DEAR MISS MANNERS: Whenever a birthday or holiday nears, my mother’s relatives will often call my mother to ask what to buy for my son, who is currently 6 years old. I have learned that when they do this, my mother will apparently come up with a specific list of gifts that she wants my son to have, and will tell each relative which gift they are required to purchase.
I am not sure how strongly she words this in her conversations, but I have at least determined that most relatives have bought what she told them to and have indicated that they felt obligated to do so.
One year, a relative came to me rather distraught and told me, apologetically, that she was not able to find the item my mother had told her to buy. She said she hoped it was all right that she had purchased something else.
I do not know why my mother has done this, but it in no way comes from me, and I think it is quite rude. How would Miss Manners suggest that I handle this situation in the future? I’d like to proactively address it before any more birthdays or holidays roll around.
GENTLE READER: Unfortunately, you will have to take this up with your mother -- which is a shame, because your other relatives seem to be excellent at taking direction. And Miss Manners is hazarding a guess that your mother is not.
“It is so kind of you to suggest presents for Billingsford, but I am a bit embarrassed that our relatives seem to think these things are required. We love everything that you get him, but perhaps we can confine those special things to the immediate family and leave the other relatives to their own devices. I wouldn’t want to wear them down with demands.”
When she persists in doing this, you might tell the relatives to regard her choices only as general suggestions -- or to stop asking her.