Miss Manners recognizes that two ungracious trends have fueled your daughter-in-law’s wish. The first is that people now feel emboldened to declare that others must honor them. Typically, this is expressed in self-generated adult birthday parties and showers. Rather than waiting for others to be moved to organize such an event, the would-be guest of honor initiates it, sets the terms and expects the guests to pay the bills.
The second is the enlargement of Mother’s Day beyond that of filial gratitude. That fathers should participate makes sense, especially when the children are young enough to require some guidance, and because he is an indirect beneficiary. But expectations have spread ridiculously. Miss Manners has heard from mothers who expect even their own mothers to pay them honor, and, in contrast, from childless ladies who are upset that acquaintances and strangers wish them a happy Mother’s Day.
That your daughter-in-law associates the holiday with her impending motherhood does not bother Miss Manners. That she has seen fit to announce that she expects to be celebrated by others does. Why isn’t she busy making Father’s Day plans, instead?
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Should I get a Mother’s Day gift for my girlfriend? She’s not my child’s mother.
GENTLE READER: Is she yours?
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a successful adult son who has been married for almost 10 years and has a young child, no longer a baby. We have entertained this family many times, especially for holidays and family get-togethers.
I feel that this young couple should reciprocate at least occasionally. Never once have they invited us for dinner or to their apartment.
Do I have a reason to feel nonplussed? I certainly invited my in-laws very regularly to my house, even as newly marrieds. My husband won’t let me say a word.
GENTLE READER: He probably suspects that the words you want to say are, “We have entertained . . . never once have you . . . I certainly invited . . .” and so on.
But the people you refer to as “this family” and “this young couple” are your own son and daughter-in-law. You could express interest, rather than bitterness. The words Miss Manners would suggest, to which your husband would probably not object, are: “Could we do this at your place sometime? We love having you here, but it would be fun to spend time in your home. I would so enjoy that.”
Visit Miss Manners at her Web site, www.missmanners.com, where you can send her your questions.
, by Judith Martin
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