I am heartbroken in facing this holiday gift season. I really only buy gifts for my kids and my nieces and nephews. The nieces and nephews range in age from 19 to 7. Traditionally, there are wish lists, allowing me to shop and trying to find "just the thing" for each of them. My sister and I are best friends, and her children are very close to me and my family - my nieces (ages 16, 11, and 7) and I have a great relationship. However, my brother and his wife have maintained more distance between me and their kids. We have divergent religious and political views and I think this really makes the relationship difficult for them (I have no trouble leaving those issues at the door when we are together and focusing on family and loving up their kids). My sister in law is a control freak who prefers to buy the gifts for her kids and have us then purchase them from her. I resist this, because it is way too impersonal. This year, their youngest (13) gave us a catalog with certain items marked. Shipping was ridiculously expensive so both my sister and I bought her similar items but not the identical things from the catalog - I am quite certain we will get the hairy eyeball from the sister in law for that. The boys (19 and 14) gave us nothing for ideas. I am sad to say they are getting cash this year from me. I will not allow my sister in law to put my name on some gift I wouldn't recognize if she dropped it in my lap and just give the cash to her.
While this irritates the heck out of me - I have my share of control issues - it also breaks my heart. Why? Because I don't know a damn thing about her children that would allow me even to buy a small token gift in which to put the cash - a book, a snack, a T-shirt...anything! How can I have so much love in my heart for these children and know nothing about them? Do they have personalities? It won't be long and these kids will be out on their own and I'll be lucky to see them once a year...have I missed my chance to know them? I thought I talked to them a lot when we are together and it is disheartening to find myself in this spot.