Some background: Mom is very into receiving Christmas gifts from her kids. An insufficient or unliked Christmas gift will definitely be complained about, either to the giver or to a third party. I am still a little hurt from an incident when I was about 10 and a gift I gave wasn't good enough.
Different background: Mom and my brother Chris had a falling out about 15 years ago. Both were somewhat to blame, but Mom said/did some nearly unforgivable things to Chris. About 8 years ago Mom started trying to renew contact, and Chris finally responded and renewed contact 3 years ago. Both Mom and Chris are kind of skittish still: Mom is afraid of offending Chris, and Chris is afraid of getting hurt. Chris and I share some social anxiety issues and he tends to be pretty aloof. He's also not very good at gift-giving.
The situation: Christmas. I organized a photo session with all the grandchildren, including Chris's daughter. We wrapped an 8x10 photo of them and gave it to Mom, from the grandkids. My siblings and I all gave Mom gifts in addition to this. Chris's gift to her was a framed 8x10 of his daughter, Marilyn. The picture is not a professional photo, it's a snapshot of Marilyn playing, and the photo was taken about 1-1.5 years ago.
Shortly after Christmas, Mom said to me, "Did you see what Chris gave me for Christmas? It's a photo of Marilyn that's two years old." in a rather nasty tone. I brushed it off, said that it was such a cute photo, and beandipped.
I saw Mom again last night and she said the exact same thing again, in the exact same nasty tone. "Did you see what Chris gave me for Christmas? It's a photo of Marilyn that's two years old."
A few possible responses ran through my mind:
-"You know, complaining about getting a picture of your grandbaby just makes you sound bitter."
-"You should be thankful that Chris is back in your life, that you saw him on Christmas, and that he gave you a gift."
-"I'm tired of you complaining about Christmas gifts."
Instead, I told her that perhaps Chris had wanted to give her a photo, and that was the best one he could find.
What is the best way to handle these gift complaints? Is there a polite way to say "Stop your kvetching and be grateful" or is it better to make a noncommittal comment and beandip?
I guess I already know the answer. This is the woman who refused to speak to her son for 7 years, and who blew up at a 10 year old for an insufficient gift. Nothing I could say will change her. So what's the best way of dealing with her when she complains?