Q: A close family friend and I have kids that are around the same age, and we both always buy birthday gifts for the other's children. Recently, I gave my friend's daughter a gift for her birthday. The gift came from a store that only has a website — there is no brick and mortar store to return a gift to. About a week later, my friend contacted me to tell me that her daughter didn't like the gift, so she sent it back, and she was upset that the company that I bought it from wouldn't pay for the return postage. She told me that the next time she sees me, I can give her a check for the return postage, and also mentioned that, since her child is extremely hard to buy for, she doesn't know what else I can give her. Is it my responsibility to pay for the return postage and also do I need to replace this gift for her child? If not, what can I say to her?
A: You don't need to replace the gift, but you might want to replace the friend. If she has the audacity to ask for reimbursement for postage for the gift, just say you're sorry her daughter didn't like the gift you picked out, but you forgot your checkbook, so you'll just have to run a tab.
Hospitality a burden
Q: My husband is getting treatment for a very serious illness. His family members want to come and visit and stay with us. I've told him that short visits are fine, but that I can't handle overnights, or visits that require me to "entertain" them. It takes so much of my energy to make sure he has what he needs. I've left it to him to give them the message, but I'm not convinced he has been firm enough. How do I make this clear to them without becoming the bad guy?
A: I hope your husband makes a swift recovery. But I'm wondering if you're properly reading the behavior of your in-laws or whether you can't get yourself out of your automatic entertaining mode. If all your husband's family members are a bunch of entitled ninnies who expect you to cook and clean for them, then yes, they should stay somewhere else.
But I'm wondering if you're prematurely not giving them a chance to be wonderful. It could be these people want to know what they can do to make both of you more comfortable. You also need to get a clear reading of what your husband wants. It could be that he would like to have his parents around for a few days.
If you're willing to let people stay, make clear what you need before they come. You get on the phone and say caretaking is extremely demanding, and you would be so appreciative if when they come they could do some grocery shopping and laundry, take your husband for treatments so you can catch up on your other duties, and sometimes pick up meals at nearby restaurants.
Listen to what kind of reaction you get. If it's resistant, then you are free to say that because of the need for quiet and rest, it's best if visitors stay nearby, but not in the house, and you will give them a list of motels. See how the visits go, and don't be afraid to speak up on behalf of your husband and yourself. But unless you know these are people who never rise to the occasion, first give them a chance to do so.
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