Gifts For Everyone! Maybe Not……

by admin on December 16, 2015

This is a question about Christmas presents for non-relatives.

Background: my brother is married to a woman named Susan. They have two daughters together. While my brother was serving in Iraq several years ago, Susan cheated on him with Dave. When my brother returned from Iraq, he separated from Susan but hasn’t divorced her due to finances. Susan is living with Dave, who has two children of his own, both older than my nieces. They’ve also had an additional child together. Dave’s older children are teenagers, one with a child of his own.

My brother lives out of state now, and rarely sees his girls. I also live out of state. I don’t even know the boyfriend’s children but I keep in touch with my nieces. The family does not live near my side of the family.

Because my family is so large, we rarely buy Christmas presents for our siblings or nieces and nephews. There are just too many people.

This year, my nieces and their younger sibling sent me a Valentines Day gift for being a great aunt. I was touched because I don’t see them much. For Christmas this year, I decided to send them small gifts. My brother’s daughters have lost both of their biological grandmothers in the past three years (that includes my mother.) They never see my brother. I feel bad for them and want to have a closer relationship.

I sent small gifts to my nieces and included something for their younger sister who thinks of me as an aunt.

I honestly didn’t think to send gifts to the older ones. The girl is a teenager and the boy is a grown man now with his own child. They came into the picture after my brother and Susan separated, and I never knew them. They also have their extended family living nearby.

I got a message from Susan saying the girls received and loved the gifts. Then she reminded me that there are two other “children” in the family that I did not give gifts to.

Help me out here, ehell. If I send anything next year, it will be a family gift card to redbox and some treats. But what do I do this year? Do I let it go? Pretend I didn’t see the message?    1224-13

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Ally December 16, 2015 at 10:11 pm

CJ — all 3 of Susan’s children were included. The two children of her live-in lover were not.

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Lara December 16, 2015 at 11:01 pm

If it was me, I wouldn’t comment on the “other children” remark, just send a short reply saying you’re glad the girls enjoyed their gifts. She must know very well that you don’t have a relationship with the older “children” that would obligate you to give them gifts (not that you are obligated to get any of them gifts), and your silence will hopefully signal to her that this is not an issue you’re willing to get into. And I think that if you just want to give gifts to the young girls again next year, you should do that. If she confronts you a second time, then you just calmly say that it’s not your habit to buy gifts for all your extended family, but that since you don’t get to see your nieces often you want to send them something as a way of fostering the relationship between you. You don’t have a relationship with her older children, and since they are grown or nearly grown anyway, you didn’t think they’d have a problem with not receiving gifts from someone they don’t know.

But in any case, you don’t have to explain yourself to her unless she really pushes you to do it. And don’t apologize or act like you did something wrong.

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NostalgicGal December 17, 2015 at 7:09 am

I’m agreeing especially since the two are older and not blood related, you don’t owe them anything.

I was an only but the family was large and extended and I exchanged with several smaller cousins (there was a 10 year family gap with two of us squarely in the middle. I didn’t belong to either generation). I did receive gifts from these cousins too (1960’s and 70’s, you had a lot of choices $1 or less). I also had to exchange with a few older relatives (godmother aunt and uncle, later step uncle) and on other side one girl cousin that was a year older, and grandparents (two) and parents When my aunt remarried, it was optional about me giving him something but we were rather famous for ‘picking’ on each other so he was included. And that is the point; he was not a blood relative and the first year they were married, it was up to me how I wanted to treat this addition. (note I was 12 and could decide on my own)

OP you are not obligated to gift non blood related family. You’re doing nothing wrong.

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Anon December 17, 2015 at 11:01 am

I see a lot of people assuming the teenagers would feel left out. Why? Why would they expect a present form someone whom they are not related too, whom comes from dad’s new girlfriend’s who is not divorced who he had an affair with family, have not met, etc.?

I mean at this point I would think that they know that the new mistresses’s/gf’s children are not related to them and that those children might get presents from their own relatives who are not related to the teenagers.

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K December 17, 2015 at 11:04 am

For everyone saying the OP should have bought the other children presents – how would that make her brother feel? His wife cheats on him and runs off to play happy families with the man who helped inflict so much pain on him AND his children, and then his sister effectively goes along with it by acting as if they are indeed one big new family. Before he and Susan are even divorced!

In his place, I would be far more hurt by that than Dave’s grown-up kids would be not getting a present from someone they don’t know, have probably never met and are not related to in the slightest.

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Becca December 17, 2015 at 6:07 pm

Oh please. The OP’s brother cannot even be bothered to stay his kids lives and we’re supposed to think of his poor little feelings. In ‘his place’, I’d hope you’d be the adult who would fight for your kids and to be in their lives, even if you cannot get over what your ex had put you through emotionally. It’s cheating, it hurts, it’s ugly but it doesn’t mean you get to be a deadbeat.

Leave the children out of it, you’re the adult. Punishing children for the sins of their parents is the most grotesque act.

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Ernie December 17, 2015 at 6:54 pm

It sounds to me like the OP is having to do her communication to her nieces through their mother. If the OP’s brother wanted some emotional stake in this, he should be involved.

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Nenetl December 17, 2015 at 9:56 pm

Becca, I think it quite presumptuous of you to say that Dave can ‘not be bothered’ to see his children, especially as there was no indication that was the reason. You do not know the lives or circumstances of anyone in this story, you are being frightfully rude making assumptions like that and belittling the feelings of this man, weather or not you was just refuting an argument point.

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EO December 18, 2015 at 10:14 am

If the OP’s brother was involved with his children, then the OP wouldn’t have to deal with Susan – she could interact with her biological nieces through their father, her brother. The mere fact that the OP is going to Susan for every interaction with the nieces is a pretty clear piece of evidence that her brother is not in the picture.

Considering that Susan has allowed the girls to spend an entire week with the OP, Susan is obviously not trying to keep her children from their father’s family. If the OP’s brother actually involved himself with his kids, then the OP could deal with him rather than Susan.

As it stands, the OP is stuck dealing with Susan since her brother seems to have shrugged off his paternal duties. Since that is the case, the OP should be careful not to alienate Susan or Susan’s new family unless she doesn’t feel like maintaining a relationship with her nieces.

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Nenetl December 18, 2015 at 2:27 pm

She may just be dealing with the nieces through Susan because they live with her. Dave lives away. That does not prove at all that he is not in the picture. I’m not saying this as it is true, he might not be involved with his children at all, like Becca initially stated. But I can be unbiased and see that unless we have the entire picture, making assumptions are still just that – Assumptions. Declaring them as fact when we do not know for certain is what I have a problem with here, forgive me if I sound like I am insisting Dave is still in the picture. All I am trying to convey is that it is wrong to make accusations and act as if they are true. By all means discuss possibilities, however Beccas comment came across as if she knew it for fact and was insulting to boot.

Becca December 18, 2015 at 7:08 pm

I’ll be rather rude when children are involved. Even if some folks around here don’t believe that a teenager is a child. They are young, impressionable and vulnerable. Why would we make them out to be anything more than victims in this whole scenario and say that the OP being kind to them is absolutely dreadful because the full-grown-man-brother of the OP might feel bad because they’re the offspring of The Man Who Stole His Wife.

So many people writing off teenagers as these people who are more than capable of understanding because we believe that at their age, we would have felt another way…how long ago were most of us teens? The tales we weave of “in our day” and “teenagers now are so soft” or so be it. No. As a mentor to teenagers even as I’m aging away over here, they are very much still developing and learning. So yes, punishing them for the sins of their parents is gross and unnecessary. Whereas adults should be able to coexist happily ignoring each other when we don’t like or get along with one another.

That and the original comment was a whole lot of presumption as well since if OP is communicating with her Ex-SIL and the kids, that’s their own deal. Why are we dragging Brother’s feelings up in the first place?

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Nenetl December 19, 2015 at 7:32 am

Becca I understand your frustration, and the main point you are trying to argue the side of (The other teenage kids being ‘punished’ and written off as ‘old enough to handle it’ etc) however that was never the point I had an issue with, nor was going to join in the conversation. To me, you could be Right or wrong. A teen at 13 might be very upset. A teen at 18 might be very upset. Maybe they’re not upset at all. But from my point of view, expecting gifts from anybody not your nuclear family at Christmas is rather rude as no one is obliged to get you anything. I also don’t think missing out one one single present is enough to turn somebody into a victim. Am I too a ‘victim’ because family dynamics has caused our family to branch into sects and blank all other sides, only giving gifts to those who they deem ‘worthy’? I just accept it as how it is. From child to now. But again, it was not this point of yours I took any issue with, it was the assuming, and yes there are lots of other posts here of accusatory nature, yours however caught my eye, you lucky thing.

‘How long ago were most of us teens?’ You ask. I’m 20. I’ll let you do the math on that one.

Julia December 17, 2015 at 3:10 pm

Some parents are very sensitive to any slight to their children, and in this case she may mean well, but she’s being ridiculous. There is no reason to send a present to people you are in no way connected with just because they (sort of) share a household. If you, personally, worry about this and want to ease your mind, send something for everyone in the household next year in addition to the gifts to your nieces, a Harry and David box of pears, or something like that. IMO, that would be strictly for your own peace of mind. Otherwise, just continue to send presents to people you have an actual relationship with.

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Dear! December 17, 2015 at 3:42 pm

I would pretend not to have seen it.

Susan was very presumptions, and pretty tacky for her note about the other kids, especially given the situation. It is clear you are trying to be kind and foster a relationship with your nieces, and it was kind of you to send a gift to the new baby, that you have gotten to know. You noted that you do not know the older kids, who are nearly adults. This is a very delicate situation, but I think Susan is the one who didn’t practice good etiquette in this situation. She is basically implying that you are obligated to buy the other kids gifts.

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Twik December 17, 2015 at 9:14 pm

Sometimes one just has to laugh. Your ex-SIL is complaining that when you send gifts to your nieces, you don’t also send them to the children of the man she cheated on your brother with. Are these adults and near adults crying to her that the sister of the man she left isn’t showing them the love they deserve because of … well, I can’t really think what the reason would be. But if you’re entitled, I suppose everyone is supposed to love you just because.

Yep, just ignore her and keep doing what suits you.

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Ellex December 18, 2015 at 3:40 am

Sad to not want to enlarge your family and create a relationship the older stepsisters of your nieces. Very sad. And to include the youngest stepsister has to be a particular sore point.

It would be gracious to include the older children as well. I dunno, to me it seems like inviting someone to my wedding and not extending the invite to his wife.

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Devin December 18, 2015 at 1:01 pm

I see that the OP responded, but my 2 cents are: If they SIL had pressed the issue I would have stated something like “I thought the girls would have fun playing barbies/ponies/cartoons together, I didn’t realize a teenager and grown man would want to play too. Here are 2 more dolls for them.”

Now hearing the SIL wanted OP to take the half sister of the nieces (no blood relation to OP at all) makes me question her more than the cheating issues (we have no idea what the Brother was like as a husband/father).

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mark2 December 19, 2015 at 10:28 pm

Op has included the new child in her gift giving that she is not related to……that opened the door for the mother to have issues that her other children were ignored. Understandable. I believe that if OP had not included the new child, the mother would have understood what was going on and not said anything.

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Mechtilde December 20, 2015 at 5:51 am

If the OP had left the baby out, the mother would have complained even more about that.

In these circumstances, although to OP is not in any way obliged to give gifts to the two other children, it might be expedient to do so, in order to keep on the right side of the mother.

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Michelleprieur December 21, 2015 at 6:12 pm

I can’t believe the posters here suggesting that the OP did anything wrong. She had no obligation to send anything to anyone other than her nieces. Family relations have nothing to do with it. She’s never met them, has no relationship with them, and they are more than old enough to understand that.

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Livvy17 January 5, 2016 at 3:50 pm

Absolutely. I agree.

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Jessica December 22, 2015 at 10:30 am

MY sons live with their father, i was going to send my sons little gifts and I offered to send my ex partner’s new partner’s 5 children token items as they are very young (the youngest is under 2 and the eldest is 13) I was told in a terse email from the new partner that they understood my offer was well meaning but it was inappropriate and borderline creepy and they basically made me feel like a sicko. They then moved and I have no address or any way apart from the email to contact them and they barely reply to that so I cannot even send my sons xmas gifts this year, neither can my sister or my parents. I get 1 phone call for 5 mins every 1-2 months thats the only contact I have with my kids because they (I should say the GF) thinks I am a bad influence on my children and I am unstable because of 1. offering the gifts and 2. For telling my sons I miss them because apparently that is emotional manipulation. my oldest who is 9 refuses to even speak to me anymore.
OP Dont worry, people can be bitches when it comes to children.

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Livvy17 January 5, 2016 at 3:55 pm

Just limit yourself to phone/ email/mail with your neices, then. If they’re old enough to read, there’s nothing saying that you can’t deal with them directly. I don’t see any issue with not giving the entire family presents, as long as there’s not a big show about who was included and who wasn’t. Or, just tell Susan that you don’t give presents to kids you don’t know over the age of 12, or 15, or whatever age you want.

For this year, I would just ignore it, especially if you’re not planning on individual gifts in the future.

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