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Back down, mama bear

Dear Annie: Every December, my ex-mother-in-law organizes a holiday party for all of the women from her side of the family. It’s a fancy dinner, and they have a $15 Secret Santa gift exchange.

As a rule, all attendees must be 16, and my daughter was thrilled that she was able to attend for the first time. She asked that I bring her to an upscale store so she could buy a really nice gift.

After hours of browsing, she purchased an array of lovely smaller gifts, which totaled slightly more than $15. She wrapped it so beautifully; she was so proud as she headed off to the party with her present. I couldn’t help but think about how much she reminds me of my ex-mother-in-law, who is also very artistic and crafty.

My daughter she said she had a nice time but that her gift was not well-received. A few of the ladies were making fun of it.

According to my daughter, everyone was asking whose it was, but my daughter didn’t speak up. We laughed about it and didn’t really think of it as a big deal, until later.

My daughter came home from a visiting the ex-in-laws and sayid that my ex-mother-in-law, and a few other family members, figured out that the gift was from my daughter, and, while at a family gathering in front of everyone, came right out and accused my daughter of “regifting” her gift.

They had the audacity to accuse her of picking random stuff from her own bedroom, wrapping them up and regifting them. The whole family joined in and made a joke of it, and my daughter was crushed and embarrassed.

My daughter put a ton of thought and effort into her gifts and really felt that whoever got it would love them. Instead, she was humiliated and shamed into not wanting to be around that side of her family anymore.

Clearly, my ex-mother-in-law is in the wrong, and I desperately want to give her a piece of my mind. But my daughter has forbidden me and said she just won’t go to the party any more.

This isn’t OK with me. I am Mom. I am supposed to protect my kids and stand up for them, but my daughter doesn’t want me to, and I want to respect her wishes. However, it’s hard, and I feel like I really should stick up for her.

Should I ignore my daughter’s wishes and confront my ex-mother-in-law (with the receipt from the store), or just let it go? — Feeling Useless in CT

Dear Feeling Useless in CT: Wanting to protect our children and stand up for them is natural. But the real gift you can give your daughter is to help her develop her own ability to protect herself and stand up for herself. Encourage your daughter to talk with your ex-mother-in-law about how her accusations of “regifting” were hurtful. I doubt your ex-mother-in-law would have participated if she knew that her granddaughter would be so pained.

If your ex-mother-in-law is still nasty, remind your daughter that she knows in her heart that she did the right thing. It’s her reaction to others, not what they say or do, that’s important and how she’ll find self-esteem and peace of mind.

(Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com. This column is syndicated by Creators Syndicate columnists. Visit the website at www.creators.com.)

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