Seeking advice re gift giving to children of former in-laws

I’d like to get the opinion of others as I’m starting to formulate my Christmas list.

I split up with my ex-wife in October of last year. Although most of her siblings and I stopped speaking immediately or shortly thereafter, my nieces and nephews through marriage were very special to me. I mailed gift certificates to all of them for Christmas in care of their parents, and I heard from my ex that all were received.

This year, I’ve been planning all along to do the same thing, but now I’m wondering whether this makes any sense. Other than one nephew, who is 14 and will have adult freedom in a few years, the relevant nieces and nephews are all fairly young (4 to 8 years old). I have no desire or intent to rekindle contact with their parents at any point.

So I’m wondering whether it even makes sense to keep sending gifts, even assuming they continue to get delivered over the years. I don’t have any realistic way of maintaining a relationship with the kids, and they’ll do just fine without me. Is it fair or even reasonable for me, a relative stranger after a year, to just send gifts twice a year and have no other contact? Sure, it’s not like any kid is going to mind a free present, but maybe I’m actually just making things more awkward for everyone involved. I don’t know.

Your thoughts?

Yeah. I don’t see any reason to keep sending gifts at this point. You’ve cut off relations with the family, and that includes the kids. It was really nice of you to do last year, and it made a lot of sense. But, the marriage is fully over now. It’s time to move on.

I don’t think it would make things awkward, though. Kids love gifts. Just doesn’t seem like there is much reason to do it now.

I would stop sending anything. Christmas gifts don’t keep a connection alive. It’s not some horrific thing to do, but most kids aren’t going to feel anything but a greedy sort of reaction to the gifts because of the lack of emotional connection.

I meant more awkward for the parents, I guess. I’m sure that my oldest niece, who is either seven or eight now, remembers me. But the youngest, whom I think is four, and has only seen me a handful of times since she was an infant, isn’t likely to remember me. And so I was wondering what the parents would even tell the kid, assuming the kid cared where the gift came from.

If you don’t/won’t talk with the parents, I don’t think it’s a great idea to send things to the kids.

Hmm, you’ve got me wondering now. My situation is different, in that my brother-in-law stopped talking to us last summer because we didn’t use him as our real estate agent, but we have sent birthday and Christmas presents to my nieces because we figured it isn’t the kids’ fault that their dad is an idiot.

Asimovian, I think I would stop sending gifts in your case, if you have no expectation of ever seeing these kids again. I do still see my nieces, and it is even possible that my brother-in-law will get over himself someday. Could you see yourself just sending a Christmas card to the whole family, or is no contact at all working for you?

I’m not interested in sending anything to the family as a whole. From my perspective, most of the family turned their backs on me when we split. It isn’t shocking that they’d stand by their blood relative, of course, but I wasn’t really left with warm, fuzzy feelings about being abandoned when I felt I got shafted. So, no, I guess I don’t have any expectation of seeing their kids again, either. My ex has tried to tell me that I’m still family, but with the exception of one pair of in-laws, that has not been the case.

The advice has been unanimous so far. I don’t know why I find it so difficult to think about severing this last tie, but it would seem that the tie is extraordinarily tenous right now, as is. And as I’m only really holding on for my own benefit (since it doesn’t really impact the kids one way or the other), it’s probably time to let go.

I think that’s sound advice.

Is it just habit, do you think?

Well, there you go, posting my advice before I did! I’ve recently been thinking about the issue of gift-giving to kids, because one of my nieces gets at least three gifts A WEEK from her grandmother. She has so much junk she doesn’t play with, closets and cupboards are full of gifts, and gifts are starting to become expected rather than a joyous occasion (she’s three, so hardly surprising). But the end result is that the parents are trying to stop all relatives from giving her gifts so that they can stop her grandmother from smothering her. And the reality is that the grandmother gives her so many gifts because the grandmother wants to create the kind of child who will choose grandma over everyone else. (Funny thing is it’s not working…)

All gift-giving, I think, has a selfish element. We give because we want to make someone happy, or see that expression on their face when they get something wanted/needed. But when the gift giving is more about the giver than the receiver, well, maybe rethink what you’re doing. You may be better off giving those gifts to toys for tots or something, and letting those relationships go.

I vote to pick up angels on angel trees instead. They’d appreciate the gifts vastly more, and they’re just as much strangers to you as your ex’s family.

When I was a kid my aunt and uncle split up. I remember before they were divorced, he gave us kids an awesome Christmas present of a bunch of VHS tapes of old cartoons. We watched the hell out of those tapes.

After they split, he never gave us another Christmas present. And I never once thought “Gee, why did uncle Marty stop giving us gifts?”

IMHO kids get plenty of gifts to keep them entertained, and they don’t think about the gifts they DON’T get.

Gifts are not an obligation, or they shouldn’t be. If you want to give someone a gift 'cause you like them go ahead, but make sure that’s why you’re doing it, not out of a sense of obligation or duty.

Remember there is a chance that your gift could be misinterpreted and if that is the case and it can have negative results, you’re better off not giving it.

I’ll give this one a thumbs-up. Go with what’s likely to create the most possible good. I mean, you don’t really have a connection with these kids, in the sense that you keep in almost no contact with them and at least one isn’t likely to know who the hell you really are, right?

Also, Marxxx is right about the whole “obligation” thing.

It isn’t about obligation at all. The only people who might possibly think less of me for not sending gifts are people whose opinions have no bearing on my life. It was about wanting these kids to know that my ex and I splitting up had no impact on my affection for them. I just don’t think there’s a realistic way to do that.