Author Topic: The "obligation" of gifting.  (Read 8315 times)

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Roe

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Re: The "obligation" of gifting.
« Reply #30 on: January 29, 2014, 04:18:13 PM »
I'm going to go slightly against the grain.  The parts that I do agree with are that he is likely a conflicted/confused 20 something year old and it's coming out, in part, in this gift giving "debate".  I also agree that you and your DH let him know that you are in no way intending to make him feel obligated to give you gifts and ask him to tell you how we wants you to communicated family events to him in the future. 

The part that I'm not totally on board with is DS's birthday.  I sort of see his point.  It doesn't seem like he was being invited to a birthday party (which would be a gift giving event), but just 'reminded' that this date was coming up.  I don't think that birthdays, by themselves, are necessarily gift giving events. In some families, yes...but, if he never gives gifts to his other brothers, then I assume this isn't a family tradition he's accustomed to. 

It's nice to want to include him in on these things, but as an adult he doesn't need to be reminded that it's his little brothers birthday or told to call.  And I do think that even if it's unintended, mentioning that you already have a gift and offering to put his name on it, does communicate that you expect that the older brothers do give gifts to the younger one.  And try to imagine where Jeff is coming from.  His parents aren't together (don't know how young he was when that occurred) and now he has two sets of blended families to contend with.  If his parents didn't spend his childhood making sure that the brothers all acknowledged each other's birthdays and suggested calls, gifts, special recognition, or whatever, then he could feel slighted.  At least I wouldn't blame him if he felt that way.

As usual, I think Bah has the best response. POD!

TootsNYC

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Re: The "obligation" of gifting.
« Reply #31 on: January 29, 2014, 04:19:12 PM »
I think it's a bit weird that your DH was reminding him of his brother's birthday - surely he should know when that is? I'm not sure I agree that your DH should be programming them into their calendars or anything either - it's up to them to remember things that are important to them.

Also, if it's true that he and his brothers never did anything for each other's birthdays, presumably that's because they weren't encouraged to by your DH or their mother?  If that's the case, it seems odd to me to change that up for this brother when it wasn't done before.

Edited to add - on that note, does your DH remind them of one another's birthdays?  Does your DH get your DS to call his brothers on their birthdays?  I realise your DS is quite young but, if they can speak to him on the phone, presumably (with help from you guys) the same is true vice versa.

I see some truth in this.

However, if the older brothers were living together in the same household, they would probably have been organically reminded that it was somebody's birthday. By the birthday boy himself, or by plans for a "friends party" for the b'day boy. Or by Mom (or Mom & Dad) saying, "Happy birthday, Charlie!"

So they'd have chimed in themselves, perhaps. There's no need for a special reminder when it's happening like that. They don't live with the OP's son (or with one another, since Jeff is a grownup), so those sorts of things don't happen.


But I will also say--my DD announced she was planning to come down from college next month for her brother's b'day. I would never have expected her to--she announced this herself, because it is HER plan. I was kinda tickled, that she'd think her brother's b'day is so important. (Believe me, she doesn't come down from college lightly.)

rose red

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Re: The "obligation" of gifting.
« Reply #32 on: January 29, 2014, 04:41:47 PM »
I think we are getting too focused on the younest brother's birthday.  It sounds like Jeff has the same feeling with all gift giving occasions.  The OP said he was agitated at his own mom and stepdad's house while they were discussing Christmas, so it's not just the OP and her DH who are giving him the feeling of (nonexistent/imagined) pressure. 

During their hour long conversation, his dad told him he is not obligated to buy gifts.  That's pretty clear so hopfully Jeff believes his dad.  If he doesn't, then the drama is all on him.

Peregrine

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Re: The "obligation" of gifting.
« Reply #33 on: January 29, 2014, 04:59:02 PM »
It sounds like the "special occasion" bomb has gone off amongst his peer group.  It seemed like that once I hit 20/21 your friends are graduating, birthdays, weddings, babies, and then add in keeping up with immediate and extended family! 

It might be time for an in-person conversation to find out what's going on.  If it was me, I would do this in person, not over the phone or via email.  He might need some help figuring out how to navigate all of the social obligations that are probably coming his way.  He needs to realize that though you might be invited to something, you don't necessarily need to attend nor send a gift (but some appropriate recognition (card/letter) of the occasion may still be needed.  He might also not feel comfortable figuring out what kind of gifts to give and what are appropriate to each kind of occasion (coworkers wedding vs. best friends wedding).  You might even be able to tie a conversation into how you and your husband as a couple are re-evaluating gift giving within the larger family.

Just musing aloud here, it might also be time to figure out what events you want to mutually celebrate....do you expect him to remember your wedding anniversary, Grandma and Grandpa's?, are those people going to reciprocally recognize his milestone?  Do Grandma and Grandpa not really care if he recognizes their anniversary, but you think it would be nice if he sent them a card on their 50th wedding anniversary.  As a 20 something, that's what I had a hard time figuring out.  Also, as I'm entering my 30's and married with child, things are changing again.  Peer group birthdays and graduations are pretty much over with, or very low key "lets gather for drinks" type affairs.  Now it's baby showers, weddings, and kid birthday parties, never mind navigating the land mines of extended family gift giving at Christmas and birthdays.

Coley

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Re: The "obligation" of gifting.
« Reply #34 on: January 29, 2014, 05:39:12 PM »
I think it's a bit weird that your DH was reminding him of his brother's birthday - surely he should know when that is? I'm not sure I agree that your DH should be programming them into their calendars or anything either - it's up to them to remember things that are important to them.

Also, if it's true that he and his brothers never did anything for each other's birthdays, presumably that's because they weren't encouraged to by your DH or their mother?  If that's the case, it seems odd to me to change that up for this brother when it wasn't done before.

Edited to add - on that note, does your DH remind them of one another's birthdays?  Does your DH get your DS to call his brothers on their birthdays?  I realise your DS is quite young but, if they can speak to him on the phone, presumably (with help from you guys) the same is true vice versa.

My DS is the stepbrother of DH's sons. DS in middle school, while the others all adults age 26+. DH and I have been married just a few years, so the pattern of remembering DS's birthday isn't well established yet. In fact, one of DH's sons texted DH and asked if DS's birthday was coming up. That's what sparked DH to contact all of them. I should have mentioned that before.

If DS is home with us (not with his dad/my ex) on his stepbrothers' birthdays, then he can and does participate in calling them.

I don't know whether DH reminds the older three about each other's birthdays. I don't think it would be necessary. They grew up together in the same household and are accustomed to celebrating on those dates.

Coley

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Re: The "obligation" of gifting.
« Reply #35 on: January 29, 2014, 05:56:05 PM »
It sounds like the "special occasion" bomb has gone off amongst his peer group.  It seemed like that once I hit 20/21 your friends are graduating, birthdays, weddings, babies, and then add in keeping up with immediate and extended family! 

It might be time for an in-person conversation to find out what's going on.  If it was me, I would do this in person, not over the phone or via email.  He might need some help figuring out how to navigate all of the social obligations that are probably coming his way.  He needs to realize that though you might be invited to something, you don't necessarily need to attend nor send a gift (but some appropriate recognition (card/letter) of the occasion may still be needed.  He might also not feel comfortable figuring out what kind of gifts to give and what are appropriate to each kind of occasion (coworkers wedding vs. best friends wedding).  You might even be able to tie a conversation into how you and your husband as a couple are re-evaluating gift giving within the larger family.

Just musing aloud here, it might also be time to figure out what events you want to mutually celebrate....do you expect him to remember your wedding anniversary, Grandma and Grandpa's?, are those people going to reciprocally recognize his milestone?  Do Grandma and Grandpa not really care if he recognizes their anniversary, but you think it would be nice if he sent them a card on their 50th wedding anniversary.  As a 20 something, that's what I had a hard time figuring out.  Also, as I'm entering my 30's and married with child, things are changing again.  Peer group birthdays and graduations are pretty much over with, or very low key "lets gather for drinks" type affairs.  Now it's baby showers, weddings, and kid birthday parties, never mind navigating the land mines of extended family gift giving at Christmas and birthdays.

I wish we could meet up with Jeff face-to-face to talk. He's halfway across the country, and his schedule doesn't allow him many visits back home. We're hoping we might be able to visit him in the spring or summer.

I do think his list of people with gift-giving occasions has exploded in the past year or so both within and outside the family. We do have some customs in recognizing birthdays or other events. The adults don't typically give each other gifts for birthdays. We do send cards and make phone calls for adults' birthdays. If any of the boys remembered to call or send a card on our anniversary, I would be happily surprised. It's just not customary. I'm not sure what all the family customs were when DH's sons were kids living with their parents, but from what DH has described there were gifts and parties for the boys' birthdays, so it isn't completely outside the norm for them to recognize a younger sibling's birthday. It's just that they haven't done that for a long time as adults. They have been adults as long as my DS has been in their lives. I think DH's concern is that DS doesn't fall through the cracks being a child with stepbrothers who are much older.

Poppea

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Re: The "obligation" of gifting.
« Reply #36 on: January 29, 2014, 06:02:22 PM »
It sounds like the "special occasion" bomb has gone off amongst his peer group.  It seemed like that once I hit 20/21 your friends are graduating, birthdays, weddings, babies, and then add in keeping up with immediate and extended family! 

It might be time for an in-person conversation to find out what's going on.  If it was me, I would do this in person, not over the phone or via email.  He might need some help figuring out how to navigate all of the social obligations that are probably coming his way.  He needs to realize that though you might be invited to something, you don't necessarily need to attend nor send a gift (but some appropriate recognition (card/letter) of the occasion may still be needed.  He might also not feel comfortable figuring out what kind of gifts to give and what are appropriate to each kind of occasion (coworkers wedding vs. best friends wedding).  You might even be able to tie a conversation into how you and your husband as a couple are re-evaluating gift giving within the larger family.

Just musing aloud here, it might also be time to figure out what events you want to mutually celebrate....do you expect him to remember your wedding anniversary, Grandma and Grandpa's?, are those people going to reciprocally recognize his milestone?  Do Grandma and Grandpa not really care if he recognizes their anniversary, but you think it would be nice if he sent them a card on their 50th wedding anniversary.  As a 20 something, that's what I had a hard time figuring out.  Also, as I'm entering my 30's and married with child, things are changing again.  Peer group birthdays and graduations are pretty much over with, or very low key "lets gather for drinks" type affairs.  Now it's baby showers, weddings, and kid birthday parties, never mind navigating the land mines of extended family gift giving at Christmas and birthdays.

I wish we could meet up with Jeff face-to-face to talk. He's halfway across the country, and his schedule doesn't allow him many visits back home. We're hoping we might be able to visit him in the spring or summer.

I do think his list of people with gift-giving occasions has exploded in the past year or so both within and outside the family. We do have some customs in recognizing birthdays or other events. The adults don't typically give each other gifts for birthdays. We do send cards and make phone calls for adults' birthdays. If any of the boys remembered to call or send a card on our anniversary, I would be happily surprised. It's just not customary. I'm not sure what all the family customs were when DH's sons were kids living with their parents, but from what DH has described there were gifts and parties for the boys' birthdays, so it isn't completely outside the norm for them to recognize a younger sibling's birthday. It's just that they haven't done that for a long time as adults. They have been adults as long as my DS has been in their lives. I think DH's concern is that DS doesn't fall through the cracks being a child with stepbrothers who are much older.
DS send a separate gift to his stepbrothers on their birthdays?  I would try to treat all boys equally - if DH is reminding the boys about your son's birthday then he should also send out an email when the other boys have birthdays.  In an effort to make sure DS in not left behind, he may have been pushed forward too much,  Your stepson may be reacting to this,

bah12

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Re: The "obligation" of gifting.
« Reply #37 on: January 29, 2014, 06:05:04 PM »
I think it's a bit weird that your DH was reminding him of his brother's birthday - surely he should know when that is? I'm not sure I agree that your DH should be programming them into their calendars or anything either - it's up to them to remember things that are important to them.

Also, if it's true that he and his brothers never did anything for each other's birthdays, presumably that's because they weren't encouraged to by your DH or their mother?  If that's the case, it seems odd to me to change that up for this brother when it wasn't done before.

Edited to add - on that note, does your DH remind them of one another's birthdays?  Does your DH get your DS to call his brothers on their birthdays?  I realise your DS is quite young but, if they can speak to him on the phone, presumably (with help from you guys) the same is true vice versa.

My DS is the stepbrother of DH's sons. DS in middle school, while the others all adults age 26+. DH and I have been married just a few years, so the pattern of remembering DS's birthday isn't well established yet. In fact, one of DH's sons texted DH and asked if DS's birthday was coming up. That's what sparked DH to contact all of them. I should have mentioned that before.

If DS is home with us (not with his dad/my ex) on his stepbrothers' birthdays, then he can and does participate in calling them.

I don't know whether DH reminds the older three about each other's birthdays. I don't think it would be necessary. They grew up together in the same household and are accustomed to celebrating on those dates.

I see what you're saying...and I really do believe this is about more than just your DS's birthday.  But I do feel that he might be oversensitive to a reminder of a birthday...whether the intention is to foster a closer brotherly relationship or something else...it might start feeling like it's something else if the reminders are about birthdays, please call him on his birthday, and I already got a gift I can put your name on.  It feels like it becomes more about DS, then about the brotherly connection. 

My advice would be to do what others have suggested when it comes to the gift issue.  Find out what's really going on, let him know he's not obligated and that wasn't your intention, and find out how he would prefer to be told about family events.  I would also add, that maybe in this next year, if it's not done already, try to fosther the blended family/brotherly connection between Jeff and DS in other ways.  Invite Jeff and his GF to a family outing with you all and DS...your treat.  Go visit him for his birthday (take him out to dinner as his gift), etc. 

I just don't beleive that adults need to be reminded about family members birthdays or be asked to do specific things (like call).  If he wants to remember to call DS on his birthday, he will...and if he doesn't...he won't.  It would be awesome if they became closer and there are ways I think that you can help with that, but I wouldn't force it.  Unfortunately, the reality is that since he's already an adult and this is a step brother that is much younger than him, that he's not around much and not growing up with, he'll likely never have the same brotherly relationship with him and he does with his older brothers. 

Coley

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Re: The "obligation" of gifting.
« Reply #38 on: January 29, 2014, 06:08:56 PM »
I think we are getting too focused on the younest brother's birthday.  It sounds like Jeff has the same feeling with all gift giving occasions.  The OP said he was agitated at his own mom and stepdad's house while they were discussing Christmas, so it's not just the OP and her DH who are giving him the feeling of (nonexistent/imagined) pressure. 

During their hour long conversation, his dad told him he is not obligated to buy gifts.  That's pretty clear so hopfully Jeff believes his dad.  If he doesn't, then the drama is all on him.

Yes, Jeff's attitude about gifts has been going on since Thanksgiving during discussions about Christmas. Though he made a few statements to us about being too old to give and receive gifts, we didn't know how bothered Jeff is about gifting in general until my DS's birthday came up. DH was stunned. DS's birthday was the next occasion following Christmas. It would seem that DS's birthday was the straw that broke the camel's back.

mj

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Re: The "obligation" of gifting.
« Reply #39 on: January 29, 2014, 06:12:00 PM »
We had this issue not too long ago and we aren't in our 20's.  DH & I both have large extended families, mine is blended with a lot of younger siblings.  It's a nightmare sometimes and in approaching our families we got 2 different responses, my side immediately offered to do Secret Santa's and cut back on birthdays.  We had a very open conversation about just how much $$ this was all entailing and our "love languages" - neither DH or I care for receiving gifts and do not mind shopping for them, but the sheer amount is overwhelming.  We are going to the store every week or other week at the least.  My folks took it all in stride. 

His?  Gave us lectures on how much gifts meant to them, rather than understanding we have different views and the sheer amount was just too much.  So we decided to continue gifting them, but it has colored our view of these occasions.  It's not that we do not love them, but it is a pain and since it is, and we explained why, it's sort of disconcerting to realize your loved ones are still insistent on this while *knowing* that it is burdensome to you.

TootsNYC

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Re: The "obligation" of gifting.
« Reply #40 on: January 29, 2014, 06:13:03 PM »
Quote
I just don't beleive that adults need to be reminded about family members birthdays or be asked to do specific things (like call).  If he wants to remember to call DS on his birthday, he will...and if he doesn't...he won't.  It would be awesome if they became closer and there are ways I think that you can help with that, but I wouldn't force it.  Unfortunately, the reality is that since he's already an adult and this is a step brother that is much younger than him, that he's not around much and not growing up with, he'll likely never have the same brotherly relationship with him and he does with his older brothers.

This also made me think about another "forced interaction"--I've never been one to hint for flowers.

Because if I have to ask my DH to bring me flowers, and he does, how valuable are those flowers? They don't have much value to me.

If he brings flowers because it occurs to him, that's sweet and touching. If he does it because he was reminded or asked, well, he's just doing as he was told.

Ditto birthdays. (That's why I'm so tickled that DD has prioritized her brother's b'day on her own--that really means something to me.)

Coley

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Re: The "obligation" of gifting.
« Reply #41 on: January 29, 2014, 06:26:50 PM »
Just wanted to say thanks for all the replies. It's good to have differing perspectives, and I appreciate all of them.

mbbored

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Re: The "obligation" of gifting.
« Reply #42 on: January 29, 2014, 06:38:20 PM »
OP, I think given the additional information about the ages of those involved perhaps you and your DH should take a step back. You can't force a brotherly relationship between people who are almost 20 years apart in age and haven't lived in the same household. Calling Jeff to remind him of his step-brother's birthday when there's no way he can celebrate in person could definitely have come across as a gift grab.

kudeebee

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Re: The "obligation" of gifting.
« Reply #43 on: January 30, 2014, 12:56:37 AM »
DH and you need to step back.  The stepsons are adults and should not have to be reminded of events that are going on.  If it comes up in normal conversation/email/text that is different.  For example:  "We are taking ds to his favorite buffet restaurant for his birthday next week. or We are going to Cincinnati in June for cousin Joe's wedding.  DS's friend is going to watch the dog for us." (good)  versus "DS birthday is next week.  You should call him."

Who knows what the reasons are? He could feel overwhelmed by the number of events that seem to require gifts; maybe money is tight right now; maybe he doesn't like to shop.  It really doesn't matter. Let him handle it on his own and follow his lead.

Lynda_34

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Re: The "obligation" of gifting.
« Reply #44 on: January 30, 2014, 01:30:22 AM »
Not sure how many sons you have but maybe a universal calendar given to everyone with all dates on it would help. 
It makes a  good christmas gift and if you have pictures of various family events they can be part of the calendar. 
There are a lot of companies that custom print calendars and with so much technology available maybe you could custom create this yourself and make it your gift to everyone else.