Off-topic bitching session—pet peeve

I have seven nieces and nephews. I have lived away from them now for 7 years. The youngest is 3, then there are three 8 year olds, an 11 year old, a 12 year old and a 15 year old. I love them all dearly and would really love to see them regularly. I have up until recently seen them several times a year. Now, though, I am no longer able to travel.

Two of my siblings happen to be essentially filthy rich. The kids have everything they might dream of and more. Even the family that is not filthy rich, the kids have more than I ever could have conceived of having when I was a child.

Because of this I put very special effort into selecting gifts for their birthdays and Christmas as, like I said they all basically have everything they could possibly want and a whole lot more. And since I can’t see them I hope to at least make some sort of impression by the “cool” unusual gifts I give them.

Occasionally and the other night was one of these nights I let my pet peeve get the best of me and I get really really annoyed. None of these children have ever in the entire time I have been sending them very carefully considered gifts ever once thanked me for anything I have given them. Nor do their parents thank me or even acknowledge the gift unless I ask if it was received.

I know this is my siblings fault and not the kids, but it bugs me to no end. I have considered sending an email to my siblings saying that unless they teach their children manners I will no longer give them gifts.

But that seems counter-productive in terms of my relationship with the children. It is not their fault that their parents have failed them in teaching them good manners and appreciation for what they have.

But damn, it still can really get my goat sometimes. It’s a dilemma I most likely will not be able to resolve.

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20 thoughts on “Off-topic bitching session—pet peeve

  1. There are two things you wish for your nieces and nephews from how I see it:

    1. To give them an expression of your love and to say, “I’m glad you exist and are part of my life.” (even though they don’t try to be part of your life… yet)

    2. Having done that, your concern is that they are not being taught one of the basic tenets of a contented life… being thankful.

    I will say, there are many things that I became thankful for in retrospect, as I’ve matured. And I have multiple times written to my Aunts and Uncles telling them what fond memories I have of them as I grew up. And I’ve made sure that if I didn’t say it then, I’ve said it now while they are still on this planet, that I love and appreciate them.

    So one thing you can consider, though it doesn’t help now, and it is not a sure thing by any stretch, is that one day, because of your unselfish and thoughtful giving, you may receive such a note from at least one of them. Because one day they just might grow up and realize that your gifts were different and more thoughtfilled than the many expensive toys and electronics they received.

    My oldest sister, 15 years older than me, was more like an aunt in this way, and always gave me artsy/creative gifts that required my time and creative energy to enjoy them. And I’ve told her, at least in retrospective, that I noticed that, appreciated it.

    Pete

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  2. Okay, I will make this comment at the risk of being misinterpreted and unpopular…but I have struggled with this same issue in the past. My sister and I are estranged–also because of psych drugs–and I have much the same experience with her two younger daughters. However, questioning this in meditation one day I received the following: According to the laws of metaphysics, giving is, in-and-of-itself, really a gift to yourself, in that when we give from the heart, we always receive something in excess of what we give back. It is the law of attraction. There should not be any “attachments” to the gift–that includes any expectation on your part (be it a thank you, acknowledgement, or any other expression of gratitude). If you place an attachment to the gift, then it negates the special time, effort, and emotion (not to mention the money) expended to select the gift for the recipient, which would otherwise, according to the law, be returned to you 10-fold! So, delight in the selection of that special gift (which you are enjoying more than the children probably ever will!) and give without expectation of any return–absolutely nothing! The joy and satisfaction you receive will more than make up for any unwritten thank you note, or obligatory phone call you might have received from the children or your siblings. Let your love express itself unencumbered by expectattion and know that in the end, you are the receiver of the greatest gift of all–the ability to feel that love and connection to other human beings and express it openly!

    To test this “theory” myself, I started spending half of the money I had usually allocated for exorbitant gifts to these kids on Salvation Army Angels that I have never met (and never will) at Christmas time. These are my favorite gifts to buy every year now, and I select them all with the love and excitement of a child myself…Talk about endless joy! (I love you, Gianna! Sorry I missed your birthday!)

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    1. oh no, Gwen,
      I’m totally with you…I have that part of my brain/spirit in gear as well…but that doesn’t mean the petty part of me doesn’t want to bitch…and on some level both realms have a purpose and a meaning in our lives….

      there is the practical reality that the children are being raised in ways that worry me…
      and there is the spiritual goals I aim for, which granted, I did not mention here, but was not absent from my process…

      this was a vent and a rant…

      your comment is much appreciated. we are multi-dimensional beings.

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  3. Wow, you sure got a lot of great responses to this “off-topic” session. My daughter made me a “pet-peeve” years ago. Originally it was one of those little fuzzy balls you can buy a whole bag of at a craft store, it had a couple of those black and white googly eyes and was strung on a piece of yarn. I loved it! After the yarn broke, it had a magnet glued to the back and lived on the fridge until one eye fell off. It lives in a box of mementos my daughter has given me over the years (she’ll be 28 next week, so I’ve got some great stuff). I too have nieces and nephews, and now 3 great-nieces and 1 great-nephew. We don’t see one another frequently but one of the few things I really look forward to during the winter holidays is the trip I get to make to a small local bookstore to find those fun, creative, unique gifts. Someday, if even one of your nieces/nephews, remembers that you have always been there, even if only from a distance it may make a difference that will touch both your lives. I notice also the ages of these children. The oldest is 15. Won’t be long before some of them will be needing a caring confidant that’s NOT mom or dad. Keep reminding them of your presence. You may be surprised at the outcome. Children are such great mirrors for us but at times all we can do is be a good reflection for them.
    Still holding you in Light!
    Bonnie

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  4. Welcome to the club! Again, my brother makes a lot of money. I have never tried to compete with others in giving of gifts to my niece.

    So, I’d send things like a sketch that might have taken me 50 hours to draw to my niece. I would never get a thank you or any acknowlegement that I’d ever sent anything. I wrote a letter about this, to my brother and sister in law, and I think they may have thanked me once after that.

    I went through a phase where I’d send things and not expect to be thanked, but eventually, I just decided that my brother and his wife were so arrogant, that I should entirely give up. As it is, I recently told my brother, who is only one year difference in age, that I no longer wanted a relationship with him. This is after about 10 years of his neglecting our relationship with 8 years being related to issues around my niece.

    I’m actually making a web site, naming names about my entire genetic family, anbd holding each accountable, including my brother and for the benefit of a niece, who is not far away from being able to do internet searches.

    The only thing my genetic family all seem to have in common are huge egos, and therefore, the only thing they care about is their image. What better way to broach the topic of “thank yous” and “gratitude” than a very public web site at their expense. Life is full of rude relatives, like me, I guess.

    My husband comments that he believes it’s pretty common for children, today, to not show appreciation for gifts, they are not taught how to say “thank you”, and those other things that indicate one has a “social conscience”.

    A life serving your own ego, is a life of unhappiness, and as hard as it is, to be treated in a rude manner by “family”, it is even harder to lead a life, where one never feels, or expresses gratitude.

    I consider your post to be very reasonable, compared to how much turmoil a thoughtless family can cause.

    Best,
    Ari

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  5. @Duane,

    That is awesome. Never let him lose that wonder. You can be an example to him that grown ups don’t have to shed that childlike awe just be cause the are adults.

    My daughter is 11 and I still point things out to her, and it means so much to me when she draws my attention to what others would normally not even observe. And I think I pointed out to her that same moon in the clouds that your son wanted to share with you. You must feel at such times incredibly priveleged when your son seeks you out to share in the beauty or the joy of something that fills him with wonder.

    You sound like a pretty good dad to me.

    Pete (Pyrs)

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  6. Gianna,

    I just thought of something that I wanted to share with you, on the subject of gifts/appreciation for gifts….

    We live across the street (just down the road) from our youngest’s school….He walks home with a group of his buddies everyday, and knows to turn his cell phone on, and call his dad on his walk home…..so, I can check on him.

    There’s always a big group of kids, and as long as he calls me, I feel pretty safe with this – It’s a short walk….

    Anyway, the other week, he calls me: “Dad, hurry…you gotta come see this”….”What is it” I asked him….”I can’t tell you – you just have to see it”….”Hurry dad, hurry!!!”….

    So, I walk down the street, and find him with this huge smile – pointing up at a tree limb filled with icicles….We tossed some rocks until we knocked a few off, and stood there – eating icilces…..

    The other night….he goes out to the patio….”Dad, you gotta see this!”…..”What is it”….”Hurry dad, hurry”….He’s standing on the patio – pointing to the moon…..with a rush of clouds passing underneath – it was absolutely beautiful!

    We don’t need to buy “stuff” all the time for our kids….The world is full of the best kind of gifts!

    Duane

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  7. Well, people can be strange sometimes, I don’t know. It may be unconscious. Also I find the younger generation thinks nothing of not responding to emails etc. Like a different ethic or something.

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  8. Oh, parental alienation syndrome, when kids are brainwashed by one of their parents to have negative attitudes about others.

    Doug,
    I’m sorry, I don’t understand why you brought that up here? Are you suggesting the kids have been brainwashed to think poorly of me? It is actually a possibility…but it wouldn’t be conscious on the part of my siblings…they’re not cruel…just not really in touch with reality.

    In keeping with your saying it bothers you that your family seems to not put efforts towards you, I know it’s very painful to me that my siblings never contact me…they have no clue how ill I am and though they’ve been told, don’t give a shit…

    My brother that died, sadly, was the only sibling who ever demonstrated true affection and love for me.

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  9. Yeah well I don’t understand why sometimes people who are related to you don’t even want to talk to you. Family members can be weird that way sometimes. That is why I wrote my post about bastards. Just throw it all out there. I make a joke about it but it really does bother me.

    Oh, parental alienation syndrome, when kids are brainwashed by one of their parents to have negative attitudes about others.

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  10. Gianna,

    Something special for a kid’s rock collection….

    That’s actually what I try to teach my kids….to get others gifts that are special….and have some thought behind them….

    My boys either call or write thank-you notes for gifts….I think it’s important.

    Duane

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  11. No Duane,
    what you say is not corny at all…I think my nieces and nephews have way too much crap and they don’t appreciate any of it…It saddens me…

    when I say I send special gifts they are not expensive…they are simply unique. My nephew collects rocks, stones, crystals…I’ve got him some really cool stuff that cost like 5 bucks for one rock, etc…

    I worry about those kids…the privileges they take for granted make me wonder how they will turn out and their parents are never around and one of my sibling actually has 3 nannies…coverage around the clock…I don’t get it. If you have children it seems you should spend time with them.

    Stephany,
    the stationary idea is excellent and I will indeed try it. I’m concerned perhaps it’s of another time though…and these kids are purely of the electronic age…

    I’ve contacted all the kids by email (those who have email accounts which is about half) and only one responded with barely a sentence. And I know they are online and active…the older kids have facebook accounts…

    NG,
    yes it’s possible I’ll have to come to terms with that and that is why I ended the post with the thought that this would not be resolved.

    Doug,
    the kids are too cool to be friends with me on facebook…and frankly that’s okay…I don’t take issue with that…I wanted my privacy from adults on that level when I as kid too…

    I did send them facebook messages, telling them I did not expect them to want to be my friend but just to say hello…this was the instance in which one of them responded…the others didn’t even bother responding…

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  12. Off-topic, indeed. Looks like you struck a nerve here, Gianna. I have a half aunt who doesn’t want to know I exist, another half cousin (whom I cold called, never met) who got paranoid when I asked when her birthday was, and another cousin (yes, Cousin from Eastern Washington) whom I have never met but who regularly comments on my blog. I have my nieces and nephews birthdays stored away in my genealogy program, but my family thinks I am weird for caring about such things. My late grandfather said I was like the old maid of the family. They are all so disjointed from divorces, marriage certificates getting lost in a flood, etc etc. I have found that facebook is a good way of keeping track of them though.

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  13. Gianna,

    You might just have to realize that some people never will send a thank you note. I have relatives like that. I don’t like it, but I can’t change it. Maybe you could just have a brief telephone conversation so at least you know they received the gift.

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  14. Even before my kids could write notes themselves, I had pre printed thank you cards where they could print their name to sign it.

    I also set the example by writing handwritten notes and thank yous to everyone.

    They also sent each child at their b day parties thank you notes.

    It’s not only a part of raising kids I believe in (manners, grace and giving to others) you can use it as a learning tool, they learn how to address an envelope and construct a letter, which eventually is a skill needed for job resumes etc.

    My kids will now (they are in their 20s) send me random thank you notes for example, one of my kids wrote a note thanking for taking the time to help after her car was broken into and items stolen.

    One way I assisted my little kids was to buy stationary, and stamps and help pre-address notes to relatives for gifts.

    One gift you could send all of your nieces and nephews is interesting, artsy, cool stationary and pre-stamp the envelopes, sending them a note along with it how you’d love to keep in touch with them. Then start sending them handwritten notes.

    If anything, they will keep in contact, and handwritten notes are rare these days.

    I just sent one off to my mom the other day.

    It might be off topic, but it’s a good one. (in all of the years my kids sent thank you notes, my mom never did send them one! or acknowledge gifts mailed by me unless I asked)

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  15. Gianna,

    I know it sounds corny, but I wonder how much kids really need all this ‘stuff’….

    Our boys were never really spoiled, especially not these past years (while dad’s been on SSDI), but I can remember when they were younger especially, when what they really wanted, and still want is time….

    Our youngest has his birthday today, and our oldest has his next week….So, we’re gonna celebrate both together, and go to the drive-in movies….Watch a double-feature….

    We load up our vehicle, and take a lot of great food – they both like natural foods – so, we bring Barbara’s brand potato chips, and Hebrew National hot-dogs on whole grain, and their junk food is not all that bad…..My wife and I get some good food too, and hot tea in a thermos….

    It’s fun in the cold….outdoors – to watch the big-screen, and drink hot tea, crank up the motor every half-hour for just a few minutes, and then bundle up under the blankets….

    It’s a fun time – it costs $20 bucks to get in….and, it’s something the boys will remember….

    You get them really expensive stuff….they break it, lose it, or get disinterested in a week…

    Even if I had a lot of money, I wouldn’t spoil my kids….Except with time….That’s where they want/need to be “spoiled”…..

    I’m not by any means a perfect dad, and I hope I don’t come off as “preachy”….I just thik if mom and dads spent more time with kids….They wouldn’t always want “stuff”….although, mine ask….I usually just say “we’ll see….hey, you wanna go play some basketball”….It works,

    Duane

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  16. no Pete,
    that was very much appreciated. I will think about it. The thing is I’m not terribly close with my siblings and if you’re a parent you’ll know parents don’t like even a hint or suggestion that perhaps they are not appropriately teaching their children…so it’s touchy…

    I will think about what you said though and if I can be lucid and not angry about it perhaps I can come up with something appropriate.

    thanks again.

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  17. Gratitude is one of the most important virtues. It greatly enhances one’s ability to enjoy life… both for the one expressing the gratitude, and the one receiving it. When someone is shown gratitude, it should prompt the recipient to pass it on to others too. But obiously thats not always the case.

    The only suggestion I would have is from an experience I had in my family of origin. My siblings and I always tried to recognize each other’s children’s birthdays with a gift, until they graduated from high school or college. But there was a period of time when we had grown lax. My brother sent out a brief and sincere email about how he had noticed that we had been missing some birthdays of our nieces and nephews. And how his son had asked him about it. My brother simply expressed his dissappointment and stressed how important to him it was that his children grew up knowing they were important and loved by their aunts and uncles. And that he hoped we would put more effort in recognizing their birthdays in the future. We had to swallow our pride. But it worked.

    It basically the opposite of what you are experiencing. But perhaps you could spend some time composing a draft of a brief email that expresses how important your nieces and nephews are to you. And how you have tried to show them that through your gifts. You could also convey how you don’t know any other way of showing it since you can’t travel anymore. But it seems you are not getting the point across since you never receive unsolicited thank yous.

    Don’t send it off right away. That’s important. But digest it and revise it. And let a good friend or two read it and give you their opinions, both men and women if possible. Even if you don’t send it, at least you’ve written it out and sorted through it.

    The important thing I think is that it emphasizes how much you value your nieces and nephews, and how you struggle with letting them know that, and wanting to know they know that. There is really nothing selfish in that desire. And hopefully the parents will learn from it as well, like my sisters and I did from my brother.

    Sorry if that was to much “fix the problem” guy talk.

    Pete

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