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Are the younger generation selfish or thoughtless?

(25 Posts)
embralady Wed 04-Jan-12 14:41:28

Christmas is done and dusted now but there is still something irking me. This year my son, who lives in Texas with his American wife and two children (I live in the UK), suggested that the adults not exchange presents but that we just focus on the children, aged 6 and nearly 5. Fine by me, except that I spent the usual, not insignificant, sum on the children and in return received nowt but a late Christmas card signed by all of them.

I have consistently sent presents and cards over there and yet, despite the children being way ahead of the curve in terms of ability and intelligence, have yet to get a card either made or signed by either of them. When my son was growing up I made a point of getting presents for him to give to his grandmother and also writing or making a card for her. I felt that if she was giving a gift to each of us then she should get something from each of us.

Am I wrong to feel aggrieved at the fact that for years I have spent oodles of money giving 4 gifts to an extemely well off family who have only ever sent one (sometimes paltry) gift in return? It is not the money which is at issue here, but the fact that no effort is being made, and no example of thoughtfulness being demonstrated to the children.

jingl Wed 04-Jan-12 14:52:12

Its definitely bad that they don't get the children making cards for you. My daughter has made friends with a family in the States (she met them on a Duran Duran fan site) and their children and my grandsons exchange posters and cards they have made for each other at Christmas and Easter.

They could send you little gifts which are typically American. (Girl Guide biscuits and fish shaped biscuits come to mind) smile

jingl Wed 04-Jan-12 14:53:34

And we send mini Christmas puddings and such-like back. grin

absentgrana Wed 04-Jan-12 15:15:08

embralady I think you are right to feel a little aggrieved – and, of course, your feelings have nothing to do with the monetary value but with your feeling valued by your grandchildren. My daughter designs Christmas cards with a selection of lovely family photographs so the children don't draw their own. (This year included the ultrasound scan of the new member due in March.) The children always make us something special, created severally and jointly, and these presents are especially treasured. They also all speak to us on Christmas Day, no matter how pushed for time, and thank us for all their presents. It's hard enough to be separated by distance without being ignored as well. However, I bet it's just thoughtlessness rather than selfishness on your son's part, although sometimes it's hard to tell the two apart.

nanapug Wed 04-Jan-12 15:19:33

Sadly, I think what you need to remember that when couples get married it is usually the wife that organises things like Christmas presents, cards etc (at least that's what happens in my experience) and that unless your DS actually questions her on what has been done he might presume she has sent things for you. It does sound a bit selfish though.

embralady Wed 04-Jan-12 15:53:57

You have all made some very valid points, for which many thanks. I agree that it still seems to take the female part of the relationship to be on top of cards and presents and as my daughter-in-law is estranged from her own family, not speaking to either her own mother or sister and having a very strained relationship with her father, she does not take this upon herself. Her view is very much "Your family, you deal with them". And unfortunately even in this day and age, men are pretty useless at getting their act together. Maybe their brains really are wired up differently hmm

nanapug Wed 04-Jan-12 15:56:48

Oh Embralady I am very sure they are (she says with feeling!!).

grannyactivist Wed 04-Jan-12 16:01:01

I am very thankful that my estranged daughter nevertheless has the good manners to encourage her children to write 'thank you' notes when they receive gifts from me. Occasionally I get a phone call instead, as happened this year, and for which I am truly grateful.
In our house I organise Christmas gifts and cards, if it were left to my husband I'm afraid few people would receive anything. (He is wonderful in other ways though.)

gracesmum Wed 04-Jan-12 16:39:01

I am so tempted to ask whether you have shared this with your son? A thorny subject as nobody likes criticism of their children (his, not yours) In answer to your question - I think thoughtless and self-centred rather than selfish and who is to blame? I fear we are as we rarely grasp the nettle and acually voice criticism of our children. My example is as follows - our 2 younger DDs arrived on Christmas eve full of promises to help me with prepping veggies for Christmas Day and promptly set to organising their shopping list for New year's weekend when they and eldest DD and all partners were going to share a cottage. I bit my tongue and then went for it - saying I thought you were going to prep veggies for me? .... Silence you could cut with a knife, an apology but also a bit of "What's got into mum?"
I felt bad but I WAS JUSTIFIED!
Incidentally this idea of presents "just for the children" cuts little ice with me and I think it is a cop out.
I'd choose my moment and speak to him.

expatmaggie Wed 04-Jan-12 17:16:18

This brings back many memories. I spent a lot of time making cards and organising presents for my (difficult) German MIL until one year when DH was in the US for 5 months. Then she noticed than nothing came from him, no letter no Postcard and I told her I usually saw to all that. She accepted this and thought it right that I did this job. No fault of his obviously.

We don't give adults presents. If we spend Xmas Eve with the little ones then we grown ups exchange very small presents just to show them that presents and giving and receiving are for everybody, not just for children.
They usually make something for us in kindergarten or school.

As your grandchildren are only 5 and 6 and don't know the worth of the presents they are receiving, then I would cut down on the amount next year and if necessary save the rest in an account for them.
When time has passed and things are running smoothly tell your son that that is what you intend to do and why. But put a good face on it, no emotions!
When the family are not seeing each other face to face it is important to avoid a rift.
Try not to be hurt about this. I think US Xmas is different. Thanksgiving is the main family celebration when they travel miles to be near their loved ones.

embralady Wed 04-Jan-12 17:50:57

So many wise words! I think you have nailed it, expatmaggie. The problem is compounded by the distance we are apart and the fact that we only see each other face to face once a year for a week or so. Many things can get blown out of proportion when they are written down and even a phone call is a poor substitute for having a proper conversation. I have learned to tread carefully and watch what I say, as much can be misinterpreted.

In answer to gracesmum's unasked question, I have raised the subject with my DS and he says he has taken my point on board, but the bottom line is that nothing changes. I don't blame the grandchildren one iota as they still have to learn and it is the parents who have to teach them. Unfortunately I have a DIL who is set on alienating DS from his family, much in the way that she is alienated from her own. I am glad that you were able to assert your right to have your DDs fulfil their obligations to the sprouts wink

yogagran Wed 04-Jan-12 22:59:24

Gosh embralady your last sentence could have been written by me. I too have a DIL trying to alienate my DS from his family, she has cut herself off from her own family and seems to want my DS and DGD all to herself. I've tried so hard over the last couple of years but we get nowhere and I have started to feel very bitter towards her now. So sad

Greatnan Thu 05-Jan-12 09:19:58

I have had to limit my present giving to younger children only, as I have ten grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. I have never had a thank you card, but as I have always seen most of them on Christmas Day they have thanked me in person.
I always got cards and little presents for my girls to give to my mother, until they were old enough to think of it for themselves. However, to be fair to my family,I have always stressed that I do not want any gifts, as I don't smoke, use 'smellies', eat chocolates, and I don't have room for another thing in my tiny flat.
I think it depends very much on whether their parents (probably their mother) teaches them to express gratitude.
I was another wife who had to remember all my husband's family's birthdays as well as those of my own family. I wonder if he remembered them after we separated!

jingl Thu 05-Jan-12 09:49:14

Embralady, you say that the children are now five and six. I wonder whether you could get a little correspondence gpoing with them personally. Perhaps write the odd letter or two to each of them addressed to them. You could even drop little hints, like, "I have heard that you get all kinds of things over there that we don't get here. Do you ever have fish shaped biscuits. I have heard they are delicious!." And you could put in tiny little gifts for them at the same time.

Devious perhaps, but could be fun. grin

Actually, you could do a similar thing with their mother. Drop heavy hints.

embralady Thu 05-Jan-12 10:09:26

It is difficult not to get bitter, yogagran, but I have come to the conclusion that my DIL's behaviour comes from insecurity and resentment at the relationship I had with my son long before she was on the scene, so now I ignore any bad behaviour on her behalf and carry on with the relationship I have with my DS and GSs. I hope in time my DS will see her behaviour for what it really is, but in the meantime there is no way I can change it so can only change the way I react to it. It seems to be working in that the relationship with my DIL is now much easier because I refuse to get drawn in.

My GSs always say thank you for the presents I send, either by phone or by SKYPE but I don't get any genuine feedback so don't feel that I really know the GSs at all. Having said that, I got the briefest of emails from my DIL after Christmas to let me know that one of the presents I sent them was an absolute smash. So, maybe progress is being made slowly but surely, but you have got to be in it for the long haul ;)

A good suggestion, jingl, and I have tried that, but any cards or postcards etc which I have sent fester in their mail box until I chase my DS up to go and look for them and then pass them on. So, back to my earlier rant about men..

My mantra has got to be STAY CALM smile

JessM Thu 05-Jan-12 10:50:41

And remind yourself that they may be insanely busy. I know my DS and DIL are pretty flat out coping with 2 full time jobs, 2 bright and very energetic children - the need to juggle childcare, housework and getting kids to swimming lessons etc etc.
When my kids were little I was never under that pressure because they were not so close together, and either I was not working or teaching (which is more convenient than most jobs) and I was able to pay for help of various kinds.

Grannylin Thu 05-Jan-12 11:11:26

Maybe we all think and analyse too much these days.When I think back to when my children were young, my parents were rarely in my thoughts.It wasn't because I didn't care. I was just far too busy and tired and weeks, months and years just whizzed by.

gracesmum Thu 05-Jan-12 11:31:00

I remember that all too well and am not particularly proud of myself! A phone call need only take 10 minutes and when I look back I realise that my busy life - and it was genuinely busy - could easily have better accommodated my parents 350 miles away.First Christmas after youngest D was born (Nov) I "did" Christmas with a 5 week-old baby strapped to my front in a Snuggly and for various reasons didn't ring my parents until 5 oclock in the afternoon. I was in deep trouble esp with Mum and now I can understand why. I fear "what goes around comes around" and when I do not hear from DDs for a bit try not to take it personally, but it reminds me of my own shortcomings 30+ years ago.

harrigran Thu 05-Jan-12 12:49:39

My youngest child was born 7 days before Christmas and I also had a 2 year old. My family wanted to be at our home but had no transport. We hosted the day and DH hired a car to transport everyone back and forth. Now I have an off button and say NO if I think I can't manage.

grannyactivist Thu 05-Jan-12 12:56:22

Erm - I need to leave you all and go and phone my mum!! thanks Thanks for the reminder.

Yummygran Thu 05-Jan-12 13:34:41

Why oh why do so many of us have difficult relationships with DiLs?! I have a very loving relationship with my ex MiL, she took the place of my Mum when she died. I have always tried to be loving towards my two DiLs, one of which is more like a daughter, but the other one seems to be very insecure and jealous! So much so that it is affecting the relationship I have with my DS now and I don't know how to put the situation right!

maxgran Thu 05-Jan-12 13:39:36

If it bothers you - stop sending them gifts.
However, a gift should not be given with expectation, surely ? I think its rude not to acknowledge or thank someone for a gift and would always do that myself, however, if my Grandchildren never said thankyou and it annoyed me - I would simply stop sending them presents.

Nanban Thu 05-Jan-12 20:37:14

the younger generations are our creations - did we create them mannerless and thoughtless?

Annobel Thu 05-Jan-12 21:27:57

No, nanban, it's always the influence of the peer group and the fault of their parents, of course. hmm

yogagran Thu 05-Jan-12 21:30:53

yummygran embralady summed it up for me when she said that that DIL was insecure and jealous of the relationship that we have with our DS's. My DS's 1st wife (my ex-dil now) is a lovely person and I wish she were still my DIL but time moves on and we cannot control our childrens' lives for them. I am pleased that I am still very much in touch with ex-dil as she will be a friend forever, I'm very fond of her - which upsets present dil even more -but, hey ho, that's life