Author Topic: s/o Forgotten Easter Baskets....uneven gift exchanges/delayed reciprocation  (Read 4378 times)

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LadyR

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We're sort of the opposite and sometimes feel guilty. DH is the youngest by a lot. When his nieces and nephews were first born he was in a financial position to buy gifts, etc, but then at one point our finances got rough and his siblings commented that their kids had enough stuff, etc. So we stopped giving gifts. Then we had kids. His siblings give generous gifts for every occasion: birthday, Christmas, one SIL even sends Easter packages for the kids. If they go on a trip, they bring back something small for our kids. Our nieces and nephews are 14 to 9, my son's are 2.5 and almost 1.

I feel guilty, because I don't feel like we reciprocate enough. We have started giving birthday gifts again now that they kids are at the age where they appreciate gifts like iTunes cards (which fit our price point). We also give First Communion/Confirmation gifts. It's definitely not entirely equal though.

I also love cards and keep them all. I have boxes of keepsake cards. But only if the giver has written an extra message.


alkira6

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I am kind of like a PP who has many, many nieces and nephews (18 +).  I give gifts/cards because I want to.  What I expect back is basic courtesy (thank you's, an effort to keep in touch/communication).  When they get in the 12-13 range I feel that that effort is on them rather than the parent.

One year I only heard from one niece when she didn't get a card for Christmas, despite me trying to keep in touch. What she got was my explanation that I see no need to spend money/time on someone who only sees me as a gift/money bank. We do not have to be best friends, but speaking (acknowledging that I am there) when I visit your home is a must.

purple

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We're sort of the opposite and sometimes feel guilty. DH is the youngest by a lot. When his nieces and nephews were first born he was in a financial position to buy gifts, etc, but then at one point our finances got rough and his siblings commented that their kids had enough stuff, etc. So we stopped giving gifts. Then we had kids. His siblings give generous gifts for every occasion: birthday, Christmas, one SIL even sends Easter packages for the kids. If they go on a trip, they bring back something small for our kids. Our nieces and nephews are 14 to 9, my son's are 2.5 and almost 1.

I feel guilty, because I don't feel like we reciprocate enough. We have started giving birthday gifts again now that they kids are at the age where they appreciate gifts like iTunes cards (which fit our price point). We also give First Communion/Confirmation gifts. It's definitely not entirely equal though.

I also love cards and keep them all. I have boxes of keepsake cards. But only if the giver has written an extra message.

Re the bolded:
See, now I don't think you should feel guilty at all.  When somebody gives me a gift, I say thank you and I enjoy it.  I don't automatically assess how many gifts of what value have been given and make a mental note to reciprocate.  Vice-versa, when I give somebody a gift, I don't automatically start expecting an equivalent reciprocal gift.  It just doesn't enter my mind.

I think that if you want to give a gift to a person, whether it's an adult or a child, then give one.  If somebody wants to give you a gift, then accept it and be happy.

I must admit, no matter which way it's framed in this thread or in the Easter basket thread, this expectation of reciprocal gifts feels a bit off to me.

I don't have any kids of my own or kids in my life (nieces, nephews, godchildren etc), so I don't know if the etiquette is different with children involved.

Lynn2000

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On a more general note, for me, gifts are not about calculating value so I can reciprocate. But, they do tell me something about the relationship the giver wants to have with me, or thinks we have already. And then my response, in terms of giving them a gift later or not, continues that dialogue.

For example, if someone surprises me with a gift, I think (at some point, not right then), "Okay, this is the first gift they've ever given me, maybe they are trying to step up our relationship. Do *I* want to step up our relationship that way?" If yes, then I'll do something to reciprocate, and/or buy them a gift at the next appropriate time. If no, I'll tell them thank you sincerely and possibly even write them a TY note, and go on my merry way.

The idea of the latter is, if they feel slighted by my not reciprocating, they are free to not give me a gift again, and then we will both be back to our comfort levels. But if they're okay with just my sincere thank you, they are free to continue gifting me. And vice versa: There are some people in my life I enjoy buying gifts for, who seem to enjoy getting them, who tend not to give me gifts in return at the same time, and I'm cool with that. But they're always pleasant people, and occasionally they get me a random small gift, or take me out to lunch, or spend some time with me that they didn't have to, so I feel like they're putting the same effort into the relationship, even if it doesn't take the exact form that my own effort does.

The feeling I get from the OP is it's not just about material possessions, it's about the whole relationship, and feeling like her sister is not making the same effort overall that the OP has made/is making. That's a hurtful realization to come to. And there are different ways of dealing with it--you can scale back on your own effort, you can reframe your own effort in your mind so it doesn't bother you, you can have a discussion about it with the person, etc.. Personally I tend to go with just scaling back--there have been several instances over the last few years where I've realized I resented giving gifts/making an effort because that effort didn't seem to be returned/appreciated, so I've dropped it. And in all cases I've felt a lot better, and so far not had any negative consequences.
~Lynn2000

mj

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In DHs family we are the middle set to have kids, so I can sorta see both sides.  And our own position comes with issues too!

From what I have seen though, the first set to have kids generally has a lot of people without kids, yet means to buy for the children and a lot of free time to spend with them too.  There are also downfalls where the first set has to trailblaze and make some decisions that are unpopular with the older generations.  They get so much attention that a lot of their decisions are scrutinized and torn apart.  They are under intense pressure to be all things to a lot of people.

The later sets don't have to go through as many of those problems, more people have kids so less time to scrutinize.  And the older generation has generally gotten a handle on younger generations doing things differently, for the most part.  But people also just have less time and resources, the aunts/uncles with older kids are still wrapped up in their childrens activities etc.

I know that younger set in our situation has thrown a lot of pressure on the rest of us (not saying this is you, OP) to do the same for their kids.  I think they also have a misguided sense of what the older kids are getting, because as more kids came along the less attention the older kids received too! 

And I know this is not exactly what you're saying OP, it's just observations I've made in my own situation and with friends when we have talked about it collectively.  There are downfalls to each position.  Now with your sister though, I think it may be that she has a personality that doesn't take into value reciprocation.  The younger set in our situation thinks that anything they "let" us do for their children should be our honor.  If they ask us to babysit, they behave as if we should feel grateful.  Is it possible that your sister thinks that asking you to do things like bake the cake are giving you favors?  I've found that there is a personality that really thinks this way.

GrammarNerd

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The feeling I get from the OP is it's not just about material possessions, it's about the whole relationship, and feeling like her sister is not making the same effort overall that the OP has made/is making. That's a hurtful realization to come to. And there are different ways of dealing with it--you can scale back on your own effort, you can reframe your own effort in your mind so it doesn't bother you, you can have a discussion about it with the person, etc.. Personally I tend to go with just scaling back--there have been several instances over the last few years where I've realized I resented giving gifts/making an effort because that effort didn't seem to be returned/appreciated, so I've dropped it. And in all cases I've felt a lot better, and so far not had any negative consequences.

OP here...yes, pretty much this.

Some people have become fixated on the card thing.  That was just an example.  But I just thought that being his godmother and aunt, if she didn't give him a gift (monetary or otherwise), she'd at least get him a card.  I never said anything about it to her and I won't.  It just struck me as odd.  But she's always been more of a card person, so that part was surprising to me, hence this thread.  And yes, I know she put forth the effort to come to the ceremony.  That does mean something. 

There's quite an age span between sister and I (more than 10 years), and even though I'm an adult and have been for decades, I still get the impression that she still thinks of me as a kid.  It's very subtle, but it's like she still feels she's the boss, has final say, or that I should just fall in with her plans.  Hope that makes sense.  We had a lot of issues when our mother passed away, when she unilaterally made some decisions that I objected to.  And she knew I would object (we had previously discussed the plans as something that would not happen), and yet she went ahead with the plans anyway, and then acted put out when I told her no; made it seem like I was the one being unreasonable.  I don't want to put details here, but if anyone needs those, PM me.  I've always felt like she just had the mindset that I should defer to whatever she wanted b/c she's older.  We have not been as close since then. 

When her kids graduated from college, she made some noise about me (us) going to the ceremonies.  Mind you, this would have meant plane trips or 12 and 20 hour car rides, plus hotel expenses and finding someone to take my place in caring for my kids.  One of my kids had a big event (dance recital) for one of the weekends and I'd have to miss it.  To some degree, I think she hasn't 'forgiven' me for not coming to their graduations.  Nothing was ever said like that, but it was kind of the vibe that I was receiving.  When we all got together for Christmas around that time, it was strange.  We all exchange gifts (or we did at that time) and she's always been good at picking out gifts for me.  But honestly, that year, it looked like she never thought of me and reached in her closet and got a few generic things to give me, like a candy assortment; stuff that would have been fine to give to the neighbor that you don't know all that well.  In fact, she actually did that....disappeared, went into her bedroom and got something and gave it to me, saying something to indicate how she'd bought it for herself but decided to give it to me.  I expressed thanks and oohed and ahed, but it was obvious that she hadn't put any thought into shopping for me.  It wasn't the gifts at all, it was the thought behind them.  The thought wasn't there, and that hurt, because it had always been there in the past.

Someone upthread said that I shouldn't give anymore presents if I don't feel they're being reciprocated.  But it's just not that easy.  I already gave....the time and the gifts, when her kids were little.  That was 10-15 years ago.  I know that circumstances are different, but it doesn't seem like she even remembers everything that I did for and with her kids, and she doesn't really even care to try to cultivate anywhere near the same relationship with my kids.  And it hurts.  And I feel kind of used, like I (and by extension, my kids) don't matter enough to put forth the effort.  And when it's your own sister that you feel used by, that's not a good feeling.

This was the first time she saw the kids since probably last summer sometime.  She sent me an email before Christmas saying that nobody knew what to get anyone, so let's not do presents, and I said OK, and then she dropped off the face of the earth.  I tried calling/texting a few times and never got a response.  I sent her a Christmas photo card.  So the holidays went by, and I don't think I ever heard even a 'Merry Christmas' from her.  She didn't try to contact the kids in any way either.

Once again, it's not about the actual card, or the monetary level of gifts.  It's about the thought and effort that goes behind everything, effort that I expended in a huge amount for her kids years ago.  I didn't do it with the intention of getting paid back.  I did it b/c I loved the kids and wanted to do stuff with them and for them. But I just kind of always assumed that when I had kids, my kids would matter as much to her as hers did to me, and would be evidenced by her involvement with them.  Who wouldn't think that? I think it's a reasonable assumption.  And THAT is what hurts now. 

Thank you for all of the responses.   

Lynn2000

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OP, it sounds like you've really given this a lot of thought, and it stinks that your sister isn't putting as much effort into the relationship as you would like. :( Maybe now that you've seen this you can lower your expectations for her, so you won't feel as hurt when she disappoints you in the future.

Are her kids old enough that you can have an independent relationship with them now, and would they appreciate that? If so I might just bypass their mom and try to build on what we'd established when they were kids. At least try to see if your efforts back then paid off with them, even if it didn't with your sister.
~Lynn2000

TootsNYC

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Hugs, GrammarNerd!



Some random thoughts, and hopefully a little bit of encouragement mixed in there.
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I didn't do it with the intention of getting paid back.  I did it b/c I loved the kids and wanted to do stuff with them and for them.

My suggestion is that you try to recast this as having nothing to do w/ your sister, and instead zero your focus to those kids. Reach out to them on their own. Friend them on Facebook, and like all their  posts. And sometimes share stuff with them. Just ďbe around.Ē Send them an email now and then, out of the blue.
   Thatís where your investment was, and thatís where the payoff can be.

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But I just kind of always assumed that when I had kids, my kids would matter as much to her as hers did to me, and would be evidenced by her involvement with them.  Who wouldn't think that? I think it's a reasonable assumption.  And THAT is what hurts now. 


I actually didnít assume that. I was aware that by the time my kids finally came along, and were little and cute, my sibsí kids would be pretty time-consuming. Theyíd be 7, 8, 10 or 11, and thatís when parents are really busy w/ the demands that their childrenís lives put on them.
   But, I also knew that when my kids came along, Iíd fade out.

I had the advantage, perhaps (and I think it was an advantage for me) that we were very far apart. And I knew that my sibs had far less money than I did, plus they had families. And so I knew they simply couldnít put in the time, because they couldnít travel to me.
   It helped me a lot, I think, because I had a realistic assumption of what things would be like. But it did make me sad, even in advance, because I knew what was coming.

Interestingly, Iím not upset at what that means about whatís between me and my sibs. I think thatís part of your pain here, that you see it as a referendum on the relationship between you and your sister.
   For me, Iím sad for my kids, that they donít get to have fun and interesting aunts & uncles. I was a fun and interesting aunt; my sibs would be fun & interesting au-ncles, if they were closer or if the timing had worked differently.
   Thatís a difference between us, I think; I have a feeling Iím fortunate, bcs I think this sadness is easier to live with than your pain. So again, sympathies!

The thread through your whole last post, to me, has been this:

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And when it's your own sister that you feel used by, that's not a good feeling.

And of course the ďI matter and you donítĒ feeling, w/ you sensing that she thinks you should defer to her, etc.

That stinks, and Iím sorry you have that dynamic w/ your sister. 

I often think that it's very important not to have false hopes about our relationships with family & friends. Accuracy is important--people often get upset with the phrase, "That's just the way she is." But I think that when this phrase comes up, it's usually because someone is pressing for unrealistic and inaccurate responses from someone else. The someone else is not going to change; constantly expecting a different response really only increases the pain.

Of course, that's easier said than done! I had to do it w/ my brother, who doesn't love me as much as I love him, and who doesn't meet my expectations (The biggie: He came from IA to NYC and *sat around in the hotel and later in the airport for hours killing time* rather than make any effort to get ahold of me to get together. Ouch!)

It took a long time. But it is so much better now that my assumption is that he can't be bothered, doesn't really like me much, and is only talking to me because he has to. Then when he's actually pleasant, it's a nice surprise! and in the middle times, I don't even think of him.

I wish you the mental adjustment to letting go of this expectation, and to finding your own peace with this.

(But it does stink, and I'm sure it really hurts. Hugs!)

purple

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Oh, now I see where you're coming from.

Before (in this and the Easter basket thread), it looked to me like a case of people giving gifts and being upset and not receiving gifts back.  Now I see it's what the gift represented that you are missing.  Sometimes I can be very sensitive and intuitive and others times you need to hit me with a sledgehammer to get me to understand things, this being one of the latter.

It sounds like your sister just doesn't want the level of closeness that you once shared.  That's a tough thing to realise, but it's just one of those things that happens to us sometimes and it hurts but we have to get through it.  When I was going through a similar situation, someone said to me 'you can't make someone love you' and that is very true.  It's tough to hear, but it's true.