Thoughtful Thursday: No Thanks

December 9, 2010

Thoughtful ThursdayA very different topic and tone from the Thanks post a couple of weeks ago…

I like to think that I’m a pretty good gift recipient. I thank the giver verbally, and often with a hand-written note. Even if I don’t like the gift, I find something nice to say. If I do like the gift, I make a point of using it around the giver or telling them about how much I’m enjoying it. With gifts for Burrito and Tamale, I often send the giver photos of the twins using the gift.

My husband warmly expresses gratitude to the giver, but he doesn’t write thank you notes. For gifts to us as a couple or family, he’s off the hook, since I write the collective note. He doesn’t receive many individual gifts except from relatives, for whom thank you notes aren’t necessary anyway (at least as far as he’s concerned). Even with the rare individual gifts he’s received, I have no recollection of him writing a thank you note in the more than 15 years I’ve known him.

I can’t blame him. That’s not how he was raised. His mother is the single worst gift recipient I’ve ever met.

For example, the time that I made her a piece of pottery with her name on it. Not only did she not write a thank you note, she didn’t even say thank you when I handed it to her.

I said something to DH, and apparently he said something to her. The next time I gave her a gift, she lavished facetious thanks and mockingly bowed to me.

After that incident, I vowed never to give her anything again. I failed to keep my vow.

The most recent gift, for a milestone birthday, was a joint gift with my SIL. We — or rather I — had it custom-made. It took me many hours to find someone to make it and then to work with them on the specifications. It wasn’t cheap. When MIL opened it, she histrionically sobbed to indicate how touched she was. But, within a week, she’d regifted it. Then it broke. Then when I arranged to have it repaired (for the sake of the regiftee, I suppose) she said she never liked it and she wanted something else instead. The artisan kindly agreed to return it, and we gave MIL the choice of anything else that artisan could make. She refused and instead told us that she wanted something incredibly specific (and unrelated to the original gift). Something so hideous that I would never give it to anyone, even if it was their heart’s desire. I researched places to find it (of which there aren’t many, since it is hideous) and told my SIL that she could do what she wants with the information but that I had already given my gift and I washed my hands of it.

Then there’s the competition aspect. When MIL gets a gift from us, often her first reaction is to ask whether her ex-husband’s wife (my step-MIL, a.k.a. “the good MIL”) got a similar gift, or a better one, or a worse one. Same thing when DH announced the pregnancy: First reaction, “Does your father know?” Same thing when DH informed her that we planned to move to my mother’s city because my mother is ill. “What about me? You wouldn’t move here if I was sick, would you.”

Don’t get the wrong impression that MIL doesn’t like gifts. In fact, she likes them so much that she commandeers gifts intended for her very elderly mother. Flowers, clothes, even cash.

Earlier this week I mailed a gift to DH’s grandmother, in care of MIL. MIL called to tell me how wonderful it was. I asked if the grandmother had seen it.

MIL: No.
Me: But you’ve seen it? It was wrapped. With her name on it.
MIL: I wanted to see it.
Me: But it was wrapped. With her name on it.
MIL: I was going to a party, and I wanted to show it to people. Because it’s so wonderful! I wish I had one…

And in my mind, again I vowed never to give her anything.

The next day, I stood in line at the post office for half an hour to mail her holiday gift. Apparently I never learn. Either that, or I don’t want to deal with the fallout from giving a gift to everyone else except her (or subject my husband to the fallout). Never mind the fact that I’ve been married to her son for a dozen years, and except for our wedding gift, she’s never given me anything. Unless you count that pain in my ass.

How do you deal with people who don’t express sufficient gratitude?

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11 Responses to “Thoughtful Thursday: No Thanks”

  1. Michele Says:

    I’m not responsible for other people- just myself. I try to do the right thing (although that doesnt always work) and let the chips fall where they do. I believe I’ll be judged based on how I treat others (not how they treat me). But that doesnt make it easy. I’m a thank you note writer too and I very rarely receive one in return. Sometimes I’d love to call people and ask if they even got the gift!

  2. figgymommy Says:

    I am TERRIBLE at thank-you notes. I almost never do them. But I do try to be appropriately grateful when I get it, or when I talk to the person next if I didn’t receive it face-to-face.

    Gift giving, I try not to expect gratitude. I’m a little let down if it’s not there; I do try to put a lot of thought into gifts. But as PP said, I’m not responsible for other people, and I try really hard not to place expectations upon them.

    However, with your MIL, I wouldn’t say that’s a case of not enough gratitude. I’d say that’s downright rudeness. Totally inappropriate and it would drive me nuts. I’d probably tell my husband that if he wanted his mother to get gifts, from then on he had to pick them out. And if he didn’t, and she asked why there was no gift, I’d say something like, “oh, I guess he was to busy to pick one out.”

  3. Kristin Says:

    If a gift recipient proves to be continually ungrateful, I either stop giving gifts or scale way, way back.

  4. a Says:

    Ha! “that pain in my ass!” Hilarious!

    I don’t pay much attention…but then, we’re not big gift givers. It makes me laugh when I get thank you notes 6 months after the fact from my niece and nephews, but at least my sister is making them do it.

    I have little angst in this area…but I do feel a bit let down when I see the reaction to the wonderful idea I had is not as enthusiastic as I had hoped. But, as I said, gift giving in our family is very limited.

    However, my daughter is pretty good at the gift receiving enthusiasm – most gifts are met with “Oh! This is just what I always wanted! I love this!” It may just be a function of being 4, but I hope she holds on to the attitude.

  5. Rebecca Says:

    She sounds like a lovely piece of work. I just don’t understand how she’s never given you anything? WTF.

    I try to cut the ungrateful out of my life. Half the time I think life itself is such a miracle, so ungrateful people really wind me up.

  6. WiseGuy Says:

    …just take it with a pinch of salt.

    Or remember how the person deals with it.

    I once bought a gown for somebody who told me how much she liked the embroidery on it. (I was living in a different town, was a student and this lady was a neighbour. The embroidery was a speciality of the area from where I belonged). She completely ruined the gift by

    a) offering me money in return.

    b) sending me money and a packet of cashews the next day through somebody.

    Now hers is a case where I am never ever likely to meet her again, and I will certainly never have to give her anything ever, either as protocol or as anything else. She will not get anything from me.

    But when the gift takers are family, things get a bit different.

    From the money that I earned as my first salary post-marriage, I bought gifts for a number of people including this lady on Birdman’s side of the family.

    Six months later, I was shocked to learn that the woman regifted the dress to another person. I was hurt and realized that the significance I ascribed to the gift was not the same as her.

    In fact, over the years I have realized that she does not take the gifts for any emotional value. They are a privilege, a matter of right, and of course she should be suitably honoured on all occasions. She will never give back in sheer love or just because she felt like it.

    Once I realized that, I cut down the efforts I undertook to choose a gift for her, gave her things only when very necessary, and kept myself prepared mentally for her to just pass the item on to somebody else. I have begun to care less about what to give her.

  7. emk808 Says:

    Honestly, I stopped paying attention. The vast majority of weddings I’ve been to since getting married have neglected to send me a thank you note for their present. None were family, so I’m not in a position where I would be giving another gift, so I don’t really think about it. As for family, I think I’m probably the *worst* about thanking for gifts. Honestly, my brain can’t hold all the information and I always forget to send a note or call someone. My mom constantly has to remind me until I have the 5 minutes to do something about it. πŸ™‚ It’s not that I’m ungrateful, I’m just forgetful. In any case, I feel really lucky that everyone I’m close to is very good about giving and receiving gifts. If they weren’t, I would consider not giving any further gifts. Incidentally, I would say my mother-in-law is the worst recipient of gifts…not because she’s ungrateful but because she’s like “Why are you spending money on me? Don’t spend money on me!! Don’t send me anything!” ROFL I love her to pieces. πŸ˜€

  8. Ana Says:

    ha ha! I love your comment…”pain in my ass”. I don’t think i’ve ever gotten anything else from my MIL either. actually I hate my MIL in every way imaginable, but she is NOT the worst receiver of gifts…my own beloved mom is! She is hard to please, doesn’t feel any money should be spent on her, and is way too honest with me. My sister and I have gave up on actual gifts years ago, and recently I gave up on flowers when there was always some complaint (they were dead, there were only a few, the colors were off). I send her nice cards for her birthday and mother’s day and she seems quite pleased.

  9. strongblonde Says:

    how have we never officially swapped MIL stories? πŸ˜‰

    i’m such a bad receiver of gifts. i like getting them, i suppose, it is just that i don’t like people watching me open stuff. i don’t like people watching me in general, i guess. of course i thank people and find something nice to say, even if it is terribly inappropriate (for example when i got a baby name book during the holiday season after my cancer diagnosis and during our first year of treatment). i don’t expect anything crazy. just a thank you. or a email to let me know the gift arrived. i would even settle for that. i swear.

    looking at some of the posts above…maybe you should have a thoughtful thursday about MILs?

  10. jill Says:

    Oh my gosh she sounds absolutely intolerable. I’m sorry 😦

    I have an ungrateful relative and I haven’t been able to do anything about it actually. He is young and immature – I just hope he “grows” out of it. I know he would be incredibly defensive if confronted. It’s just not worth it.


  11. I pretty much encourage people not to give my daughter or me gifts so that I don’t have to write thank you notes. I used to be able to keep up with them, but now they’ve taken on serious albatross status in my life and only add to my anxiety issues. So I’ve decided to do what I can to make sure I don’t have to write them. Nowadays I’m more one to profusely thank someone in person the next time I see them or send them an email.

    Though, I do plan to instill the thank you note habit in Betty. I have a feeling that today’s kids wouldn’t feel so entitled if they all had to write thank you notes for every single gift they received. The new joke in our family is that we won’t take my daughter and her (hopeful) future sibling on a Disney Cruise until they’re old enough to write us a thank you note for it afterwards.


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