DEAR READERS: To mark and celebrate the start of a new year, I'm including some recent reader responses that I have found particularly touching, wise, and useful. I learn so much from my readers!
I sincerely hope that the year 2021 is one of peace, health, and goodwill to all. We could all use a break.
DEAR AMY: Your literacy campaign to put "A Book on Every Bed" really touched my heart. I am a retired teacher of 38 years and the greatest accomplishment of my teaching career was reading to my students every day. The children would immediately quiet down and sit in their seats because they didn't want to miss a word. It was magical! The best crowd control and discipline is a good book. I taught special needs children, first, third, and fourth grade during my career, and a good book never failed. I also read to my own three children almost every night through their elementary years. Now that they are in their thirties, they have often said that these were some of their favorite childhood memories. Thank you so much for raising awareness about the power of books.
A Life-long Reader
DEAR READER: This is beautiful!
DEAR AMY: Here's a suggestion for children who feel their parents prefer one of their siblings over them. I remember as a 13-year-old once telling my dad that I felt that he treated me differently than my younger siblings.This was his response: "You are absolutely right. I do treat you differently and I realize that sometimes it may seem like I expect more from you than I do your sister or brother. That's because you have different skills, talents and needs than they do. In some areas, you are stronger and more capable than your siblings, and in other areas your siblings are. And you may not notice when I try to help you through those. But I do not love you any less and you are just as important to me." Even more capable, successful and financially comfortable children need to hear that they are equally loved by their parents.
Loving Daughter (and Loved) Big Sister
DEAR DAUGHTER: Dad was wise.
DEAR AMY: A reader complained about being left to clean up alone after Thanksgiving. My family handles it in a way that's fun and fair. Before dinner, each guest draws a folded piece of paper from a jar with a clean-up chore written on it. There are two identical papers for each job. (Clear table, rinse dishes, put away leftovers, etc.) When dinner is finished you find the person who has the same job as yourself and complete it together. It's actually great fun because you are usually with someone you haven't had a "working relationship" with. Lots of laughing and casual conversation takes place over each segment of clean up. And the person who hosted does NOT set foot in the kitchen until it's all spic and span.
We "Clean up" Well
DEAR WE: "Gamifying" chores makes you forget that they are chores. This is genius.
DEAR AMY: We tried your suggestion for asking for help from family at holiday meals. We lived in Yosemite and our large family (seven young adult kids and assorted friends, plus in-laws), and as chief cook and bottlewasher I was ready to literally take a hike. My husband solved the problem by creating a list of all the chores involved in meal prep and cleanup and then had people sign up. It worked. Everyone knew what they were supposed to do, and my husband did the supervising, leaving me free to enjoy another glass of wine.
DEAR ANN: Yosemite?! I'd gladly hike over to your house for the holidays.
DEAR AMY: My partner of 28 years and I have shared expenses most of the time we've been together, even though we've maintained our own separate bank accounts. She pays the bills, and we settle up once a month. Almost since the beginning we've kept a record of expenditures in a little bound ledger book. At the end of the month, we total up the book and I write her a check for my part. This has been very handy because we've often had children or grandchildren living with us and the percentage of the split has changed from time to time. It has worked well for us and I highly recommend it.
DEAR TOM: This works when you are both organized and cooperative, which you obviously are.