Author Topic: s/o Forgotten Easter Baskets....uneven gift exchanges/delayed reciprocation  (Read 4420 times)

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GrammarNerd

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I didn't want to derail the other thread, but it made me think of the whole idea of the gift "exchange".  My nephews are older than my kids, to the point that the youngest was 9 when my oldest was born.  So I was pretty involved with them before we had kids of our own.  Of course I got them gifts for special occasions, but I also did things like make their birthday cakes (those annoying Wilton ones with all of the frosting dots....Winnie the Pooh seriously took me 4 hours!) and take them places, sometimes overnight.  Took them trick or treating when my sister didn't.  So along the line of gifts, now that they're adults, I don't give them things like I used to when they were kids.  The thing is that now my sister has also stopped gifting my kids.

I'm not one to 'solicit' gifts.  My kids are taught to appreciate whatever they get and thank the giver.  So please don't think that's the issue. 

For example, my son had a religious ceremony this weekend.  We didn't make a huge deal of it with a catered party with tons of friends or anything, but I made sure to invite sister a month ahead of time, since she's his godmother, and told her that we'd be going out to dinner afterwards.  BIL didn't come, but that's no surprise.  One nephew came (early 20s).  My MIL was also there.  Sister participated in the ceremony.  We all had a good time catching up.  DH and I took everyone out to dinner.  They left from the restaurant.  What surprised me was that my sister never even gave my son a card.  I'm not even talking cash, but a card to commemorate the occasion, since she's his godmother.

I treated my nephews pretty well when they were little, and to a point, my sister expected it.  For example, she didn't bake, so there were a few years that she assumed I would not only come for the birthdays, but make the birthday cakes.  She bought the Winnie the pooh pan and handed it to me, with the assumption that I'd make the cake, for example.  I was happy to do it at the time, and I know I didn't have a DH or my own kids to keep me busy.  I'm not silly and I don't expect THAT level of involvement.  But now that my kids are that age, and the trend is going toward her hardly even acknowledging my kids (late birthday congrats, etc.), I have to admit that I'm kind of hurt that the effort that she puts into my kids isn't anywhere near what I did for her kids.  Some of it can be explained, I know, by the difference in our lives at the time.  But still, to have a month's notice of a a kid's important event, and not even get him a card?

I want to reiterate that it's not about greed, but more about reciprocation and thought.  I made her kids a priority, and it's hurtful that my kids don't warrant anywhere near the attention from her, even despite the differences in lifestyles.

I know there's probably nothing that can be said about this in good etiquette, but if there is, I'd like to hear suggestions.  Or does anyone else have similar circumstances?

TootsNYC

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It's a bummer--I totally see your point.


I'm in sort of your shoes; I was the last to have kids. And my kids really don't have much of a relationship w/ their aunts & uncles on my side at all. I didn't do as much w/ my nie-phews as you did, but I did send them goofy stuff as presents, and went to visit them when they were little.

In my case, I sort of dropped off the face of the earth when my kids were born. We went for a few visits, but I didn't have the time to send them wacky stuff, etc.

I went to visit my niece last week, and I talked on the phone with her sister. And my siblings never reach out to my kids -at all.- It makes me really sad.

I don't think I can say anything. And what good is a faked-up relationship anyway?

I sometimes fantasize someone in your position could say, "Sis, I noticed that you didn't even give my kid, your godchild, a card, let alone a present. And I've realized it's not really about the present, but about the fact that it seems as though you can't really be bothered to treat him as though he's special.
    "I did that for your kids, and I had a ball doing it. I don't really expect you to be the same kind of auntie I was. But, it just felt like, here was a ready-made opportunity to make some sort of gesture to my kid, and you didn't do anything.
   "It just made me sad. And a little hurt. Like, it's OK for me to go all out, and you to capitalize on that, but when I am the one w/ a younger kid, you can't be bothered.
   "I'm just telling you this because, well, it was festering."

But probably, in real life, you can't.

Peregrine

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Oh, I am so struggling with this!  I'm also the last on my husband's side to have children (oldest nie-phew is going to be 19 in the fall) and I'm trying to figure out how much longer to continue gifting for Christmas's and Birthdays.

We have already gone to just gifting the children, rather than every member of the family, and that is working splendidly for all involved.  But with a huge spread from 19 down to the little one I'm pregnant with it's going to be hard to figure out when to stop.  I'm the designated gift purchaser for our family, and my husband wanted me to figure out how to handle it, so it's all on me.  It feels very awkward to be the recipient (on behalf of my toddler and baby to be) for gifts when we no longer send to the oldest ones who are soon to be leaving for college and missions etc.

I think we came up with the plan that we continue to send Christmas presents as long as the kiddo's are still celebrating at home with their family and in college (probably up to about age 25 given the familial culture and circumstances) until they get married and start to form their own household and traditions.  At that point it will just be major milestone gifts for graduation, marriage, babies etc.  Birthday's are going to be a little harder, but a small cash gift and card will probably continue until each leaves for college, then we will reevaluate.

Our situation is further complicated by a toxic Grandma on that side of the family that uses gift giving and familial relationships as a bludgeon to try to control the family.  The Aunties and Uncles have tried to step up to make up for the lack of involvement from Grandma.  Unfortunately its a very complicated situation where if we want to see Grandpa (Dad) we have to make nice with Mom or she doesn't allow him to have contact with his children without making his life miserable.


TootsNYC

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  It feels very awkward to be the recipient (on behalf of my toddler and baby to be) for gifts when we no longer send to the oldest ones who are soon to be leaving for college and missions etc.

but remember that there were years when you were the only one giving presents to any children, because you didn't have any.

Mathematically it works out--every kid receives presents for 18 years. (or 20, or whatever).

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I think we came up with the plan that we continue to send Christmas presents as long as the kiddo's are still celebrating at home with their family and in college (probably up to about age 25 given the familial culture and circumstances) until they get married and start to form their own household and traditions.  At that point it will just be major milestone gifts for graduation, marriage, babies etc.  Birthday's are going to be a little harder, but a small cash gift and card will probably continue until each leaves for college, then we will reevaluate.

I like your plan! (not that it matters, of course; you sure don't need my approval) I can see that it would be comfortable for you.

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Our situation is further complicated by a toxic Grandma on that side of the family that uses gift giving and familial relationships as a bludgeon to try to control the family.  The Aunties and Uncles have tried to step up to make up for the lack of involvement from Grandma.  Unfortunately its a very complicated situation where if we want to see Grandpa (Dad) we have to make nice with Mom or she doesn't allow him to have contact with his children without making his life miserable.

Bummer!

CookieChica

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I worry about this from the other side. My son is 3 and I would guess Brother and Wife are about two years out on kids. My brother often spends more on presents for my son than I do. My son gets Thanksgiving presents. While I plan to acknowledge Christmas, birthdays, Valentine's, Halloween, and Easter (we're a holiday overkill family) with two kids of my own, there's no way I can match his generosity and I feel terrible about it.

TootsNYC

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You can match his generosity in terms of loving and caring for his child! If he's any kind of decent person, and his wife is as well, that's what they'll care about.

And you're ahead of the game, because you recognize the potential for the imbalance that comes when cousins are spaced out in terms of arrival time.


I'll also say that for me, my late-arriving kids are getting older and less absorbing, and that frees me up to be an aunt again. So it doesn't need to be about cash reciprocation, but about caring about them and being involved in their lives.
   So when your kids get to be teenagers, or even out of college, you might have more energy (and maybe even money) to be involved w/ his kids.
   And I'm finding that being involved w/ my nie-phews as young adults is pretty powerful stuff!

ladyknight1

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We are the only members of either family to have a child at our generation. My DH's cousins are too young and I have two cousins with children around DS's age (mid-teens). We do not live near any family with children in the same age range.

My DH's cousins are starting to get engaged, so we are fully prepared to travel for weddings over the next few years. I understand your frustration with no reciprocation at all.

aussie_chick

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I don't really have anything to add except that I empathise with your situation Op.
One thing I picked up on was when you said you did things with her kids (like trick or treating) when your sister didn't.

That might be more to the point than the reciprocity of gifts.

Your sister might be the kind of person who doesn't make an effort - no matter who it is. So in other words, not personal, her general behaviour.

I don't have any suggestions of what you could say, if anything, because anything I can think of wouldn't be ehell approved. But it depends on your relationship with her. My sister would absolutely be blunt with me and say "what gives?" and we'd then talk about it. if you have that kind of relationship then you could.


secretrebel

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I remember reading a sad thread on another forum from a woman who had attended all her friends weddings and hen nights and spent generously. she was the last of her group of friend to get married and when it came to organising a hen night or asking her friends to be in the wedding, they all declined on the ground that they now had small children and couldn't afford the time or the money. The OP felt it was her turn and since she had spent generously on friends that they should do the same for her but the advice columnist counselled that she couldn't make these women spend money on her whatever she felt was right.

I think that fairness is important and that children notice and remember these things and so do adults. But you can't make other people reciprocate your generosity.

I don't have kids but I do have sisters and one always expected great big hooplas over her birthday without ever doing much to mark those of others. After one too many of these I stopped putting in the effort for the hoopla, knowing it would not be reciprocated.

lady_disdain

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My personal rule is that I don't give gifts, do favours or activities that I will resent if they aren't reciprocated.

mime

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Oh, I am so struggling with this!  I'm also the last on my husband's side to have children (oldest nie-phew is going to be 19 in the fall) and I'm trying to figure out how much longer to continue gifting for Christmas's and Birthdays.

We have already gone to just gifting the children, rather than every member of the family, and that is working splendidly for all involved.  But with a huge spread from 19 down to the little one I'm pregnant with it's going to be hard to figure out when to stop.  I'm the designated gift purchaser for our family, and my husband wanted me to figure out how to handle it, so it's all on me.  It feels very awkward to be the recipient (on behalf of my toddler and baby to be) for gifts when we no longer send to the oldest ones who are soon to be leaving for college and missions etc.

I think we came up with the plan that we continue to send Christmas presents as long as the kiddo's are still celebrating at home with their family and in college (probably up to about age 25 given the familial culture and circumstances) until they get married and start to form their own household and traditions.  At that point it will just be major milestone gifts for graduation, marriage, babies etc.  Birthday's are going to be a little harder, but a small cash gift and card will probably continue until each leaves for college, then we will reevaluate.

Our situation is further complicated by a toxic Grandma on that side of the family that uses gift giving and familial relationships as a bludgeon to try to control the family.  The Aunties and Uncles have tried to step up to make up for the lack of involvement from Grandma.  Unfortunately its a very complicated situation where if we want to see Grandpa (Dad) we have to make nice with Mom or she doesn't allow him to have contact with his children without making his life miserable.

Me too! On DH's side of the family the oldest niece is 25 and the youngest is 10months (my daughter). The next generation is underway, too, with a great niece who is a few months older than our daughter. Figuring out how the generations fit in to the gift giving/recieving pattern has been tricky. It does make me envious of families who have already established a system for the kids who become adults.

Lynn2000

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I also sympathize. I think one thing that's difficult, is that it can be hard to explain to people--in your heart you know you are being slighted, but it's so easy for other people to give excuses/reasons that seem perfectly legit, so that you end up feeling like the petty, bean-counting person.

In this case, to me, personal attendance at the ceremony seems like a big thing, even though she didn't get your son a physical object (even a card). As you said, her DH and at least one of her other kids didn't even come or, I assume, otherwise acknowledge the occasion (if I understand correctly). As I get older I feel like the effort of personally showing up to something (and being pleasant there of course) takes on a greater significance. But only you can decide if that's true in this case.

Maybe you could try being more direct with your sister? I mean, she didn't have a problem handing you a cake pan and assuming you'd make a cake for her child. I'm not saying retaliatory rudeness, but some people can be quite oblivious and would actually appreciate a close relative saying, "Bobby's birthday is coming up in a week. He would really love to get a card from you in the mail. If you're looking for gift ideas, he's into Thomas the Tank Engine right now." That would be rude to say to a lot of people, I think, but sometimes with close friends and relatives you can break that rule.

You would sort of be assuming that of course, your sister wants to celebrate her nephew's birthday, but she tends to forget dates and isn't always sure what to get, so you're helping her out. You could soften it by having a discussion with her first and getting her permission to remind her, if you prefer. "Bobby really loves getting birthday cards and gifts from you. Would you like me to send you a reminder about a week before his birthday? Feel free to ask me for gift ideas if you're stuck."
~Lynn2000

TootsNYC

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We are the only members of either family to have a child at our generation. My DH's cousins are too young and I have two cousins with children around DS's age (mid-teens). We do not live near any family with children in the same age range.

My DH's cousins are starting to get engaged, so we are fully prepared to travel for weddings over the next few years. I understand your frustration with no reciprocation at all.

But then, won't the extended family travel for your children's weddings? When the time comes?
This is sort of a hard thing to expect reciprocation on. If they ignore your family's big events, then that's hurtful and a problem. But when it's just that you don't have any big events (and a wedding is pretty big), how can they reciprocate?


Oooh, this is really a great insight, aussie_chick!
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Your sister might be the kind of person who doesn't make an effort - no matter who it is. So in other words, not personal, her general behaviour.

ladyknight1

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No, I really don't expect all 7 of DH's cousins to travel for our DS's eventual wedding. It was mentioned for perspective.

TootsNYC

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I sort of feel that the "traveling for a cousin's wedding" is really where the reciprocation falls. Traveling for a cousin's child's wedding is the one that's "all on a level."
   So I expected by first cousins to travel for my wedding. But I wouldn't necessarily expect them to travel for my child's wedding. (Though I might travel for their kids' weddings, depending. Some of them, I know their kids better than they know mine.)

It can seem unfair when cousins are at different stages in their lives, of course.