Teen time is supposed to be gift time
November 22, 2012 8:16 AM   Subscribe

I wasn't able to give my niece a 13th birthday present a month and a half ago. What are some good ways I can correct this?

I've been quite poor lately and depressed/anxious all year (and more), such that I barely had money for gas to get to my niece's 13th birthday dinner and not enough for a gift. My family is such that nobody will ever mention anything about this having happened, but I'm sure she noticed (as I would have). The effect will probably be to become more estranged than I already am.

This isn't to say I'm completely estranged. We all see each other a few times a year, birthdays and most major holidays, but I found out that she sent a family Thanksgiving email out this year that I didn't get, which tells me I'm more out of the loop than I really acknowledge. Anyway, I'm seeing a therapist and dealing with those larger issues, but my nephew's birthday dinner is this weekend so I'll be seeing them.

I'm thinking of putting her gift together for her, which I have intended to do all along, but since I don't see her very often it might seem a little cheesy to piggy-back it on my nephew's day. It also seems important to give her gift to her before her brother's birthday, since it would be bad form for him to get a gift and not her.

I guess my question is somewhat two-fold: the practicality of giving the gift, and whether and how and in what detail I could apologize and acknowledge what has happened. I could certainly take her out for something special, an afternoon together or something, but sad-but-true I feel a little too humiliated to do something like that.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
At that age, she may be more excited to get cash. Put as much money as you feel is appropriate in a nice card, pull her aside beforehand at the party this weekend to tell her that you're sorry you weren't able to get her anything on her actual birthday, and give her the card with the money. This will be discreet enough not to distract from your nephew. Just make sure to tell her parents first, some parents don't want their kids to have a bunch of cash (although at 13 it's probably fine).
posted by markblasco at 8:27 AM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I love late gifts. My godfather always dropped by about a month after my birthday/Christmas with presents and it was awesome to still be collecting gifts after the fact. I am also a late gift giver a lot of the time. I usually end up taking the person out for brunch. Brunch not in the budget? Go out for fancy hot chocolates and dessert. Or put a few dollars in a card as markblasco suggests above. My aunt always gave us 10 bucks in a card for our birthdays as kids and I was always grateful that she took the time to think of me.
posted by futureisunwritten at 8:31 AM on November 22, 2012

Worrying about giving the gift after you've been procrastinating, which makes you procrastinate more which makes you worry more is one of those endless cycles of negative self-reinforcing behavior that characterizes depression, I think.

Just stop the cycle. Buy her a gift. She's 13, she's not judging you, and she's not really in a position to judge you. Just tell her that because of personal reasons you couldn't get her a gift, but now you can, and you want to do something special with her. I'm sure she'll appreciate it. And if she doesn't, well, she's 13, she'll get over it.
posted by empath at 8:43 AM on November 22, 2012 [6 favorites]

Also, I would have loved to get presents on my sibling's birthdays. It can kind of suck when they're getting all the attention and cool stuff.
posted by empath at 8:45 AM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would say get over feeling ashamed, because she's 13 and she would probably love to go out to dinner with her cool aunt/uncle regardless of whether or not you were on time with your gift... at that age kids really need someone to talk to. (Not saying that her parents aren't there for her to talk to, just that sometimes you need to talk to someone other than your parents.) When you do, just say you're sorry you couldn't get her a gift on time, and give her the thing that you did get her (cash in a card sounds great for a 13-year old).
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 8:46 AM on November 22, 2012

I think you should invite her out to do something fun. Whatever thirteen year old girls think is exciting. Ice skating? A manicure/pedicure? Maybe something cheaper/free that will seem extremely cool to her because she's 13?

Don't mention the late gift thing, or if you do, do it in a breezy sort of way like, "omigod life really got away from me for a minute there, BUT THIS IS ALL ABOUT YOU! Wheeee! Fun girl timezzz!"

Hm, it just occurred to me that you might not be a woman? Don't know why I assumed? Either way, substitute some other less "girls fun day out" bonding activity if you are an uncle rather than an aunt. I like the dinner suggestion. Take her out somewhere she likes, for whatever she wants, even if it's crazy like desert for dinner or just nachos or whatever.
posted by Sara C. at 9:12 AM on November 22, 2012

Yes, taking her out for just-the-two-of-us time would be lovely; perhaps a lunch somewhere nice, in a REAL/classy restaurant, not somewhere she already often goes? And if you can, add in something like a gift card for itunes or phone apps.
posted by easily confused at 9:18 AM on November 22, 2012

Late gifts are the best. It's nice to get a present when you've already come to the sad conclusion that presents are over for the time being.
posted by town of cats at 9:44 AM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

The kid is 13. Get a card, put in an iTunes gift/Dunkin' Donuts/Barnes & Noble/insert her favorite store here, soon as you walk in the door to your nephew's party hand her the card, tell her you're sorry it's late, give her a hug, and stop feeling guilty.

I feel kind of sad that you're experiencing such guilt/sadness over a 13 year old's gift. Hell one of my brothers has never given my son a present for anything, but that doesn't change how my kid feels about his uncle. What WOULD change it is if his uncle started avoiding him & being depressed because of his lack of gifts.

Same thing for her Thanksgiving email. Maybe she couldn't find your email, or just plain forgot to include you, or....any number of innocuous reasons. Perhaps you're assigning some inappropriate weight to some superficial things?
posted by lyssabee at 10:19 AM on November 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

Late gifts are fun. They also pack a bit more punch because they're not part of the mass of gifts.

I had an uncle who had some health and career issues that kept him from being either extravagant or prompt in gift giving, but I treasured his cards and checks tremendously.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:16 PM on November 22, 2012

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