Except for a few details, my mother could have written this post about me and my siblings. I was sad to hear how upset she is about the situation--she has obviously spent a lot of time stewing about it, and it is truly effecting their relationships. From the perspective of the step-child, however, things look a little different. I don't spend a lot of time remembering my step-father because he did very little to build a relationship with me as a child, and as an adult is just as distant, despite the fact that I have tried to reach out occasionally. He has not shown any interest in my children or my life for decades. All of our conversations revolve around him and what he is doing. I don't hold it against him, I recognize that he is not an emotionally healthy person, and therefore my expectations need to be low. However, I figure if he wants a relationship with my family, then he will have to put forth a little bit of effort. Yes, my mother sends gifts on birthdays, etc., but otherwise ignores our family completely. Her love language is obviously "gifts." Sadly, my kids don't even really know who my parents are--I have to explain, "remember those people you saw for two hours last summer?" They are always to busy to come visit us--it's been years since they visited--and when we are near them she doesn't like us to come into her home because she has nice furniture and decorations. And yet my mother could legitimately complain that her adult children don't recognize her husband appropriately on holidays. This probably doesn't add to the discussion or help this poor lady at all, but I just wanted to point out that their might be two sides to the story. Hopefully she is not in this situation, but I wonder, if the therapist were to sit down with the adult children, what tale would they tell? Are they really all just lazy and insensitive? Or is there a problem in this relationship that she just isn't willing to face?
Good advise, and I would also advise this woman to read the Five Love Languages book. Obviously gifts & cards are how she feels loved and is offended when those things are not important to other people. Her husband, wonderful man that he is, may not care a bit about such things. I know I don't and very few members of my family do either (in fact, until I understood how important gifts & cards are to some people, I hated getting them--cards especially seem so trite and pointless). Perhaps her children prefer to show affection with service or spending time together or something else. She may not realize that her gifts and cards to everyone for every event may be driving them crazy--especially if the gifts are simply a box to check off ("I spend $10 on each grandchild--let's see, what can I buy for ten bucks?"). I know I'd FAR prefer to Skype with my kids than get a gift or card from them. Trying to force everyone else into your own personal mold is a recipe for frustration.
Perhaps this woman is seeing an offense when none is intended. Her children Skype, call, send Facebook greetings and maybe the occasional card. That is how their generation handles birthdays! Cards are "snail mail" to them. Gifts become increasingly difficult for adult children when they live away from the parent and are not sure of needs or wants.
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