Dear Prudence

Should I Tell My Friend Her Handmade Jewelry Is Terrible?

Prudie’s column for Oct. 5.

A bead bracelet breaking apart.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Dmitry Bakulov/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

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Dear Prudence,
I have a friend who makes jewelry to give others on holidays and birthdays. I love homemade gifts, and I understand the time and love that goes into making something. The problem is the quality is absolutely terrible. I don’t know where she gets her supplies, but nearly everything has broken the first time I’ve worn it. Once she made a beaded bracelet with elastic thread instead of a clasp. The first time I tried to slip it on, the elastic snapped, and beads flew everywhere. Is there a polite way to tell her that everything she makes breaks almost instantly, or should I keep quiet, since it’s the thought that counts?
—Gifts Falling Apart

You’d think that if she ever kept any of this jewelry for herself that she’d eventually realize just how breakable everything is. I suppose you should be honest only if you think you’d actually wear her creations if they were more durable. If they’re really not to your taste, it’s a win-win that everything breaks before you have to wear it out. But if you’re worried about the waste, and you really would be happy wearing her handmade bracelets every once in a while, you can absolutely tell her, “I’m so sad—I was hoping to wear the bracelet you made for me for my birthday, but it broke the first time I tried to put it on. I’ve noticed that’s happened the last few times you’ve made me something, which is a shame because I know how much work you’ve put into them. Has anyone else noticed this?” If nothing else, it might come as a relief to her that there’s a reason she never sees you wearing the gifts she makes you. It’s not that you don’t like them, but that they just fell apart.

Dear Prudence,
My wife and I did something very stupid when we moved across the country: We promised each of our three children a pet. My wife was overwhelmed with depression and exhaustion at the time. Under normal circumstances, I don’t think we’d have made that bargain. Our daughter “Bridget” got a puppy, and our son “Alex” got a kitten the week after we arrived. We asked our eldest child, “Ellie,” to wait (she wanted a rescue dog) for a few months while we settled in. Ellie was concerned that we wouldn’t get her a dog if we waited, and my wife and I promised her that we would. Months have passed, and my wife and I realize we made a huge mistake agreeing to three pets.

We recently told Ellie we wouldn’t be getting her dog and tried to reclassify Bridget’s dog and Alex’s cat as family pets. This went down poorly with all three of our children. Ellie in particular is heartbroken and furious. The move has been difficult for her, and she believes that her mom and I lied to her when we asked her to wait for her puppy. No amount of apologizing has calmed her. My wife and Ellie used to be very close, but now Ellie will barely talk to her. My wife feels sick with herself, because her depression and exhaustion are a huge reason the third pet is out of the question. I’m reaching the end of my patience with Ellie. She’s 13, and she can’t throw this in our faces for the rest of her life. I don’t know what to do. Do you have any suggestions?

I know that at this point you two are probably better at beating yourselves up for making that promise than I ever could, so I won’t belabor the point. I do think you missed an opportunity to just own up to making a mistake when you first told Ellie you couldn’t get a third pet. She likely wouldn’t have instantly gotten over her disappointment because she was so refreshed by your honesty, but kids have a pretty finely honed sense of when they’re being conned. You’d probably have gotten a better response if, instead of trying to claim the other dog was now a “family pet,” you’d said, “We shouldn’t have made that promise in the first place. It was a mistake, and we’re sorry. Sometimes parents make mistakes, and this was ours. There’s just not enough time in the day or room in the house for a third pet. We understand that you’re upset.”

You mention that your wife is depressed and exhausted, so now might be a good opportunity for you to run interference with Ellie and give your wife a break. Take her out for a father-daughter doughnut and coffee run (or a long walk or a bike ride) and try to draw her out. Does she have much of a sense of what her mother’s experience with depression is like? You don’t have to give her every painful detail or make her feel like she’s responsible for her mom’s well-being, but I think it’ll help to give her a clearer picture of how much her mom is struggling so that she realizes you two weren’t just trying to lead her on or dismiss her because you’re indifferent. Yes, what happened is unfair. Yes, moving is really hard, especially at 13. But she’s not going to be the new kid in town forever, there are two lovely and loving pets in the house already, and there will be other ways you and your wife can celebrate Ellie individually besides getting her a dog.

Catch up on this week’s Prudie.

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