Author Topic: Deciding whether to gift a certain person this year  (Read 2603 times)

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HorseFreak

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Deciding whether to gift a certain person this year
« on: December 01, 2011, 08:06:14 PM »
BG (important, I'll try to be brief): I have a seriously mentally ill cousin a couple years older than me. Signs started as early as when we were in elementary school (we're in our late 20's/early 30's now) when she attacked me at Girl Scout camp after she heard me calling her a female dog, for which I later sincerely apologized. She actually admitted later she was going to kill me that day if I hadn't screamed for help and been found and I don't doubt it. Our relationship and her mental health have deteriorated severely over the last five years to the point where she can only seem to bark out short questions and be very aggressive. Spending too much time with anyone stresses her out immensely to the point where she can't really function on her own or hold a job. The sad thing is we used to be pretty close and now I can't trust her enough to be alone in a room with her, even medicated. It's also important to know my budget is extremely tight.

Present time: Last year I purchased her a $15 gift from Lush, the bath store that she supposedly adores. She shook the gift, then opened it and closely examined it like she had unwrapped a potentially poisoned treat. I explained what I got and why and got a grunt in response while she continued to look at it like you would expect a very small child with something they had never seen before (she actually is of very high intelligence, but I think her meds really mess her up). Her sister baked some cookies for me and addressed it from both of them. I didn't mind at all, but I wish I had known before I spent $30 I really didn't have on them.

My question is: Even though I have always gotten my cousins a nice gift for what I had to spend, I'm thinking about making a plate of holiday treats for each of them (vegan for the sister, standard for the other) like cookies or fudge and wrapping it up. I feel bad because my cousin's life is so awful, but I don't think my guilt over her mental health issues outweighs my even more strict budget. I'm not crafty at all and I don't want to slave over something that won't be appreciated for no fault of her own.

I'm probably being silly, but what would others do?

Kaypeep

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Re: Deciding whether to gift a certain person this year
« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2011, 08:12:38 PM »
I think that even an adult without a mental illness could receive a gift they don't like, only they (hopefully) might be more discreet about it.  So don't beat yourself up over the reaction you got to the Lush GC.   Just give a gift that you can afford, and that you consider to be thoughtful.  There's nothing wrong with a homemade treat, that's what your cousins gave you last year so you shouldn't think twice about it this year.   

Isometric

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Re: Deciding whether to gift a certain person this year
« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2011, 08:20:46 PM »
I'd be thrilled with a plate of home made goodies. It sounds like an appropriate gift too, considering the gift they got you last year. Money may be tight for them too.

I feel for your cousin, but whatever gift you give unfortunately won't help with her issues.

Deetee

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Re: Deciding whether to gift a certain person this year
« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2011, 12:43:42 PM »
So I consider a gift of homebaked goodies to rank above a $15 dollar gift of bath stuff, but that may be because my circle has some money and no time.

Get them what you want.

JoyinVirginia

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Re: Deciding whether to gift a certain person this year
« Reply #4 on: December 03, 2011, 01:38:25 PM »
I agree with pps that a home baked treat would be more appreciated at my house instead of scented stuff that my dh hates to smell so I would regift discretely

gramma dishes

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Re: Deciding whether to gift a certain person this year
« Reply #5 on: December 03, 2011, 01:44:49 PM »
It may be too late for this year, but is it really necessary for you and your cousins to still be gifting each other as adults?  I'm not saying that in a snarky tone of voice, I'm just asking a serious question.

Since both you and they seem to be short on funds could you just approach them, or at least the more functional one and just say something to the effect of "You know, Christmas is really all about spending time with the people we love most.  Not presents.  Right now I'm going through kind of a rough financial period and wondered how you feel about dropping the gift exchange for next year."  (I'm sure you could phrase it better than that.)  But what do you think her/their reaction would be?
Hurt? Anger?  or profound relief?

HorseFreak

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Re: Deciding whether to gift a certain person this year
« Reply #6 on: December 04, 2011, 05:50:54 PM »
Thanks for the advice, everyone! I think this year will become a transition to token gifts or baked goods. We're actually going to try to spend minimal time with this side of the family Christmas Day due to issues my parents had with my unstable cousin on Thanksgiving, including feeling unsafe in her presence. The more stable cousin has also done some absolutely reprehensible things in my eyes lately including [highlight to read, involves animal abuse] releasing her captive bred pet rats into the wild and seriously neglecting her ferrets (no food, filthy cages) so I'm not sure I can stomach spending more than a few minutes around her. The scary thing is she was trying to get pregnant before her newish husband left her recently (animal abuse is not related to the divorce; she's a terrible person). *Sigh* Merry Christmas Everyone!

Isometric

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Re: Deciding whether to gift a certain person this year
« Reply #7 on: December 04, 2011, 06:02:23 PM »
Ah, family members, gotta love them!

Your cousin sounds kind of like mine, (not as bad, but she steals jewelry, dates ex cons etc) except she did have a child.  :-[

I do the same as you, try to spend as little time with her as possible, and be polite but curt with her.

WhirlyBird

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Re: Deciding whether to gift a certain person this year
« Reply #8 on: December 04, 2011, 11:44:21 PM »
I feel your pain with this one. My partner's sister is MR andMI (but not violent/aggressive in any way). She is not very communicative though, either. It's really hard to tell at times how she is feeling, and rarely shows emotion, including appreciation. I understand that its a side effect of the illnesses and medication, but it makes it really hard to buy gifts. Sometimes we find out that she doesn't like or can't accomplish some of the things we have gotten her until months or even a year later.

We would really like to get her something she would like, but it can be tough.

I think you're making the right call. You don't need to justify staying within your budget.

wyliefool

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Re: Deciding whether to gift a certain person this year
« Reply #9 on: December 05, 2011, 09:14:16 AM »
I'm confused. If one cousin is nasty, and the other dangerous, why do y'all even see them, much less exchange gifts?

Mal

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Re: Deciding whether to gift a certain person this year
« Reply #10 on: December 05, 2011, 09:34:42 AM »
(...)
Present time: Last year I purchased her a $15 gift from Lush, the bath store that she supposedly adores. She shook the gift, then opened it and closely examined it like she had unwrapped a potentially poisoned treat. I explained what I got and why and got a grunt in response while she continued to look at it like you would expect a very small child with something they had never seen before (she actually is of very high intelligence, but I think her meds really mess her up). Her sister baked some cookies for me and addressed it from both of them. I didn't mind at all, but I wish I had known before I spent $30 I really didn't have on them.
(...)

I keep stumbling over that part reading your post. It just sounds a little entitled; comes across like in your opinion the homemade cookies aren't really worth much.

This kind of rubs me the wrong way because it sounds like you are expecting a gift that's at least as valuable (monetary) as yours - that's not what giving gifts is about - and also because I usually gift relatives with an assortment of homemade cookies which quite an amount of money (on ingredients) and effort / love go into. Why would you not value a gift like that?

And why would you give them something you can't afford in the first place?

HorseFreak

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Re: Deciding whether to gift a certain person this year
« Reply #11 on: December 05, 2011, 09:32:47 PM »
I'm confused. If one cousin is nasty, and the other dangerous, why do y'all even see them, much less exchange gifts?

Family politics, to be honest. I would be cutting these people off if it weren't for the only time I saw them was when I was visiting my parents. My mom has very little family and she wants to stay connected, even though her sister is kind of toxic (but we kind of laugh it off these days). Their parents died a couple years ago within six months of each other and I think my mom is having some wishful thinking about their relationship improving. I do believe she's seeing the light after being so miserable in November with them. I think it's very easy to say "cut them off!" and it's said a lot on this forum, but family relationships don't exist in a vacuum. We have been naturally cutting back since my more stable cousin has gotten demanding about my parents' vacation home and the less stable cousin can hardly go out these days (family birthdays are usually celebrated as a pay-your-own-way gathering in a restaurant). It's progress, but slow.

« Last Edit: December 05, 2011, 09:39:47 PM by HorseFreak »

still in va

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Re: Deciding whether to gift a certain person this year
« Reply #12 on: December 05, 2011, 09:48:27 PM »
I'm confused. If one cousin is nasty, and the other dangerous, why do y'all even see them, much less exchange gifts?

Family politics, to be honest. I would be cutting these people off if it weren't for the only time I saw them was when I was visiting my parents. My mom has very little family and she wants to stay connected, even though her sister is kind of toxic (but we kind of laugh it off these days). Their parents died a couple years ago within six months of each other and I think my mom is having some wishful thinking about their relationship improving. I do believe she's seeing the light after being so miserable in November with them. I think it's very easy to say "cut them off!" and it's said a lot on this forum, but family relationships don't exist in a vacuum. We have been naturally cutting back since my more stable cousin has gotten demanding about my parents' vacation home and the less stable cousin can hardly go out these days (family birthdays are usually celebrated as a pay-your-own-way gathering in a restaurant). It's progress, but slow.

have you posted about the bolded, Horsefreak?

as to your original question, i would probably give them some small token.  but i certainly wouldn't spend money that i didn't have.  it's not cutting them out of your life to scale back on money that you're spending.

gramma dishes

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Re: Deciding whether to gift a certain person this year
« Reply #13 on: December 05, 2011, 10:04:56 PM »
I'm confused. If one cousin is nasty, and the other dangerous, why do y'all even see them, much less exchange gifts?
We have been naturally cutting back since my more stable cousin has gotten demanding about my parents' vacation home ...

have you posted about the bolded, Horsefreak?


I too am curious about the demands on your parents' vacation home.

HorseFreak

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Re: Deciding whether to gift a certain person this year
« Reply #14 on: December 05, 2011, 10:33:24 PM »
I'm confused. If one cousin is nasty, and the other dangerous, why do y'all even see them, much less exchange gifts?

Family politics, to be honest. I would be cutting these people off if it weren't for the only time I saw them was when I was visiting my parents. My mom has very little family and she wants to stay connected, even though her sister is kind of toxic (but we kind of laugh it off these days). Their parents died a couple years ago within six months of each other and I think my mom is having some wishful thinking about their relationship improving. I do believe she's seeing the light after being so miserable in November with them. I think it's very easy to say "cut them off!" and it's said a lot on this forum, but family relationships don't exist in a vacuum. We have been naturally cutting back since my more stable cousin has gotten demanding about my parents' vacation home and the less stable cousin can hardly go out these days (family birthdays are usually celebrated as a pay-your-own-way gathering in a restaurant). It's progress, but slow.

have you posted about the bolded, Horsefreak?

as to your original question, i would probably give them some small token.  but i certainly wouldn't spend money that i didn't have.  it's not cutting them out of your life to scale back on money that you're spending.

I might have mentioned it in passing at some point, but no separate posts. That's actually a very long running issue since the house was built when us cousins were all babies to toddler age. It's less than 200 miles from our hometowns and in a very popular summer vacation area. It's honestly my parents' baby and biggest/best investment and they've done a LOT to make it work including reserving limited high season time for themselves so they may rent it to tourists to pay the mortgage. It also comes with an amazing amount of upkeep and cleaning and it's a real pain in the rear to maintain in good condition which makes the demands even more egregious. I'm going to give people names to make it easier: Unstable Cousin is Kelly and More Stable Cousin is Nancy.

It started years ago when we were teens. Kelly (then much more stable, almost "normal") whined to her mother that, "HorseFreak and Brother get to use the Vacation House all the time and we don't!" Kelly was allowed to bring a couple friends to the house for her 15th birthday party. One friend brought some drugs and when about to be discovered threw them out the window! My aunt later told my mother about it and aunt thought it was hilarious since she encouraged her daughters to have less "boring" friends. At Thanksgiving Nancy and Aunt were play fighting about who got to ask my mom a question first. Nancy finally said, in a very excited voice, that my mom should pencil her in for a certain weekend at Vacation House if my parents weren't going to be there. No please, no request at all. Just treated it like she had all the rights in the world to be there. My mom beandipped her and said she'd talk to my father about it. She plans to pretend Nancy never asked, but I'm sure her or Aunt is rude enough to press the situation. At this point no one in their family is allowed to have a key in their possession due to risk of them doing something without permission. Nancy is not responsible enough to do basic things like a thorough cleaning, laundry or even turn the heat down when she leaves which could burn up the entire winter oil supply in a month. It makes Nancy and Kelly crazy that my brother and I have keys and free access, but we always ask first and the owners are OUR PARENTS.