DEAR AMY: Our family had a nice Easter this year. However, when our neighbors' extended family rolled in to have Easter dinner, our kids all had to part ways. Over holidays and during other family-related events, this happens with all of our friends who have children our age. And, in reality, I completely understand the importance of that family time for them. What is difficult on our end is that my children have no extended family. Both of our siblings do not have children, and neither sibling lives geographically close. So, while most of our friends have large extended family gatherings with many children to play with, many celebration days can be lonely for my kiddos. Tonight, I watched my son watching longingly to join in the other family's events next door, but unable to jump in because some times are mostly family events. We call many of our dearest friends "framily" and consider them as close as family, but we also know that at the end of the day there are going to be times when that term only applies in a limited way. What would be some good resources or words I could use to help my children see the gift of our unique family makeup?
DEAR LONELY: It sounds as if you live in one of those magical neighborhoods where the kids roam from house to house in a big and unruly group. This must be wonderful for everyone.
I understand the deep sigh of having a child looking out the window and longing for company, or cousins, of his own.
I guarantee that — in time — if your kids stay close with their childhood friends, they will get to know these friends' extended family members, and that these people will become honorary extended "framily."
But you must understand that there are also times when you should tell your children to "buck up," and then show them how to buck up. You are the only "resource" you need.
Your kids are not guaranteed 365 days of playmates. You should attend to your son's longing by asking him to describe his feelings, giving him a mega-hug and then urging him to get busy doing something else.
Your family should develop your own unique rituals during these holiday times. You could go on a "family day" hike or picnic, volunteer a couple of hours at the community garden, or go out for Chinese food and a matinee.
Yes, your children will not be with their playmates. But they will be with each other — and with you. As parents, you should discourage them from feeling sorry for themselves regarding a fact of life they cannot change.
DEAR AMY: I've known my stepbrother for more than 20 years, but he lives in another part of the country, and we have not seen one another or talked in years. My wife still occasionally talks to him on Facebook, and she found out he is getting married this summer. We were not invited to the wedding! I think this is kind of rude (even though we wouldn't have gone, anyway). I think he should've still invited us! My question is — do I have to send a card and money?
DEAR FORGOTTEN: This is a wedding hosted by someone with whom you have no contact. Furthermore, you declare that you wouldn't attend this wedding even if you were invited. So — why is your nose so out of joint?
Perhaps you wanted a "mercy invitation," but if you had received one of those, you would have complained about it being a "gift grab" from someone you barely know.
Some people seem to feel the need to proactively invite all relatives to their wedding.
But most people only invite people with whom they have at least the semblance of an ongoing relationship.
It would be very nice of you to send a card — or even reach out on FB — to congratulate your stepbrother. Who knows, this could help to renew your relationship.
No, you should not send money, unless you owe him from a long-ago debt.
DEAR AMY: I think I got a stress-rash reading the letter from "Worn Out," the new mom (now working from home) whose husband refused to go on a nice vacation because she couldn't pay for half the cost. Thank you for your balanced response, especially the last part: Life is not fair.
DEAR GRATEFUL: "Life is not fair" is a lesson I learned the hard way.