Miss Manners is not suggesting this because she finds you tiresome, but as a method of dealing with the interruptions. When your mother-in-law interjects, let her. If she asks you to continue, you may say: “No, no, your story sounds more interesting. I’ve forgotten what mine was, anyway!” Then smile politely.
If she is indeed sensitive, she will notice that the conversation has suddenly become one-sided and will take measures to correct the situation in the future. If she is not, Miss Manners recommends that you save your good stories for audiences who are more captive — or perhaps who have less interesting life experiences of their own.
Dear Miss Manners: My son lives in France with his French wife and their 2-year-old daughter. We feel we have a good relationship with them, and we keep in touch via video calls and texts.
Because mailing gifts to France is very expensive, often costing more than the value of the gift, and timing is uncertain, we have decided to send cash birthday and holiday gifts through an online money transfer service rather than mailing gifts. In the past, we have let them know the money is coming (including the amount and how to split up one sum among their family) and included instructions that they should each purchase something they like or need when their birthday arrives. When my granddaughter is old enough, we will request my son and daughter-in-law take her shopping, so she can choose her own gift with money from her grandparents, then tell us about this gift.
Beyond an emailed “thank you” and letting us know they received the transfer, they have not commented on how they used the money. My son has mentioned in the past that the French do not give cash gifts or discuss money matters easily, so our cash gifts could be awkward for my daughter-in-law. Can you think of a better way to handle gift-giving in this situation?
Surely the Internet can help with this. Ask your son about categories and styles of things they would like for their home — and stores they frequent in France. Then find it online, pick out something and arrange for the store to hold the item or ship it locally.
Miss Manners agrees with your daughter-in-law that giving money, while certainly practical, is unseemly. And once given, it is theirs to do with as they like. They may well have found a more pressing need — for groceries rather than china salt shakers, for instance — and do not wish to offend by telling you so. Similarly, while your granddaughter may enjoy the opportunity to buy her own presents, getting something special from her grandparents will be a far better memory than purchasing the French slime equivalent she will undoubtedly pick out herself.