Present Problems | Christmas Dinner Wars | Dog Decisions


Present Problems

Dear Micah,

I have a petty Christmas problem.  I say petty because I know you’ll tell me I’m petty and I also recognize that it is petty, but I’m going to say it anyway because it bothers me.  I give my sister’s two kids good presents for Christmas and birthdays.  I spend anywhere from 30 to 50 bucks on them.  My one kid only gets some cheap toy that is no good from the start that I think she got at Dollar General or some place like that.  It’s always a toy by some company you’ve never heard of and made with cheap brittle plastic that will break after a use or two.  If she gets a doll, it is that off-brand kind with the weird soft plastic and thin cheap clothes with hair that has the root line showing in front.  Even my daughter can tell it’s not a good gift.  The toys break and the dolls don’t look like dolls her friends got for Christmas.  My daughter gets upset because her gift is terrible and her cousins got good stuff.  My sister is not poor.  She is just cheap.  She doesn’t like to spend money on things.  Again, I know I’m being petty, but when I fork out a hundred bucks and my little girl gets a gift that cost $5, it pisses me off.  Any ideas on what to do about this?

Hal

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Dear Hal,

Not now.  Christmas in in, like, four minutes.  I don’t think there’s time this year to do anything.  She’s probably already bought that cheap-ass doll that looks like it just underwent a hair transplant six weeks ago.  It’s a touchy subject—not just with your miserly sister, but with your daughter as well.  On the one hand, your Daddy instincts want your child to be treated fairly and get her fair share.  It infuriates you that she gets the short end of the stick every time.  On the other hand, you also have to teach her graciousness and appreciation.  Adults often get terrible gifts from people but we have to smile and act like we love it because we don’t want to hurt their feelings.  We also don’t want to teach our children that it’s okay to decide that a present isn’t good enough and to tell the giver.

I think the simplest solution is to start setting parameters for gifts.  If you’ve never had the conversation before, have one with your sister about how much you both want to spend on gifts.  When the next birthday approaches, you could say “So I was going to get Julie ____ for her birthday?  Is $30 too much of a budget for us to spend on our kids’ birthdays, or are you fine with that?”  Use the same technique for Christmas next year, “Wanna do a limit of $40 for the kids’ presents?”  Now you’ve set the rules.  If your daughter gets a knock-off toy from Dollar Tree then you have every right to ask your sister “What happened to the budget we agreed on?”

And if that doesn’t seem to fix things, make birthdays and Christmas about the cash.  One thing is for sure,  your sister cannot get discount cash and stick in a card.  If she still skimps and only gives a $5 bill, then just stop exchanging gifts for each other’s family.  Although, you must realize that your sister probably is just as cheap with her own kids and thinks you are way too extravagant with your money—so her kids will have a pretty piss poor Christmas without Uncle Hal’s present.

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Christmas Dinner Wars

Dear Micah,

My son married this year to a lovely girl whom we all adore.  The only problem I have is that her family always seems to come before ours with everything they do.  My son turned down spending  Thanksgiving with us because he wasn’t sure whether or not his wife had wanted to go to her mother’s house.  As it turned out, they decided to go to her Aunt’s house.  I felt like they should have come to me over the aunt.  I let that go, though.  Now it’s Christmas, and I always have a family dinner on Christmas Eve.  I have now been informed that they are having Christmas Eve at my daughter-in-law’s grandparents’ house and then Christmas day lunch at her mother’s house, and they will stop by our house sometime in the afternoon before dinner.  I think I am powerless here to do anything and demanding anything probably won’t help, but I am heartsick.

Glinda

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Dear Glinda,

I hurt for you.  My biggest fear is that one day my son will marry some girl who will do exactly what is happening to you.  My only solution for that is to try and find some kind of orphan dating pool for him so that he can mostly date people who have no other family to compete with me.  I think it’s deplorable that your daughter-in-law is giving all of the good holiday slots to her extended family.  I am assuming since you spoke rather well of her, that she likes you.  So, maybe appeal to her instead of your son.  Ask her if you could have your Christmas Eve tradition remain intact and tell her that you will never try to interfere with her mother’s Christmas lunch tradition.

Don’t dredge up Thanksgiving yet.  Wait to fight that fight next year.  However, when you do bring that up, mention that you think it’s a fair arrangement for them to alternate each year.  Thanksgiving with her family Year One, Thanksgiving with his family Year Two, then back to her family, and so on.  That way, you will know every year well in advance when you’ll have your son and, hopefully, soon your grandchildren.  You have to get these things decided before the grandchildren come, otherwise it’s an even bigger mess!  If your daughter-in-law refuses to budge on losing any time with her family, then you have to make a choice:  you let it alone and keep the peace, or you ask your son to please remove his balls out of her pocket and put them back on and demand some time with his family, too.

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Dog Decisions

Micah,

Hey!  I’ve wanted to write you for a while, and now I have a reason!  I want to get my elderly mother a dog for her birthday in February.  She needs something to keep her company.  I think she’d love a small dog, but my wife says that I can’t very well buy her one and not our son one when he’s been after me to get him a dog for a year.  I don’t want a dog in our house, and I know that my son will not take care of it if I get him one.  He has friends and activities to occupy him.  Mom sits in the house most of the day and needs companionship.  So I guess my questions are as follows:  what breed of dog is best for an elderly woman?  And is it unfair to not let my son have a dog, too?

JP

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Dear JP,

How elderly is your mother?  Can she handle a dog?  Dogs need a LOT of attention and care.  Can she take it out to walk it on a daily basis several times a day?  I just get the feeling that she is not in great health.  You keep calling her elderly and said she rarely leaves the house.  That doesn’t sound like a good dog environment unless she is able to take him outside.  Also, when the time comes and her age fails, you’ll have to take the dog on yourself when she is no longer able to care for it.  Dogs can live up to 18 years sometimes.

If you’re determined to get a dog, poodles are supposed to be a really smart dog, and they don’t shed, so allergies aren’t an issue.  An elderly person often has allergy issues, so you want an allergy-friendly dog.  But, since you’re asking me, I think it’s a mistake to get a dog for your mother unless you know 100% that she can care for it for years to come.  As for your son, go to the pound and do one of those short-term fosterings of a dog–maybe for the holidays.  See how well he handles the responsibility and see if you perhaps actually like having a dog around.  Then if you do, you might could even adopt the very dog you fostered for the weekend.

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