Social Q’s : Social Q’s — Ingrates and Clumsy Guests

December 30th, 2012

My husband and I have nine grandchildren ranging in age from 10 to 22. They are all wonderful. We live at a distance; so every year, we send each of them Christmas and birthday gifts. We love shopping for them and try to choose things they will enjoy. But we never hear a peep back. Not a single thank you. Ever. It’s as if the gifts disappear into a black hole. But isn’t commanding thanks awkward?

Anne, New Canaan, Conn.

I am no sports maven, Grandma, but going zero for nine — over many years — may be the worst batting average in history. (Get me Nate Silver on line one, and Guinness World Records on line two.)

Despite your sweet declaration, your grandchildren do not sound particularly wonderful; they sound like ingrates. And I’m not crazy about their laissez-faire parents, either. Etiquette books are littered with suggestions for sending rude children packets of thank-you notes. (“Oh, now I get it!”) But that seems a bit dainty (and passive-aggressive) for your plight.

Be direct. Call the parents of the younger children and speak with the older ones yourself. Say: “We’d like a phone call, an e-mail, or even a handwritten note letting us know that you received our gifts and whether you liked them. Otherwise, we will find more appreciative recipients.” (I can send you a list of about two million.)

Don’t think of this as “commanding thanks.” You are doing these brats a public service. Other gift-givers will not be as forbearing as you. Their parents seem to be AWOL, so someone needs to speak up — and pronto.

At a holiday dinner, a guest (who was not drunk) broke two of my precious Champagne flutes. Twice, within an hour, she waved her arms and knocked her glass to the floor, shattering it. I made little of the accidents. She offered to replace them, and the next day, sent possible matches. But the glasses are old Tiffany and out of production. I found them on a replacements Web site for $ 50 each. Should I tell her? She makes a good income, but I’m not sure that matters.

Suzaan, Jackson Heights, Queens

Have you considered inviting less dramatic folks to dine?

You are correct; her income is beside the point. When we invite guests into our homes, we assume the risk of a bit of clumsiness. If she had shattered just one of your precious flutes, I would urge you to let this go. But breaking two probably made her feel worse than Scorsese’s “Raging Bull” in a china shop. And letting her replace them would be a sort of kindness.

Say: “It’s sweet of you to offer. The glasses are out of production, but I found them at (name the Web site) for $ 50 each, which may be more than you wanted to spend.” Then leave it up to her. You’ve put the relevant information at her disposal. If she doesn’t buy them, you can — as long as you promise never to bring them out when Clumsy Clara is on your guest list.

I recently moved from Boston to Atlanta. My new friends are bemused by my extraordinary fandom for the New England Patriots. Lately, I find myself rooting for the University of Alabama’s outstanding football team, too. The games are good, and I have a friend who is a big fan. But mainly, I like saying “Roll Tide,” which is a universal expression among Alabama fans. It can be used as a greeting, a farewell, or to acknowledge good or bad news. The problem: I have no association with the university. I’ve never even been there. May I add “Roll Tide” to my lexicon, or is that tacky? John, Atlanta

Permission granted. I have never sat through an entire football game or even visited the state of Texas, but that does not stop my knowing that “Friday Night Lights” is among the finest TV shows ever made. So, you “Roll Tide,” and I’ll “Go, Panthers,” O.K.?

My only son has been married for a decade. During that time, he and my grandchildren have been invited to many events hosted by his in-laws: holidays, parties, reunions. I have not been invited to any of them. I’m told I’m good company. Why am I being left out? Is there anything I can do to be included?

Anonymous, El Sobrante, Calif.

Something tells me you’ve raised this issue once (or three dozen times) with your son. If not, solicit his opinion. He may know what’s going on. Otherwise, try inviting your in-laws to a party or holiday at your place. It may whet their appetite for reciprocation.

For Christmas, my husband’s parents gave our 15-year-old daughter $ 200 in cash and said, “Spend it however you like.” My daughter wants to buy a pair of jeans. I think that’s crazy. I want her to save the money or spend it responsibly. What do you think?

Sandi, New York

Don’t give your daughter buckets of cash and tell her to spend it however she … Oh, that’s right; you didn’t! It’s not your gift, Mom. You can probably strong-arm her out of the pricey jeans by threatening not to pay other bills she expects you to foot — like food and dentistry. But once you make your best Suze Orman pitch, let this go. The gift was mad money, so let her go mad. You’ll have plenty of other chances to teach her responsibility.

For help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com or SocialQ on Facebook. You can also address your queries on Twitter to @SocialQPhilip. Please include a daytime phone number.

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