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Banned For Lack of A Thank You Note

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it took much longer for him, with my uncle acting as a character witness, to convince my aunt of this, but the ban was rescinded and I was allowed into her house to celebrate New Year’s.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.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Basketcase December 9, 2013, 3:09 am

    “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.”
    Phew. I thought I had been really lax in not sending thank you notes to the ladies who gave gifts at my baby shower (baby arrived very soon after and I was slaughtered by PND, so well off my radar). But I thanked them all profusely as I opened the gifts.

    Anyway, back on topic.
    OP, Sounds like a LOT to suddenly expect of a teenager. And a very severe punishment for no good reason. I wonder if you aunt-in-law has other issues with your parents?

  • Lex December 9, 2013, 4:26 am

    Not sending thank you notes is a minor crime compared to the extreme reaction of your Aunt and Uncle BANNING you from their home! This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard! How awful for you!

    If you thanked the person to their face, a written note is not necessary, although this doesn’t count for Wedding gifts as the situation is different. Your Aunt sounds horrible and being the argumentative sort, I might be tempted to buy said Aunt an etiquette book and bookmark the relevant passage about thank you notes.

    Banning you from her home is such a horrible, rude thing to do. The ‘punishment’ doesn’t fit the ‘crime’ at all. Admin is right in that she is an attention seeking drama queen. The problem is that no-one has stood up for you and now you are in the horrible position of being persona non grata at family events – this is unacceptable behaviour and I suggest you phone your Uncle yourself and discuss this with him.

    Having said this, I have a great aunt on my mothers side who is manipulative and unpredictable and will often make declarations like this about one or more members of the family based on some weeks/months/years old perceived slight and I have found that the best way to stay out of the limelight is to fulfil basic familial duties – Christmas cards, thank you cards if she sends gifts (although I have yet to get married and this would be the only occasion for which she would send me a gift) and Get-well cards if I hear she is ill. Staying below the Radar is the best way to deal with these people.

    If I were you, I wouldn’t put up with such behaviour – especially from a non-blood relation and I might be inclined to write her a pithy letter telling her that if she feels so aggrieved at your lack of written thanks following your effusive Face-to-face thanks then you no longer wish to cause her inconvenience and would prefer that she no longer concern herself with giving you gifts. Let one of your siblings/cousins bear the brunt of her pettiness. She is singling you out for ‘punishment’ when it is not warranted – this is wrong on so many levels. Don’t let her wield any power over you.

  • Marozia December 9, 2013, 5:10 am

    You don’t have to send a thank-you note for every gift, card or invite that you receive, otherwise you’d be glued to the table writing them!!
    Admin is right. What did your parents & grandma doing when your aunt was dressing you down?
    Does your aunt do this to other friends and family members or is this just directed at you?
    It sounds like you are very close to your family, but giving this drama llama a wide berth sounds like a great idea.

  • AnaLuisa December 9, 2013, 5:25 am

    Just for the record – where I come from we do not send/receive thank-you notes – we do thank for the presents, but do it in person/by phone, whichever is most convenient at the moment. The first time I learned about almost the obligatory sending thank-you notes was this forum and I was genuinely surprised when reading how seriously can a person get offended for not receiving one, and realize how easily I could – unbeknownst – commit what seems an unforgivable faux pas.

    I acknowledge that there are different patterns of behaviour in different countries, but is this custom indeed rooted so deep that not fulfilling it is perceived as such an outrageous offense (given that the person concerned might even not know about this custom, and provided he/she thanks in person and genuinely considers this sufficient, exactly as I would before reading this forum).

    As for the OP’s situation, I consider 1) extremely rude to ban a visitor (who has moreover already arrived) from my house (or not even my house, if it was Granny’s), 2) extremely nitpicky and self-centered to do so for such a trivial reason.

    Put mildly, your aunt-in-law must be a VERY difficult person to deal with.

  • flora December 9, 2013, 6:18 am

    Not only do I think your Aunt is rude, I think she’s mean. I also wonder where your parents were in all this. If that happened to my child, I’d turn around and take her out to eat or something. A house that isn’t going to welcome my child for something that small, is not a house I want to enter.

  • Charliesmum December 9, 2013, 6:21 am

    Where did the Aunt expect you to go at Christmas if you weren’t welcome in their house? I’m assuming you are still a minor at this point, so did she think your parents were going to just leave you sit alone at Christmas?

    The fact that they didn’t even try to find out if you’d received the gift – that would have been my first thought upon not hearing from you – before declaring you persona non grata just makes it seem like the Aunt was just looking for a reason to stir up drama.

    And I think expecting anyone, especially a teenager, to send a thank you note for simply hosting a family gathering is ridiculous.

    I hope you respond again, OP, because I too want to know what your parents’ thoughts are in this situation. It really sounds like Auntie is a drama lama to the nth degree.

  • Kimstu December 9, 2013, 6:22 am

    What Admin said. The rudeness of explicitly “banning” a family member (who isn’t even an adult yet) from a family celebration in one’s home as a punishment for not sending a written thank-you for a gift FAR exceeds the rudeness of the lapse it’s supposed to be punishing.

    If somebody isn’t thanking you for presents, the only appropriate polite response is to stop giving them presents. And if the recipient complains about the gift flow drying up, you just sweetly explain that you felt bad that you never managed to find anything that pleased them.

  • ferretrick December 9, 2013, 6:38 am

    This is the kind of person where you say “have a nice life then” and wash your hands of them and do not allow them to wreck your serene calm. If she causes this kind of drama over thank you notes (particularly from teenagers who are still learning etiquette lessons), your aunt is a very sad person who goes through life searching for reasons to get offended. What’s more, your uncle is obviously a weak and easily intimidated man if he goes along with this nonsense rather than stand up to his wife. And finally, I think you need to tell your parents, in so many words, “Mom, Dad, it’s been established that I never received the gift. Even if I had, failure to send a thank you note is a not an offense worthy of banning someone from your home and it hurts that you didn’t stand up for me more. I am disappointed in you.”

  • Lo December 9, 2013, 7:01 am

    I’m of the belief that children should never be punished by the gift giver for things like this.

    Obviously you meant no harm. But even children in my family who don’t send thank you notes, I don’t ignore them, I don’t issue them ultimatums, and I don’t stop giving them gifts. Reason being, young children who don’t send thank you notes obviously don’t have parents that make it a priority, not their fault. And children who are old enough to know better may not have the framework laid down by the parents in the first place. I have a family member who always told me cheerfully, “Don’t bother to send a note,” when she gave me a gift. Years later I never receive one from her own kids and no big surprise. No harm done.

    Your aunt is ridiculous and cruel.

  • Alie December 9, 2013, 7:41 am

    Yeah, the whole point of etiquette is to acknowledge people and make others feel respected and comfortable. It is NOT a weapon to be used against others.

    Banning people from your home based on a perceived slight is using the rules of etiquette as a weapon – and in the meantime failing to see your own rudeness.

    However, I think someone willing to ban a child from their home is past any help. I feel very, very sorry for your uncle.

  • LizaJane December 9, 2013, 8:48 am

    It sounds to me like the aunt is a fit pitcher and everyone goes along to appease her. My husband’s sister is like this and he was always and outcast because of.org. I also refused to play and actually told them they were being rediculous. The grandparents got on board and things were better until they died, then she started back with a vengeance. I haven’t spoken to her in 4 years and don’t miss her at all.

  • LizaJane December 9, 2013, 8:49 am

    It sounds to me like the aunt is a fit pitcher and everyone goes along to appease her. My husband’s sister is like this and he was always and outcast because of her antics. I also refused to play and actually told them they were being rediculous. The grandparents got on board and things were better until they died, then she started back with a vengeance. I haven’t spoken to her in 4 years and don’t miss her at all.

  • SS December 9, 2013, 9:10 am

    I would send them a copy of an established etiquette book (ie – Emily Post, Miss Manners, etc…) with the pages marked that refer to not sending written thank-you’s for gifts opened in person and possibly a note asking them what etiquette rule they feel that you had broken. Actually, I’m much more snarky and would possibly add an additional question asking them to highlight which other rules in the book that they did not agree with and that would cause me to be banned in the future for obeying. But since this is an etiquette site, you should probably ignore that second part. 😀

  • SS December 9, 2013, 9:16 am

    @basketcase…… You mentioned Baby Shower thank you notes…. Even though the gifts are opened in person, that’s one of the special cases where the written notes are usually expected. I’m not saying this to be mean or to criticize you at all, just clarifying the expectation….. http://www.emilypost.com/social-life/gift-giving-and-receiving/880-appropriate-thank-you-notes

  • Huh December 9, 2013, 9:23 am

    As a parent of a child around the age you mentioned, I’m more annoyed with uncle/aunt than anyone. Even if you had gotten the present (which you didn’t) and hadn’t written the thank you note, I the parent wouldn’t be too thrilled with an adult starting drama with/over a child saying they weren’t welcome in their house after we’ve traveled several states away to visit them for the holidays. Because at that point, what are your parents supposed to do? Turn around and go back? Make you sit in the car the whole time? Make you sit in the hotel by yourself the whole time? Make one parent visit, the other stay home with you? (Which almost makes me wonder if THAT is exactly what they were going for, to make your mom stay home with you so only dad can come.) The fact that they waited to spring this on your family, is way more rude and drama queenish than a teenager not writing a thank you note. That seems to be more of a tell me and I’ll talk to child about it situation, or uncle talk to child about it and say, “hey you know it’s rude not to send thank you notes for presents. People won’t send you things anymore if you’re rude like that.”

    Also the fact that no one believed you initially (and it took convincing for the aunt) is also annoying. Especially your dad – I would think he would notice if you had received a package/present. No “several minutes of interrogation” needed, I’d think it would go more like: “Brother, your child is awful because he/she didn’t write a thank you note for the Whatchamadingle we sent.” “What Watchamadingle? I’ve never seen Child with one. Child, did you ever receive a Watchamadingle from Uncle?” “No.” END.

    By the end of this tale, with uncle calling dad to say child was once again not welcome in the home because they didn’t write a formal thank you note after Christmas for the presents relatives were thanked for in person (and once again, what does this mean for your parents? That they leave you at home? Or one of them stay home?) Evil Me would probably help the child write an over-the-top thank you note to aunt about the glorious presents given, how the angels sang, the heavens wept and the child will never be able to express enough thanks, not even if they traveled to the ends of the earth and the highest mountains to sing the praises of the aunt’s generosity. And I’d be telling uncle that we won’t be making the several states away trip anymore to visit since the whole family is not welcome.

  • Cat December 9, 2013, 9:36 am

    Your aunt is making drama where none should exist. I’d ban you if you made threatening phone calls to the President from my home, got me investigated by the FBI, burned my family Bible, shot my dog, and torched the house. But for a thank-you note? No.
    If it is of any comfort to you, I have done far worse; I was older than you are; and I did it intentionally. A neighbor sent me a check for my high school graduation. I was seventeen and wrote my thank-you notes promptly, but forgot the neighbor’s. She was a very nice lady.
    My grandmother, who lived with us and did things to me that caused me to hate her, came to me and told me the neighbor had said she had not received a thank-you note. I would have immediately written her one had not my grandmother added, “I told her I’d make you write her one.” stress on the “make” with a sneer and a demanding voice. I never wrote that thank-you note because I was not going to allow my grandmother to “make” me do anything.
    I’d let my parents handle the aunt. The less you are exposed to her, the better. She is not a role model for the woman you want to become.

  • Ergala December 9, 2013, 9:40 am

    This is heart breaking. OP I’m an in awe that your father even grilled you. As a teenager my parents knew exactly what I got for mail so there would have been no need for interrogating me. And who on earth sends a thank you note for a CARD?!?!?!? But your parents need to stand up for you and and make sure your aunt and uncle understand that this behavior will absolutely NOT continue. If you are not welcome in their home then neither are your parents and the aunt and uncle will not be welcome in your home either. That is just outright despicable. My mind is simply blown away by this. I can’t imagine allowing someone to ban my sons from their home simply because of a thank you note. I protect my children and sometimes that even means from family members.

  • acr December 9, 2013, 9:52 am

    Aunt sounds mean, almost evil. I hope that after this second incident your father stopped giving aunt the benefit of the doubt and backed you up.

    My heart hurts for you. I hate it when nasty people use the holidays to harm family members.

  • Mae December 9, 2013, 9:57 am

    Wow. I’m with everyone else. Why did your parents, grandmother and uncle allow this person to ban you from a home and fuss at you for a not sending a thank-you for something you never received? From the post, it seems to have been your grandmother’s house so why was this aunt allowed to ban you from a home that is not even hers? Did everyone else in the family send her a thank you note for every little thing? This woman sounds like a real piece of work. I would stay far, far away from her.

    As a teenager, after being treated this way, I probably would have asked to go home. I am just flabbergasted that your family, especially your parents, did not do more to shut her down. No way I would let anyone do that to my children.

    Not only does this aunt sound like an attention-seeking drama queen, she sounds downright cruel. I would never ban a teenager from a family holiday over a thank you note.

  • Wild Irish Rose December 9, 2013, 10:16 am

    “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.” I disagree but not completely. If you receive gifts at a shower, even though you thank your guests as you open the gifts, you most assuredly should send thank-you notes, expressing appreciation not only for the gifts but also for your guests’ attendance at your shower. However, the family Christmas thing I think is a little more relaxed and doesn’t require a formal thank-you note.

    That said, OP, your aunt-in-law is mean, cruel, and spiteful. Who refuses a teenage guest because a thank-you note from her wasn’t received? And why does your uncle put up with that? If I had behaved that way toward my husband’s young relatives, guess who would actually be banned from the house? What a hateful woman.

  • Pen^2 December 9, 2013, 10:17 am

    Your aunt is obviously batty, over the top, and out to create drama.

    If I were in the position of either of your parents, though, I’d be extremely upset that someone was using you as a catalyst for their nasty drama-creating tendencies, and would address that rather than interrogating you. I’m much more concerned that your parents don’t think that your aunt’s behaviour is toxic and extremely petty, which it absolutely is. Even if you did forget to write a thank-you note, it’s not even worth discussing, because it’s ridiculous to ban someone from a home because of it! I’m rather shocked that your father even took the time to interrogate you about this when it clearly doesn’t matter. “Such-and-such drank my coke without my permission, so I’m stealing $1000 from her bank account.” “Well, Such-and-such, is this true? Did you really steal the coke?” Yeeeeeah no. Correct response: “What is wrong with you? That reaction is completely unjustified and over the top. Are you insane??”

    As admin has pointed out, even if you truly did something worth being banned from (another person’s) home, there is no excuse to not tell the person until they show up. That is only done to heighten the drama–people have to deal with it on the spot this way.

    It also looks like aunt is out to get you. Maybe she’s decided that you’re an easy target, who knows? But it’s incredibly unlikely that no-one else has thanked her properly face-to-face and not sent a card. She wants drama and is using you to make it. In your position, I’d speak to your parents, and ask them what you can all do next time (there probably will be a next time) she decides to bully you like this. Settle on a concrete plan, not a vague answer. It’ll make it harder for her to single you out when she sees you have support (e.g. you and your parents working together instead of being thrown into confusion and interrogating each other about something while missing the huge ridiculous elephant in the room), and hopefully she won’t target you next time.

  • Raven December 9, 2013, 10:20 am

    The upside of being banned would be never having to deal with Aunt Grouchy going forward.

    She sounds a little unhinged, OP. And thumbs down to your parents for not being more upset about their act of banning.

  • Glitter December 9, 2013, 10:23 am

    My family was pretty much, no thank you notes except for wedding gifts and job interviews. When I was a kid most of them preferred a phone call from me over a note anyways (mostly because I hated talking on the phone, I would’ve rather written a note), so I really never thought about it for years.

    Now I’m a grown-up and I send thank you notes because I like too and I understand etiquette better. I’m figuring you were maybe in your mid-late teens? I can’t imagine banning a kid from my home (or anyone) for lack of a thank you card. The unrecieved gift I would’ve addressed with your parents. “Gee, Brother, we sent Niece a thingy for her birthday, but she hasn’t mentioned anything about it. Did she not like it?” at which point your dad could ask you about it and you could say you didn’t recieve it and uncle and aunt would drop it. And like admin said, you opened the gift in front of them and thanked them in person, a thank you card wasn’t necessary. But even if she really wanted one because of reasons, the right would’ve been for your uncle to go to your dad and say “Hey Brother, Wife is really into thank you cards, it’d make her feel really good to receive a thank you note from Niece for the Christmas present. I know it’s not something our family really does, but it’s important to her”.

    Banning your niece because she didn’t live up to your expectations is ridiculous.

  • abf December 9, 2013, 10:29 am

    I need clarification on this. Was the birthday gift in question ever actually received? The way I’m understanding this is that the teen is being chastised over a gift he/she never actually received. I’m thinking the aunt and uncle should be embarrassed for jumping to conclusions. Why did they not follow up to confirm delivery of the gift? Where are the parents standing up and confirming that the kid never received the gift? I don’t get it. Did the teen’s family receive written thank you notes for the gifts given to the aunt and uncle? Is this a “do as I say but not as I do” situtaion?

  • Library Diva December 9, 2013, 10:33 am

    This is a perfect example of using etiquette as a weapon. Whatever etiquette sins you may have committed pales in comparison to a grown woman standing at the door of someone else’s home on the holidays, refusing admittance to a teenager who has traveled several states to spend time with her family because of this slight. I’m sorry that this woman has become part of your family. Your father needs to stand up to your uncle over this, and your uncle needs to have a serious chat with his wife about the effect she’s having on his family.

  • AS December 9, 2013, 10:41 am

    I was always brought up to believe that a telephone “thank you” is a perfectly acceptable way of thanking someone for a gift that was sent rather than given directly. In the country I was brought up, letters would be lost in the mail frequently, and the chances of the Thank You cards not making it is quite high. Also, when you call up and talk to a person, you end up actually talking with them more than about the gift, and that is, IMHO, is a wonderful thing because you are actually keeping in touch.

    As the admin said, this Aunt-in-law seems to be a drama queen and a control freak. And outright cruel! You father was told that you are banned from your grandmother’s house – by whom? By your grandmother? Your Uncle? The Aunt-in-law? And if it wasn’t your grandmother (or grandfather, or someone who actually lived in that house), who has the authority to ban someone from someone else’s house? It is cruel to ban a family child from a Christmas get-together. I have seen several questions with the advise columnists about what to do during festival season with a family member who has a criminal record. Debarring a child just for the lack of “Thank You” notes (for a gift they didn’t even receive!) is way over the top! If it ever had happened to me, my parents would have left immediately, or gone to a hotel if they can’t go back home! Holidays are about love, and not about starting such a rift between families.

  • Allie December 9, 2013, 10:51 am

    Who “bans” someone, especially a kid, from their home for every little perceived slight? Is your family supposed to leave you at home when they visit? Ridiculous. If someone doesn’t display any appreciation for a gift, don’t get them another one. It sounds like your Aunt enjoys drama and playing the victim. She wants everyone to fawn over her. Don’t feed the beast. If I were you I would politely decline any future gifts. And hopefully your father will decline future invitations unless and until you are included. Call her bluff!

  • Wendy B. December 9, 2013, 10:52 am

    If the aunt is going to go THAT overboard to the point of banning you from their house, I think I’d cut my losses at this point. Eventually they’re going to be alone on the holidays and will have no one to blame but themselves.

  • Whodunit December 9, 2013, 10:56 am

    And this is exactly why I think we put way too much emphasis and drama on thank you’s. Yes, we should do them, but proper etiquette would dictate that we don’t make such a fuss when we don’t receive one.

  • The OP December 9, 2013, 11:13 am

    Over the 10 years that I’ve read this forum, I’ve always found it extremely odd that SO MANY people get offended by lack of thank-you cards, delay of thank-you cards, etc. I follow etiquette and ALWAYS send thank you cards for wedding or shower gifts, but when I give a wedding or baby shower gift I’m not glued to my mailbox, lying in wait for the thank you card to come and then counting the number of days it took to receive the card. When I give a gift, it’s a GIFT and I am not looking for a pay-off of any kind that apparently some people get when receiving a thank you card. A gift is freely given, with no expectation of anything in return. It is of course very nice, and even an etiquette requirement to send a thank you card ASAP when receiving a wedding or shower gift, but the gift-giver should not put so much stock into the thank you card, in my humble opinion.

    As for this particular situation, I believe that the aunt absolutely over-reacted. As one previous poster said, if we all wrote thank you cards every time someone hosted us or gave us a gift, we would all be glued to the table writing for the rest of our lives! She is unreasonable and is being aided by other relatives, who should have put the drama queen in her place.

  • Stacey Frith-Smith December 9, 2013, 11:15 am

    Shower givers and wedding attendants who see the honoree open gifts are going to anticipate a thank you note, as will most attendees where at an event where there is an honoree (birthday party, graduation etc..) But your aunt has crossed over into The Great Beyond, dragging your hapless family with you. Take no notice of her at all. As for your parents- I can think of no reason for their failure to protect you (and themselves) from Crazyville.

  • Stacey Frith-Smith December 9, 2013, 11:16 am

    Oops, an extra “where” or two- sorry! (Monday…)

  • DGS December 9, 2013, 11:26 am

    I agree with the PP’s who noted that OP’s Aunt-in-law is a manipulative drama queen, however, I respectfully disagree with Lex that writing Aunt-in-law a pithy letter declaring that one will wash one hands off her would be helpful. It usually does not resolve drama to foment more drama in return. However, I would encourage OP to not play into the Aunt and Uncle’s drama by participating in it – distance yourself from them, respectfully request that no more gifts be send you way lest more drama follows, and that is all one can do. Surely, upon such peace and quiet on OP’s end, either Aunt and Uncle will try to foment more drama (which when not responded to would die down) or will move on to torment someone else in the family.

    In the culture I grew up in, thanks were also given in person or by phone, and thank-you notes are unheard of – however, having spent several years in the American South, I learned the importance of those, and now, I give verbal and phone thanks to people from my culture and verbal and written thanks to everyone else.

  • Lilac December 9, 2013, 11:26 am

    This woman is out of control. Your parents need to take this in hand and tell her that she is completely out of line. Why does she have any kind of control of who is invited to your grandmother’s home anyway? If your grandmother let’s this woman get away with this, your parents need to make that the last Christmas you celebrate at her home until your aunt and her allies find the minds they’ve seemed to have lost.

  • Shalamar December 9, 2013, 11:33 am

    How ridiculous! In my family, ANY thank-you will suffice – be it in person, by phone, by e-mail, or by snail mail. The only time my mother has ever really gotten upset about someone’s lack of gratitude was when she received no thanks whatsoever for a fairly generous graduation cheque – not even a quick e-mail saying “Thanks for the loot.”

    This reminds me a bit of when my grandmother was alive. Nana was a rather difficult person who easily took offense. She lived in Britain, and I lived in Canada. One year she got very upset with me and sent an angry letter to my parents, demanding to know why she hadn’t received a thank-you note for the Christmas present she’d sent my children. (Yes, I was old enough to have children of my own, and yet she was expressing her anger with me to my parents. Go figure.) My parents called me, and I said in bewilderment “But I never got a gift from her.” This was late January, by the way. The mystery was solved a few weeks later when the package finally arrived, and it was revealed that Nana had hopelessly botched my address. (How it eventually found its way to me is another mystery!)

  • Sarah Jane December 9, 2013, 11:36 am

    There is never any reason to ban a CHILD (especially a FAMILY MEMBER) from one’s home for ANY reason that does not involve a serious safety issue. (Sorry, this story made me mad.)

    I agree with admin…why did your parents put up with this garbage?

    Auntie either has psychological issues or is extremely unhappy and cruel. Either way, she should never have been allowed to take this out on you. If you’d been my daughter, you’d have never heard about this. Aunt and Uncle would have probably never seen any of us again.

  • PJ December 9, 2013, 11:37 am

    If not receiving an thank-you not for hosting a party, and for a gift that was never received is enough for this woman to ban a kid from her home, she isn’t someone I’d care to visit with much. Her need for multiple people vouching for your character certainly makes her sounds like an emotional control freak! I’m sorry she’s a package-deal with your uncle now.

    I find it sad that you had to defend yourself to your father against this woman. My first impression is that she set your parents on the defensive with her accusations. It makes me imagine her as some newcomer to the family who is trying to broadcast their shortcomings and pointing her fingers at the horrible way the kids have been raised.

    Did your parents send a thank-you to the aunt for hosting a party? If not, were they banned as well? Perhaps not; it’s easier to pick on a kid, isn’t it?

  • AthenaC December 9, 2013, 11:49 am

    “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.”

    Really? I was always taught to send one anyway, with exceptions for things like small hostess gifts or hand-me-downs.

    That being said, being the thank-you-note police benefits no one and I cannot understand the mentality of someone who takes such serious offense at not receiving a note, especially if they have already been thanked face-to-face.

  • Library Dragon December 9, 2013, 11:51 am

    I’m with Charliesmum. Where were you expected to go OP? Wait in the car? Aunt is with worst sort of drama queen, not just seeking attention, but to harm another person. It reminds me of DH’s aunt who called MIL to complain that I hadn’t sent a thank you for a baby gift. Of course MIL called DH who asked me. I pointed out that we hadn’t received it and asked when it was mailed. THE DAY BEFORE!

    The point is OP, you cannot be held accountable for a gift you did not receive. The attempt to shame you not once but twice is an over the top reaction and manipulative. Your ban is not acceptable.

  • haji December 9, 2013, 11:56 am

    This posts reminds me so much of my late maternal grandmother. I too was guilty of not sending thank you notes, or notes of any kind really, until I was much older. This was not satisfactory for my GM however. She would go so far as to send letters with self-addressed stamped envelopes enclosed so “we’d have no excuse” not to write back. Thing is, we were kids, and had no concept of letter writing, nor motivation to write to a person we’d met in person exactly twice. (FWIW, we did speak to her on the phone during my mother’s weekly call – never was there any mention of lack of letters.) After many years of this, and not having any backing from my parents, our annual holiday gift (a check for gifts) was suspended.

    As an adult, though, I’ve gotten pretty good at Thank you notes, and would gladly send them on behalf of my child until they reach the age when they can handle it themselves. But there needs to be accountability and realistic expectations on both sides here. If your parents raised you with the practice of thanking someone over the phone and/or in person, then your aunt should recognize this, and respect that. However, if you received gifts and never said thank you, then she has a reason to feel hurt. Banning someone from the house is a bit too far, imho.

  • Calli Arcale December 9, 2013, 12:19 pm

    It is very nice to send people thank-you cards even if you’ve had the chance to thank them in person — but it is never obligatory as long as you have thanked them in some manner. And to ban you from family gatherings over it? Now that really is ridiculous, and I find myself wondering just what it is your aunt lacks in life that she finds it necessary to create massive family dramas over something so trivial. I mean, that’s the nuclear option when it comes to family gatherings, banning a relative from your house, to be reserved for things like having trashed the house at the last party or attempted murder or something along those lines. It’s not for “I didn’t feel a sufficient amount of gratitude was conveyed.”

    And it’s not something mercenary. If she just felt gifts require a certain form of response, then she’d just stop giving gifts. Waiting until the last second to destroy the family gathering by announcing *then* that you’re banned is a way to maximize drama. It’s certainly not good manners.

  • Kovi December 9, 2013, 12:33 pm

    Frankly, I don’t care if you never thanked anyone at all – literally BANNING someone from your house for such a petty reason is beyond crazy! Especially someone who seems to be a minor! (For the record, I don’t believe you did anything wrong here at all. But even if you had, it would have been a very minor offense. Something most anyone else should shrug at and say, “Ah well.”).

  • Bbdonahue December 9, 2013, 12:33 pm

    I agree with the above posters. Your aunt is obviously looking to start drama and to paint herself as the poor, unappreciated victim. Do the bare minimum to not give her any ammunition against you. If something like this happens again, ask her in a confused voice “But I already thanked you when you gave me the present and I unwrapped it, didn’t I”, or “You sent me a present, I never received it”.

  • acr December 9, 2013, 12:35 pm

    Re-reading your post – was your mother not present? I only see you mention your father. His behavior was bizarre. He interrogated you about your aunt’s present – how is a man not aware of what his daughter recieves or doesn’t recieve in the mail? Perhaps your parents are divorced and you lived with your mom? Even so, he should not have interogated you at that time.

    Secondly, I find it very sad that he took you to spend Christmas with an inlaw who had been so horrible to you in the past.

    Thirdly, did he send a thank you note after the Christmas you spent with Aunt Horrible? If so, did he not include you in that note? Why not?

  • Harley Granny December 9, 2013, 12:36 pm

    I’d be doing a little happy dance that I no longer have to deal with this person.

    What’s sad is that she’s bullying you thru your Uncle and your Father…..what’s sadder is that they aren’t protecting you.

    Next year send her an etiquette book that deals with the art of “Thank you “.

  • just4kicks December 9, 2013, 12:54 pm

    The sentence that got my dander up, “after several minutes of interrogation by father….”.
    My sympathy goes out to you, Dear. Your own dad didn’t believe you that you never received the gift?!?
    That is truly sad.

  • PrincessButtercup December 9, 2013, 12:59 pm

    Personally a thank you is a thank you. Anyway it is given has value. No method is more sincere over another one. In fact while a thank you is a great thing, it must not be a requirement. A gift is something you give because you want to. If there are strings or requirements attached then it is not a gift, it is a transaction. Your “payment” for that item is you giving them attention.

    My mother-in-law tends to be too obsessed with card requirements. I’ll thank her multiple times in person but if I don’t also send a card then she’ll bad mouth me to my husband. She takes the joy out of gifts. To me it’s a desperate need for attention and glory and I don’t care to play into it.

  • Shyla December 9, 2013, 1:18 pm

    I have an aunt who is insane about thank you notes. She was across country and did not give us any gifts until she moved closer about 10 years ago and she now comes to our family Christmas gathering. I am now in my 40s. If she does not receive a thank you email within 24 hrs after giving me a present, which I thanked her for in person, she starts with dramatic emails to my parents about how awful I am and how her life is ruined, etc. so then I have my father giving me a hard time about it. It’s not worth it. I try to ignore her the rest of the year because nothing I do is correct.

    I would never do this to a child. It’s horrible to put all your expectations onto children, esp other people’s children. They are still learning and growing. It’s not right to be that mean.

  • June First December 9, 2013, 1:22 pm

    How very ridiculous. A lack of a thank you note (if you feel slighted) is the cue to say to the recipient, “Oh, just wanted to make sure you received the gift. Did it arrive on time?”

    I wonder if the aunt feels OP has slighted her in other ways, or if she’s just generally difficult.

  • Filiagape December 9, 2013, 1:24 pm

    I am stunned at this. Why is your father interrogating you over whether you received the present for which you did not send a thank you note if he never taught you this was an expectation? If my sister-in-law pulled this with my daughter I would have found something else for my whole family to do New Year’s Eve and made no attempt to “appease” this woman. There is no suggestion that anyone indicated or thought she was out of line, only efforts to convince the aunt and uncle that OP did not commit the “crime” of which she was accused. This sends the message to the OP and the aunt that if she had committed said crime, the punishment was reasonable and understandable. It was not. Where are the member of OP’s family supporting her?

    The aunt has joined a new family with their own customs and norms to to be negotiated and adapted to. This is no doubt only the first of many drama-filled events with this woman as the family seems way too prepared to cave to her tantrums and demands and to sacrifice other family members to her whims. I’d stay as far from this woman as possible and let my parents know how hurt I was that they chose catering to the new sister-in-law over me and my feelings.