Etiquette Hell

General Etiquette => Life...in general => Holidays => Topic started by: Calypso on December 25, 2015, 01:23:31 PM

Title: It would be rude to say "NO more presents," wouldn't it? Update #6, Final #21
Post by: Calypso on December 25, 2015, 01:23:31 PM
(Sorry for the length)

 >:(


Not feeling the holly jolly here.

I have 2 sisters and one brother, and various nieces and nephews.
About 10 years or so ago, Older Sis 1 and I suggested to the other sibs that we stop exchanging presents, and focus on the younger generation(s).  (We all have plenty of stuff and can all afford to buy ourselves whatever we need, if not every last thing we want).

Well, Older Sis 1 and I have pretty much stuck to this. Older Sis 2, not so much, but I'm not sure she ever agreed to it in the first place, and she gives little symbolic gifts and doesn't expect anything in return, so, fine.

But Little Bro ("Little" is relative here, he's in his 50s) and, now, his wife, won't get with the program.
Why this is a problem is basically because, even though we all inherited the same amount from my Dad, little Bro rant though his money really really fast and has not lived one year since without "borrowing" (never a dime paid back) from Mom. So I think it was fair for us to say "no presents, please." He did continue his tradition of making and giving cookies, ok, that's nice.

But his wife, who I love to pieces, is a "gifts are love" shopper type person.

So now my Mom, my DH and I are looking with a jaundiced eye at three giant shopping bags of presents they thrust on us last night after our family get-together dinner out (and their company was all we wanted). It's awful to say, but I am looking at opening these things as a chore, not a pleasure.

Mom had to give them thousands of thousands of dollars this year, just so they could meet their living expenses. And I gave SIL some more thousands when her very sick mother had a crises that the insurance didn't cover. And neither of us regret those gifts. But we wish they wouldn't spend on buying us gifts! 

Not to mention the useless clutter factor.

I did ask my brother directly, right after Thanksgiving, not to buy us presents, but I was too late, I guess. "We already shopped," he said (don't know if that was true or he just doesn't want to say no to SIL's love of shopping).

My Mom also asked him not to buy us stuff.

We've asked, they've ignored us. Is there anything else we can do and not violate good manners?


















Title: Re: It would be rude to say "NO more presents," wouldn't it?
Post by: Momiitz on December 25, 2015, 01:47:28 PM
If I were in your shoes, I would make a pact with the rest the family not to give them any more money. It looks like they have plenty of money to survive they just choose not to use it in a way that is consistent with paying their living expenses.

 Also looks like that you and your mother both need to sit down with your brother and help him and his wife with their finances. Since you are loaning or giving them money it is your business . 
Title: Re: It would be rude to say "NO more presents," wouldn't it?
Post by: magicdomino on December 25, 2015, 02:43:40 PM
Any chance some of that stuff is returnable for cash?  You could give the money to your mother to replace the "borrowed" money.
Title: Re: It would be rude to say "NO more presents," wouldn't it?
Post by: cicero on December 25, 2015, 04:41:06 PM
Normally I would suggest you say thank you and move on.  But essentially,  these aren't gifts from your brother and sil;they are gifts from your mom and you, since that's who's been paying some /much /most of their bills.

So *in this situation only*I would not accept the gifts (other than homemade goodies), and I would tell them why: "brother,  we appreciate the gesture but we e told you that we don't do the gift thing anymore and we especially do not want to accept these from you.  Please return them and use that money to [pay your bills/pay back what you borrowed /put toward your savings]. "
Title: Re: It would be rude to say "NO more presents," wouldn't it?
Post by: Bales on December 25, 2015, 05:53:36 PM
If possible, I would return them for cash or store credit and think of that as my "pay back" for the cash gifts I gave throughout the past year.  And I would tell brother now and again before October of next year that you will not be able to accept any gifts in the future.  If they ask for more money in the future - whether you are able/willing to give it or not - use that as another time to say you won't be accepting gifts, too.
Title: Re: It would be rude to say "NO more presents," wouldn't it?
Post by: FauxFoodist on December 25, 2015, 09:26:13 PM
I would not provide them with any more money.  They are never going to learn to properly handle their finances if they always have you and/or your mom bailing them out.  I have an aunt who's almost 70 years old and has never been financially responsible (my grandmother was always bailing her out, at Aunt's request).  Grandma's been gone four years now, but Aunt and Uncle ave been taking the money collected from Grandma's rental properties and keeping it (the rest of the family, Mom and her other siblings, are trying to change this but all the properties are in their home country, which is where Aunt and Uncle live).  Once Mom and the rest are successful in getting control from Aunt, I have no idea what's going to happen to Aunt and Uncle financially (and no one cares as they are not good individuals).
Title: Re: It would be rude to say "NO more presents," wouldn't it? Update 6
Post by: Calypso on December 29, 2015, 12:25:36 AM
Bleh.

So we had a nice, quiet Christmas and a busy 26th and 27th. 
I guess we were expected to have called and gushed over the gifts because on the 27th my bro called my Mom and asked, did I like my present? Mom took the opportunity to explain that all the gifts were beautiful, but we would prefer for reasons of not having room, etc, not to get presents, and she wanted Bro and SIL to take them back. Bro got upset, defensive, "we were only trying to be nice!", Mom reassured him he was very nice, but, still.

Later in the day I talked to my oldest sis on the phone and we commiserated over the situation (they also sent her a gift she wished they had not).
It's standard for sis and I to talk about almost everything, but this time it was a grave mistake. She called bro this morning (the 28th) and, in his words, "bawled him out." There couldn't be a worse dynamic here; oldest sis is incapable of acting like anything but the Big Sister with bro, and she always gets his back up.

The excrement hit the propeller. Bro called Mom and complained. She said, "don't scold me for what your sister said; as for me, I said what I meant, but I didn't mean to upset SIL."

An hour later I get a text from bro:  "Sis, I'm sorry we got gifts. Big Sis called to Female Dog me out. SIL didn't really get to buy gifts for her Mom this year (note: her Mom, since last Christmas, has descended deep into dementia and has many serious health problems) and she just wanted to be part of our family. It's not like we spent hundreds of dollars. We were just trying to be nice. You and Big Sis and Mom  could have at least been thankful and said "you shouldn't have." SIL has been crying over this and is very hurt. We will not get anybody anything next year! We were just being nice! Sorry. Love you."

 I texted back "I'm sorry SIL is upset. We didn't mean to hurt her. Why does she feel the need to get us gifts to be "family?" She is family. Does she think I don't love her because I didn't get her a gift?"

While this was going on (I am a very slow texter), he was talking to Mom again. I guess he got my text, and this follow up one I sent:

"Some people don't need things to feel or show love. That's what Mom and I are like and if you really love us for who we are you wouldn't be mad about that."

He texted back "No. Not at all." Which I took to mean he was no longer mad, and (I thought) the situation was smoothed over.

Not.

Hours later, this text from bro: "SIL wasn't TRYING to buy her way into family, we just wanted to show our appreciation and love. We never thought about buying  into family."

I don't know where that came from, as neither Mom nor I said anything of the kind (if big Sis did, I think I'll kill her  :P )  I texted back:
"I gather you're still upset. What do you need to feel better? No one said anything about buying into family. SIL is family."
and got back:

"I'm ok, it's SIL. She didn't even want to do Xmas because of her Mom. She just thought she was being nice and feels bad because she has never had a gift not liked because there isn't enough space."

(the next part I'm quoting verbatim because I don't quite understand it)"

A. Simple. Ty & then the explanation."

(I think it means "you should have said thank you, and then explained there wasn't enough space)

He went on to complain about how much trouble SIL took over big Sis's present (engraved item) and how upset she was that Sis responded by bawling bro out.

Whew. Christmas cookies to anyone who got through that mess.

I didn't answer the last text. It was getting late, I felt (and my Mom agreed) that they were looking to continue being upset and we didn't want to play at that point. I think I'll try to get over there and talk in person to SIL, but there's just no way I can do it until Wednesday.


Any advice is welcome. I'm trying to apply eHell principles, but I don't think we're handling this very well  ???










Title: Re: It would be rude to say "NO more presents," wouldn't it? Update #6
Post by: MariaE on December 29, 2015, 04:03:30 AM
Unfortunately I think all of you behaved really badly here :( Let me see if I'm understanding this right.

You opened the presents for Christmas and didn't call / text / email / whatever to thank them for them? Rude.
When your brother called your mother, she said you didn't want them because you don't have room? Rude.
Sis called and scolded him? Rude.

I don't blame your SIL for being upset, and I do think everybody owes them an apology.
Title: Re: It would be rude to say "NO more presents," wouldn't it? Update #6
Post by: Luci on December 29, 2015, 05:09:01 AM
You are upset about the money factor, which I understand but don't think you can do anything about.

Can you just make it clear that if you must receive gifts that they be consumables or gifts to charity, and you will not be buying gifts for them? Of course, you need to repeatedly remind them how much you value them and your time together. I guess SIL needs that, like your having their back financially isn't enough!

I think there was little rudeness here. Three days is not long to get back with a thank you even with electronics. It was very awkward and added to the hurt for Mom to get involved. She probably should have just said to talk to you and only have dealt with her own issues with them. Maybe I'm just one of those people who doesn't keep score or find offense at every little thing, and I see the rules for family as different from the general social world. This is not little for SIL. That's sad.

What are you going to do with the bags of gifts? Have SIL take them back? Take care of them yourself? Donate? I would probably keep one gift. That's all we usually give to most people anyway.

You probably need hugs, too. So I'm sending it along with the assurance that some of us understand your feelings on this.
Title: Re: It would be rude to say "NO more presents," wouldn't it? Update #6
Post by: Runningstar on December 29, 2015, 06:06:40 AM
Years ago a relative of mine stole money from his son and bought lots of gifts for the entire family.  He went up and down the street into little shops, getting really nice little extravagances from each store.  We were all really surprised and the gifts were exciting - until we found out how and what he had done.  It is hard to continue to enjoy something that was stolen from a dear relative.  How do you even begin to make that right?  Horrid, and to do such a thing on a blessed day is wretched.

While your brother hasn't stolen the money, to ask for money to live on and then be able to purchase gifts for people that have said no more exchanges is close to it. 

I think that you all need to meet as a family on what will happen the next time brother needs a "loan".  Brother needs to realize that he has basically taken money from mom to buy these presents.  A plain statement to him "Brother, mom lent you money but instead of you paying her back you went and bought gifts.  If you have money to buy gifts, you don't need loaned money to pay your bills.  Don't ask mom for more money." 

And if they do this again, the "thank you" note/call should be "I can't accept gifts from you when the money used to buy them should have gone to repay mom.  Why haven't you paid mom back, but have gone out to buy gifts?"  This is the issue to press here.

Title: Re: It would be rude to say "NO more presents," wouldn't it? Update #6
Post by: JoyinVirginia on December 29, 2015, 08:47:53 AM
Oh my, what a mess. Hurt feelings all around. Hugs to you for having to deal with this.
I agree it's not too long for a thank you. For all brother knew, your lovely handwritten thank you was already in the mail.
Big sis overstepped her boundaries, and mom and sis speaking about your feelings did not help.
Hopefully a few days will help everyone calm down. I think your sentiment was good and just repeat the positive, brother and sister in law are family and you just appreciate their company.
Finances are separate issue. When they ask for loans in the future, that is when you make clear if it is a loan or a gift, if it's a loan you get terms of repayment in writing. That is the advice I would give your mother also, if she was asking. A discussion of family finances with your mother is a separate issue that should be addressed away from the holidays. Your mother should take a hard look at her finances, what is giving money to brother doing to her future financial plans?
Holidays often are very stressful for families, because it's one of the few times in a year that everyone might be together and critical problems and conflicts come out in the open.
Title: Re: It would be rude to say "NO more presents," wouldn't it? Update #6
Post by: Bales on December 29, 2015, 09:22:02 AM
I noticed a theme in your summary of your brother saying SIL was trying to "be nice" - not sure what it means, but it stood out to me.

In any case, I think this may be a case of them going on the defensive, but they have some justification.  You are all beating around the primary issue (except perhaps for your older sister, though I didn't quite catch exactly what she said when she complained to him.) It isn't that people don't have "the space" for the gifts; it's that it feels wrong to accept gifts when you know they can't afford basic living expenses and that you / your mom will essentially be the ones making up for the deficit.  So yes, you/your mom bought those gifts - they are being generous/nice on someone else's dime, essentially.  That is what needs to be conveyed to him and SIL - you simply won't be able to accept gifts at this point.  You know their financial situation, since they brought you into it by asking for a loan, so I don't think it is rude to simply be honest. 
Title: Re: It would be rude to say "NO more presents," wouldn't it? Update #6
Post by: lowspark on December 29, 2015, 11:54:54 AM
Is the real reason you don't want gifts from your brother because you don't want more stuff? Or is it because you feel he should be using that money to pay Mom back?

If it's because you don't want more stuff, then you just do what you would do if anyone, family or not, gave you a gift. You accept it graciously, thank them, and then do whatever you want with it. Keep it, regift it, give it to charity, throw it away, whatever, without a hint to the giver that you didn't want it.

If it's because you feel he should be using that money to pay Mom back, then I think that's something that's totally between Brother & Mom. If Mom wants her money back, she needs to meet with Brother at some neutral point (not when you're in the midst of holiday conflict) and tell him that she wants to be repaid and that when he spends money on nonessential stuff, it disappoints her because she feels the money should instead be going toward paying off her loan to him.

She should also probably stop making further loans, and none of the rest of you should lend him any additional money.

But that is totally up to each individual involved. Unless Mom asks you to represent her to Brother and ask for repayment, and even then I'd be hesitant, it's really not up to you or your sisters to say anything to Brother. If he asks you or your sisters for money, then you have the right to refuse or not, just being fully aware that the chances are, based on his past behavior, you're not going to get the money back.

In either case, I agree that once the gifts were given, the only really polite thing to do is accept graciously and move on. Discussing the loan situation should be an entirely separate conversation.
Title: Re: It would be rude to say "NO more presents," wouldn't it? Update #6
Post by: Oh Joy on December 29, 2015, 12:18:06 PM
OP, I get your frustration - your family has financially supported your brother and his wife, and they've spent money you'd rather they didn't on gifts for you.  And I too work very delicately to keep my house from being flooded with unwanted junk at the holidays, while still exchanging gifts with loved ones.

Since you asked, I suggest separating the two concepts from each other:
1)  Your family has financially supported them, but unless there were terms to the agreement, you don't get a vote in what food they eat, what charities they support, or what gifts they give.  You can only decide whether you provide future support, and don't get a vote on others' support of them.
2)  Holiday gifts are very important acts of love for some people, so please start by acknowledging your SIL's feelings.  Your posts read to me like they got only scorn and scolding.  Both sides feel like their wishes are being ignored, but you can be the wise one to "speak their language" to initiate a conversation next year that accommodates everyone's perspectives on the holidays...you may even come up with a routine or tradition that everyone truly loves.

Best wishes.
Title: Re: It would be rude to say "NO more presents," wouldn't it? Update #6
Post by: Sophia on December 29, 2015, 12:23:24 PM
Well, the good news is that hopefully you guys won't get any presents next year.
Title: Re: It would be rude to say "NO more presents," wouldn't it? Update #6
Post by: bah12 on December 29, 2015, 12:32:17 PM
While I think your Brother and SIL should have respected your wishes for no gifts, I really think that your family was beyond rude to them in recourse.  Not saying thank you, asking them to take them back, and then bawling them out for giving the gifts is a horrible way to treat people that were trying to be kind.  Of course your SIL is upset.  I don't blame her at all. 

I don't think it's so hard to see that SIL shows love through gift-giving and may have even seen the gifts as a way to show appreciation for helping them out in the past.  You may not have wanted the stuff, but I think a genuine recognition of the spirit in which the gifts were intended shouldn't have been too much of a leap.

 If you would like to see them start repaying you the money you gave them, then I think that's a separate conversation for you to have with them.  You certainly don't have to give them money in the future, but whether or not your Mom chooses to is her business. 
Title: Re: It would be rude to say "NO more presents," wouldn't it? Update #6
Post by: Kiwipinball on December 29, 2015, 12:49:19 PM
I wanted to add a few things:

1. OP - I can see how your SIL interpreted your text about some people not needing things the way she did. I know you didn't mean it that way, and it wasn't a horrible thing to say, but I was wincing a bit when I was reading it about how it could be interpreted. Your sentiment of SIL being family regardless of gifts is lovely. I'm not shocked given the situation that it was misinterpreted. Nothing you can do about it now other than apologize (which you have) and perhaps reassure SIL you do consider her family. Sounds like she's going through a rough time.

2. I think it's important for the terms of loans to be discussed. I borrowed a significant amount of money (five figures to give a rough idea - lower side of 5 figures) from my parents about a year ago to pay off credit card debt (interest was killing me). It was always intended (spelled out in a contract) that I would pay them back slowly - the point was to get rid of the interest and pay off every month going forward. My parents in no way expect me to never buy anything fun or to not buy gifts (I have given them and others gifts since borrowing money). They do expect me to be living within my means and would probably be concerned if I suddenly started getting people $400 gifts or something. It sounds like the situations are different - I only got one loan, but it is good to talk about the terms of the loan (when to pay back, payment plan, priority of paying it back, etc). That's really between OP's mom and brother and SIL though. I can see how it would be awkward to receive gifts if Mom is also complaining about not being paid back. Frankly, I'd be uncomfortable knowing the details of a loan to my sibling (I know some about a loan to my sister because I'm an attorney and they had me draw up a contract - but I don't know details about if/how it was paid back, etc).

3. At this point a lot has happened and there are a lot of hurt feelings. I think trying to smooth things over in a little bit when feelings have had a chance to recover is a good idea. OP, does SIL live near you? Can you make an effort to do some activities with her? Give her some support?
Title: Re: It would be rude to say "NO more presents," wouldn't it? Update #6
Post by: Calypso on December 29, 2015, 12:53:12 PM
  What y'all are saying is very helpful to me. It's annoying how easy it is for me to see the right path when someone posts something on here, but when I'm in the middle of the situation, my brain goes flooey!  ???

I'm going to call SIL right now and apologize and thank her.

As for the money situation: you're absolutely right that my big Sis and I need to get out of Mom's business.  We have our opinions about how my parents helped create bro's irresponsible choices by always bailing him out, but those are opinions I never share with bro. I'm sorry to say Big Sis can't stop thinking she has wisdom from on high and everyone needs to hear it (she takes after her Dad that way  ::) ).

The most shocking thing here? Bro and I are in our 50s, Big Sis nearly 70, Mom nearly 90. For gosh sakes, you think we'd have all grown up by now  :-[
Title: Re: It would be rude to say "NO more presents," wouldn't it? Update #6
Post by: Kiwipinball on December 29, 2015, 01:02:54 PM
  What y'all are saying is very helpful to me. It's annoying how easy it is for me to see the right path when someone posts something on here, but when I'm in the middle of the situation, my brain goes flooey!  ???

I'm going to call SIL right now and apologize and thank her.

As for the money situation: you're absolutely right that my big Sis and I need to get out of Mom's business.  We have our opinions about how my parents helped create bro's irresponsible choices by always bailing him out, but those are opinions I never share with bro. I'm sorry to say Big Sis can't stop thinking she has wisdom from on high and everyone needs to hear it (she takes after her Dad that way  ::) ).

The most shocking thing here? Bro and I are in our 50s, Big Sis nearly 70, Mom nearly 90. For gosh sakes, you think we'd have all grown up by now  :-[

That's very common. When emotions are flying, it's hard to think. And it can be really difficult to anticipate different interpretations of what you're saying. You know what you mean, it's obvious! :) I think you have a good plan of attack. And the most drama in my family (not a horrible amount, but enough to ruffle feathers) is between my grandfather and his siblings. Yikes! I stay clear of that.
Title: Re: It would be rude to say "NO more presents," wouldn't it? Update #6
Post by: lowspark on December 29, 2015, 01:13:22 PM
Good for you Calypso. Sounds like you're doing the right thing.

Based on everyone's age and the current situation with how your brother handles money, there is something you might want to think about now to avoid conflict later. There is going to be a time that your mom is no longer around and her assets get distributed among you and your siblings. Chances are good that Brother will not have paid off the loan when that happens. You and your sisters probably need to reconcile to that fact now.
Title: Re: It would be rude to say "NO more presents," wouldn't it? Update #6
Post by: bopper on December 30, 2015, 09:28:30 PM
Do keep in mind that some people's Love Language is Receiving/Giving Gifts...yours maybe Acts of Service, Quality Time, Words of Affirmation or Physical Touch. 
Title: Re: It would be rude to say "NO more presents," wouldn't it? Update #6
Post by: Calypso on January 01, 2016, 12:24:29 PM
  So I apologized, acknowledged their POV and abundantly emphasized how much I cared about her/them...and bro texted "no apology needed, we love you"  ::) 8)  So we're all good again.

I did talk to Big Sis ---- she was not the origin of the "buying your way into family" comment, thank goodness ----- I think we just underestimated how hard this first Christmas without her mother being herself was going to be on SIL.  She shopped and gave partly for the sense of normalcy it gave her, as a way to comfort herself, and Mom and I stomped all over it.

Thank you again, guys, for helping me quickly see another perspective when I needed that the most.  :) 8)
Title: Re: It would be rude to say "NO more presents," wouldn't it? Update #6, Final #21
Post by: Oh Joy on January 03, 2016, 07:59:14 PM
Beautifully done, Calypso!  I hope that next year is easier on everyone.

Happy new year.
Title: Re: It would be rude to say "NO more presents," wouldn't it? Update #6, Final #21
Post by: AnnaT on January 27, 2016, 05:09:27 PM
Calypso - just because your SIL's mother is suffering dementia does not mean your SIL can't still enjoy gift giving with her. 

My mother had Alzheimers the last few years of her life and reverted to more child like behaviour.  Gifts were no longer perfume, books or puzzles - gifts were brightly coloured scarves, baby clothes for her "baby" doll (cheap and plentiful from a charity shop), chocolates and things for her room (like stained glass stickers for the window). 
Title: Re: It would be rude to say "NO more presents," wouldn't it? Update #6, Final #21
Post by: oz diva on January 27, 2016, 06:36:20 PM
I'm pleased the situation seems resolved. One point I think should be made is that the whole conversation seems have occurred over text. And you've said that sometimes things were misconstrued. I'd suggest that you try talking over the phone or in person next time. It's harder to misunderstand someone and if it does occur can be rectified immediately.

Also I feel sorry for mums in this situation. Why do they still have to act as mediator for adult children?. My mum is doing this currently and it must be very wearing.
Title: Re: It would be rude to say "NO more presents," wouldn't it? Update #6
Post by: SamiHami on January 28, 2016, 12:25:40 PM
Is the real reason you don't want gifts from your brother because you don't want more stuff? Or is it because you feel he should be using that money to pay Mom back?

If it's because you don't want more stuff, then you just do what you would do if anyone, family or not, gave you a gift. You accept it graciously, thank them, and then do whatever you want with it. Keep it, regift it, give it to charity, throw it away, whatever, without a hint to the giver that you didn't want it.

If it's because you feel he should be using that money to pay Mom back, then I think that's something that's totally between Brother & Mom. If Mom wants her money back, she needs to meet with Brother at some neutral point (not when you're in the midst of holiday conflict) and tell him that she wants to be repaid and that when he spends money on nonessential stuff, it disappoints her because she feels the money should instead be going toward paying off her loan to him.

She should also probably stop making further loans, and none of the rest of you should lend him any additional money.

But that is totally up to each individual involved. Unless Mom asks you to represent her to Brother and ask for repayment, and even then I'd be hesitant, it's really not up to you or your sisters to say anything to Brother. If he asks you or your sisters for money, then you have the right to refuse or not, just being fully aware that the chances are, based on his past behavior, you're not going to get the money back.

In either case, I agree that once the gifts were given, the only really polite thing to do is accept graciously and move on. Discussing the loan situation should be an entirely separate conversation.

I think I disagree with that. I would say something like, "DB, we have all agreed to not exchange Christmas gifts. It makes us feel bad that you are continuing to buy gifts for us even though we have specifically asked you not to. We love you and want to enjoy the holidays together, but if you gift us with anything more than cookies you are just going to make us feel worse."
Title: Re: It would be rude to say "NO more presents," wouldn't it? Update #6
Post by: saki on February 17, 2016, 05:31:16 AM


I think I disagree with that. I would say something like, "DB, we have all agreed to not exchange Christmas gifts. It makes us feel bad that you are continuing to buy gifts for us even though we have specifically asked you not to. We love you and want to enjoy the holidays together, but if you gift us with anything more than cookies you are just going to make us feel worse."

Something that's a bit unclear to me is whether the DB actually did agree not to exchange gifts.  It sort of sounds like the OP and her sister decided this was a good plan and assumed everyone else would "get with the program" but the DB/SIL never really agreed with the idea of not giving gifts.