My mom and I have kept in touch with my ex's parents, mostly his mom "Suzanne" and grandma.

So we wanted and decided to send a Christmas card. My mom also wanted to make something for Suzanne, which she thought she would appreciate. (My mom is into crafts and is really good at sewing). She also wanted to send grandma a little something, a pair of earrings. It didn't cost her much because we have a friend who makes jewelry.

Now my mom asked me (her English isn't as good as mine) to send Suzanne an email, telling her to expect a package before Christmas and to let us know when she received it. I did.

And then I get two emails. The first email was to let me know the package was received and that they couldn't wait to open it on Christmas day. They were thankful and excited blah blah...

Then I get nothing on Christmas day which I thought was strange and then I finally get an email two days later, saying that they still haven't opened the package. The reason given was that Suzanne basically felt or somehow guessed from the size of the package that not everyone would be getting a gift and not knowing who would and who would not, (she also didn't want grandma to get upset if she didn't get a gift) decided that the package should be opened some other time, not when the whole family was around. I was like "Why make it such a big deal...at least the card was addressed to everyone..." but alright.

And this is the last I heard from Suzanne. I'm really curious if Suzanne finally opened the package and if she gave grandma the gift and if she liked the gift my mom made her so I would like to send an email asking about it. However, I'm not quite sure how to approach the fact that the package wasn't opened for the reasons mentioned and perhaps even apologize for not sending everyone gifts.

It might be useful to know that when we lived in the US my mom would bring everyone in the family gifts on Christmas day but this time she wasn't able to. My mom is also upset that mailing gifts sometimes costs more than the gift itself, which doesn't make mailing larger packages a good idea, unless you got money to waste.

So my question is, how to tell Suzanne that we weren't able to get something for everyone this Christmas and to apologize if this made her uncomfortable in any way without sounding awkward.

I had warned my mom this would be awkward and told her we should have sent a little something for everyone or a gift for the house instead but she didn't want to spend more money and perhaps didn't plan it right to begin with.

  • How close are you and Suzanne? Commented Dec 30, 2017 at 9:50
  • Well, she was my ex's mom and we used to be quite close until a few years ago. Commented Dec 30, 2017 at 13:59

3 Answers 3


You don't owe Suzanne an explanation or an apology. The ball is in Suzanne's court. You sent a gift, she should send a thank you note.

I would not email to ask if she enjoyed the gifts since you know that she received them. If you do decide to email, you don't need to bring up the delay in opening the package or that you didn't provide gifts for everyone.


First of all, I'd just let it drop in this case. I don't see any good way to ask about it here without causing awkwardness. I mean, if there were high stakes, I'd probably suggest something that would only be a little bit awkward, but here, it seems different. Suzanne should absolutely make sure to thank you, obviously, and I hope she thinks to particularly send thanks for the work and care that went into the gift from your mom. That's just basic thoughtfulness.

I think, if I were in her position, I would probably also not open the package in front of everybody, just thinking about how my family does presents and trying to imagine it. If "everybody" just includes adults, it could go either way. The only thing I'd say for sure is that, if there are kids involved, you should make sure to send them something. It can be one thing for all of them or very small gifts, but it'll just keep Christmas running smoothly for the recipients. Ultimately, I'd say it sounds like the whole situation was just a minor mismatch in expectations between you two. I'm sure they appreciated the gifts or, if they haven't opened the package yet, they've got some (possibly convoluted) reason why. In a week or two, you could possibly add a little line to an email but it depends so much on your relationship and how you ask. But I think this is just one of those things that happens sometimes.


A gift is a gift. That means, it is given freely, not on a basis of an obligation. You don't owe anyone a gift. If someone thinks you owe him a gift, it is his problem not yours. So you don't owe any explanation, let alone apology to anyone for not having given them a gift. And not to open the package in order that someone else did not feel bad that they did not receive anything is just incredibly oversensitive, in my opinion. How strange and selfish folk! They should rejoice that someone they love has received a gift and is glad, and not envy him or feel hurt that they did not get anything. The implied or assumed obligation "to give to everyone" is a most silly thing that is destroying the beauty of giving and receiving gifts (as, apparently, in this case).

So, in my opinion you did everything right. It is understandable that you would like to know if they liked their gifts, but again: a gift is a gift. It is meant to make happy the recipient; you don't give a gift in oredr to make happy yourself about how happy you have made them. If they don't say "thank you" and don't share their happines with you, it is probably rude from their part, but you have to cope with that; you cannot solicit gratitude that is not freely given.

So: be magnanimous, get over it, next time give gifts to whomever you wish/can afford to give, don't give to whomever you don't, give in order to make the recipient happy and not in order to fulfill any putative obligation or to solicit gratitude -- and above all, don't let these silly worries poison your Christmastide!

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