My husband and I are expecting our first child in a few weeks. I declined to have a baby shower but that hasn’t stopped my mother and her friends from throwing a grandmother shower for my mom. For those who are unfamiliar, a grandmother shower is not a shower you throw someone who is lucky enough to adopt a grandparent later in life. Oh, no! A grandmother shower is a shower thrown in honor of the soon-to-be grandmother. It’s like a baby shower in that people are expected to bring baby gifts for the grandmother. Sometimes these showers are held when grandmothers are to act as a day care provider and want infant care items they can keep at their house to make things easier for themself and for the infant’s parents. In this case, I live nowhere near my mother and she wants to pass the gifts along to me. Normally I would graciously accept any gift given to me, and accept it with appreciation because no one has to give you anything ever! Gifts are not an entitlement, they are a kindness. I feel somewhat silly even making a fuss about the situation. I can’t believe I’m complaining about getting gifts but this feels like my mother appropriating the birth of my child and making it her own or about her. I understand that she’s excited, and I find her enthusiasm sweet and touching, but she’s not the one who is about to give birth.
When I heard about the grandma shower I was uncomfortable but did not voice my concerns or objections because I did not want to cause conflict. I did not want to embarrass my mother by letting her know how insensitive and egotistical I find her behavior. Nor did I wish to discuss how appallingly gimme-piggish and presumptuous I find grandma showers as a rule. However, I finally had to speak under continuous pressure to attend an event that I find both inappropriate and an intrusion into my life. My mom’s response? “Tough. I’m having it anyway and it has nothing to do with you. You can’t stop me from having it and you can’t stop my friends from doing something nice for me. What do you want me to do with the gifts?”
I don’t know how to respond to this. I can’t stop her and her friends from throwing her a shower but I don’t want the gifts. I can’t think of a way to decline them politely. I know any attempt to decline will be met with protests that I’m being selfish and ungrateful, even though I’ve made it clear that she has crossed a boundary and she’s made it clear that this shower has nothing to do with me. Is there a way to decline politely? If I do accept them, am I supposed to write thank you notes? It feel strange to write thank you notes for gifts that weren’t given to me. Gifts that were, in fact, given to my mother despite my protests. Can you help me escape this etiquette nightmare? 0205-12
As readers of this blog know, I became a first-time grandmother this past summer. This is the first I’ve ever heard of “grandmother’s shower” but I suppose I am now forewarned of the impending new “tradition” that may rear its ugly head in my social circles. I view equipping family members with the tools to enter into a new season of life as the obligation of family so when my daughter became pregnant, she and I gleefully went shopping at a very large, semi-annual children’s consignment sale and I bought all the necessary equipment to set up a nursery. Friends hosted a lovely shower for my daughter giving her all kinds of adorable girly things. Ultrasounds can lie so when the anticipated baby girl made his debut as a boy, youngest daughter and I promptly hightailed it over to the nearest baby clothing store and had an outrageously good time buying boy clothes. It would have never occurred to me to expect others to do this.
If you live nowhere near your mother, it seems the answer is simple. Decline to attend on the grounds that it is too far to travel. Pregnancy can provide one with all kinds of legitimate excuses for declining to attend potentially wearisome functions. Your mother most certainly has the option to dissuade her friends or decline the honor they wish to bestow upon her but she didn’t. She’s made it clear this all about her so let it. She carries the obligation of writing thank you notes for the gifts she will receive. And if she passes them on to you, thank her for them and dispose of them in any fashion you choose. Donate them, sell them, use them.