Mother-in-Law Sends Awful Gifts to My Son

Q. I live in California and my mother in-law lives in New York, so we don’t see that much of each other. She just sent a gift for our seven month old baby that I think is awful. It’s a hideous looking jack in the box type thing, that has a scary laugh when it jumps out.  Definitely not suitable for a baby. It would terrify my son. This is not the first time my mother in-law has sent inappropriate gifts. A couple of months after my son was born she sent a “christening” outfit for the baby’s christening. A christening that never happened. My husband and I are not religious. Should I say something to her, or just stay quiet and keep getting these ridiculous presents from her? 

A. One day your baby son might think that evil looking Jack-in-the-Box is the coolest toy in his collection. Yes, it’s probably not suitable for him now, but one day he might get enormous fun from it. Your mother-in-law meant well. I don’t know either of you, but I’m pretty sure that she just wanted to connect with her grandson in some way, and she sent something that she thought was suitable. So what, if it’s not something he can play with until he’s out of diapers? Graciously accept the gift in the same spirit that it was given.  She went to the time and effort of picking something out, wrapping/mailing it. The least you can do is say thank you.

I know you’re worried that a “thank you” might lead to more trashy gifts from your mother-in-law … but, so what if that is the case? If allowing her to experience the joy of giving, means that you have to experience a little bit of discomfort when you see those mother-in-law gifts on your son’s bedroom floor, isn’t that a very small price to pay. The woman lives thousands of miles away from her son and grandson, don’t take the joy of giving away from her.

Now about that christening outfit …  if your mother-in-law knew that you and your husband and had no intention of christening your son, then sending it was inappropriate and passive aggressive. But I don’t know what, if anything, was communicated to her about your religious beliefs. If, in the future, she gives you unsolicited parenting advice let your husband deal with it.  He has to run interference with his family, not you.

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