DEAR MISS MANNERS: This left me stunned: My sister sent out text invitations for her older son’s eighth birthday party. Included was a note requesting that all presents be delivered, unwrapped, at least two days before the party. (The note further explained that she had a huge pile of leftover wrapping paper and wanted to save everyone the trouble and expense.)
I purchased a building set that my nephew had mentioned and, though I thought the request was bizarre and crude, dropped the toy off the day before the party. My sister was annoyed that the present was “late,” but accepted it.
On the day of the party, the boy sat down to open his gifts and, much to my surprise, the gift from me was not the one I purchased. Apparently, that was the case for a good number of the gifts.
Yes, my sister requested the presents early to “pre-return them for something more appropriate” (her words). In some cases, the gifts were “too cheap.” Other gifts, mine included, were returned for something “more suitable.” In my case, she thought her “talented boy would do better” with a more complicated building set, even though I bought the one that he requested. My sister is in utter disbelief that anyone was offended, since she considers that she did us all a favor.
It seems a shame to punish the kids because their mother has lost her mind, but I have very little inclination to go to the trouble of purchasing gifts for anyone in that family again, and I am not a fan of gift cards (which would probably be to the wrong store, anyway).
May I have a polite response, please, from Miss Manners to give when my sister next demands gifts? At the moment, the only reply I can think of involves four-letter words, which I should very probably keep to myself.
GENTLE READER: Rather than waiting for an opportunity to issue those four-letter words, Miss Manners proposes that you initiate the present-giving before your sister gets the chance to put restrictions on it.
“This year, my present will be to take Bennett shopping for it himself.” This reinforces the idea that you and your nephew have your own relationship -- and other ideas about what he might like to receive.