Q. I have six siblings. Our childhood was traumatic. My dad was an out-of-control drinker who was frequently violent, and Mom wouldn’t stand up to him. When Dad wasn’t beating us, my parents would pit us against each other by encouraging family gossip, tattling, and playing favorites.
Out of all my siblings, I am the only one who never married. Over the years, there have been holiday gatherings at my parents’ home, and my siblings would attend and bring their children. Bedrooms were always assigned to my married sibs, and the additional bedrooms were assigned to their kids. I was told to grab a pillow and blanket and sleep on the couch.
I told my mother she was singling me out for lesser treatment, but she refused to hear me. My sister’s kids were allowed to treat me with disrespect, so I finally stopped going to family gatherings.
Dad is now sober and wants the family together again. I have no interest in rejoining my “loving’’ family. They assigned rank and decided I was expendable. There are other examples of such treatment. How do I explain that they burned that bridge a long time ago?
COLD IN MICHIGAN A. We’re going to assume there are a lot of underlying emotional issues, because giving up your bedroom so two kids can sleep there instead of one on the couch seems a rather petty reason to disown your family. You had a rough childhood and obviously harbor a great deal of resentment not only toward your parents, but also toward your siblings. You don’t have to attend family gatherings if you feel unappreciated, but please consider counseling to help you deal with the rest.
Q. Are we the only people who think charitable organizations have gone off the deep end? We don’t want the pins and certificates of appreciation or the plastic membership cards. We can’t possibly use 15 wall calendars, six pocket calendars, and four packages of greeting cards. We don’t want T-shirts with the organization’s name emblazoned on them. What else can we do to stop the waste?
DISGUSTED GIVERS A. Not much. Some of those “gifts,’’ like tote bags and T-shirts, are a form of advertising for the organization. You can find out how specific charities spend their money by checking with the American Institute of Philanthropy (www.charitywatch.org) or Charity Navigator (www.charitynavigator.org).
Q. I read the letter from “Disappointed Grandmother,’’ whose grandchildren never sent thank-you notes.
When my parents were in their 80s, I helped them mail gifts to the grandchildren. They wanted a thank-you note, not only as an acknowledgement of their gift, but in order to hear from their grandchildren.
I solved the problem. When I sent the gift, I enclosed a stamped, self-addressed thank-you card along with it. It took only one little nudge, and they sent thank-you notes to my parents from that time on. I never told my folks what I did, but they were very proud of their well-mannered grandchildren.
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