March 17, 2010 in Features

Cash for gifts not the problem here

Washington Post

Hi Carolyn: My wife and I have been married five years, and we have a 4-year-old son. We see my mother-in-law often, and we have a very good relationship with her that I want to maintain. My wife converted to Judaism just before we got married. Yet, each year my mother-in-law sends us Christmas cards.

Further, she sends my wife and me money as gifts, and we are not financially strapped. I truly appreciate her always remembering our birthdays and thinking of us during the holidays. However, part of me feels like her sending Christmas cards is not acknowledging part of our family identity. And, sending money makes me feel as though she (a) has no idea what to get us, (b) thinks we need money, and/or (c) has put little thought and effort into this.

Part of me feels like I am being petty for even complaining.

Part of me feels as though I should be insulted on both counts. What is your take? – Mixed emotions

My take will be however much of your mother-in-law’s unwanted cash you’d like to unload.

I realize monetary gifts can send a loaded message: “You think we’re mooches!” or just “You didn’t think at all!” But given the perennial rage prompted by knickknack gifts to minimalists, fattening gifts to dieters, and so on – and given the stunning, practical ease in depositing this cash into a college savings account for Junior, I think this loaded message is best ignored in favor of bigger things.

One of those bigger things being, the Christmas cards to a Jewish household. That does suggest cluelessness at best, and at worst an anti-Semitic swipe (a big stretch).

Still, someone with whom you have a “very good relationship” deserves every benefit of any doubt. Certainly your wife can ask her mom, without anger, “Is there any reason you send us Christmas cards, knowing we don’t celebrate Christmas?”

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