What to Say or Do When Your Son and Family Do Not Remember You on Christmas/bd's

Updated on January 02, 2019
F.G. asks from Taos, NM
13 answers

How to delicately say something when my adult son and wife do not remember my husband and me on Christmas and birthdays, after we shower them with money for support, gifts since son has a major cancer, feel unsure of how to handle.

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answers from Dallas on

I would just call him and tell him I hope you had great Christmas. Sounds like he's got a lot going on in his life

6 moms found this helpful

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answers from Norfolk on

You guys need to sit down together and talk.
Texting and phone calls are not as good - a face to face in the same room talk is what it takes for some real communication.
Subtle and delicate is not working for you.
Ask son why he doesn't send you a cards/ gifts on birthday/holidays.
Don't try to guilt him with 'well we give plenty to you'.
Listen to his answers and then adjust your expectations.

Before you have this talk - really think about why you give so much to him.
Are you trying to buy affection from him?
Do you give with the expectation that you can exert some sort of control over him?
I'm not saying you do this but not all people just give out of the goodness of their hearts and attach no strings to it.

Regardless of what he does or how he responds to your questions you might want to scale back on the showering of the gifts.
Perhaps it is overwhelming him.

As for his major cancer - if he's dying he might not need or want gifts.
He might be too wrapped up in his own troubles to be thinking of others.

Instead of giving stuff/money - why not try to give experiences that you can share together?
See an opera or show together - maybe a small trip if he's well enough to travel.
Go places together, take pictures - make some memories.
It's gift from you that's also for you - and he and his wife don't have to shop for it or guess what you want.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

F., you are giving us nothing to work with.
BUT...from what LITTLE you said...it sounds like your son has cancer. A bad kind of cancer.
If my adult son had a "Major cancer" I would not bother him with why he didn't call or send me presents on my birthday.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

It's interesting that you use the word "shower". A shower - of rain, of gifts, of affection - is often unexpected, not requested or expected. If you're financially comfortable, and able to shower your son and his wife with gifts of money at a difficult time in their lives, that's a blessing to you and to them.

I think it's important, as others have pointed out, to ask yourselves whether this lack of gift-giving or card-sending or visits on Christmas and birthdays is the way your son and his wife have always been, or is this something that started when he got sick, or when some other difficulty entered their lives.

And it's important to ask yourselves what you hoped would happen after you sent them money or gifts. Were you planning on them sending something similar (in price)? Were you just hoping that when they got a check you mailed them that they would sigh with relief and forget some of their troubles for awhile? If you were trying to get some competition going, some kind of "we sent you X amount of money, so you should send us something that also costs X dollars", then what you were sending wasn't really a shower of gifts, was it? It was a contest. If you looked at your husband and said something like "we don't have to rent that luxury cabin this winter - let's send [son and wife] what we would have spent so that they can have a break from paying out of pocket for treatments and medications", then that was a shower of blessings, and you just might never get anything out of it other than a feeling of joy and abundance and gratitude between you and your husband.

And when you say "remember", do you mean 1/ they didn't even call or text or send a card, or 2/ they didn't send gifts but they called or visited you, or 3/ they sent gifts and cards to everyone else they know and are related to except for you? If it's #1, consider your relationship with them. Are you being supportive or perhaps overstepping your bounds? If it's #2, consider they may not have the money, and if it's #3, well, then perhaps you could sit down with them in person and ask something like "have we done something to cause you any pain or trouble?". Perhaps they know you're well-off financially, and they feel ashamed to send you a poinsettia from the supermarket, which is all they could afford. Remind them that you love them and don't want "stuff" from them, just a loving relationship. Maybe you could ask how you can help - by visiting, by paying a bill for them, by doing some house-cleaning for them, by giving them a gift card for a restaurant, by babysitting or dogwalking?

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I like B's answer.

Seriously it sounds like he and his wife are pretty centered on his needs at this time and you and your husband aren't on their radar.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

This is your first post and we don't know anything about you or your family history. And there's so little detail here, it's hard to know where to start.

Have they never remembered your special days? Did he before he was married? How did you raise him? Did you always do his shopping for him and put tags on things from him, so he never had to do it himself and so he never got to experience the joy of seeing someone else's face light up? Is this new since he got cancer? Maybe they are overwhelmed by stress and worry and financial pressures from medical bills?

When you "shower" them with money and gifts, was it expected by them or requested? Did you overwhelm them and create a feeling that they could never measure up because they don't have your riches or that they can't ever truly reciprocate anyway? Did you say, "Let us spoil you and you don't have to pay us back?" Maybe they didn't need the gifts or money to begin with - maybe they needed rides to chemo or a meal cooked for them or child cqre provided. I don't know - you say nothing about them or their family.

What was your relationship like before he married and before he got sick?

I would ask them if you have created a problem by going overboard and making them feel "less than"? You can let them know that you will wait to hear from them what they truly need rather than create pressure for them. I think you can also stop doing this. You cannot buy their affection if you are going overboard, and you cannot induce guilt by overwhelming them with your largesse. You can also say you'd appreciate a little something or a card or a phone call once a month to say how they are.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

since your tit-for-tat is about money and support, i suppose the only appropriate way to handle it is to cut off the money and support.

it's a little late to try and teach him manners, isn't it?

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

You can't buy love so stop trying. Also maybe your son is more worried about having CANCER than sending his parents a Christmas card.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

We need a LOT more info. Is he in treatment, remission, failing? Gift giving may not be a priority. Have they always been like this, or just since the diagnosis? Have you ever talked to him about this before the cancer? Did he remember holidays and birthdays before marriage? Did you raise him to be a giver or receiver? Since my son was young, I would drive him to the store, give him a little cash, show him where the cakes were and show him a few things I might like and let him shop on his own and let him know where I would be waiting for him. My husband had a severe brain hemorrhage/stroke when our son was in second grade, so if I didn't teach him how to celebrate mom's birthday, who would? He is 16 now, and very sweet about birthdays, mother's day and Christmas.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Usually when it's uneven like this (this is a common enough question on here), he's not as interested and you're not getting the hint. I don't mean to be unkind, but that's my best guess.

If you are showering them with gifts ... then maybe stop.

It sounds like you are trying to buy their affection.

It can come across as needy and somewhat desperate. Sounds like there's more going on than what you've written here.

It just doesn't sound like your son is that keen. I'm sorry. I would leave his wife out of it.

If he has/recovering from cancer, I probably would let them focus on that now.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Wausau on

There is no delicate way to say, "I think you should buy me gifts."

If your son is battling cancer, shopping for gifts is probably pretty low on the list of priorities right now. I would advise him to not even bother with that right now.

If gifts is your 'love language' it may be helpful to remember that you're not supposed to be keeping score. Giving gifts should be done simply because you wish to, not because you expect something in return.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

So this has been going on for a while? You say birthdays, plural, so it’s not just this past Christmas. How do they act around you? Are they happy to see you? Do they come over? Do they call other than to say they need something from you?

How are they coping at home? Is your son hospitalized? Is he able to work? Is she working? Do they have children to take care of?

How old are they? Young married adults?

Do you understand why I am asking these questions? If they are young, if he is still sick, if they are stressed about children, lack of a job, if you have been helping them, they are looking at you like they are still kids being carried by their parents. They are either expecting you to help them and taking it for granted because they feel entitled, or because they are immature.

Cancer can scare the beejeebers out of the most mature married couple. If they aren’t mature, then they are probably just thinking about themselves.

So, what to do? If he is not in the hospital, if his health is better, start stepping back and give them some space. Don’t jump when they call. Be “busy” some. And don’t shower them with gifts anymore. A birthday card with a small gift card is sufficient. If they ask why, just say that you realized after no birthday or Christmas gifts from them to you, that your extravagant gifts to them in the past year must have made them uncomfortable, so you were hoping to prevent that discomfort for all concerned.

This should speak volumes to them if they have just been selfish kids towards you. If they just forgot about you because of the stress of his health, then it’s a wake up call to them to think about the parents who have tried to support them. And if your over-the-top gifts truly have made them uncomfortable, then you have rectified the problem in the best way you know how - to give more appropriate gifts.

What is important is that you still give a gift. Treat them as you would like to be treated - to be remembered and appreciated. Even if they don’t give you a gift. The scale of the gift giving is what needs to be adjusted.



answers from Atlanta on

Stop showering them with gifts and money. You cannot buy love.

Stop supporting them. They are adults. Let them fend for themselves. If they ask why the money (personal ATM) has stopped, tell them that you decided to spend the money on people who are involved in their lives.

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