I have a story about my mother-in-law’s rudeness and I am also looking for some advice on the best way to handle the situation.
This past Christmas was the first year that both my husband have professional careers. We decided that we would both spend a good amount on our parents as a way to thank them for supporting us over the years of college and grad school. My MIL is a difficult person to shop for so my husband thought it best to ask her to pick out what she wanted. One of the gifts she wanted was a wrapped canvas picture of their family pet that passed away that year. We picked out our favorite picture of the pet and since it was only cost about half of what we wanted to spend we bought her a few more gifts of items that she uses.
Christmas morning comes and when MIL opens the portrait she just stares at it and tells us, “Oh, pet looks old in this picture. I wish you picked a different one.” She put it aside and the picture is still sitting in a closet. My husband was upset but I didn’t think much about it until a week after Christmas. When I got home from work sitting on my kitchen table was the other items that we had bought all still in their gift bags. I made sure to include the receipts with the gifts since I know how difficult my MIL is to shop for but she apparently didn’t even want to trouble herself to exchange the gifts. My husband called her to get an explanation and she told him that she didn’t like the scents (candles) and never wears the piece of jewelry we bought an accessory for. Her other excuse was that we needed the money more than she needs the gifts. Not only did she deny our gifts but she thinks that we are poor and need her to help us.
Fast forward to this weekend and MIL wants to give me a Valentine’s day present early. It’s a charm for my bracelet that happened to be the same one my husband just bought me. I was so tempted to tell her no thanks I already have that one and not accept it but I just smiled and thanked her for the gift. MIL does the same thing to my husband’s father and sister. My father-in-law no longer buys her gifts but my optimistic sister-in-law thinks every year she’ll get her mom something that she actually likes. My question is, do all you etiquette savvy folks think that we should still give gifts or should we just stop giving her anything? Should my husband tell her we are not buying her anymore gifts because of how she treats them or should we just keep ignoring the behavior? I want to just stop giving her anything but my FIL is always appreciates what we give him so it would be really awkward to give something to everyone else but her. Thanks for your input!
I’m of the opinion that grown adults should not be expecting to receive Christmas gifts from each other or feel this burden to give gifts out of a sense of duty and obligation. I’ve reached the age where I really don’t want any more knicky knacky stuff, no more clutter, no obligatory gifts. You’ll have to get more creative in your gift giving to MIL. Take your MIL to a nice restaurant. If they travel by car, give gift cards to nice highway restaurants like Cracker Barrel (this one went over really well with my in-laws). Make and can some unusual food items….I made Strawberry Margarita Jam one year that was a huge hit. I get hard to give women chocolate covered strawberries from Shari’s Berries. Send a beautiful evergreen centerpiece from the florist.