I regard my childhood experience celebrating birthdays as dysfunctional. No adult could seem to get it right (with the exception of my father's father) by sending cards consistently or dialing me up to wish me a happy birthday. What my grandfather did right was that he never forgot to send a card and he enclosed cash equal to my age in years. I always thought this was charming and very useful. I could always use a little cash and I looked forward to getting one more dollar every year. I guess I'm not greedy but perhaps self-focused. But I'm not hypocritical.
My niece's ninth birthday was a couple days ago. I sent a card with nine dollars in it and still got scolded by my mother because I didn't send a material gift. When I told her I sent cash she gave me a slight reprieve. I kept telling myself last weekend that I should call her on the appropriate day but I didn't manage to get there. I blame myself entirely because really it's lame to forget to pay just a sliver of attention to a sweet child. So, I called her mother this afternoon and left a message stating my intentions.
Now, when I was a teen and young adult, I really felt like my aunt and grandmother were putting a big guilt trip on me for not reaching out to them. And that's stupid. It's an adult's responsibility to initiate a relationship, not a child and would never, ever blame my niece for not wanting a thing to do with me because I get that a kid would never care about a thirty-four year old. So, now that's she's of an age where she'll remember my lameness, I'm getting myself into gear. I hope she calls me back.