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Apologize to Mom for thoughtlessness

Washington Post

Hi, Carolyn: Each year for Christmas, my parents usually get each child/married couple a substantial gift, and small presents for any grandchildren. We live across the country from them, and when she called to ask us what we might want, I had a hard time coming up with anything.

So with nothing to go on but instinct, Mom ended up sending us a beautiful, handmade, heirloom-quality (thingy). The only problem is, we have lots of (thingies) already, though none as nice as this one. And so when we opened it up this morning, my husband and I looked at each other and said, “Maybe we can exchange it for something we need?”

Later in the day, we had a video-chat with my parents and the rest of my family. And naturally Mom asked how we liked our gift. I, being instinctively straightforward (thoughtless?) and distracted by small children, said not very smoothly that it was beautiful and lovely but we thought we might exchange it for something more practical.

While I know she isn’t the sort to hold a grudge about something like that, I know she felt a little disappointed, though she covered it well.

Thinking it over, I realize we have been really ungrateful, and that keeping the (thingy) is the way to go here, but I’m at a loss for how to communicate that to her, without possibly making her feel like she somehow guilted us into it. Help? – Gauche AND an ingrate

Tell her the truth: You’ve gotten so entrenched in your pragmatic, needs-first, little-kid-serving lifestyle that you’ve forgotten how to look ahead. With a moment to think about it, you’ve now looked ahead and seen that this (thingy) is a piece of her that you’ll always have and value, long after the kids are gone – and that even they can value after you’re both gone – and you’re sorry you didn’t have the presence of mind to see and express that immediately.

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