DEAR MISS MANNERS: I sent a check to my sister's granddaughter when she got married four months ago, and I received a thank you note, but the check has not cleared yet. What is the proper way to handle this?
GENTLE READER: Inquire of your grand-niece whether she did not intend to endorse the check and skip the thank you letter. This is the procedure that her contemporaries seem to think proper. Next, Miss Manners should think you would want to give her a huge hug and say, "Now I want to hear that you got something wonderful with this."
DEAR MISS MANNERS: While we were expecting our fourth son, my mother offered to come and assist with our family during his birth, using a plane ticket she already had. We were very glad to have her here to help with transportation, meal preparation, etc. Because of unforeseen circumstances, she ended up staying for 13 days. During her stay, she made numerous trips to the grocery store: some I requested, some she did on her own. Whenever she purchased something for our family, I told her I would pay her back.
Upon departure, she presented me with a total of over $400! I wrote her a check. Later, I looked at the receipts she had left. She charged us for all the food she ate, numerous magazines and cookbooks she purchased for herself, special soap she wanted instead of the brand we use, and gifts for the dog ($10 for dog bones) and the children! In addition, she bought numerous expensive items (large bags of macadamia nuts and almonds, brand-name grocery items when I usually purchase store brands) that I would never have purchased. She is not poor and neither are we, but my husband and I are at a loss as to why she would take advantage of us in this way. She didn't even leave the used magazines for us to see!
Should I confront her or just let sleeping dogs eat their $10 bones?
GENTLE READER: By your own account, your mother spent nearly two weeks running your household of at least three little children (and for all Miss Manners knows, you may have six daughters, in addition to the new total of four sons) and a dog, doing your errands and giving them treats. She also supplied her own transportation.
You feel she took advantage of you because she didn't deduct the cost of her own food from the household grocery bill. And that she should have been eating peanuts instead of macadamia nuts, and should not have been so liberal with your dependents or taken the magazines with her to read on the plane.
Miss Manners does not want to help you explain these feelings to your mother. Instead, she has something she would like to explain to you. When you hire someone to run your household for you, you may, if you are lucky and patient, eventually be able to get things done as you would have done them. Even then, although you should set the budget and state your preferences, you would be wise to allow some leeway. The people who are best at any job have their own way of doing things.
When you accept an offer of help, even -- or especially -- from your own mother, you take (or leave, or resolve never to accept again) that person's assistance as a present, which is to say graciously and gratefully. Furthermore, you should be urging your mother-guest-benefactor to make herself as comfortable as possible, not begrudging her capping a day's work by having a bath with her favorite soap.