General chatter - Doing away with Christmas presents




Stella
10-09-2009, 08:00 AM
I`d appreciate some independent opinions on this sensitive topic.

Since years, I would like to abolish presents to my dad and wife. I`ve mentioned it a few times, but my suggestion was rejected and I did not put my foot down.

The reason for my unwillingness to make presents is the following:

Since I did not like one particular present (and dared to say so, hoping to get offered an exchange of the piece of jewellery), I get money. I now live in a different country and no longer come, as at the beginning, to visit every Christmas.

Since I am no longer there, I get my Christmas money late, sometimes in summer, sometimes in autumn. Awkwardly, a note is pulled out of one`s purse and handed over: "Here, for last Christmas."

I continue to punctually send a rapped present, as it is expected. I eventually said that I am not happy because it`s unfair. I even gave an ultimatum: I either get what I`m expected to give (a wrapped present, punctual) or I also stop sending things.

Since then, I get something, but it is very obvious that no thought is put into it. The presents I got since included: 2 videos (excellent, these were the two first presents), a cheap perfume (which I use as an air freshener for the bathroom, because that`s what it smells like), a scarf (which made a whole load of washing turn grey), a home-burnt CD (with music which they know I dislike), shower gel and candles.

I just no longer want to make the effort - but how do I convey this to the family *and* stick to my guns?


ladyrider72472
10-09-2009, 08:41 AM
First of all, I am sorry that you are not treated fairly.

Let me say I grew up with Christmas all of my life..... and I raised my kids that way too. In the past two years..... I have not put a up a tree, but I have continued to give gifts..... but my gut tells me that the "world" has commercialized it so much..... it is not what it once was. I know this is a very sensitive subject..... but here goes. Ya know..... my gut tells me to just treat it like every other day except in my home. What I mean is.... Christmas Day should be a time for family and togetherness. Yes, presents are good.... but why go out and max all of your cards for something that the person may not like or you cannot afford?

The reason I said that..... is if you feel like giving is a "chore" and your family does not think more of you to at least send you money on time.... then maybe you all should forego "formality" and just exchange a Merry Christmas and be done with it. Christmas time was not meant to be stressful, nor was it meant to be a burden..... which it has turned out to be for a lot and it seems like you are in this "formality" too. Ya know..... changing our lives with our eating and exercising patterns are enough to conquer..... why add unwanted Christmas stress too?

Just my thought. Keep us posted as to how it turns out.

Stella
10-09-2009, 09:25 AM
The reason I said that..... is if you feel like giving is a "chore" and your family does not think more of you to at least send you money on time.... then maybe you all should forego "formality" and just exchange a Merry Christmas and be done with it. Christmas time was not meant to be stressful, nor was it meant to be a burden..... which it has turned out to be for a lot and it seems like you are in this "formality" too. Ya know..... changing our lives with our eating and exercising patterns are enough to conquer..... why add unwanted Christmas stress too?



Yes, all those are the issues for me.

I feel the stress is not worth it - they obviously do not stress about my gifts, but the "joy" they give me are not worth the (little) money which is spent on them.

I`ve downscaled, too, and the recipients are no lnoger as enthusiastic as they used to be when I spent more. So even though I continue to look for what the person would really enjoy, it`s probably not appreciated either.

In the end, I stress and both parties end up being disappointed with each other. Moreso, I see an increasing danger of gifts being used to retaliate for each others` perceived lack of care and love.

But I cannot bring myself to say it. I`m at a loss. I just don`t know how to tackle this sensitive subject without ending up justifying and definding my decision.


Windchime
10-09-2009, 09:43 AM
I can really relate becuase I find Christmas to be stressfull and expensive as well, and I wonder--why? My guess is that everyone else feels the same way, so why do we all feel the pressure to go out and spend a bunch of money that we don't have to buy things for people who don't need/want stuff?

I'm guessing that at least part of your family members may be relieved when you say that you are opting out of the big gift exchange. Maybe you could say something like, "We're going to keep observing birthdays, but we are going to be opting out of exchanging gifts this year for Christmas. Thanks for understanding! :)". If they press for a reason, say, "it's a decision that we made; we are trying to simplify our lives." Something like that. Trust me, they will probably be relieved.

We go through this in my family. I have one sister who is really, really poor. It's a hardship for her to just get gifts for her son, let alone all her family so last year was the first year that we stopped doing the gift exchanges. Thank goodness, because I really felt I was spending time and money buying stuff (junk?) for people who didn't want it, and they were having to do the same for me! It's really silly when you think about it.

ladyrider72472
10-09-2009, 09:47 AM
I agree Windchime. It is silly...... and it has turned into such a "man made" holiday! It is just a reason for us to spend money!

Jellybean
10-09-2009, 09:54 AM
Do you talk by phone? You could try asking if there's anything they particularly want and then tell them what you would like. There's no surprise but at least your both happy.

If you don't mind me asking, are your relatives struggling with money? The presents your getting could be construed as either the best we can afford/we couldn't afford one so we made you a present OR not really thinking about what you would like.

Other than that, as far as I see it you have two options:

1 - Stand up for what you want and tell them no more presents (if it were me I think up lots of reasons unrelated to them like postal prices as an excuse but it's all personal to you at the end of the day).

2 - Take the moral high ground of taking comfort in sending nice gifts you know they will like and let their conciseness dictate what they should give.

bargoo
10-09-2009, 09:54 AM
My attitude is somewhat different. When you demand what you want and how and when it should be sent seems very selfish to me. If I were sending a gift to someone with those demands I would be very hurt. Gifts should not have strings attached. If I receive something I don't like I try to exchange it, if it can't be exchanged I give it to someone else. In my family we only give to immediate family, parents. siblings and kids. THe kids get a wish list with several ideas.They know these are only suggestions and that they may not get everything. If Christmas giving is so unpleasant for you. you can just stop participating.

Stella
10-09-2009, 09:56 AM
@ Windchime: Thank you for your wonderful words!

This is a wonderful way to convey my decision to my family, because it makes it sound like it`s about me/us and not about him and his gifts. I indeed feel that with the budget we have for each other (used to be higher) you cannot buy anything useful, just junk.

My biggest problem is to avoid insulting his gifts (and give them the opportunity to turn it all round and call me ungrateful) and have him take it personally.

Part of me wants him to know what the reason is, but the other part wants to avoid the confornmtation over a subject which is so sensitive.

I also like the "Thanks for understanding" which concludes the discussion (or m akes it clear that ther eis no scope for one) and helps me to avoid justifying and defending my decision (dangerous!). I need him to know that I mean it for this to work.

gggirls
10-09-2009, 09:57 AM
We started "no gifting" a few years ago except for those under 15. Christmas is still celebrated but now in a more meaningful way. We spend the day together enjoying each others' company. We share a meal (too much of a meal) and the leftovers make "TV dinners" for my elderly parents - yes, it is a gift but one that feels good. The stress is gone and we've learned that we feel better about it - the first year was certainly a test though.

Thighs Be Gone
10-09-2009, 09:58 AM
I despise the commercial and formal aspect of Christmas. We give gifts but smaller than most. We do, as a family, enjoy putting up our tree and putting a few lights on the house. It makes me sick when I see the hired crews in my neighborhood decorating peoples homes for Christmas. It seems to take away from the holiday and for me and represents everything I hate about the season.

That being said, I am all about the festivities. Me and my kids decorate gingerbread men and women and string popcorn. We also go to Christmas concerts, see the local production of the Nutcraker and things like that. For us, that's what Christmas is about.

If you truly don't want to bothered with gifts, make your feelings known and be done with it. You could even preface it by saying, "the best gift you can send to me is no gift and I sincerely mean that." Send a nice card and know you did your part. I'm sorry you are feeling so flustered with this and I am sorry you aren't being treated fairly.

Thighs Be Gone
10-09-2009, 10:01 AM
Ya know..... my gut tells me to just treat it like every other day except in my home. What I mean is.... Christmas Day should be a time for family and togetherness.

The reason I said that..... is if you feel like giving is a "chore" and your family does not think more of you to at least send you money on time.... then maybe you all should forego "formality" and just exchange a Merry Christmas and be done with it. Christmas time was not meant to be stressful, nor was it meant to be a burden..... which it has turned out to be for a lot and it seems like you are in this "formality" too.
.


SOOOOOOO TRUE!!!

Stella
10-09-2009, 10:02 AM
@ Jellybean:

I have asked him what he wanted one year (that was while he still gave money, late), and he replied that Christmas is about thinking each other, and if he tells me what he`d like I no longer need to do that. That was when I said, but you don`t think of me either by giving money.

He does not struggle with money, quite the opposite. I cannot however get the thought out of my head that he is punishing me, for moving abroad, for not giving him grandchildren, for not visiting more often. He`s doing great financially and likes to rub that in, but he also makes it very clear that all that is for himself to enjoy and not us (not even after his passing away).

My husband is rooting for the same "moral high ground" which you suggest, and although I have been adhering to this it keeps getting more difficult year by year.

Stella
10-09-2009, 10:08 AM
@ Bargoo:

I agree, in general, but I no longer could stand the unfairness of it all.

One day, I asked him what he would like and he replied: "I`m not telling you. It defies the purpose of Christmas. Christmas is about thinking of the other person and what he would like. If I tell you waht I want hyou no longer need to do that, so I won`t. You always have good idea, so go and think!"

This made me so angry, and I said, but you don`t think about me either, you just give money and you don`t even bother sending it on time. I was horrified when it transpired that he found nothing wrong with the way things are, and that`s when I said, right, let`s do away with Christmas altogether.

He said he was not prepared to, so that`s when I said, fine, but then you can start thinking about me, too. You like to have something under your tree, but so do I! And then I said if you want to continue to receive, start to give in the same way, otherwise, I start to do the same as you - give you a voucher when I come in summer.

jayjay77
10-09-2009, 10:28 AM
Stella -- I can completely relate to your post. My father and step-mother would always just send me a check for my birthday and Christmas. While in contrast I would take the time to shop for a thoughtful present for each of them, wrap it, ship it or bring it with me when visiting. I got them gifts for Christmas, their birthdays, Mother's Day and Father's Day, so six gifts a year. One year my father even "forgot" my birthday.

My approach was to just keep giving them gifts, but it was definitely hurtful to have familiy who was not caring. Unfortunately as they say we don't get to choose our families. Just wanted to let you know, you are not alone, other people have these issues too. Good luck with whatever you decide.

nelie
10-09-2009, 10:30 AM
I personally don't care much for giving gifts at a particular time of the year. Quite a few years ago, my larger family (aunts/uncles/cousins/parents) decided that only children would get gifts and they would draw names and give a gift to just 1 adult. That worked for many years until someone took advantage and decided they didn't want to give a gift, just receive one (and also, you could opt out of the gift giving, so it wasn't like you were obligated). So now they don't exchange gifts among the adults, just the kids. For a while, I still gave presents to my parents and they still gave me a present. Then we agreed that wasn't necessary, besides the fact that I visit almost every christmas (and spend $600+ to do so).

I may enjoy giving gifts but I don't like the stresses of having to give and find something at a particular time of year. If I happen to see something my mom would like, I may buy it for her, no matter what time of year. She does the same for me.

Jellybean
10-09-2009, 10:37 AM
If you really don't want to participate anymore, maybe you just need to make it clear like windchime said and then stick to your guns by not buying anything. He'll get the idea when he doesn't receive anything.

The tricky bit is that keeping communication channels open and the only thing I can suggest is that you send a warm card wishing them all well and then try to keep regular communication.

It's important to remember thought that you are not responsible for your fathers behavior. I could be way off here (and if I am I'm really sorry) but it sounds like your father relies on petulance to make you give in to him so he might kick up a fuss to begin with but hopefully if you don't give in he'll realize that wont work anymore.

As long as you are polite, explain it's not a rejection of him and are open towards him, if he decides to not respect your decision then that's his decision. You are an adult after all and your entitled to make your own decisions just as much as he is. It sounds harsh but he sounds like he's been pretty harsh to you too and that's not fair either.

MindiV
10-09-2009, 12:52 PM
I've got a sister who never give me anything. Ever. She's 2 years older and doesn't work. I still get her something she would like every year just because I like doing things for other people. Is Christmas about the gifts? Gosh no. But I like doing things for my family, even if it's something small. They do the same for me. Do I always have a use for the things they give me? Maybe not...but for me it's the thought that counts. Also, I'm one of those people who HATES getting "wish lists" from my family members. If I don't know them well enough to give them something they LIKE, then we need to spend more time together. This Christmas my brother and his family are pretty broke, and the same can be said for my dad and my sister as well. I'm not cutting them off this Christmas at all...they're all getting something, regardless of whether they can get me anything.

That being said...if it's become a chore for BOTH sides to give gifts, it's time to stop and start getting together for a holiday meal or something instead. If it ever gets that way with my family, that's what we're going to do.

shcirerf
10-09-2009, 01:14 PM
Our family doesn't exchange gifts like we used to.

We get small, $5-$10 gifts and play robber bingo for them. Way fun. And way less stress. We have a lot more fun just sitting around visiting and relaxing.

I was wondering if you had the equipment to put together a video of your year on CD or DVD and send it to your family? They would be able to see what you've been doing, a video annual Christmas letter. LOL.

That way they would be getting something, but you wouldn't have to stress about a "gift" and if they don't like it, well, you can't please everybody.

sprklemajik
10-09-2009, 01:39 PM
We have some family members that struggle financially, so in order to east the burden, each person in my family purchases 1 Christmas ornament. Then we play that robber bingo or Chinese bingo. Everyone comes out having a great time, and everyone spent less than $10.

MindiV
10-09-2009, 02:07 PM
sprklemajik...my husband's family does that for THEIR Christmas celebration, as well. It's fun to play the game and regardless of what you end up with you at least had a good time....

Stella
10-09-2009, 02:36 PM
@Jayjay:

Thank you. I indeed often think that noone`s family can possibly be as unloving as mine.

So do you still send 6 presents a year for nothing in return? My husband said I should ("You don`t give to get!"), but I resent it so, so much. I resent it the more I think they will love it and the prettier it looks - which, at the same time, I always make sure it does.

We all need to do things we don`t want to do some time. This is usually when we get an advantage from it, e.g. cleaning our house or working in a job we don`t like because it`ll pay our bills. But I just don`t see any benefits in giving to them - in opposite, the sheer fathought that they may rejoice the fact that I`m that submissive (yes, submissive!) makes me sick!

ohiofreespirit
10-09-2009, 02:42 PM
Our family has stopped exchanging presents. i don't see the big deal in that. Christmas is not about getting gifts. i am giving my daughter money for Christmas this year, she will be happy with that, i have no doubt.

Stella
10-09-2009, 02:45 PM
It's important to remember thought that you are not responsible for your fathers behavior. I could be way off here (and if I am I'm really sorry) but it sounds like your father relies on petulance to make you give in to him so he might kick up a fuss to begin with but hopefully if you don't give in he'll realize that wont work anymore.



I`d say so although he would fiercely disagree. I feel manipulated, and it angers me that, even though I know, I still have not syet been able to summon the courage to do the necessary.

cinderpa
10-09-2009, 02:45 PM
I think if it stresses you out, do not go through the hassle of trying to find the right gifts. I think a nice card or a phone call is enough to let them know you are thinking about them during the season. If they don't appreciate it then I would not stress myself out over it, just tell them that is how it is going to be from now on. Like it has already been stated here, Christmas is not about gifts. My brother and I do not exchange gifts anymore. It got to the point where we ended up buying our own gift and the other would give them the money for it. We realized how dumb it was. LOL. Anyway, I hope you get it resolved with no hard feelings on either end.

Stella
10-09-2009, 03:30 PM
I was wondering if you had the equipment to put together a video of your year on CD or DVD and send it to your family? They would be able to see what you've been doing, a video annual Christmas letter. LOL.



I don`t but I could do pictures. It`s a wonderful idea, thank you!!! I could do this regularly, particularly as we don`t see each other that much.

I could even imagine that a present like this would be tolerated silently (as it is expected from me), so there would be no arguments! Plus, I could send the same to other family and friends (we don`t do presents but something like this would give great pleasure!)

Thank you so much, I really love the idea, and I think that`s what I`m going to do!!!

Stella
10-09-2009, 03:36 PM
If I don't know them well enough to give them something they LIKE, then we need to spend more time together.

*Absolutely!* I wholeheartedly agree!

I`d never not give anyone a present because they cannot get me anything (been there with my sister when she was unemployed) but in the case of my dad, it`s lack of want, not lack of ability. So, it`s now lack of want on my side, too!

Glory87
10-09-2009, 03:38 PM
You don't give presents to get presents.

EZMONEY
10-09-2009, 04:51 PM
Sounds to me that the only way you are going to get any happiness at all out of this situation is to NOT give any presents.

So, for you, I would suggest that.

Frigg
10-09-2009, 06:15 PM
You don't give presents to get presents.

Yeah but it seems like she doesn't want to be giving them gifts in the first place, and she's not even getting a good deal out of it. I can understand. Not everyone cares for giving gifts on Christmas and the whole "giving just to give" just doesn't apply. Faking friendly doesn't necessarily make anyone happy either.

CLCSC145
10-09-2009, 08:27 PM
Within my immediate family we stopped exchanging presents last year. The stress and expense to buy gifts that no one needed or particularly wanted was erasing any joy from the season. If someone decides to go this route, I would strongly suggest that you still make the effort to decorate and cook and spend time with the family. We had no decorations (my parents didn't feel like it) and that part was a huge bummer.

Windchime
10-09-2009, 10:42 PM
I mentioned in an earlier post that I have a sister who is really, really poor. She can't ever afford to buy gifts, especially lately. Last year, instead of giving her a gift, I bought her whole family a box of fancy assorted hot chocolate from Costco. It was very inexpensive and I wanted to give them something, but what I did NOT want to do was to embarrass her. I agree with the theory that we don't give gifts on the condition that we get them in return, but sometimes the decision to not give someone a gift isn't for selfish reasons, but to not embarrass them by highlighting their inability to reciprocate.

I don't think this is what the OP's issue is, though. I think the gifts (or lack therof) are a symbol of family dynamics. I think that she fears or feels that she is being punished or unloved, and the seemingly thoughtless gifts are physical representations of that.

If the OP finds it too hurtful to continue to send thoughtful, pretty gifts while knowing that she will never get something equally thoughtful in return, then my suggestion stands--it's time to just call a halt to the madness. I'd do it soon, though, so you don't have to try to figure out how to break it to them as the holidays get nearer.

I personally find the whole Christmas season to be a frenzied, expensive nightmare. There are parts I really like, such as the family Christmas Eve party that I host, Christmas dinner, the tree, etc. But for many years, I had very limited funds and it was horribly stressful for me to try to select gifts that had any meaning at all for people I barely knew, on my shoestring budget.

harrismm
10-09-2009, 11:18 PM
Our family has never given gifts to each other.Even as a young child, we did not receive gifts.We have always adopted a needy family from the Salvation Army and bought gifts for them instead.As a young child, I loved this time of year...receiving the family information..and loved shopping for their gifts.I and my siblings have continued this tradition with our own children.We always get together for a big family dinner 2 weeks before the holiday to wrap and deliver gifts to the family.Awesome experience every year!

EZMONEY
10-09-2009, 11:25 PM
Last year Angie and I and my adult son and dil and adult daughter and sil, my adult step-d and nephew bought all of our gifts from the World Vision catalogue....I didn't get anything...best Christmas I ever had!

lizziep
10-10-2009, 02:02 AM
we started doing presents for the kids in the family and then the whole steal-a-gift game where everyone brings a gift for the adults and then we all draw a number, 1 goes first, picks the present they want opens it... then 2 goes and can either steal the gift or open a different one and so on. it's pretty fun. last year i got a nice set of miracle blade knives. someone else got a nice little mp3 player. fun and fairly easy. hubby's family is just too damn big.
my family we always did gifts. but we're too scattered now so we don't do anything anymore.

I definitely think this situation is more about family dynamics as well, and it's about setting boundaries which needs to be done.

For me, the older I get, the more I see the whole holiday mess as miserable obligations to other people. And I hate that I feel that way - but I definitely wish things were different. I do not enjoy all the time I have to spend w/ relatives that aren't mine who frankly I don't really enjoy. lol.

EZMONEY
10-10-2009, 09:00 AM
I hope the new economy will bring Christmas back closer to the reason for the season.

nelie
10-10-2009, 09:31 AM
Last year, for my in laws, we donated to a charity in their name. Best Friends animal league. We also donated to their local animal shelter (in our name though) and told them about it. They had said the local animal shelter was hurting and they were donating so we did as well.

bargoo
10-10-2009, 11:15 AM
Last year Angie and I and my adult son and dil and adult daughter and sil, my adult step-d and nephew bought all of our gifts from the World Vision catalogue....I didn't get anything...best Christmas I ever had!

The Heifer Project is another worthwhile project, if you want to give to others more needy than we are.

Hyacinth
10-10-2009, 11:53 AM
I think there are two criteria to consider in this situation: first, do what is best for you. Second, do what is least hurtful to them.

It sounds to me like the best goal is to find a way to forage a positive bond with your father. I'd probably bake them some cookies and write them a nice hand-written letter to send along with it, and tell him things about your life. I wonder if deep down he misses you (under the self-esteem/arrogance/guilt/whatever issues he has), and the thing that will help him behave better is just giving him a part of what he lost when you moved.

This is off topic, but what is Robber Bingo?

HotWings
10-10-2009, 12:03 PM
I was going to suggest what nelie posted!

In my family, we decided that once we had children of our own.. that the "gift" part of Christmas would be for the kids & our parents. So, my sister & brother & I no longer get gifts for each other, but we buy for each others children and we each give our mom & dad gifts.

In your situation, I would maybe tell them that since a big part of Christmas is thinking about others (those were his words to you!) & those that are less fortunate, you have decided that from now on, your gifts for family will be giving some money to a charity in their name. It would be petty of him to argue about giving money to charity.

That said, I really like the idea of a video Christmas letter. That would be very cool to receive :)

bargoo
10-10-2009, 12:11 PM
If you give to project like Heifer International in your father's name they will send him a thank you letter saying you have given in his name, etc. We do this every year at my church ( You can do it indidually, though) and two years ago BILL Gates matched all donations. If it is good enough for Bill Gates it should be good enough for your dad.

kaplods
10-10-2009, 02:10 PM
I think it's very common for people to play a terrible game with giftgiving occasions called "if you really loved me, you'd know me well enough to give me the perfect gift."

I have a few relatives (I won't name, since many would recognize my screen name) who give truly horrible gifts. Even when I give them a list, at their request, they find a way to stick to the list and still get it wrong somehow (wrong size, wrong color). I used to think it meant they didn't "really" know or love me, but now I just think they suck at choosing gifts. I wouldn't dream of telling them that their gift was off-base (personally, I just don't think that's appropriate. To me the desire for a better gift next time, just isn't worth hurting the gift giver). I just act as if it's the most perfect gift, and then return, resell, regift, or donate.

I used to spend a lot of time and money trying to give "the perfect gift," to all family members, but it was torture if the person didn't see it as perfect as I did. I was hurt when I was given a gift that was "not me," and I felt the person should have known that.

I'm learning to be more charitable, both in giving and receiving. And I don't mean monetarily, because we and many of my family members don't have much money. I'm a lot more tolerant of gifts that are off-track, and more tolerant of less than perfect responses to my gifts. If I expect a certain level of enthusiasm for a gift I've given, it means to me that it wasn't really a gift, but a "trade." When you look at gifts as "trade," you're really disappointed when the gift you receive isn't as good as (your perceived) value of the gift you gave. You were gipped. But, if the purpose of a gift is truly a gift - it doesn't matter if you get anything back. By looking at it this way, I kind of feel like I've "won" if the gift I give is "better" than the one I received (that's not a completely generous motive either, and I've got to watch that - or I can end up making people feel bad that my gift was "superior" in some way).

If giving or receiving isn't a joy - even when done imperfectly - it's just not worth it.

Stella
10-10-2009, 02:56 PM
You don't give presents to get presents.

The oppposite is also true: You don` just take and expect and never reciprocate. This is ungrateful (except when you cannot afford it).

I find it wrong for adult kids to keep expecting and thinking they get away with never giving anything back. If that`s the parents however, I simply find it abnormal.

Stella
10-10-2009, 03:07 PM
I think the gifts (or lack therof) are a symbol of family dynamics. I think that she fears or feels that she is being punished or unloved, and the seemingly thoughtless gifts are physical representations of that.



Thank you for putting it so well!

My dad is a very self-centered, self-rightous and narcissistic person. He needs to be valued and adored and seems to see presents (the more expensive and representative the better) as a tool we, his children, should use to show him (and the rest of the world) that we do.

On the other hand, he seems to think that I have disappointed him (in terms of lifestyle and emigrating). In his eyes, I probably don`t deserve appreciation from him, and a nice, thoughtful present would be exactly that. So he uses the lack of acknowledgement at Christmases and birthdays (same story) to show me that I have not earned anything.

He does not seem to see the connection, I can only assume that it`s two different things for him, the giving and receiving. Because it is not about presents but clearly about other things. The presents are just a means of communication where words may not be used.

Stella
10-10-2009, 03:10 PM
I hope the new economy will bring Christmas back closer to the reason for the season.

Yes, I think that, too (unrelated to my own family problems). If everyone really spends what they claim to spend, it`s just crazy oftentimes and downscaling is very much needed!

Stella
10-10-2009, 03:13 PM
I'd probably bake them some cookies

Done that - it was rum truffles. He did not say very much on the phone that night, but two days later he remarked: "The chocolates are gone, just like that." He was dissatisfied because his present did not last long enough.


I wonder if deep down he misses you (under the self-esteem/arrogance/guilt/whatever issues he has), and the thing that will help him behave better is just giving him a part of what he lost when you moved.



Yes, I think so, I really do. And for that, I need to be punished.

Stella
10-10-2009, 03:30 PM
, your gifts for family will be giving some money to a charity in their name.



Lol.. I`ve said that last year - as a joke! They are definitely not the charitable type of people - way too selfish and materialistic! They`d probably tell me downright that that`s not a Christmas present!

Stella
10-10-2009, 03:34 PM
@ kaplods:

A lot of the things you say are true for me.

But he`s not crap at gift-giving. He`d spend crazy sums on his wife (who never fails to mention what she got) and go way out of his way for his friends. I know that he can do it. It`s just that I`m not worth it.

I`d take it better from someone who gets it wrong all the time, for everybody. But it`s just me, so of course I take it personal. Particularly since I put in effort, and since this is expected.

Hyacinth
10-10-2009, 04:09 PM
Yes, I think so, I really do. And for that, I need to be punished.

:rofl: I guess he's just a truly unhappy person who thinks he can get his way by controlling. Just laugh it off and do your best ... from the sounds of it, you could give him an oceanfront cottage on Maui and he'd find a reason to dislike it.

bargoo
10-10-2009, 04:17 PM
Done that - it was rum truffles. He did not say very much on the phone that night, but two days later he remarked: "The chocolates are gone, just like that." He was dissatisfied because his present did not last long enough.
.
I wouldn't take it that way. I would assume that he enjoyed the gift (. When I get a box of chocolates, they don't last either. and that is not the fault of the giver if I eat them right away.

kaplods
10-10-2009, 04:57 PM
@ kaplods:

A lot of the things you say are true for me.

But he`s not crap at gift-giving. He`d spend crazy sums on his wife (who never fails to mention what she got) and go way out of his way for his friends. I know that he can do it. It`s just that I`m not worth it.

I`d take it better from someone who gets it wrong all the time, for everybody. But it`s just me, so of course I take it personal. Particularly since I put in effort, and since this is expected.

You're still getting hung up on the "message" you think he's trying to send you. You may be right, or you may be wrong - it doesn't matter. If you're gift exchangeing with him isn't a joy - you've got to put a stop to it. There are several ways you can do so - but they all involve changing how YOU feel, not changing your father (sounds like that isn't going to happen, and even if it does - it's not under your control. You can only be responsible for what you can control).

From the outside (and I know that in the little snippets of information that can be conveyed in a situation like this, it's impossible to be confident of accuracy, so I can only guess), it seems like there are unreasonable expectations on both sides - yours and your father's, which are making the gift exchange more painful than joyful - both on your side and your father's. You can't do anything about your father's expectations or his actions - only your own.

He may (or may not) be trying to manipulate you (consciously or unconsciously) with his gifts and his response to your gifts - but you don't have to be manipulated.

As I said, you've got several options.

You can declare your desire to dispense with the gift giving altogether, and if he refuses and sends you money, send him the same amount of money in return, or send him back his check with a thanks-but-no thanks letter, kindly worded or not - your choice.

You can give the kind of gift you WANT to give - if that's nothing, so be it. If it's a carelessly chosen gift - that's your choice as well.

You can choose a gift deliberately knowing he will hate it.

All your choice, and bunches of other choices as well - but for your own well-being and sanity choose not to let it EAT at you. Choose the path that is easiest and most comfortable for you, and discard the rest. One thing I needed to do for myself in this regard, due to a relative who is very manipulative - is to stop trying to figure out what she was "really trying to say" with her actions. An offer to clean my house for me - why that's obviously a way of calling me a dirty, slob.... It may or may not have been true, but I, for my own sanity, can't go there. I can now say, "that's a very kind offer, but no thankyou." Most of the time, I can even mean it - because I do refuse to dwell on the motives of other people. Some days I can barely figure out my own motivation, it does me no good to try to figure out someone else's.

It's easier said than done, but it is possible to prevent people from driving us nuts. No one can discourage us, manipulate us, or hurt us emotionally without our cooperation, so stop cooperating. You can learn to recognize the attempt at manipulation (or choose to ignore it) without feeling hurt or angry. His issues are his issues, and you don't have to make them yours, either when it comes to gifts or anything else.

It's not easy, but it is SO worth it.

bargoo
10-10-2009, 08:54 PM
I have been thinking about this. It seems that this is causing you a lot of trauma. Here are some ideas , this Christmas send him a gift with a card saying this will be the last year you will be sending gifts.( And leave it at that,) OR this Christmas send him a gift with a card saying this will be the last year you will be sending a gift because .....then tell him everything you have told us.
PS has it occurred to you that you may have inherited some of your father's traits ?

AR4life
10-10-2009, 09:12 PM
You're still getting hung up on the "message" you think he's trying to send you. You may be right, or you may be wrong - it doesn't matter. If you're gift exchangeing with him isn't a joy - you've got to put a stop to it. There are several ways you can do so - but they all involve changing how YOU feel, not changing your father (sounds like that isn't going to happen, and even if it does - it's not under your control. You can only be responsible for what you can control).

From the outside (and I know that in the little snippets of information that can be conveyed in a situation like this, it's impossible to be confident of accuracy, so I can only guess), it seems like there are unreasonable expectations on both sides - yours and your father's, which are making the gift exchange more painful than joyful - both on your side and your father's. You can't do anything about your father's expectations or his actions - only your own.

He may (or may not) be trying to manipulate you (consciously or unconsciously) with his gifts and his response to your gifts - but you don't have to be manipulated.

As I said, you've got several options.

You can declare your desire to dispense with the gift giving altogeher, and if he refuses and sends you money, send him the same amount of money in return, or send him back his check with a thanks-but-no thanks letter, kindly worded or not - your choice.

You can give the kind of gift you WANT to give - if that's nothing, so be it. If it's a carelessly chosen gift - that's your choice as well.

You can choose a gift deliberately knowing he will hate it.

All your choice, and bunches of other choices as well - but for your own well-being and sanity choose not to let it EAT at you. Choose the path that is easiest and most comfortable for you, and discard the rest. One thing I needed to do for myself in this regard, due to a relative who is very manipulative - is to stop trying to figure out what she was "really trying to say" with her actions. An offer to clean my house for me - why that's obviously a way of calling me a dirty, slob.... It may or may not have been true, but I, for my own sanity, can't go there. I can now say, "that's a very kind offer, but no thankyou." Most of the time, I can even mean it - because I do refuse to dwell on the motives of other people. Some days I can barely figure out my own motivation, it does me no good to try to figure out someone else's.

It's easier said than done, but it is possible to prevent people from driving us nuts. No one can discourage us, manipulate us, or hurt us emotionally without our cooperation, so stop cooperating. You can learn to recognize the attempt at manipulation (or choose to ignore it) without feeling hurt or angry. His issues are his issues, and you don't have to make them yours, either when it comes to gifts or anything else.

It's not easy, but it is SO worth it.

Kaplods, a well thought out, eloquent post, it needs to be read a few times to let it all sink in. :cool:

Stella
10-11-2009, 08:55 AM
@ Kaplods:

Thanks for your post. It contains a lot of true things, in terms of manipulations, interpretations and expectations.

No, the gift giving is not a joy for me. I would not want to sink this low to start retaliating (spending energy to make sure that it`s no joy for him, either), but I increasingly resent making it nice for him while he does not make such efforts for me.

Conclusion: It has to end altogether.

@ Bargoo:

Thanks for your thoughts.

No, I dont think I have inherited it but I feel an increasing desire to retaliate, and clearly, before I sink that low, I want to abandon Christmas giving altogether.

I am raised to expect nothing for granted - if you want to receive, you have to give something in return. I don`t fully agree with this statement, but I feel betrayed that the very person who instilled that in me is now abandoning this principle to his advantage, expecting to take without being willing to give.

EZMONEY
10-11-2009, 09:10 AM
Stella, I hope someday you can take a step back from all this, take a deep breath, and see that the true joy in life is in the giving.....without expecting anything in return.

Prayers for Peace in your family ~ Gary

MindiV
10-11-2009, 09:38 AM
Stella, I hope someday you can take a step back from all this, take a deep breath, and see that the true joy in life is in the giving.....without expecting anything in return.

Prayers for Peace in your family ~ Gary



I agree...

ANewCreation
10-11-2009, 09:49 AM
I've read all these posts with great interest.

Here is my take on things, based on what I see with my aging parents and what my friends are experiencing with their aging parents--There is just a different standard. My parents expect me to do more because in their minds, they're getting older and it's easier for me than it is for them. They expect phone calls but do not call. They don't shop, they write checks. We visit them, they do not visit us. I accept this and do what I can when I can. When they whine about never hearing from me I tell them to return my phone calls (they never answer the phone--my brother has been at their house and witnessed them doing this LOL). We accept their checks and give them 'real' presents. It just doesn't bother me like it once did. I am getting older too and just don't have the energy to wish they'd be more like they used to be. Such is life ;)

I think as people get older, there is just a certain sense of entitlement they acquire. They just expect certain things from their children and along with that they expect that we will understand they just don't feel like doing xyor z. I remember a tirade my mother had one year about buying presents. It really hurt my feelings but I just said, 'Mom, if it is that much of a burden then please don't send anything or just send a check. Whatever you end up doing, it's fine by us.' From that year on she has sent checks. I have to tell you that in my circles check sending from the older set is very very common. Does she buys gifts for me dad--yep she does. She also buys gifts for my brother (who lives in the same state while we are out of state), but for me and mine we get a check. It's the same for my FIL and his wife. They send checks but woe to us if they don't get a present that she likes. And has no problem letting you know if you miss the mark--LOL!

Just accept your father for who he is, you are not going to change him at this late date. Yes, he may be manipulative or it may just be part of the aging process. You can only change yourself. Do what you need to do. Be polite about it. Don't ask for permission. Forgive him and move on.

Stella
10-11-2009, 12:07 PM
@ Ezmoney and Mindi:

This post makes me feel defensive. No, it`s no fun to give if it`s not just one-sided but also the one-sidedness being felt appropriate by the other party. I unashamedly admit that I resent the giving under these circumstances.

@ A New Creation:

My dad and wive are both 63, healthy, able and are doing great financially. They could both afford to retire early, so they have loads of spare time, too. They do not tick a single box in the section "May make them more entitled to".

Not even the one "were exceptionally good, giving, loving parents when I was young". Gosh, no!

JulieJ08
10-11-2009, 12:21 PM
Sure, you don't give gifts to get gifts. But you also don't put a lot into a relationship with someone who playing emotional games with you.

I think you just have to find some way to do or don't do and be at peace with it. Because you can't change him. You just have to decide a way to keep peace without feeling resentful, for your own sake.

Maybe decide on a way to send gifts or cards or whatever you feel right about, but just detach yourself emotionally from any expectation of return. You do what you do because you choose it, and he does what he does because he chooses it. I know that's easier said than done with your father.

If this were a friend instead of her father, everyone would have been telling her to dump the friend because she's worth more and life is too short for downers.

kaplods
10-11-2009, 02:23 PM
I believe in forgiveness - not for the sake of the person who hurt me, but for my own sanity. Because when I hold a grudge, righteously or not, it hurts me far more than the person who hurt me. Sometimes the only way to forgive a person, is to cut them out of your life entirely. I've been very lucky that I haven't had to do so (though I have at times considered it).

When it comes to gift giving, and receiving it really does pay to expect nothing. "It's the thought that counts," often gets turned around into "this present sucks, so obviously the person wasn't thinking of me." If you can't take the expectation out of the equation, it's best to avoid the gift situation entirely. Accept the gift, don't accept the gift. Give a gift, don't give a gift. It doesn't matter, as long as you choose to "turn off" the bad feelings. They aren't doing you any good.

My brother and his wife and their children have received Christmas and birthday presents every year from my parents and sisters. During the 20 years they've been together, they gave Christmas presents only once. My mom and sisters complain about the gifts rarely even being acknowledged, and never being reciprocated - I've been advising them to stop sending gifts if it makes them so unhappy. I stopped sending gifts years ago (far more out of carelessness than because I resented not receiving gifts from them).

Last Christmas (no, I think it was the Christmas before), I did send gifts (knowing full well, I might not even get an acknowledgement that the gift was received), because my brother was serving in Iraq, and I knew it would be a rough Christmas for them. It wasn't anything fancy, because we couldn't afford much, but I ordered from the Swiss Colony Christmas catalog and sent tins of goodies to my brother in Iraq and to his family.

This year, he is home. He's suffering from PTSD, and I feel bad for him, but I probably won't send them a gift (unless I send them a tin of my homemade jerky). It's not about revenge, or retaliating for his not giving me gifts, I know it's just not that important to him, and it's not that important to me. He'd appreciate a phone call more than a gift (even though he's not likely to make the phone call himself - but he does seem happy to hear from us when we call).

My mom and sisters gripe about my brother's insensitivity and self-centeredness. I just accept that it's how he is, and always has been. He thinks about only what is in front of his own face. We're across the country, so he doesn't think of us very often. I'm ok with that. Wanting him to be a different person than he is, is futile. I'll continue to send gifts when I feel like it, and not send gifts when I don't.

I wish all of our relatives would stop giving us presents, because we can't afford to give decent presents in return. Anything we give, seems lame and small in comparison. The one year that we did ask not to exchange gifts, they all agreed, and then sent gifts anyway (then we felt like jerks).

The last few years, we've given handmade gifts - and for the most part, family gush over them. I don't know if they love them as much as they say they do, but if not, they're very good actors. Very sweet of them, either way. I hope I'm as gracious.

This year, it's going to be hard, because we spent a lot of time sick this year, and there's only a couple months until Christmas. We don't have time to make everyone a special handmade gift, so this year, we're considering giving everyone the same gift - a tin of homemade jerky. Maybe everyone will love it (they all do request we bring my jerky when we visit). Maybe everyone will hate it. I'm not going to obsess about it either way, it's just not worth getting upset over.

Do whatever makes you the happiest - and then be happy with it. Life's too short to allow that kind of toxicity in your life. If the only way to forgive/accept your father is to minimize contact with him, then do so. If there's a compromise that works as well, so much the better. The important part is to get rid of the negative feelings.

Stella
10-11-2009, 04:16 PM
@ Kaplods:

Thankyou for your lovely words - your post is so sweet, and while reading it slowly and carefuly, I could actually hear a soft, kind and patient American voice speaking to me. No, really!

As in all your previous posts in this thread, everything you say is true, about holding grudges (yes, it is wearing me down and spoiling my every Christmas, which should be a happy time!), gift giving in general and the concept of "the thought that counts" that gets turned around into "poor gift = lack of thought".

I need to think about what you said about your brother: just accepting that he`s just the way he is rather than taking his actions personally.

So far, I neglected to say that my dad has never been a genorous man. He refused to help my sister when she suffered hardship. Even though he could have afforded to do something for her he rather watched her taking an expensive loan.

He`s also always been lazy. When I get a card from them, it is her who`ll sign for both of them. If it wasn`t for her, there would be no cards. It was probably her who went out to buy the gifts, and she`ll have wanted to save the cash and effort for her own daughter and grandsons.

Yes, maybe it`s just the way he is - a bit tight, and a bit lazy. It`s not as if he does not do anything to keep contact. He always phones, gives me the latest gossip from the village, even when I sometimes think "I`m really not that interested!" Christmas and birthdays, he is usually one of the first people to phone.

Although he hasn`t been here since our wedding (2003), he`ll ask when I think I`ll visit next. That annoys me, too, as he has more spare time and cash for a plane ticket, but it , too, fits in with the man who is tight and lazy but still wants to see his daughter. I often focus on the negative bits ("... and it should always be at my expense!") and never the important fact that he wants to see me.

I see myself thinking about that bit for a while, and I see it leading to something. When I asked about people`s uninfluenced advice, I was not expecting to start a 4-page thread but I feel that your last post was the most helpful of them all.

If I could accept that he is just not generally a genorous and thoughtful person but likes to keep his cash and make things easy for himself, I could stop taking it personally, which in turn could help me to stop holding grudges and having my Christmas spoilt.

I think the next time I should ask him whether he chose this present for me. If he has (rather than giving his wife a price limit and sending her off), that`s probably an awful lot for him, and I should say to myself: "It`s the thought that counts!"

I hope your brother`s PTSD will improve, but this may be a long journey. Glad that he is home safe, but sadly, not unscarred.

If they love jour jerk on other occasions, they will love your jerk for Christmas, with a nice bow around it. They`ll know that you could not devote as much time and effort as you would have liked to, but they`ll be getting something they know you know they love.

Generally, I don`t think everybody should give/expect like for like. There`ll always be those who are less well off than others, even in the same family, and those who`ll just go crazy spending way too much. It`s the thought that counts indeed, and the fact that someone still makes an effort. If I cannot give anything precious I`ll make sure that it is exceptionally beautifully wrapped, in the hope that it still looks desirable and shows the receiver that it`s not for lack of thought or effort that the content is so small.

Thank you ever so much for your thoughts and words. I wish you a very happy and stress-free festive season (which appears to have started not just in our heads but definitely also in our supermarkets!)


Stella

kaplods
10-11-2009, 05:26 PM
Thanks Stella, I really do understand, and I'm glad it came across. I have to admit that even though I think I gave good advice, even in my life in similar situations, I also sometimes forget to follow it. Sometimes it really takes a lot of effort to not let my emotions tear ME up inside. My husband helped me learn to be a lot more relaxed about, well nearly everything.

There's a book by Richard Carlson, called Don't Sweat the Small Stuff--and it's all small stuff.

I haven't read the book, but I like the philosophy. It really works, because I spend alot less time worrying about stuff - any stuff than I used to. When I was younger, I worried alot about what people thought about me - people I loved and cared about, but even strangers on the street. I used to worry about so many things. If I made someone angry, I would agonize over what I should have done instead, and how I could make up for it afterward.

Now, I do my best, and forget the rest. I can't make anyone like me, or love me and I especially can't make them do it in the exact way I'd like. Eh, so what, I'm sure I've disappointed many people too.

I think what's funny is that my husband and I both had extremely rocky relationships with our own parents, but we "get along fine" with each others' parents. My husband can laugh at my parents' flaws, and I can laugh at his parents," but if we think too much about what we WISHED our parents had been like, it drives us nuts.

My mom and his mom are almost polar opposites. My mom is very brash, and pessimistic. You never have to wonder whether she's upset with you, because she's not going to hide it. My husband likes that he always knows where he stands with my mother.

His mother always puts on a smile, she always is very polite and pleasant, but she finds a way to give you a cutting insult by using a compliment to wield the blow. My husband had warned me, but it took me a while to experience this for myself. I didn't even really believe my husband until I'd been on the wrong end of one of these "compliments."

I was shocked the first few times it happened - like maybe I didn't interpret it the way she had intended (hubby would later tell me that I had interpreted it correctly). Hubby actually tipped me off on the best way to handle those fake compliments - was to treat them as if they were genuine compliments. So when she gives one of those complimentary insults, I just act like I'm taking it as a truly meant compliment and give a gushing "so glad you like it," reaction.

It isn't very kind for me to get a kick out of doing so, but I really do. You can see the frustration on her face when she gives a backhanded compliment, and rather than being properly chastised, I act like it was the best compliment I'd ever received. Especially because she can't force herself to be straight-forward, she has to try again with another backhanded compliment (which I then accept just as graciously). Yeah, it's not always so innocent, but while my getting upset may be the reaction that she wants, it's not the reaction I want. She can choose to get upset about it if she wants to, but I don't have to get caught up in it.

It's not quite as easy with my own mother, because it's harder for me to be objective, but my husband has helped me there. He's as good at dealing with my mothers attempts at manipulation, as I am with his mother. So we've learned from each other how to minimize the stress (and if necessary cut visits short).

Family drama isn't easy to pull out of, because habits develop over time that sustain it. Trying to change the dynamics sometimes makes it worse before it gets better, so whatever you can do to preserve YOUR sanity is definitely worth it.