Every year, I send my adult daughter a check for her birthday and Christmas. She told me she prefers cash to other gifts. But she never, ever acknowledges them or thanks me. This has been going on for years! I only know if she gets them by checking my bank account. I asked her to text me a few years ago. It helped for a while, then she stopped. I’m on a tight budget, so these checks are a sacrifice. And her silence hurts me. Should I stop sending the checks if she can’t be bothered to thank me? Or maybe just send a card? I don’t want to irritate her, but I raised her better than this.
For years, every week has brought at least one new variation on this letter. Its central question is by far the one I hear most often. I’ve answered it a few times: We give gifts out of love, not to be thanked; speak up gently; if this really bothers you, stop sending gifts. But I’ve never gotten to the root of the problem. Why does this happen?
My new theory: If a parent (or uncle or grandmother) sends a gift, year after year, without any acknowledgment from the recipient, maybe the recipient doesn’t experience it as a gift. Maybe your daughter and the others see these presents as their entitlement, like stock dividends or Social Security checks. The fact that the gifts keep coming, without further action, supports their belief.
Talk to your daughter again. Highlight the voluntary nature of the checks. (And skip the guilt trip about how you raised her.) Tell her you’re glad to make room for gifts in your budget because you love her. But her failure to thank you hurts your feelings. Then ask her to be more thoughtful. If she still can’t, trade the checks for greeting cards.
Secret Gym? I’m Calling the Covid Police
My husband and I go to the dog park most evenings. While there, a woman we’re friendly with confided that her gym had secretly reopened. (Gyms aren’t permitted to reopen in our state yet.) She was trying to help the owner by spreading the word to people she trusts. She said the owner had darkened the gym’s windows and hired a “lookout” for the front door. She also said no one worries about masks or social distancing there. I want to report the gym. Our hospitals are overwhelmed. But my husband thinks I should let it go to preserve our friendship with this woman. You?
Violations of coronavirus regulations are not victimless crimes. The gym owner and those using the clandestine facilities are likely contributing to community spread of the virus, endangering essential workers and placing further strain on local hospitals. Your friend’s misjudgment of your character is her problem, not yours.
You don’t mention how you responded to her invitation. Be direct: “We follow state and federal safety guidelines. That’s the only way we’re going to get this pandemic under control.” If she’s really a friend, you may influence her behavior. If she’s just a woman from the dog park, you probably won’t.
Still, focusing on one scofflaw from this secret gym seems inadequate. Call the police and report the illegal operation (anonymously, if you prefer). How many fellow citizens are you willing to see infected thanks to people selfishly prioritizing squat machines over human lives?
How to Thank a Pandemic Hero
My sister and I haven’t been able to see our elderly parents since February. We live out of state and have been doing what we can for them remotely. But their next-door neighbors have been invaluable, picking up prescriptions, checking on them (from the sidewalk) and buying groceries in between deliveries. How do we thank them? Verbal thanks feel inadequate, and sending money seems dismissive.
What a terrific story! Frankly, when the pandemic first hit, I expected to hear more of them and far less about ugliness in Costco over masks. Your letter is a nice reminder that just because we don’t hear about kindness doesn’t mean it’s not there.
Start with a letter. Let the neighbors know how much their generosity has meant to you. Then grill your parents: Did the neighbors lose work during the pandemic? Do they have any hobbies? Depending on their circumstances (and yours), send as big a gift card or check as you can manage. (Cash gifts are often frowned upon, but I suspect they’d be welcome now by anyone struggling to buy food or pay rent.)
I’ll Make the Bed, but the Toilet? Really?
My husband and I are annual houseguests at our friend’s vacation home. When we leave, I change the sheets and make sure the bathroom is clean. Last year, our host handed me a bottle of toilet-bowl cleaner and asked me to clean the toilet. I was taken aback but did it. If she asks again this year, should I let it slide or say something?
It depends. If you purchased the full-service houseguest plan, I would definitely speak up. But if your friend has kindly invited you to stay with her at her vacation home for free, and this is her big ask, get scrubbing!
For help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.