It’s the thought that counts.

OK, I know I said Christmas was about meeting up with family, but I do like a gift. Both the giving and the receiving.

Can you see where this is going?

Yes, I’m going to have a whinge. Well, maybe not a whinge exactly, more an observation, a critical observation. Perhaps even a slightly bitchy one.

Now glass houses and everything, so let me preface my observation with comments regarding my own inconsistencies.

I’ve stopped sending Christmas cards. As a practice it just sort of faded away.

And I no long send Christmas gifts to my own mother, sister and my sister’s son and daughter. We all live in different states, so it saves postage and angst about undelivered gifts. Yes, Australia Post has damaged and “lost” parts of parcels before, so it is not an unfounded worry.

My sister and I have a deal. I give cash to my two and say it is from their Aunty and she gives the same amount to her two and says it is from me. We are rarely together for Christmas. The one recent time we were, we bought gifts, as opening them together is just what we do. And it may colour the story to know, my sister’s offspring are in their 20s and have their own places and mine are over 18 but live at home. My two do appreciate the $50 from Aunty C and know that she thinks of them.

On the wider gift-giving throughout the year, my mother and I are really bad at remembering birthdays. We buy gifts and cards and send them at random times, unconnected to the actual date. Often, no always late, for many reasons, generally to do with our own laziness in getting to the post office. And I have missed birthdays for my nieces and nephews – mainly on my husband’s side.

So I recognise and acknowledge when there’s thought put into something, even if the thought is not followed through with action. And I put my hand up at being a bad Aunty.

When it comes to my husband’s family, we always buy Christmas gifts for the offspring because we always have Christmas Day together. There’s five of them, all under 18. My husband has recently started putting thought into his brother’s gift. He puts much thought into the gift for his mother. I am responsible for the gifts for the two sisters-in-law.

This year, my two got nothing from my husband’s brother’s family. Nothing!

When the unwrapping session was over, the sister-in-law said to me her husband forgot. (We have in previous years agreed that it should not be the wife’s responsibility to buy gifts, especially for the in-laws.) And then she said how about we agree to stop buying gifts when the kids turn 18.

Mmmm? Well that would only be mine. Not yours for another 4 to 7 years.


No, I’d didn’t shout that. Or even say it. I just said no. I will continue to buy her kids gifts. I’m not going to punish them because their parents are tightarses. And no, I didn’t add that last bit out loud either.

In the past there have been some pretty ordinary and obviously cheap gifts from them but at least my kids got gifts. And they felt acknowledged by their relatives. This year my youngest noticed the non-gift giving. Asked me why? See, they didn’t even have the decency to say anything to their nephews. And if they forgot, why not just shove some cash in a card?

It reeks of selfishness. They are not hard up. Two income family, regular holidays etc etc.

Something small to show you care is surely not too much to ask? Especially when we are doing the whole Christmas Day together? What do you think?

Part of a gift from one of my sons: tea cup and saucer. Love the colour! He also bought some fancy loose leaf tea to go with it. Isn’t he sweet? And behind it, the remains of our yearly Chocolate plate. But don’t you fret, there’s more chocolate to replenish the platter for weeks to come!


10 thoughts on “It’s the thought that counts.

  1. This is such a tricky issue.. I admit to being the bad aunt last year. The six cousins get to buy for one other cousin, and my sister-in-law texted the list to my home phone. Ooops. Which meant I didn’t get it, and my head space being rather crowded last year, did completely forget as well:( Bad aunt.
    And, I’m not that fussed about presents. I mean, who among us needs more crap?
    I am trying to steer Christmas away from presents. But I love thoughtfulness and kindness. How can I substitute? Hmmm, thinking on that one.
    My favourite presents this year were a giant stack of crotcheted granny squares from my mum, for a blanket I am making, and a framed artwork from my 18yo, part of her Yr 12 body of artwork, which I had begged for:) See, it is the thought that counts, that’s why I like those presents so much.
    My 10yo daughter, by far the youngest cousin, is going to miss out on cousin presents in a few years, as the cousins don’t buy presents for each other after 18. I am assuming your brother-in-law bought presents for your kids long before their kids were born? It probably all equals out in the end. And why would you want your kids to get more cheap crap? I think it is the thoughtfulness you are missing. The fact that your family didn’t discuss this with you beforehand maybe?
    Christmas 2015 is going to be about how to shift Christmas from consumer spending spree, to being kind. I don’t quite know how I am going to achieve that, but stay tuned…

    • Bad aunts all round! Lol.

      Yes, you’re right. We don’t need more crap. But for me it isn’t about spending equal amounts – and as an aside, we always spend much more than they do. But no, they didn’t buy gifts for my kids before theirs were born.

      For me, getting out and buying the gift and then unwrapping together shows that someone else cares and puts time and energy into someone else. It is about showing and teaching our kids about not being self absorbed. So it is the selfishness that irks.

      And I love the framing of a part of the Year 12 major work. That’s a lovely thoughtful gift.

      Here’s one gift I gave one year for two of my nieces – a voucher to have lunch and shop for a dress with me in the after Christmas sales. Yes, I spent a little more than I would on a gift for under the tree, but we had time together and that was priceless.

  2. I can’t believe they didn’t discuss it beforehand or – if the presents were forgotten! – it would have been basic manners to draw your boys to the side to explain before the present-opening. They must have just been left hanging.

    I grew up in a large family of cousins and everyone stopped giving gifts at 18. However, there are so many cousins in the family that continuing to buy for 16 or so kids on ONE side (plus more on the other side) was just not practical. And the really key difference was that we were not spending Christmas Day together. I think on the day itself the spirit of giving should prevail. It would be sad to go to Christmas and have nothing under the tree!

    As you know, I’m completely against ‘more crap’ and especially cheap plastic craptastic (for little kids) that ends up almost immediately in landfill. But it’s not hard to get a little something practical for older teens to brighten up Christmas Day. You could buy older teens ‘future house’ gifts of small tools, kitchenware etc. combined with home cooked goodies or cakes. Just something to show that you thought about them and something to make Christmas Day special.

    • Wow! 16! Very good Catholic family.

      Not including my 2, we have 2 on my side (Protestants!!) and 6 on my husbands but we only buy for 5 on my husbands. (Other one lives overseas. The couple of times he has visited, we bought BIG presents.)

      I agree. There’s so much that can be given besides plastic crap to show you were thought about. Though I do like the stuff in the Australian Geographic store or other stores like it, but then we are a household that likes science-y stuff. My 2 could have been given chocolate, homecooked biscuits or cake, an iTunes voucher, beer – they’re over 18, a beach towel, guitar picks, guitar strap, a voucher for petrol (one of the hardest things for young people – having enough money for petrol), a beer cooler.

  3. One of the benefits of a minimalist family… We’re both (for all intents and porpoises) only children so Christmas is just us and the paternal GPs. My old people tend to go overseas (had lunch in Suva this year), so it’s all very simple and civilised. One cousin of sorts does send a gift for the boys, and I try to remember to send something to her kids as well. I’m pretty sure I owe their two year old a present…

    • Did they go to Suva just for lunch? That would be impressive!

      Two year old won’t care if you buy a gift or not – though your cousin might. It is when they are over 5 that they realise other people may care and think about them. So I’d hold off.

      • Not just for lunch, lol… in fact, they’re just back today. Little cruise with like minded grumpy old people! Around the same time as I missed the two year old’s birthday, we sent up a heap of duplo and play doh stuff, so she’s probably missed that we’ve missed it. The cousin will notice if we don’t, so the diary has been updated already for next year.

  4. I am on your side, L. I think if there is a tradition of giving, it shouldn’t be stopped with no notice (unless someone is hospitalized or something!) I think that is callous to kids, even if the kids are 16 or 18. If I were the forgetful aunt, I totally would have stuffed cash in a card! I even bought 4 gifts this year on the 24th for relatives who suddenly announced they would stop by on Christmas Eve – because in our family, if you see people on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning, that is just what you do. And it wasn’t a hardship for anyone.

    • Thanks, I worry that I sound like a selfish, greedy sod. But it isn’t about the actual gift for me; it’s about the showing you care. We also always have a few spare boxes of chocolates and wine – for unexpected guests.

      I don’t think my eldest cared but the 18 year old was left hanging. He loves Christmas – and shares the surprise of others when they unwrap gifts from other people and loves seeing if the gift he bought is well-received. He does put a lot of thought into getting a gift right.

  5. Oh, that’s a tough one. And so awkward! My grandmother forgot to give me a Christmas present last year and it hurt my feelings. But since she gave everyone else a present (we have a large family of nearly 50 people), I knew it was just a mistake and I could kind of make myself feel better – little slip ups happen to everyone, right? But much more hurtful for both your boys to not receive presents in a smaller setting and with no warning. Ugh.

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