Carolyn: Ever since my two sons were born (now 19 and 16), my father has sent a modest monetary gift on their birthdays and Christmas. He is a wealthy man and although the gift was not much, it was just lovely that he thought of them.
This Christmas, my father sent me a chatty email explaining that he would not be sending my older son a Christmas gift because it was his policy not to send gifts to anyone over 18.
The whole thing is odd because Ive exchanged Christmas gifts with him and his wife every year.
I was very hurt by this and embarrassed by his lack of generosity. My children only have one grandfather, and although they do not get to see him very often, there is deep affection for him. In my mind, the birthday and Christmas gifts signified that he cared about them and remembered them at these special moments.
I could talk to my father and let him know that I am flummoxed by his lack of generosity. However, Im not sure what good it would do. I would appreciate your advice.
Is this what you want to teach your sons, that monetary gifts signify love and the absence of them warrants pressure for their return?
Maybe its odd that youre over 18 and still get gifts from your father, but people have an inalienable right to be odd. (And they seem to exercise it most with their money, dont they.)
Since your sons feel a deep affection for their grandfather, your primary mandate is not to screw that up. Break the news to them that Grandpas gifts stop with their 18th birthdays with not a molecule of disapproval in your breath and, as befitting this arrival at adulthood, you recommend they use the occasion to approach the relationship as adults. Where theyve been conditioned to receive, they can now take the initiative to stay in touch with their only grandfather. To suggest they do otherwise would betray an embarrassing lack of generosity.
Carolyn: Sibling D is going through some mental health and substance abuse challenges and is angry at my parents for their failures while we were growing up. Weve discussed it, and I sympathize I went through a long period of anger myself but Ive gotten over it without ever directly discussing it with them.
D is demanding an apology, and seems to believe that without one it will be impossible to get healthy.
I dont want to excuse or ignore my parents failures, but demanding an apology under these circumstances feels like emotional blackmail. I have no reason to believe that my parents are the cause of Ds problems or that it would make a difference if they apologized. Any suggestions for how to handle it?
Tell him youll stipulate to the errors your parents made. Even allow, for the sake of argument, that your parents mistakes back then are directly responsible for his challenges now.
Agree that sincere apologies can be transformative.
Then explain the but. By demanding one of your parents and by putting his life or recovery or whatever else on hold till he gets it he gives them control over his life. Again.
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