Care and Feeding

I’ve Been the Perfect Aunt for a Decade. That’s All About to Change.

They say I’m materialistic.

Person holding a gift box with a box on it.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by photoguns/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

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Dear Care and Feeding,
 
My conundrum is around holiday gift-giving. I have three siblings. In the past, I’d traditionally buy or make a small ($10-15) gift for each of my nieces and nephews, with personal and thoughtful touches that connect to the child and their interests or talents. It adds up, but I find it a nice gesture since we haven’t been able to have the same amount of quality time with all the kids since the pandemic began. It’s important to me that they feel loved by their aunts and uncles, and gifts are simply one small way we demonstrate it.

One sibling and I enjoy gift-giving, but my two other siblings (who are frugal but certainly not impoverished) are unappreciative of gifts for their kids and have declared that they no longer want to give gifts (or have begun to give visibly dirty, used gifts in poor condition). They often make comments that insinuate that we’re materialistic for wanting to continue any form of a gift-giving tradition. I have had my first child, and find myself disappointed and a bit hurt that my child will never receive gifts from my siblings after I’ve put thought, money, and emotional effort into thoughtful gifts for all of their children for over a decade.

I do enjoy giving for the sake of giving, and I feel ungrateful for even thinking it, but it hurts that they’ve given nice gifts to all of the other children in the family over the years, and my child is the only one who will never receive gifts from them. I fully realize that gifts are not an entitlement, and I feel like a giant spoiled brat for even feeling these thoughts. How do I work past this resentment? Do I continue to give gifts to the children of the sibling who does appreciate gifts, and leave out the nieces and nephews of the ungrateful parents?
 
—To Give or Not to Give
 
Dear To Give,

This is tricky. On the one hand, I am inclined to tell you to stop gifting the children of your siblings who refuse to participate in the tradition, because it seems like they have a real opposition to the ritual and don’t want to be a part of it. Conversely, your nieces and nephews have become accustomed to receiving your thoughtful presents, and it seems somewhat unfair to deny them that based on their parent’s choices. If your siblings truly felt so strongly about the “materialism” of gift-giving, they probably should have never allowed their children to receive presents from you in the first place.

You aren’t ungrateful for feeling sad that your child won’t get to experience the joy of receiving gifts from most of their aunts and uncles; you’ve worked hard to show your love for your niblings during the holiday season, and it can certainly feel disappointing that your siblings don’t want to participate. I’m going to advise you to keep giving with a pure heart and doing your part to make the holidays special for the children in your family. Considering how your siblings have behaved about presents, your gifts may go a long way with their children, who may not be experiencing the same sort of Christmas that you are giving to your own kids. It would be hurtful for them to stop getting your reliable, thoughtful presents, only to learn that you still give them to their cousins. Keep doing what you’re doing for the sake of the kids, and make their spirits bright.

—Jamilah

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