Carolyn Hax: A new baby, and all they got was a texted congratulations



Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: We just had a baby a month ago. My husband’s siblings congratulated us with a group text and that’s it. No cards, flowers or gifts for new baby. I am really disappointed. I would have sent them something, and I make quite a bit less money than they do.

I know I just need to get over it. We don’t need a card or flowers. It just makes me feel as if they don’t care. I am sure this is going to bother me at every celebration we have for their future kids from now on. How do I get over this?

Disappointed: They do things their way, you do things your way, and judging Column A from Column B is a path to misery.

You all have lifetimes to grow into and adjust these roles — to learn from experience, to find your strengths, to hone your expectations. Example: I’m terrible with cards and gifts — but I will stroll around with your baby making silly faces for as long as you need me to so you can eat dinner using both hands.

Plus, if this is the first baby among the siblings, they might just be clueless.

So, to “get over this”: Feel bad, shake it off, adjust your expectations, then be open to your in-laws as they are. If they rally, then be grateful to them for that. If they remain aloof, then write them off as a source of support and be grateful for the people who are supportive. If you notice the siblings are warm to each other but dismissive of in-laws or new babies, then be the officially unofficial in-law-and-baby welcomer.

Make mental notes of what lifts you up, and offer these things to others when you’re in a position to do so.

Whatever adaptation works. There’s just no reward in dwelling on what you don’t have.

Congratulations on the baby.

Hi Carolyn: My only sibling and I are both in our early 50s. We were very close into young adulthood, but our lives have diverged over the years, and we have less in common. As we’ve gotten older, I’ve tried to reach out and include my sibling in many things, but he is not appreciative and is often quite rigid. (He has a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder.) He can be difficult to be around.

I’m sad about all of this and at times have been frustrated by his lack of effort. It is always me making the first move to reach out, see how he’s doing, include him, keep the lines of communication open. Is there anything else I could be doing?

Sad: Just one more: Let go of the expectation that this will be a typical give-and-take.

Your experience is telling you that if you want your brother in your life, then it’s on you to make the effort. It’s telling you that if you want to feel good about this, then accept his inability or unwillingness to do (what you see as) his part. “Inability” tends to be easier to accept than “unwillingness,” for what it’s worth.

And physics will tell you that, when dealing with the rigid, flexibility is the way to go.

Obviously you’re not required to do anything here. But if you want this relationship to work, then redefine “work” — and be patient with the result.