My sister is a year younger than me and has two children, ages 16 and 14. I have four children: one age 14, one age 12, and 8-year-old twins. We have another sister with 6-year-olds. We’ve all always exchanged Christmas and birthday gifts and have always sent one another's kids birthday gifts.
A few years ago, my sister stopped giving my children and me birthday gifts. I continued to send her and her children gifts. For their 14th and 16th birthdays, however, I stopped in response. The gifts themselves are not the issue—it’s totally fine to stop sending gifts (and none of us really needs anything anyway), but I'm wondering what prompted this change since she still sends gifts to my other sister’s kids. She’s never said anything about it.
We did have an argument four years ago, but that was resolved and everything has seemingly been fine for years. But I wonder if she has some issue with me that I’m not aware of. Should I ask her about it? I don’t want her to think she needs to send my kids gifts. That's beside the point. I'm just wondering if there was some message I missed that I should address. Or should I just let it go?
Gift-giving in families can be a minefield, because the act of giving a gift (or not) has the potential to represent so much. A gift can be a way to communicate love or affection, or to offer an olive branch; the absence of one can communicate anger or hurt or spite. Some gifts send a message of resentful obligation (the overtly cheap gift; the blatantly “wrong” or impersonal gift) while others become a tool of manipulation (the estranged sibling who sends a gift to “look good” in the eyes of other family members and then, to look even better, complains to those family members that the recipient, who didn’t want the gift in the first place, wasn’t appreciative).