Dear [insert advice columnist here],
I moved out of my parents’ home four years ago and have been speaking to them and my sister less and less over time. They rarely have time to visit us, and it is impractical for us to visit them at their home, due to the amount of junk accumulated in their house and my husband’s allergies to their cats. When we do see each other, I find myself uncomfortable with them, both politically and socially, as our interests have diverged. Last Christmas, rather than give generic gifts that would go unused and further clutter their home, my husband and I chose to make donations to charities in their names, and picked foundations and causes important to them. At the time, they seemed to approve of our choice. However, three days ago, my mother called to ask if we would be doing this again so that she could tell everyone to donate for us instead of giving gifts. They are apparently displeased with our nontraditional method of holiday giving and do not want to give us tangible gifts if they will not receive them in return. I don’t mind this for myself, as I dislike the commercial mess Christmas has become, but I’m curious to know if others have received similar reactions, and what you make of the situation. I’m getting the impression that for some, the thought isn’t what counts.