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To be confused and upset about this situation with my family and Christmas presents

(165 Posts)
Macnabber Sun 15-Dec-19 22:42:17

I have a really distant relationship with my parents. My mum had a drinking problem when i grew up and was very violent and unpredictable. I was the oldest so bore the brunt of it. Have some terrible memories including her trying to smash my bedroom door down with a knife, waking up to see her cutting up my favourite dress with scissors. She hit me a lot. Really awful things.

Fast forward 40 years and i talk to her and we have a semblance of an ok if distant relationship. She doesn't ever visit me (2 hours away). She doesn't drink any more.

My younger sister has a drink problem and some mental health issues, as do my brothers. I've spent many years looking after them and supporting them. For the last 20 years I've been married to my dh and have two fab kids. I have a lovely home life with no arguments and a calm and loving atmosphere.

This year my sister has hit rock bottom and I've spent many hours helping her to sort her life and find some temporary accommodation for her and her dd.

This is all background to the problem i have. We are quite strapped for cash this Christmas as one of our dcs has gone to uni and its been expensive among other things and I spoke to my mum and said would she mind if we only did presents for the kids this year not adults. She seemed fine about it. I have bought my niece and nephews nice presents but nothing for adults.

Yesterday I got a Christmas card in the post from my parents with no messge, just their names. Nothing for the dcs, so clearly making a point. Then tonight my brother rang me and said he wanted to discuss how much i had upset my parents by not buying them anything for Christmas. He said they "lived" for presents from me and I'd ruined their Christmas.

I'm afraid to say i put the phone down on him.

He's since texted me quite nasty texts.

I'm 54! Please someone tell me IABU? I know it's impossible to get all the detail across. I sometimes wish I could cut myself off from my parents and siblings as they never add anything positive to my lives and are obsessed with the fact that we have money and a happy life.

Loopytiles Sun 15-Dec-19 22:45:40


This is part of your family’s dysfunction. Sounds like you take on a LOT of responsibility. Suggest the Stately Homes threads, reading recommendations, and counselling if you haven’t already had it.

Loopytiles Sun 15-Dec-19 22:46:18

Low contact with these relations would be good.

Jubilation Sun 15-Dec-19 22:47:51

How hurtful and petty of them and your brother. I think it's perfectly reasonable under your circumstances to adjust who you're buying for. You sound very supportive. I guess I'd try to clarify finally with them your reasons etc, explain you thought they were fine about it etc and leave it there. You don't get a lot back from these relationships, do you? Can't choose your family etc. I wish you well.

hammeringinmyhead Sun 15-Dec-19 22:48:58

You neither need nor owe these people and your brother is acting as a flying monkey on your parents' behalf. I would simply respond that you can't afford presents this year and then contact them sporadically and minimally.

DamnYouAutocucumber Sun 15-Dec-19 22:49:23

I'm sorry, that sounds awful.

I suspect they are more reliant on presents as there is limited actual contact. They can probably use objects to convince themselves everything is fine and, for example, show neighbours the lovely vase their DD bought them.

With close family I've found it very easy to say no grown up presents, we all enjoy spending time together and really don't need any more stuff.

ihatethecold Sun 15-Dec-19 22:49:27

I have read a fantastic book recently called
Growing up with emotionally immature parents.
It’s helped me understand myself and them (An alcoholic and an enabler)

It can help you make sense.
Stick with your boundaries op.

ButtonandPickle19 Sun 15-Dec-19 22:50:01

I’d decide whether you care or not. It sounds like you’re a lovely sister and daughter, doing presents for kids only is quite normal. If they add no value to your life let them sulk, if they do buy them a box of biscuits/quality street

BooksAreMyOnlyFriends Sun 15-Dec-19 22:50:14

Yanbu. You discussed this with your mum and she said it was fine. Keep telling your brother that. Call your mum and ask her what is going on.

So sorry about your difficult family. I would be inclined to cut them all off but I understand it may not be that easy.

Definitely stick to your guns about presents though. Even without all the family issues, sticking to buying for children is sensible nowadays.

Glitteryone Sun 15-Dec-19 22:50:16

God you are definitely not being unreasonable at all!!

Stick to your guns and concentrate on your lovely family now. Ignore your parents & siblings.

Macnabber Sun 15-Dec-19 22:50:27

I've had quite a lot of counselling over the years but I think I might need more.

I dread Christmas as it was always such a stressful time when I was young. I try and make it lovely for my own family and its always really nice. My dh knows about my worries and always helps with everything.

I can't believe I'm still having to deal with aggressive irrational behaviour, now from my brother. We'd had a good relationship before this. Clearly my mums been moaning to him about it.

spacepoppers Sun 15-Dec-19 22:53:17

Presents for kids only is normal, and very sensible IMO. You are not responsible for their happiness via Christmas presents. I'd consider going very low contact with your parents and brother if they are going to make you feel so shit to be honest.

Macnabber Sun 15-Dec-19 22:53:36

Thanks so much. One of the worst and lasting effects of having a dysfunctional family is thst i genuinely do not know whether i am doing the right things or not.

I feel sad and guilty that they are so upset but I am not going to cave and buy them anything!

Babybel90 Sun 15-Dec-19 22:56:29

He said they "lived" for presents from me and I'd ruined their Christmas.

Honestly, I would have replied Good, they don’t deserve to enjoy Christmas after the childhood they gave me. and then never speak to any of them ever again!

Honestly they sound pathetic, I don’t know anyone who would want presents off their children if their children couldn’t afford it, my parents have always made it clear we’re not to spend our money on gifts for them because gifts should go from parents to children and not the other way around.

Macnabber Sun 15-Dec-19 22:59:43

I think they don't believe that we can't afford it. They are obsessed with money and think dh and I are "loaded" . We earn less than 50k but we have a nice house in a cheapish part of the world.

Macnabber Sun 15-Dec-19 23:02:43

I thought it was normal to only buy kids presents! Apparently they are furious that i haven't bought ny sister anything because she's had a rough year. I've spent the last two years trying to give ny dsis as much emotional support as i can but her temper and alcoholism remind me so much of my mum I'm ashamed to say I had to take a step back, with the support of Al Anon who were brilliant.

Honeyroar Sun 15-Dec-19 23:05:00

You poor thing. You sound like you’ve spent your whole life creeping around them and their problems, not even hiding away but helping them. Yet the one time you’re asking for something to help you out you’re being given a hard time. I’d be inclined to wrap up one of the previously suggested self help books about alcoholic, dreadful parents and send that to them as their presents! Then I’d block them until new year at the very earliest (block them for longer if it helps, they’re not a positive in your life) and try and concentrate on enjoying the good in your own little family.

saraclara Sun 15-Dec-19 23:05:56

"I asked her if it was okay. She said yes"

...and repeat.

If you get bored, intersperse with "I can't read her mind"

"If she wasn''t happy she should have said so"

etc etc. Don't get drawn in.

BillHadersNewWife Sun 15-Dec-19 23:06:26

It IS normal OP. Your sister's rough year (and life) is THEIR FAULT. Not yours.

They've shat on your childhoods and now they're shitting on your adulthood.

Cut contact. What do you get out of your relationship with them?

Macnabber Sun 15-Dec-19 23:15:15

I get very little out of my relationship with any of them!

That's spot on that its the one time I've asked for "help"! Its sent them into meltdown.

Knittedfairies Sun 15-Dec-19 23:17:47

OP, please do not be 'ashamed' to have taken a step back; AlAnon have supported you in doing that so unlikely to be a wrong move on your part. It's not your responsibility to fix them, nor is their Christmas your responsibility.

StCharlotte Sun 15-Dec-19 23:18:47

In your case you are not being unreasonable In the slightest.

(However, as someone in a normal loving family who doesn't have children but who buys "for the children", it does feel a bit unfair sometimes but I'm an adult and would never hold it against the other adults in our family.)

SusieOwl4 Sun 15-Dec-19 23:30:34

Not unreasonable at all . You sound like you go out of your way to help people all year round . We can afford Christmas but have had a stressful year and are time short as well .and tbh I could not face all the hassle ,I have been helping others all year and have run out of steam. Said the same only buying for children. Everyone was fine about it.

MsPepperPotts Sun 15-Dec-19 23:32:36

YADNBU at all.
You need to put your own emotional wellbeing first.
My advice would be to go No Contact with them's the only way to combat the stress caused by their dysfunctional behaviour.
It is hard to do initially but in the long run you will slowly feel better for having taken back control of your life. flowers

laudete Sun 15-Dec-19 23:33:23

YANBU. It would be far more normal to immediately plan on giving your child extra Xmas gifts as soon as they told you they couldn't afford to buy you Xmas gifts this year. (And, for one of those gifts to be money - assuming the parent can afford it.)

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