DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a middle-aged woman and I live alone. Across the street from me lives a family with young children, whom I am quite friendly with.
During this pandemic, the kids have taken up baking as an activity to do at home. A few months ago, their mother began leaving trays of baked goods at my doorstep.
I was touched by the thought, but these items are, to be honest, not very good, seeing as they’re baked by young children. Plus, it’s an enormous amount of neon-colored icing and sprinkles! I thanked the kids and complimented them on their baking skills, as any friend would, but tossed the baked goods out.
My problem is that now the family brings me the kids’ creations in great volume, at least twice a week, with notes saying they are working hard to bake more for me since I like it so much!
Is there a kind way to gently refuse these gifts, or at least to cut down on their frequency? Or is the kindest thing to simply continue graciously accepting them and throwing them out?
They’re delightful neighbors and I am so grateful that the kids think of me.
GENTLE READER: Then let’s not insult them.
This can be accomplished, Miss Manners is confident, without submitting to a mountain of sprinkles and icing. It merely requires tact.
First, no hurtful truths. Neither the baking team of Jenna and Josh, nor their mother, needs to know that the cake batter didn’t fully set or that there was a button in the M&M topping.
Second, no accusations. We will not suggest that they are trying to kill you because you are diabetic or lactose-intolerant or neon-phobic.
Third, no extraneous information. What became of the last batch is irrelevant.
And finally, no lies -- at least, not ones that are likely to be exposed. We will not be confiding that your bridge group loved the cookies if your partner is the children’s third-grade teacher.
Call Jenna and Josh’s mother (we do not want the young bakers in on the conversation), thank her profusely, but explain that, grateful as you are, it is just more than you can possibly consume. And if you have neighbors of whom you are not overly fond, you could add that they might enjoy some treats.