DEAR AMY: When my twin sons are invited to a friend’s birthday party, I always purchase two gifts (one from each boy) worth approximately $15 each, or double up the amount and spend $30 to $35 on a larger gift. For my boys’ last birthday, their good friend came to the party and didn’t bring a gift. Then, about two months later, he showed up for a play date with an unwrapped video game disc that was in a generic, broken case. It was clearly purchased used. The boy said he had played it and thought my sons would like it. I was shocked that any parent would allow this “gift” to be given to a good friend! I called the parent to make sure she was aware that her child had given this gift. She stated she wasn’t working right now and that her child “really thought the boys would like it.” I let her know that I thought that, as a parent, she should be teaching children what is appropriate (giving a new, unbroken item) and what is not appropriate (giving a used, broken item as a gift). She got irritated and told me she’d buy them something new when she got another job. This is a family that spends plenty on their own child. Obviously, money is not the problem. I would never question how much someone spends on a gift. A small, new $5 item would have been sufficient. No appropriate gift was ever given. The kids haven’t played together for months. Now this boy’s birthday is coming up and my children would like to go to his party. What do I do regarding their gift? I have talked to the boys about how inappropriate this family’s choices were. I blame the parent, not the child, but I also don’t want to be an idiot and keep spending our hard-earned money for someone who has such opposing views of how things should be handled.
DEAR MOM: Your extreme concern over this and your continued focus on the gift issue is not what gift-giving is supposed to be about. This other child, who gave your sons something he had used and thought they would like, is demonstrating solid values and at least a measure of responsibility and generosity toward his friends. Even if he was two months late and didn’t spend money on this gift, it seems to have come from his heart.
You should stop trashing this other set of parents to your sons, and you should instead encourage them to graciously accept and give thanks for any gift, however humble. Allow them to go to the party, and encourage them to choose a modest gift from the two of them to present to their friend.
DEAR AMY: My sister has been married to “Steven” for 25 years and he has only worked for two of those years. Last year I moved nearby and we saw each other weekly. After 18 months I told my sister I had no respect for Steven and didn’t want to be around him. It is obvious that he is an opinionated narcissist. He is using her and she is in deep denial. I asked her only to seek help. She (of course) defended him, became enraged and refuses to speak with me. I can’t say I’m unhappy about this: I could no longer be friendly with the man I consider her abuser. Any advice?
DEAR BROTHER: It is extremely challenging for you to watch a loved one be used and abused (in your opinion). You seem to be congratulating yourself on calling this one as you see it, but how helpful are you able to be from your armchair, now that there is a total estrangement between you and your sister?
Your sister is in this marriage for her own reasons. You can be most helpful to her if you have an active relationship with her, where if she comes to you for advice or help, you will be able to give it.
DEAR AMY: Responding to the question from “Prefer to Pee in Private,” about cellphone use in public restrooms, I agree with her that this is inappropriate and intrusive. Also, I’m sure you are aware of how dirty bathrooms are, even with regular cleaning. All I can think of is these people touching things in the stall, then touching their phones and putting those phones up to their face. Eeww!
Nancy, in MA
DEAR NANCY: Yikes, yes!