DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I have four children. We try to treat them consistently, if not equally, when it comes to gifts.
But my in-laws have started being sporadic with gifts. They will shower one child with presents and do nothing for another. The kids’ birthdays are close together, so the difference is pretty glaring.
We told them both that what they wanted to do for birthdays was up to them, and we aren’t asking for gifts, but we do ask that whatever they do be generally consistent across the children. They said they don’t have to do anything, and we should just appreciate whatever they do. They said they were offended that we even brought it up.
Are my husband and I being unreasonable to ask that if close family decide to get a birthday gift for one child, they should plan to get a birthday gift for siblings, too, when their special days roll around? It just seems mean to do for one and not another.
GENTLE READER: As your reasonable request was unreasonably ignored, Miss Manners presumes you are wondering what to do next.
Explain to your relatives that you would appreciate it if they stop giving the children presents at all. When asked why, tell the truth: that the inequality is causing the children to think that the grandparents favor one over the other.
Meanwhile, it is time to provide the children with an important life lesson. Explain to them that your in-laws may be forgetful about gifts and the children should be grateful for anything they receive.
Think of it as a way of teaching your children to be charitable about the bad behavior of others. You need not add that you disapprove of your in-laws’ behavior. Children are liable to repeat such things.
But if they are unsubtle in some ways, they are quick in others. They will know how you feel about your in-laws’ forgetfulness without being told.