DEAR ABBY: My mother-in-law sent my 7-year-old son a gift and a card for his birthday. They arrived about a week early. A few days before his birthday, she called and asked if he had received them. He said he had, but before he could explain that he hadn't opened them, she started talking about the gift inside, revealing the surprise.
I have now "heard" she's upset with me and my son for this awkward moment. She says that from now on she would like a phone call when her cards or gifts arrive, so she can "hear his enjoyment over the phone even if they arrive early." I don't think my son did anything wrong.
When a gift arrives in advance of an occasion, must it be opened immediately? Or can it wait for the actual birthday or Christmas? Sometimes he likes to open one present at a time, write a thank-you note, then open the next, stretching out his gift-opening over a few days. Is this a social no-no? -- WONDERING IN WASHINGTON
DEAR WONDERING: Gifts are usually opened the day of the occasion. When the occasion is a birthday, the usual expectation is that the presents will be opened at the party. At that time a verbal thank-you is offered. A thank-you note should be written a very short time later.
Your mother-in-law may have called for reassurance that her gift had arrived. She should not have revealed what it was. You did nothing wrong. The mistake was hers.