Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: My oldest son will be turning 5 next month. We are planning a party at a local park with simple games and food. My problem is, I don't want guests to bring presents. He is not spoiled, but he does receive nice items from his grandparents and my husband and me. He has lots of toys, and I feel our house is overrun; however, I don't want him to be hurt with the expectation of opening presents. Please help!
DEAR PRESENT-TENSE: At your son's age, giving and receiving gifts is important, not because of the stuff you get, but because of the social exchange -- that of generosity and gratitude -- that children demonstrate as they celebrate birthdays.
One way to balance the number of toys your son has is to ask him to choose one older toy to put in a basket for each new toy he receives. You will then recycle these "basket toys" by giving them to another family member, donating them to a local charity, or by having a yard sale.
If your son does receive gifts, which likely will happen, you should sit with him and help him write personal thank-you notes (you will transcribe what he tells you to write, and he should sign the note himself)
DEAR AMY: "Former Friend" wanted to know how to "break up" with a friend. I agree with your advice to tell the person when you're breaking up. My wife and I had some old friends from college whom we considered among our best friends. They mentioned that they had adopted a "no contact" policy when they "broke up" with friends. One day, we found ourselves in that group, and that immature action left us with the question, "What did we do?"
DEAR FORMER: Without the benefit of an explanation, you are forced to blame the other party.