General Etiquette > Family and Children

A birthday dilemma

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kitchcat:
My MIL will be having a milestone bday next week!   :D the only hang up is DH and I don't think we were supposed to know. Growing up, money was very tight in DH's family. To ease her children of guilt over being able to buy her a gift or even a card, she never revealed her bday to them. She's the type of person who never wants to be even a slight burden, so even once DH was an adult, she never shared her bday. We've know her birth year, just not the actual date. We've asked before, but she always tells us not to worry about it because she doesn't want us spending money on her.

Well, we recently discovered her birthday on accident while helping her fill out some paperwork that required that info. We said nothing at the time, hoping she wouldn't realize what just happened. We've since bought her a card and a gift (a case for her new ipad) to give her on her bday. I was planning on making a cake for her as well. Is this okay? Now that the day is looming closer, I'm wondering if it would be rude to surprise her with gifts and a cake seeing how she had declined multiple times to tell us her bday.

Zizi-K:
I think the best thing to do would be to be straightforward. Money may have been tight back in the day, but now your husband is established and can certainly afford to do a little something for his mother's birthday. He should call her and have a discussion with her about it, emphasizing how much she means to him and how much you all would like to be able to celebrate her in the same way that you do everyone else. You can also be upfront about how you know her birthday. I would not just spring it on her, though, because habits like this (even when the reason is long since gone) are hard to break. She may not feel she "deserves" it for whatever reason, she may like playing the martyr, it might just be what she's used to. But a gentle, loving and direct approach would seem to be the best way to address it.

EllenS:
I don't think it is rude, but how it is received could go either way.  Some folks are afraid of being a burden, but are very touched by spontaneous expressions of love - they deprive themselves but crave it.  Others might feel violated.

Is she intensely private?  Would she feel put on the spot if you present it in person?  Would she feel better if you left it for her to find and open on her own?  I think as long as you emphasize that you just love her and want to celebrate how special she is to you, that's your best shot.

Bast:
Ask her, especially about the cake.  The card and gift can be passed off as "Oh, I was walking through the store and saw these and thought of you," but a cake comes across - to me, at least - as a bit more involved.

I'd love it if I was able to keep my birthday a secret, but I end up being put on the spot every year and it makes me incredibly uncomfortable.  I've never been asked if I wanted it or not, it was just shoved on me because it was what they wanted.  (When it comes closer to my next birthday, I do plan on shining my spine and putting my foot down as much as I can, but I still have a few months.)

cwm:

--- Quote from: Zizi-K on July 26, 2013, 02:06:20 PM ---I think the best thing to do would be to be straightforward. Money may have been tight back in the day, but now your husband is established and can certainly afford to do a little something for his mother's birthday. He should call her and have a discussion with her about it, emphasizing how much she means to him and how much you all would like to be able to celebrate her in the same way that you do everyone else. You can also be upfront about how you know her birthday. I would not just spring it on her, though, because habits like this (even when the reason is long since gone) are hard to break. She may not feel she "deserves" it for whatever reason, she may like playing the martyr, it might just be what she's used to. But a gentle, loving and direct approach would seem to be the best way to address it.

--- End quote ---

POD to this. My grandma never wanted anyone to do anything special for her birthday, even once she realized that money WASN'T tight any longer. My parents spoke with her about it and it was resolved that we wouldn't do anything because that's what Grandma wanted. The why didn't matter.

Talk to MIL, explain to her that you know her birthday is coming up and you wanted to get her a gift and have a dinner and make her a cake, and would that be okay? If she doesn't want to, then respect that. Wait a few months and then give her the iPad case as a random gift. "We saw this and thought of you, please enjoy it."

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