of an aneurysm from me being snarky and my dad grounding me until I was dead; I would have felt better.

With the snark-off, it’s sad that Aunt had to blow it up, that the teen didn’t get family support, that it took GRILLING then CONVINCING then Auntie was an angel again (up in the air and harping about something), I think it’s time to cut ties. If Auntie sends another card, send it back ‘return to sender’ and no more making trips to visit that side of the family. Maybe send Grandma a plane ticket to come visit that summer or something….

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Jade December 9, 2013 at 10:58 pm

I had a similar situation at a family Christmas – an uncle had made up baskets of baked goodies as presents, and they looked awfully delicious so I was quite disappointed when I didn’t get one. But not wanting to spoil the day or make anyone feel upset I just shrugged it off. A few months later my uncle mentioned to my mother that he thought it was very rude that I hadn’t bothered to thank him for his gift – the difference was that I explained the situation to my mother who called him back to explain, and when he realized I had missed out he was mortified and called me to apologize. We never did find out what happened to my gift basket, he was sure he brought it to the Xmas lunch so hopefully someone got enjoyment from it, but the Aunt in this story should have at least checked that the gift had been received before banning a teenager from, what I understand was not even her house. Agree with everyone who called her a drama llama – best to stay well away I think because from the sounds of it you’ll never manage to please her, no matter how hard you try…

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mark December 9, 2013 at 11:17 pm

@Jen I’ve actually had that happen, a family member was mad he didn’t receive any formal thanks for gifts he had sent. Of course we could not recall a single instance where he had EVER sent out formal thanks before for any gift he had received from us.

Of course there is more to the story here. Because of bad behavior on his part we are somewhat estranged from him. This is why I’m wondering if there is more to this story here. Most people I know are not very concerned with formal thank you notes. I wonder if there was already some bad blood. So perhaps this aunt was looking for an excuse to pick a fight.

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OP December 10, 2013 at 2:20 am

Hi, this is the submitter here. Can I start by thanking everyone for their support? My thank-you note failure turned out to be the start of many issues with my aunt, and I’ve wondered whether it could have all been prevented if I’d done… something different. Its actually quite relieving to hear from complete strangers that I’m not the cause of all of this.
I have seen my aunt a total of once since. Wherein I offended her by saying “No, thank you” when she offered me a piece of the cake she made. My brother has been labelled ‘greedy’, because he ate my piece as well as his own, and may or may not have been banned from her house as well for this.

To clear the confusion of my previously poor phrasing: My aunt did NOT ban me from my grandmother’s house. She and my uncle met us at my grandmother’s house, after we drove from interstate. The plan was to spend Christmas at my grandmother’s, and go to my uncle and aunt’s for New Years – since it was in the same city, but had a much better view of the fireworks. Of course, since this plan had been made weeks before we came up, I’m not sure why my banning had to be announced only NOW.

Anonymous – I suspect the gift I received may have been bought at the last minute, as it was several blocks of chocolate that you can get from a grocery store, while my family received gifts from the country my uncle had been working in previously.

Several minutes of interrogation is probably better phrased as “five minutes of questioning”. My father was frazzled and wanted to know what was going on, but tends to interrupt rather than listen to a full answer even at his best. It certainly felt like an interrogation at the time.
He also pays no attention to the mail – it has been entirely my mother’s responsibility for the 25+ years they’ve been married. (As for my mother, I’ve come to accept that she is… extremely non confrontational. Frankly, I would have had a heart attack if she’d actually spoken up)

It hasn’t actually been _said_, but I think my family is avoiding my aunt altogether now, and calling my uncle when they have issues. She recently tried to evict the renter of the house my father and uncle jointly own, which she had no right to do. I’d had very little to do with her before all this, and although it doesn’t seem kind to say, I hope it stays that way.

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JWH December 10, 2013 at 7:30 am

Once OP hits adulthood (if adulthood hasn’t been reached already), then OP needs to write this aunt out of his/her life. Not in a showy, vicious “You are BANNED from my PRESENCE” way, but in a “I’m sorry, I don’t think I can make the party this year” way. Auntie is the grown-up version of the grade-school tyrant who declares that SHE is only having lunch with the “cool people,” and then proceeds to declare she is the only arbiter of “cool.” In her grown-up guise, Auntie has gained social power through force of personality, and she’s flaunting that power as much as she can. The thank-you note wars are just one aspect of that. OP writes a thank-you note, and perhaps that mollifies Auntie this time. Next time, Auntie will BAN OP FROM HER HOUSE because the thank-you note had poor penmanship. Or OP used store-bought thank-you note rather than a handwritten letter. Or because OP committed some other slight.

OP’s best course is to take away this Auntie’s power. OP should thank Auntie her for her gifts (when/if they come) in the way OP thinks appropriate, whether by email, in-person gratitude, or a singing telegram. Beyond that, simply avoid Auntie and build your own life.

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A December 10, 2013 at 7:43 am

A few thoughts on this…1. An adult can’t ban a kid from her house without also banning the kid’s parents. They are a package deal. 2. Did everyone else send handwritten thank you notes too? If not, were they also banned? 3. People shouldn’t get married and have the expectation of changing the family dynamic of their in-laws. (i.e., if thank you is said in person, don’t expect everyone to start giving you thank you cards.)

After reading the OP’s response, it’s apparent that this issue was only the start of the issues with the new aunt…which is really unfortunate. I’d say it’s the uncle’s responsibility to confront her on everything.

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acr December 10, 2013 at 9:37 am

OP, glad you checked back in. Even with your explanations, I am still dissappointed with your parents. Even if a person is extremely non confrontational, there are ways to handle a situation. For example, your mother could have quietly gathered things and you and your mother could simply have left.

Perhaps she was simply shocked, but I don’t get why your mom didn’t say, “Honey, Daughter didn’t recieve a package from Aunt Horrible and Uncle Spineless.” It should not have been on you, a young teen, to defend yourself to 3 adults – your dad, Aunt Horrible and Uncle Spineless.

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Cady December 10, 2013 at 9:47 am

I feel bad for OP’s uncle. He’s got a long, long marriage ahead of him, no matter how many years it actually lasts.

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Kirsten December 10, 2013 at 10:03 am

“I’d had very little to do with her before all this, and although it doesn’t seem kind to say, I hope it stays that way.”

Kindness doesn’t come into it. The woman sounds like a horrible person; don’t feel guilty for not liking her, for avoiding her, and for hoping you don’t have to see her again. Why would you want to? She sounds an absolute witch!

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jessiebird December 10, 2013 at 10:39 am

Based on my lay knowledge and intimate experience with dysfunctional family patterns, I’d speculate the aunt fit right into a system of dynamics that allowed the situation to play out as it did. Sounds like the family of origin is rather non-confrontational. (This is how my family is. So I am very attracted to and enlivened by dynamic, assertive, lively people. This has not always ended well because I don’t easily discern between a natural joie de vivre and pathological narcissism or what have you. Well, my gut discerns but my gut was disconnected from my behavior and conscious feelings through rigorous childhood training.)

I surmise Uncle may have gotten swept into something similar. Aunt is a drama queen and staking out territory, to boot. Don’t worry, OP. She would have found something. It’s especially despicable that she chose a child on whom to begin asserting herself. Toxic. Toxic.

You cannot take it personally. She didn’t even try to give you the benefit of the doubt, even not knowing you well personally AND knowing you were a child. That cannot bode well. Benefit of the doubt is the gift healthy people give each other. Unfortunately, it took me to my 30s to realize I shouldn’t have to prove my value and worthiness to the people close to me and who ostensibly care for me.

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Lex December 10, 2013 at 12:12 pm

OP, glad you updated. It’s probably bad but I’d love to hear more about Aunts behaviour. JWH makes an excellent point and I believe that the REASON for the ban is immaterial and is likely to be justified by increasingly petty reasons. Parents should always defend their children, regardless of what is subsequently said and done behind closed doors. Let me tell you a story that happened to my sister and I when we were about 6 and 8 respectively (I’m the older sibling).

It was tradition in our family to visit my maternal grandparents over the Christmas period. It is important to note here that my mother has two siblings – an older brother and a younger sister. As my father was not close to his family, we usually visited on boxing day and almost invariably spent the day with my Grandparents, Aunt A, Uncle F and my cousin M (Cousins E and D came along later). It was very rare for us to see Uncle T, Aunt J and my cousins (although when we did it was a HUGE treat as we didn’t get to see them often). This event occurred the first Christmas after the death of my Grandfather (although I may be out by a year or two – my memory is a touch hazy about the events after my Grandfathers death).

We turned up at Nans to be greeted by Aunt A (Aunt A and Uncle F are shiftless wastes of space who had moved back in with my Gran before my Grandfather was cold in his grave – Aunt A and Uncle F eventually fleeced my Grandmother of every penny and let her die in misery but that is a story for another day) who told us that Cousin M and Cousin L (daughter of Uncle T) were upstairs. Eagerly my sister and I ran to join them.

We entered the room to find M and L jumping off the top bunk of a bunk bed onto the floor making a horrible amount of noise (L, being the only daughter with 2 older brothers grew up in a household of noise and fun so this was nothing new to her). The purpose of the game was lost on us and my sister and I were stood in a corner not participating when suddenly the door crashed open and Uncle F was in the doorway (he was a scary, fat slob of a man with a horrible temper). He proceeded to advance on my sister and I (not the culprits I might add) and screamed in our faces that if we didn’t stop making this noise he’d slap our faces for us and send us down to our fathers for more. At which point my little sister burst into tears.

In the car on the way, my Dad had told my sister and I that if Uncle F said or did anything to us we were to tell him (he and my mother didn’t trust F at all. Ever). Knowing my fathers temper and feelings about F, my sister and I left the room and went to help Aunt J put the food on the table. I took the opportunity to tell my father what he’d said (quietly) and my Dad said he’d monitor the situation. Now I adore Aunt J, she’s scatty and funny and she handed me a plate of her special recipe flapjacks (which I LOVE) and we walked into the dining room. At this point my sister is nowhere to be seen and Aunt J says ‘I bet you’re hungry after your long journey (It was a fair way to my nans), what do you fancy?’ So I pointed to the flapjacks and said ‘I’d love one of those please’ whereupon Uncle F makes another aggressive entrance shouting at me and telling me that I’ll eat when I’m told to and not before.

At this point my father goes up like Vesuvius and the general gist of the conversation was that Uncle F had no right to discipline his children or to speak to us in that manner.

Big family row ensued resulting in us leaving a mere 30 minutes after we’d arrived with my father ranting and fuming. My mum had just come out of hospital after having a spine operation so she was in a lot of pain and we ended up stopping by my fathers Aunt P so my mother could rest.

The point is that regardless of what happens behind closed doors in your family – regardless of the times my father has shouted at us for making too much noise, regardless of the number of rows and arguments we’ve had, my Dad will ALWAYS defend us to his last breath and this is what SHOULD have happened to you OP.

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ferretrick December 10, 2013 at 12:30 pm

Well, OP, it sounds like you are not a minor anymore, or on the cusp of adulthood, so you will be able to make your own choices whether to associate or not associate with aunt and uncle. I’d recommend not. And if you get married and invite her to your wedding, I recommend sending your thank you note certified mail.

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badkitty December 10, 2013 at 1:41 pm

I wonder if it’s possible that Auntie-in-law was SUPPOSED to send the gift, but DIDN’T send the gift (forgot, changed her mind, gave to someone else) and covered for this in the face of her new husband’s hurt at not hearing from you with this overt display of outrage. Now she’s stuck (in my scenario) in the role of Super-Formal Etiquette Lady and so now she has to react this way at any repetition of your “slight”. For the sake of peace and continued harmony, I suggest that your family take a firm stance against this nonsense now and present a united front against this drama-llama behavior!

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badkitty December 10, 2013 at 1:46 pm

And, OP… there is NOTHING you could have done differently that would have changed this woman’s behavior even a tiny bit. She’s one of those people who is determined to find offense everywhere and needs to get upset; she would have gotten there on her own no matter what you did/said/offered. Now that you know this about her, you’re free to continue as you always have, treat her politely but indifferently and know that when she goes off on one of her tantrums you can just give her the wide-eyed “wow” and then turn aside to someone/something interesting.

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PWH December 10, 2013 at 2:24 pm

I would say the parents and the Aunt and Uncle are all at fault here. The behavior of each individual was inappropriate (interrogating your own child in front of their uncle to establish if they’re telling the truth!), but Auntie’s banning of OP from her house takes the cake. It makes me wonder if there are other children in the family that are also treated this way or if there is a complete double standard. Additionally, do Aunt and Uncle send out thank you cards for every gift they receive? I would definitely be interested in a follow up from OP.

My grandmother is very similar to OP’s Aunt. Although she has never banned us from her house, she has stopped giving gifts to certain people because they forgot to send a thank you note once. Unless the gift wasn’t received in person, I don’t feel that it is necessary to send a note. Additionally, if they are only sending a birthday card without a gift I usually won’t send a note either. G+G never send thank you notes to us or call when they receive gifts (by mail). There have been times in the past that I’ve had to call them to see if they received something and the response is always “Yeah we got it” without so much as a verbal thank you. The double standard carries over to my cousins and younger siblings (all adults) who are never threatened or receive second-hand complaints from their parents.

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AthenaC December 10, 2013 at 3:43 pm

@jessiebird – you need to write a book. Or a blog. Or something. You are very self-aware and articulate; which assures you won’t be stuck in dysfunctional relationships your whole life (unlike some unfortunate souls).

@Lex – great story. I love how your dad stood up for you.

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Angel December 10, 2013 at 9:53 pm

If I were your parents I would have told that b&itch to pound sand, walked out and not come back again until she personally delivered a sincere apology for treating my kid that way. I don’t care who she is–nobody treats my kid this way for such an idiotic manufactured offense. To ban a child for lack of thank you note??? Puh-lease!!

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Elle December 11, 2013 at 3:07 am

When I was a young child, my parents had my siblings and I write thank you notes for gifts that we were given for birthdays, Christmas & etc. One of the reasons was that all our relatives lived overseas and long distance phone calls were too expensive to thank everyone for gifts received. My son writes thank you cards for gifts he receives and even does it to this day after moving out on his own. If a gift was given in person, then the thank you was also given in person to the gift giver.

My brother and sister-in-law on the other hand do not think it is necessary for their children to write thank you notes and I recall one incident that happened at Christmas recently. I had sent each child their own Christmas card with a gift card enclosed. Older sister apparently received hers first, and her younger brother was still waiting for his. SIL called me several times tell me that my nephew hadn’t received his card yet and was getting upset. I was speechless as I didn’t know what to say, other than to give it a few days and let me know if he gets it. I got several more calls within days & SIL was telling me that nephew was getting more and more upset and what was I going to do? I told her to give it a few more days and to get back to me either way. After 3 days I called as I hadn’t heard back from her, she told me he had received it the day after her last phone call.

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Cherry91 December 11, 2013 at 8:48 am

The aunt sounds truly awful, but I’m almost as outraged by the “several minutes of interrogation” by the OP’s father! If my parents and I had been in that situation, it would have gone like so:

Dad: Did you get an X from Uncle?
Me: No.
(Optional depending on context and situation)
Dad: You sure?
Me: Certain
Dad: Ok.

Also, if any member of my family had tried to ban me from a family gathering, I’m pretty sure my Mum would have taken myself and my Dad, turned right around and left, leaving only the weight of her cold polite fury in her wake.

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SV December 11, 2013 at 11:18 am

You’ve got to be kidding me! Even if you *HAD* received the original card and gift, banning someone from your home – after they have travelled to get there!! – is ridiculous, especially since we are talking about a teenager here. Completely unreasonable.

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Mouse December 12, 2013 at 11:44 am

Lex, that’s a great story. Go, Dad!

I am curious: where is OP’s grandma? Why is Grandma letting her daughter-in-law speak to her granddaughter like this, and why didn’t she tell her daughter-in-law to take a chill pill? Shame on the adults for not sticking up for you, OP!

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InTheEther January 12, 2014 at 3:44 am

Oh I would have loved to see the warpath my mom would have went on if a relation tried that on me or my brother (Note, my dad would totally be backing her up but she wouldn’t need the help.)

Since OP obviously has been reading this I’ll state again that the inappropriate one here was your aunt. Not to talk down to you, but in this situation you were a kid and she was an adult. Even if she comes from a background were a formally written thank you is necessary (and I don’t know many who are that formal), the appropriate response would have been to somehow inform you of the correct (in her mind) behavior. I’m not talking a b****y ‘how dare you not send a note’, but maybe just a call or e-mail asking if you had gotten the thing and then a request that you send a note in the future to make her aware that it had arrived. You inform kids when they make a mistake and give them a chance to correct it, not lay down needlessly vindictive punishment (Oh, you can’t come to the house tomorrow like you expected to because you’re being punished for something that happened a year ago).

On another note the only reasonable excuse for straight up banning a kid from your home (specifically a family member) is for extreme behavior issues, definitely not nitpicky etiquette mistakes. And by severe behavior issues I mean throwing temper tantrums way past the age when they should know better, cursing at and berating the adult who owns said home, being violent, and causing property damage. As I said before, kids do get some leeway. That doesn’t mean that you have to put up with a complete out of control brat who breaks something every time they come by or goes into a tantrum the second they hear the word no, but generally a kid who is being given any direction by their parents can be corrected when a mistake is made and there is no need to take the mistake as a personal affront.

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