December 14, 2006

Christmas Dilemma

I have a Christmas dilemma. My father-in-law and mother-in-law are divorced. My father-in-law is an asshole of the self-pitying, self-help, it's-all-about-me variety. I've only met him once, and he spent most of that evening in total silence because he "felt too bad about himself." He's never met his grandchildren or made any moves in the direction of having anything to do with them; he doesn't even congratulate us when we have a new baby. Every year, because I like to manage gifts and Paul does not, I send my father-in-law a Christmas package. He doesn't send out cards or gifts because he's "not emotionally up to it." Nor does he say anything about the card and gifts we send, presumably for the same reason.

This year--just like every other year after the first one--I've been considering not sending any more Christmas packages. Why should we spend time and money on someone we dislike so much, someone who doesn't even seem to be glad we did it? I even made the decision not to send one this year. But then one of my friends pointed out that the kind gesture of sending a Christmas package to a difficult family member is not invalidated by his crappy response to it, and not only did I agree with her, I felt a lot better about the decision to send one.

But I do keep thinking about it, and also, I'm not sure what to send. I don't know him, and neither does Paul. If we send anything that isn't mind-readingly perfect, he uses it as an opportunity to descend into a deep depression about how no one really knows him. I was thinking of sending a puzzle book and a bunch of soup ( has a grocery section, he's a guy living alone, soup seemed like a comfort food and it ships for free), shipped directly to him, unwrapped. Or, I could get the things shipped to me, then wrap them and repack them along with some homemade stuff--cookies, fudge, whatever. That's a new level of effort, though: more time, more errands, more money, more tasks.

I don't even know what I'm asking here. Thoughts, I guess. What you'd do. Gift ideas for assholes you barely know but are accidentally related to.


aoife said...

your friend is right. The blessings you receive for sending the gift are not negated by crappy reception - his are.

Send it. and pretend it mattered. It did to you.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the Life Picture Puzzle book?

Jen said...

So what did you do? He sounds like my mother. I don't send her gifts anymore; I got tired of her not acknowledging them or me (let alone her only grandchildren) or bothering to send a thank you card which she always harped on us to do when we were little. Now I send cards.

But I guess I like aoife's answer. I hope that isn't just because it will make me feel like a bigger person. UGH. Difficult adults. Aren't they fun.

Swistle said...

Jen- I did send a gift, but I made it kind of generic. Like, instead of fretting over whether he'd like things or not, and instead of including things I'd baked and crafts the children made, I ordered him some general-interest things (puzzle books, if I remember correctly) and had ship them to him directly.