DEAR AMY: My husband's mom and stepdad are very generous with our two children. They often take the kids overnight and always return them with new toys and clothes — too much, in our opinion. Our children have many toys that they just don't use. My mother-in-law has also told us that they have financial concerns. We have tried asking for them to spend time instead of money on the kids, but they insist the gifts are always on sale or are inexpensive second-hand items, and that it makes them happy to give the kids "stuff." When we try to talk about this, his mom tends to make passive-aggressive statements in response. We would love our children to be excited to see Grandma and Grandpa, not just excited to see what new toys are waiting for them. We argued about this, and over a month later, his mom was still so upset that she didn't call my husband on his birthday. I'm concerned that these fights will lead to resentments and will damage our relationships. What can we do?
DEAR UPSET: Your reaction to this overindulgence is reasonable, and it sounds as if you have done your best to communicate your values respectfully to your children's grandparents.
Their reaction is overblown, angry, and unreasonable, but understand that when they load up on "stuff" for the kids, they likely believe that they are showing an abundance of love. Sometimes — especially when people are hurting financially — they will see showering material things as the ultimate expression of love and generosity. This is the limited language they have to express their devotion to their grandchildren.
You've expressed your values, and your message must have gotten across because your mother-in-law is still reacting to it.
Now you should reach out and let these grandparents know that the kids love to see them and that you hope visits can resume when the grandparents are ready.
If the grandparents continue to overindulge during overnights, explain to the kids the "one toy in, one toy out" rule: They can choose what they want to keep as long as they pick out the same number of toys they no longer play with (or clothes they no longer wear) to put into the donation box.
DEAR AMY: I am looking for the answer to an etiquette question, and I hope you can help. I held a private party in my home recently and a friend, who happens to be a magician, volunteered to entertain the group during the party. One of my guests, to my dismay, videotaped him without his or my knowledge or prior permission. I found this most improper. Are there any etiquette guidelines available dealing with this topic?
DEAR UPSET: Specific rules of etiquette shouldn't be necessary when basic politeness, consideration, and common sense would prevail.
However, we seem to live in a transitional period where people basically do what they want to do until they are stopped.
So let's state the obvious:
Yes, it is rude to film or photograph anything inside someone's private home without permission. This includes photographing the cat, the kids, or Instagramming the entree.
It is so easy to ask, "Is it OK if I snap a pic of this and share it on social media?" The person asking should then wait for the answer and respect the host's choice.
If you see someone recording or photographing in your home and you don't want them to, you should say, "Hi, I'm so happy you're here, but I'd rather you not record right now. Thank you for understanding."
Yes, it is also rude (and wrong) to film a performer working a private party without the performer's permission. Your friend/magician might have been working on some new bits that weren't quite ready for prime time. Or this performer might have been happy for the exposure. It is both polite and easy to ask!
DEAR AMY: I truly appreciate your answer to "Don't Know How to Let Go," the former alcoholic mom whose daughter was estranged from her. I also grew up with an alcoholic mother. I, too, had a sad and challenging childhood. As you said, it is a burden to a child to have to do the things a mother should be doing. Thanks for pointing out that it is not all about the recovering alcoholic. The children need recovery too.
DEAR GRATEFUL: Making amends requires patience and compassion toward the people who have been wounded. Yes, loved ones also deserve recovery.