I refused my mother’s expensive necklace and I feel guilty what do I do?
November 23, 2018 8:49 PM   Subscribe

On my mother’s 90th she wanted to give me one of her expensive necklaces and I refused it because I wouldn’t use it, Now I realize I might have hurt her feelings. I was visiting for the holidays and am wondering if I should see her before she leaves and tell her I changed my mind. Is it too late?
posted by TDIpod to Human Relations (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Go see her. I can't tell you if it's too late this time, but I wouldn't risk waiting for another opportunity. She's 90 years old and wanted to give you a gift. Go see her.
posted by acidnova at 8:55 PM on November 23, 2018 [35 favorites]

I wouldn't apologize but I might go back and say something like "When you offered me the necklace, my first response was practical: it's such a nice necklace it should go someone who would use it more than I would. But the more I thought about, the more I realized how much it would mean to me to have necklace that belong to my mother that she loved and wore and that she wanted to me to have. That would be really special. So, I don't know if you still want to give me that necklace or something else, but getting a piece of jewelry would be gift I would really appreciate."

That way you keep the focus on the relationship - reassuring her that she is important to you whether or not she still wants to give you the necklace. And she says something snippy like "since you didn't want it, I already promised it to Cousin Carol", you can be happy about that and still assure her that in the future personal gifts will be better received.
posted by metahawk at 9:17 PM on November 23, 2018 [110 favorites]

I think metahawk’s response is good, but if you feel that your initial response may have hurt her feelings, an apology seems appropriate here. Tell her that you never meant to hurt her feelings, but that you can understand why that would have.
posted by ancient star at 11:06 PM on November 23, 2018 [14 favorites]

aw, I get how you feel - my parents are really generous, and sometimes it feels a bit overwhelming. I know they are just doing what comes naturally to them and it's awesome, but once in a while my brain goes "it's too much!" I think I have also sometimes not accepted their gifts with perfect grace, but they have never held that against me, and have always been understanding (or at least been understanding enough to not tell me that I acted poorly) Of course it's not too late to say "I didn't mean t hurt your feelings, I just didn't know how to accept such an amazing gift" You'll feel so much better if you tell her how you feel, whether or not you end up with the necklace, as long as she knows that you appreciate her.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 11:56 PM on November 23, 2018 [5 favorites]

Explain, apologize, and hug: you’re there because of her so make it about that. The necklace will be a reminder to you of her for years...but if she doesn’t give it to you, you’ll both always feel better for having clarified it and patched things up.
posted by wenestvedt at 5:37 AM on November 24, 2018

She's 90. She was probably offering it to you not because she thought you wanted to wear it necessarily, but because she thought it would be a nice thing to remember her by when she's gone. At 90, she's probably pretty conscious of the fact that her time on this earth is limited and is giving some thought to how her loved ones will remember her afterward. Jewelry is a traditional memento and heirloom because it's small and durable and also really lovely and precious; my mother has several pieces that came from my grandmother, and I don't think she wears them much but I do know she treasures them.

I think it would be totally fine to let your mom know that you thought about it a little and that on second thought you'd love to have the necklace and that it will make you think of her whenever you see it. She'll know what you mean.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:39 AM on November 24, 2018 [7 favorites]

No, it's not too late.
Also, you don't have to keep the necklace forever. I hung onto a few items until family members were gone (in case I was asked for them) and then donated them. If she still wants to give it to you, it's a gift to her to graciously accept it.
posted by FencingGal at 5:52 AM on November 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

Also, you don't have to keep the necklace forever. I hung onto a few items until family members were gone (in case I was asked for them) and then donated them.

Don't take it if you are going to do this - let her give it to someone else in the family if you are intending you would gift it outside the family after she passes. Heirloom jewelry is a legacy; let her bestow the legacy where it will be appreciated.

However, if you wouldn't wear it but have a child or a niece who would, it's perfectly appropriate to take it, hold onto it until after your mother passes, and then pass it along eventually yourself.
posted by corb at 8:08 AM on November 24, 2018 [9 favorites]

It is not too late and apologizing and explaining will be just fine. She might have been slightly hurt by you not understanding, but coming back and explaining that it felt like too much would be most appreciated I am sure. I've also felt like that many times with my grandparents, and it's just something you have to do with older people. They have legacies to pass on.

Also, I completely agree that this is her way of trying to ensure the item stays in the family, that is a thing that is generally of much greater importance to people of her generation than it is to younger people, so I wouldn't donate it unless you were very confident that there won't be anyone in the family who wants it in the next 50 years or so, or that she would appreciate the donation.

I don't wear watches, but I have a watch from both of my late grandfathers. Jewelry and clothing are very personal items, and you might be surprised how much having them grows on you, especially after they are gone.
posted by neonrev at 8:44 AM on November 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

For sure, call her and apologize and ask for it. "I'm sorry, I wasn't thinking straight, because I ordinarily don't buy myself things like that, so it didn't occur to me how nice it would be to have it from you. I'd like to have it if you still want to give it to me."
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:45 AM on November 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

I don’t think there’s any evidence that this is really an “heirloom” necklace rather than just an expensive necklace. Of course, if it’s an heirloom, keep it in the family. But this is characterized as “one of” the mother’s expensive necklaces, so it sounds like she is someone who has purchased or been given a lot of expensive necklaces in her life. And the OP may have referred to its value because of her own discomfort with owning expensive jewelry. (Also, depending on the family, “expensive” could mean worth $50 or the Crown Jewels).

I mean, I have many necklaces, but only one I’d consider an heirloom. I wouldn’t characterize it as expensive because it was purchased more than a hundred years ago, and I have no idea what it cost or if it has any monetary value as all. And my kids know its history and would never refer to it as just one of my necklaces.
posted by FencingGal at 8:47 AM on November 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

All heirloom means is an item of value owned for more than one generation by the same family, so by definition an expensive necklace from a mother is inherently an heirloom, and even more specifically (at least for my family's culture) for an item of value that was specified for an individual before the owner's passing.

Just as a thing about family's objects, one generation's somewhat valuable objects are a later generation's treasured relics. To my dad and his siblings, my grandfather's many old leather wallets were just normal objects to be stuffed in a godwill box, to me and my cousins, they are desirable and much loved connections. When we're all old I'll still be able to lord over them that grandpa wanted me to have the belts of his youth, his proper, handmade by saddlers leather belts that I expect to outlive me and my waist as well. Not expensive, not fancy, just Him. Never underestimate the value of an ancestor's object to someone who didn't get to know them for as long as you, is a lesson I've learned.
posted by neonrev at 9:43 AM on November 24, 2018 [8 favorites]

You've probably decided what to do already, but you could tell her that you are sorry you refused it initially - you thought it was too nice/too expensive for you to have. But you thought about it and you regret how you reacted. Just say you were worried you might lose it or break it and, since it was so expensive, you thought it'd be safer with her, but you've thought about it and you'll be extra careful with it. There are other good scripts in this thread. Then, the only time you have to ever wear it is when you see her, if even then.

My mom gives me things I don't want - she once brought a plate 3000 miles when she came to visit me in my new home as a housewarming gift and I thought it was hideous, but it would've hurt her if I told her I didn't want it, so I just took it. I threw it in a drawer somewhere and, the next time she visited, I put it out. With a mom who just wants to do something nice for a daughter, it's one of those "it's the thought that counts" situations. She'll never know if the item gets used but she gets to feel like she did something nice, and you don't feel the guilt of letting her know the gesture wasn't actually appreciated.
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:54 AM on November 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

I don‘t know your mother, but many mothers are familiar with the impulse to say „no“ to a gift that feels too much. Like, spoiling others is great, but being spoilt feels wrong, especially if the gift has no practical excuse.

So it‘s entirely possible that she would understand very well where your answer came from and you should just explain, using metahawk‘s approach.
posted by Omnomnom at 2:11 PM on November 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

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