Before I describe the problem, a little background on the situation. My husband and I live several hundred miles from our families. We don’t have any kids of our own, but we both have several brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews. The ages of the kids range from 10 to 20. Our income is considerably higher than any of our family members, some of whom are struggling financially. We usually only see them once a year at Christmas, but we all have Facebook accounts, so there’s no excuse for not being in touch.
Most years I have sent each kid $20 in their birthday card. And I’ve never gotten a thank you for any of them, and many times not even an acknowledgement that I sent anything. So for the past 2 years I have been sending them only $10 in their cards. I guess I’m thinking that this might send a message, but I know they’ll just think I’m getting cheap instead of realizing that this is a result of their not thanking me in past years.
I’ve struggled with how to bring up the issue without causing hard feelings, but then I realized that I’ve been dealing with MY hurt feelings over this for years, so I decided to say something. This month included the birthdays of 2 of my brother’s kids, a 15-year-old and an 18-year-old. I sent both of them cards and money, and wrote them notes asking them to let me know via Facebook when they received them.
I didn’t hear anything from either of them. So I sent another note via Facebook, including their parents in the recipient list (my brother and his wife). I specifically said in the notes that I was waiting for my “thank you” for their gifts. Still no response, even though I have seen them on Facebook several times since my last note. I’m puzzled and hurt, particularly since they have another aunt who lives 1000 miles from them with whom they appear to be much more friendly. My niece recently exchanged wall posts with this aunt where they were both saying how much they miss each other, etc. It’s like a slap in the face to me.
I don’t know any reason why they would ignore me like this. I guess I could write off the kids’ bad manners, as disappointing as that is, but it’s harder to understand why my brother and his wife don’t respond to my note or at least make their kids type “thank you” in an email.
I’m just writing this to get it off my chest I guess. My entire family tends to be pretty thin-skinned, so criticism isn’t taken well, particularly when it involves children. Maybe I’m just so out of touch with the reality of teenagers that my expectations are too high. Not having our own kids makes it hard to relate to parents sometimes. But over the past ten years that we have lived far from our families I’ve felt more and more emotionally distanced from them. It’s hard to get the kids to talk much on the phone, but I’ve made efforts to engage them via email and Facebook, with little success. I’m wondering if I should just give up and resign myself to never being close to them again, but that makes me sad.
Any advice for how to handle this situation would be welcomed. Is this common in other families or not? Should I maybe write them a letter explaining my feelings about this, or just let it go and continue to seethe inside? (With Christmas coming up I’m conflicted about the gift issue. Even though their family has financial difficulties, these kids get mountains of gifts every year and everyone is so materialistic that it upsets me. I think I need to write another post about that issue.)