Dear Annie: My cousin and her husband have four young kids. My family is invited to every birthday and Christmas party. Of course, they expect a gift each time. They even register for toys and clothes. Their kids are already spoiled with bedrooms overcrowded with stuff. They also post pictures on Facebook of trips to local museums and restaurants, so money doesn’t appear to be a problem.
The problem is, my cousin’s family is otherwise so busy that these parties are the only days my kids can be in their lives. If we don’t go, we never see them. They rarely call or visit. They’ll come over if we invite them to a barbecue or something, but they don’t reciprocate.
I don’t want to end the relationship, but it feels one-sided. My cousin’s father was like a father to me. After he died, I wanted to stay involved in her children’s lives. I have tried to keep this relationship going, but every year it gets harder. Any advice?
Dear Tennessee: It’s sweet that you want to stay close to your cousin and her family, but please don’t expect them to respond as if you are best friends. Socializing with relatives can be a bit more limited without creating ill will. Continue to attend the kids’ birthday parties, but don’t feel obligated to spend a fortune on a gift. Instead, offer to take the birthday child for a special outing so you can get to know each of them individually. Invite them over for family functions if you wish. Put less of an obligation on this relationship, and you may find it is easier to handle.
Dear Annie: I am the youngest of five and am a lonely, 39-year-old single woman. I admit that I have made some poor choices. We live in a small town, and everyone knows about my mistakes. But instead of standing up for me, my family members, including my own mother, delight in slandering my name. My brothers’ wives can be particularly cruel.
To me, when someone attacks a family member, the proper response is to say that you won’t speak gossip or evil, and demonstrate loyalty by refusing to discuss such things. Most people would respect that.
I have never hurt anyone or done anything unforgivable. I am raising three kids alone while studying to be a nurse, and I’m also a talented photographer. I never get credit for any success in my life. None of these things matters to my family. I have been tormented and disrespected for years.
I am horrified at the dawning realization of how much of a lie my family life has been. So I am planning to move to another state and cut all ties. I am in therapy and learning that I don’t deserve this terrible treatment. Please tell your readers not to judge their family members or hold their past against them.
— Moving On Now
Dear Moving On: Family members have been known to treat one another terribly because they expect to be repeatedly forgiven and tolerated. We are glad you are receiving therapy, and we hope it will help you get a fresh start.
Dear Annie: I would like to pass on an idea I came up with to distribute belongings to family members.
I had a large doll collection in pristine condition. I invited my two daughters and two granddaughters to an “auction.” They were each given a paddle and Monopoly money. I also gave them a “debit card” that was worth $50 per hour. If they ran out of “money,” they could use their debit card and work off the amount they purchased by helping around my house.
By the end of the auction, each child had the dolls they wanted. Now when I go to their houses, I see my dolls on display, but they aren’t taking up space in my house.
— Happy Auctioneer
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