Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: I would like your thoughts on what is fair for "only" children and their families where birthday presents are concerned. You see, my daughter is an only child and we are friends with many families with multiple children. We attend birthday parties and purchase gifts for these multiples when their birthdays roll around at various times of the year. I can't help but feel that this is unfair when we obviously purchase an individual gift per sibling at their parties, but when it comes time for our child's birthday, the parents provide one present from both of their children for the same monetary value as one child would normally spend. For example, I typically spend around $30 per gift for a child, and $30 more for the sibling's birthday when that rolls around, but the gift their family provides to our one child is a $30 value and comes addressed from both kids. We normally have our daughter's party at an external place such as the zoo and have to pay per party guest, so we are also paying admission for each of the family's two children. Is it unreasonable to expect a gift from each attendee -- or a gift with a higher value if they combine? Aren't they double dipping?

Ripped-off Mom

DEAR RIPPED-OFF: One way to deal with this inequity would be to have two more children as quickly as possible. If you have even one more child than your other friends and give one gift from your (larger) family to birthday revelers, you will win the birthday math challenge. Alternatively, you could limit the number of birthday invitations you accept annually on your child's behalf (or spend less on gifts), so that your child gives the exact same dollar value of gifts per family as she receives throughout the year.

However, I suspect that if you continue to choose to keep score in this way, your group of friends will diminish roughly in proportion to the energy you extend worrying about this. Hosting parties at state parks, playgrounds or your own backyard won't make you feel so burdened by the cost of venues.

DEAR AMY: A friend has been planning her wedding for months and the invite arrived last week. The invite came from her grandmother's house, and on the invite it says the hosts are her grandparents, plus her dad AND her late mother! (I think her mom's been dead for over 10 years.) Her dad has remarried and the new wife is nice, so it was just crazy that my friend didn't include her name on the invitation and included her late mom instead. I love my friend, but I don't want to go if there's going to be a lot of stuff about her dead mother at the wedding, because it would be too creepy. What do I do?

Not Morbidly Curious

DEAR NOT: If a bride honoring her late mother's memory on her wedding invitation creeps you out, then you should stay home. Weddings are landmark events in a person's life, and it is not unusual to remember departed loved ones during the ceremony and/or reception.

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DEAR AMY: I could not believe what you told "Had Enough." She knows that her sister, "Nancy" is being abused by the pig boyfriend "Sid," and you tell her to welcome the guy into her home because he's charming? What in the world were you thinking? Nancy should kick Sid to the curb and not look back. Why would the sister want an abuser in her home? Nancy needs to wise up and her sister doesn't need to coddle her.


DEAR READER: Abusers tend to isolate their partners from supportive family members. I suggested that "Had Enough" should notify both parties that she knows what's going on and will call the police if she witnesses anything. But yes, if Sid is "charming" when he is with their family, then they should use this to keep their sister close while they encourage her to leave.