Miss Manners is not suggesting this because she finds you tiresome but to deal with the interruptions. If your mother-in-law intervenes, let her. If she asks you to continue, you can say, “No, no, your story sounds more interesting. I forgot what was mine anyway!” Then smile politely.
If she is indeed sensitive, she will notice that the conversation has suddenly turned one-sided and will take action to rectify the situation in the future. If it isn’t, Miss Manners recommends that you save your good stories for an audience that is more captivated – or perhaps has less interesting life experiences of their own.
Dear Ms. Manners: My son lives in France with his French wife and their 2 year old daughter. We feel we have a good relationship with them and we keep in touch through video calls and texting.
As sending gifts to France is very expensive, often costing more than the value of the gift and the timing is uncertain, we have chosen to send birthday and Christmas gifts in cash via an online transfer service rather than sending gifts by post to ship. In the past, we’ve let them know the money is coming (including the amount and how to split a sum among their family) and given them instructions that when their birthday comes, they should each buy something they like or need . When my granddaughter is old enough, we will ask my son and daughter-in-law to go shopping with her so that she can choose her own gift with her grandparents’ money and then tell us about that gift.
Other than an email “thank you” and saying they’d received the transfer, they haven’t commented on how they used the money. My son has mentioned in the past that the French do not give gifts of money or discuss money matters easily, so our daughter-in-law might find our gifts of money uncomfortable. Can you think of a better way to handle gift giving in this situation?
Certainly the internet can help with that. Ask your son about categories and styles of things he wants for his home – and shops he frequents in France. Then find it online, choose something and arrange for the store to hold the item or ship it locally.
Miss Manners agrees with her daughter-in-law that giving money, while convenient, is improper. And once given, they can do whatever they want with it. They may have found a more pressing need — say, groceries instead of porcelain salt shakers — and don’t want to offend you by letting you know. Even if your granddaughter enjoys the opportunity to buy her own gifts, getting something special from her grandparents will be a far better reminder than buying the French slime equivalent, which she will no doubt choose for herself.
New Miss Manners columns are published Monday through Saturday washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners on her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.