General Etiquette > Holidays

Apparently I Give Inconvenient Gifts

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Mainly just venting here, but also wondering if I am just really clueless.

BG: We spend each Christmas with DH's family and SIL's family also come over.  Each year DH and I give gifts to DH's immediate family and SIL's two young nieces (6 and 10).  We really only see SIL's family and the nieces one time a year and don't know them very well.  However everyone gives them gifts on Christmas because they are the only minors- this has been the family dynamic before I arrived on the scene.  I haven't minded in the past since the kids are really sweet and it hasn't been that much of a deal to get a couple of small gifts for them. 

This year I had a lot going on both in my personal life and with my job.  To be honest, Christmas really came as an after thought.  I had only one weekend to do all my shopping for gifts so this year, I decided to get a larger gift the girls could share to save myself some stress.  I got them a nail polish kit with designs and glitter included.  I had seen them both wearing nail polish before, so I figured that this would be okay with the parents.  On Christmas day when the girls opened the gift, their mother rolled her eyes and said, "Oh my God!"  Then went on to tell the family how another person had given her daughters a sand art kit and she had wanted to "kill the person" for giving them something that would make such a mess.  I ducked my head and slipped out of the living room at this time.  Later the girls came up to me and politely thanked me for the gift, but as the mother was leaving she said sarcastically, "Thanks, now I'm going to be painting their nails all afternoon." 

This mother made snide comments about another gift I gave one year as well (paper dolls).  I don't have kids and when I really don't know the children well, I tend to get them things I may have liked when I was around their age.  I don't think about how the gift may be messy or cumbersome for the parent.  However I was always taught to accept gifts graciously and thought the mother's remarks were rude.  DH told me not to give them presents next year, but I'm not sure how well that will go over with the family (it would be noticed if we didn't do it) and I hate to "punish" the kids because their mother lacks class.  Should I take DH's advice and if so how would we handle it when asked why there are no gifts for the kids from us?



--- Quote from: cocacola35 on January 02, 2014, 11:26:32 AM ---"Thanks, now I'm going to be painting their nails all afternoon."

--- End quote ---

That sounds less like it could be messy and more like mom is upset the kids got a present that will require her involvement. Which makes me kind of sad. My mom used to paint my nails when I was little and I have the best memories of it. I've given finger paints as gifts on numerous occasions, so I have several friends/family members just counting the days until I procreate for revenge.

And I don't see how paper dolls are messy, or loud, or time consuming. Frankly, I'd just keep gifting the girls whatever I felt was appropriate until Mom specifically says something. Not rolls eyes and makes sarcastic snide comments. Physically says something directly to me. I'm sorry, I don't do hints, if you want me to do something or not do something you're going to have to be a grown up and use your words.

Or, if I were feeling particularly evil, skip giving a gift next time and when Mom probes where it is tell her "You don't seem to like any of the gifts I pick out for the girls, so I'm just not going to do it anymore. I hate to cause you undo stress", big sweet smile.

No wait, evil me would buy them each a drum kit and tie dye kits, that's what evil me would do.

Outdoor Girl:
While it is not something I might have chosen, you were completely fine.  Their mother was a pill.  A 6 and 10 year old are old enough to paint each other's nails; Mom doesn't even have to be involved.

For kids that age, I might well have chosen some sort of crafty gift, as well, like a jewellery making kit.

Next year, you resort to giving them each a gift card to Target or Walmart and their mother will *itch that now she has to take them shopping.   ::)

shhh its me:
  I'd still give them gifts. I'm thinking exactly what you're thinking why punish them for their mothers actions. 

Hopefully your SIL is just a "banterer"  who is clueless that no one is bantering back and not that mean spirited towards her own children not to mention you.  Since the interaction only only once a year I have no advice besides ignore her.

Wow. As I think you're well aware, OP, the problem here is more with the mother's extreme lack of etiquette and love of PA-ness than anything you're doing. If those gifts are age-appropriate, then I'd think that means you're probably fine, as a rule of thumb. If the mother really took umbrage last time, she probably should have taken you aside and spoken to you in a civil way, like an adult. Or just thanked you for the thought, not hollered the the entire room about how much she hated your gift, and made a mental note to send you a list of the girls' current interests so you'll choose something based upon them and less likely to be messy (if the interests listed are chosen well, which is easy enough).

I agree that it's not fair to punish the daughters for having a mother like that. I'd suggest trying, just one more time, with something guaranteed not to be messy, e.g. a book. If the mother still makes nasty comments at you, then the message is clear: the problem isn't the gifts, it's that she just doesn't like you. Then I'd just follow your husband's advice. Or maybe everyone will be happy if you stick to books, who knows?

If you choose to decline from giving gifts, that's also fine. I would have a script ready when people ask about it. Something along the lines of (but politer), "Oh, SIL let us know that she didn't like us giving them gifts, so we didn't want to burden them further." Her silly little PA remarks and talking loudly about you when you've barely left the room are absolutely her letting you know that she doesn't like the fact that you got them gifts. It's very unlikely that she didn't mean for you to be aware of this. Unless she is completely socially inept in all other areas of life as well and lacks a brain-mouth filter, but if that were the case and she was subsequently this bad with just about everyone about everything frequently, then I don't think she'd have been invited to a family christmas. IMO, she was sending you a very PA (and low, in my opinion) message. I wonder how awkward everyone else in the room felt when she did this.


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