Monday, January 2, 2006
Dear Dr. Jim
My sister gave my kids really crappy Christmas presents this year. We all draw names and the minimum was $50; however, they gave him a $5 gift card to McDonald's.
How do I handle the response to this? We bought their child a Wii game that was well over $50 with tax. Please let me know your opinion. I have googled your blog and it seems like you give honest responses to people's questions.
Thank you for the response, in advance.
Trying Not To Be a Scrooge!
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I feel for your son. Fortunately this inequity in gift giving is quite common at Christmas time. A close runner up is found in birthday gifting. Both of these situations then can be categorized for advice and adaptation purposes as Inequitable Gifting Syndrome, or IGS.
Next we must deal with finding who is the patient for IGG counseling, you, your spouse, or as I believe you stated, your son.
To help us here, let's assume there is a case of IGS here. If so, we must understand the motives of the other mother who is your sister.
1. First, do you think she has hostile feelings towards you or your child? This very may be the case. Let's assume she is not hostile to start.
1.a. You didn't say if she was older or younger than you are. Younger sisters (and brothers) often suffer from a complex that in lay terms, they feel they can not compete with the older sibling, for their entire life, in school, in marriage, or in child raising, all of which would make matters worse for you and/or your son.
1.b. Was the $50 minimum agreed upon by the family or was it pushed by your parent(s) or other family members. If the family agreed, did, perhaps, your sister not agree, but was simply outvoted? If she resents the arrangement, she might opt out if given a choice. (If you should choose this avenue, you may expect to hear some choice words, so be sure your son is not present.)
1.c. Can your sister afford to give a $50 present to all her nieces and nephews? That seems a bit high. In fact quite a bit high. My clients regularly do limit the gifts to these niece and nephew children to $5.00. Leave it up to the parents to get the really expensive presents.
I digress here for a moment. My aunt and uncles did not give me anything for Christmas, my grandmother always gave me a new handkerchief. And personally to this day, I do not give nieces and nephews presents over $10. Now grandchildren fare a little better. I generally give them all, young and old, $25 worth of McDonald's coupons.
1.d. You sister may not have received communication about the money limit at all. In this case she would feel that a $5 McDonald's gift was perfect. Was she there when the amount was decided upon? She may not have heard correctly if she was there, there may have been a misprint if she got it in the form of a letter or e-mail.
2. Now assume she is hostile
2.a. Find out if you can, why she is hostile. Towards you? Towards your son? Towards your spouse? Towards you all?
Getting to the roots of IGS is very precise, many psychologists use flowchart techniques. I believe what we are seeing today here could be flowcharted for a visible aid to grasping the problem roots here. This would not be free as it would involve professionals instead of writers.
2.b. Item 1.b. above, the inadequacy feelings of being younger may actually lead to hostility which would explain the IGS immediately.
2.c. If you, your son, or your spouse is younger than her child or her or her husband, she may be jealous of the attention younger people naturally receive. Be careful here as she may be aggravated to violence, with the purpose of leaving the object of her wrath less desirable after she mops up.
3. Have you questioned your own feelings and those of your son? Granted $45 is quite a divergence in gift prices, the receiver (or parent) could develop into a deteriorative form of IGS. In this situation the patient often gets physical symptoms such as bleeding ulcers, nervous quivers, slurred speech, blurred vision, or terrible headaches.
4. My advice to you is two-fold.
4.a. If you can, you yourself withdraw your family from the expensive gift exchange. Save your bucks for your own kids.
4.b. If you can't withdraw, and assuming your sister does not either, seek paid professional advice. I am not a medical doctor or a psychologist and these matters of dealing with IGS, or any health situation like this should be left to these professionals. Please note again that I am a Law Doctor, nothing here is very imposing on legal rights (not yet).
I hope this helped you and the vast group who might stumble on this advice. Mainly to be able to see how minute the problem really is when we compare it with the complex job of running the whole universe. And the more the adults carry on the more the children become demented.
So, keep on keep'n on, and till then,
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