Etiquette: Mother-in-law's birthday slips through the cracks

For the News-DemocratMarch 24, 2014 

Q. My husband and I were married about six months ago. I met his parents about two months before that. I just found out we missed my mother-in-law's birthday last week. I feel so terrible.

My husband and I went on our honeymoon, came back and both went back to work, then moved into a new house. We've hardly had a chance to take a breath. My husband tells me he has forgotten before and not to worry about it. What should I do?

A. First, order some extra beautiful flowers and have them delivered to her immediately with a note saying, "Happy Belated Birthday, Mom. The movers delivered our furniture the day before your birthday, and I just became overwhelmed. Love you very much, John and Jane"

As soon as you finish ordering the flowers, call your husband. Tell him what you did and tell him you will be very unhappy with him if he ever forgets his mother's birthday again.

Ask him to please call his mother when he gets home from work to apologize, and check to see if the flowers have arrived, and to allow you to have a few minutes to talk to her also, so that you can wish her a Belated Happy Birthday.

Mark the date on your calendar for next year so you can do something special for her. Be sure to get the date of your father-in-law's birthday and add it to your calendar also.

Remind yourself and your husband to remember his parents on Mother's Day and Father's Day as well.

Next time you are out shopping, and you see something you think might please your mother-in-law, buy it and send it to her with a sweet note about "not knowing about her birthday ... but saw this (whatever), thought of her and thought she might like it."

Q. We eat in a restaurant frequented by police officers. Don't you think it would be appropriate if they all removed their hats in the restaurant--just as do the military?

A. Yes.

Dianne Isbell is a local contributing writer. Send your etiquette questions to Lifestyle Editor Pat Kuhl, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427. Or email to

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