Ask an Apostle: Help! My mom mails Christmas brag letters

Teresa Coda answers your questions this month.
Catholic Voices

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Q: My mom includes what I call a “brag letter” in her Christmas cards. I find this so egotistical especially during a holy season, and I am uncomfortable being included. How can I address this with her?


A: To quote one of my favorite comedic duos, Key and Peele: awkward. I cringe at the thought of your mom’s brag letter (any brag letter, for that matter) but I also cringe at the thought of you addressing the situation. Look, if being included in your mom’s letter feels intolerably uncomfortable, bring it up. You have to say what you have to say.


But if you are going to speak up, do everyone a favor and be direct and clear about it. There is often a temptation to sugar coat or worm around uncomfortable topics (“I hate for you to spend so much time writing a letter when people hardly read sentiments longer than 280 characters anymore”). Don’t do that. Besides being dishonest, a failure to clearly name the actual problem probably won’t solve the problem and will still hurt your mom in the process. Instead, name your concern in the kindest—but still most forthright—way possible. (“Hey, mom? It makes me feel so good to know how proud you are of me. But I feel uncomfortable with you drawing attention to my accomplishments in your Christmas letter, especially when I know how much others have struggled to finish school/find a job/meet a partner. Would you ever think of skipping the letter?)

And be warned: Even with your thoughtful phrasing, a suggestion of this type could still cause a kerfuffle. You’re challenging a practice in which your mom has joyfully engaged for years, after all. If, in the end, you decide not to say anything, rest assured that your family friends receiving the brag letter are rolling their eyes at its author, not its subject.

About the author

Teresa Coda

Teresa Coda works in parish faith formation. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two young daughters.

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