DEAR AMY: The holiday season is already in full swing, and my husband and I are already arguing over what to do next year. My mother-in-law has always hosted Thanksgiving and Christmas. She is in her late 60s and has always said she loves to host — until now. She called my husband and dropped some strong hints that we should take over as the family hosts. We don’t think any others in his large family would step up. Some come in from out of town or live in small apartments. I would be willing to take over on the condition that we go to a restaurant. Everyone (quite a large group) would be welcome back at our place afterward for dessert/coffee/tea and conversation. I grew up with the restaurant tradition and have a lot of nice memories of it. I also have three small children and a demanding job. My husband does not like the restaurant idea at all. He has offered to “do everything,” but I know from experience that this won’t happen. He will ask me a ton of questions about how to do every little thing. (He is a novice in the kitchen.) Even with his help, it is just too much work for me to clean, cook and host such a large crowd. Catering the meal would be too expensive. Neither of us wants to ask guests to pay for food we serve in our home. A potluck won’t work because too many guests come from out of town. Do you think it is reasonable if each family or couple pays for themselves? What do you think of my restaurant idea?
Anxious in Chicago
DEAR ANXIOUS: To me, your restaurant idea sounds less like Thanksgiving and more like . . . Thursday. But — I’m wondering how you landed with this burden, when your husband has already declared that he will “do everything.” He could practice doing everything by taking the lead for his mother at her house this Christmas. This means that he would do the food shopping, show up early, help set up, help to cook and serve the meal and stay late (along with his siblings) to clean and put away the good china.
If you had Thanksgiving dinner at your home next year, your husband would have a whole year to strategize, plan and learn to cook some of the dishes he wants to serve, and you would learn how to let him “do everything,” even if he does things differently than you would do.
What I’m suggesting is that you let him try this (because he wants to) and that you take on more of the role that men traditionally assume on Thanksgiving Day: Go on an outing with the kids in the morning, lend a hand if asked and sit back on the couch and enjoy a football game or a movie after the feast, while the menfolk do the dishes.
DEAR AMY: My niece got married recently. I gave them a family Bible. Having not heard from them, I asked them if they got it. Then they wrote and said they have not sent out thank-you notes because they were waiting on pictures. She said she is working and hasn’t had the time. I said, can’t her husband help? I mean, if she has time to go to the gym, she has time to write thank-you notes. My brother said there is no time limit on sending a thank-you note. My opinion is that people would like a thank you soon after the event, rather than waiting two or more months. Who needs a picture? My niece put plenty on Facebook. A prompt thank you is better. Your opinion?
DEAR UNCLE: My opinion is that this has sent you round the bend. You contacted the couple. They said they had received the Bible you gave to them. I hope they took the opportunity to thank you informally at that time, just to set your mind at ease.
Yes, you are correct: Couples should thank people promptly. But you chasing them and demanding a “proper” thank you isn’t helping.
DEAR READERS: My own life is probably a lot like yours. I’ve experienced poverty, prosperity, marriage, divorce, remarriage, step-parenting, caretaking, loss and grief. If you’ve ever been curious about the life behind the advice column, I hope you’ll consider picking up my memoir, “Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Coming Home.” (2017, Hachette).