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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Carolyn Hax: No thanks needed for thank-you gift

Washington Post

Dear Carolyn:

My daughter suffers from general anxiety and just finished middle school. To thank her teachers for helping her through her moments of panic, I made each of them a nice zippered tote bag and loaded it with supplies and a small gift card. It took a lot of work on my part, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and also cost a lot for the materials.

I am feeling disappointed that none of the teachers, seven of them, have acknowledged the gift. I didn’t deliver them personally, but am confident they did receive them.

My husband says the bags were a “thank you” to the teachers so they don’t need to thank me back. Is he right and should I just assume they appreciated them?

– S.

Yes. I’m 100 percent with your husband on this, and 100 percent with your idea of assuming the best and dropping it.

I don’t base this answer on my opinion of thank-you notes for thank-you gifts, which I’ll get to in a second, but on this: What else is there for you to do?

Do you really want to make the conscious choice to remain aggrieved that you weren’t thanked? To let this be the bitter end of a sweet transaction? One that was never intended to be about you?

Where it’s available, I advise always choosing happiness. They cared beautifully for your child, and you expressed gratitude in a way that pleased you, and, yay, good for them for starting their summer break by not writing dozens of notes.

I also do happen to believe it’s fine to skip thank-you notes for what are plainly intended as thank-you gifts, though I’m always grateful to receive them. I’d add that one can never go wrong in expressing thanks in writing, but:

Dear Carolyn:

We recently hosted our extended family at our beach house for an all-day party. I was surprised to receive a thank-you note from our son written at the insistence of his wife. Of course, one is never “wrong” to send a thank-you note, but really – is it expected to do this every time we have a family get-together? We are always at each others’ homes for meals and celebrations. I find it somewhat unsettling to think I have to write thank-you notes after every family gathering, yet I am unable to articulate why – it seems to place the familial relationship on a formal level, or something like that.

Or maybe I am just lazy and don’t feel like writing a note? Do other folks write thank-you notes after having dinner at their parents’ house?

– Requiring Thanks?

With apologies to Gordon Gekko, gratitude is good.

I understand your discomfort – a note does have an undertone of yours vs. theirs when you likely feel that any home of yours is also your son’s. A thank-you note can imply formal distance.

However, note-writing can be ingrained, an itch she must scratch. Either way, I see no implied obligation now for you to send notes yourself.

I also see no cause for alarm unless your daughter-in-law holds you (or your son) at arm’s length in other ways. And even if that’s the case: The best way to close any distance is to keep being your warmest self and let the little stuff go.

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