The son and daughter-in-law of a dear friend have parties to celebrate every milestone in their two children’s lives. They’ve done this for years, even during Covid (parties held outside.)
They invite the children’s friends, their own friends and those of their parents. If you ask the parents what you can get for the child, the response is always “Money would be best.”
Recently, they held a joint party for one child graduating high school, along with the other child, having a birthday.
Guests were greeted by a large table holding two large boxes, with cut slots in them, one box labeled “Graduate,” the other “Birthday Girl.” There’s always a box in a prominent position. Like everyone else, we’ve been giving money over many years.
But there’s never any acknowledgment of the gift, not even an email saying “Thanks.”
I overheard one guest refer to this as a “cash grab.” Another joked that the kids would be counting money all night.
My husband has never liked this set-up, didn’t realize until recently that there was never any thanks, and now says he won’t attend future parties.
He agrees this is just getting money out of three generations and feels that the parties should be just for the kids’ friends. He also says I should tell my friend that “the box” is in bad taste, so she can speak to her son.
Should I say anything to my friend? My husband can be stubborn and won’t attend the next birthday party (it’s soon). I’m unsure how to explain his absence if I go alone. Or do I just stop going, too?
This scenario IS a cash-grab, in very poor taste, lacking even a simple “thank-you.” The children’s’ friends who are also graduating and having birthdays, shouldn’t be expected to bring money... at the most, small meaningful gifts are usual. Their age groups need to save their allowance or earned money for their own use.
Putting parents’ and grandparents’ friends on the spot for donations, is also disturbingly crass. None of these “guests” have an obligation to pay up. If the children’s close relatives choose to bring gifts or money, that’s their choice.
My question to consider: Do the hosts ever tell friends and family what was paid for by their imposed generosity? Unlikely.
My answer to your letter: If the friendship is very important to you, attend on your own. But don’t bring money. If asked, say that you’d rather give a personal gift.
Tell your husband about your plan, which shows him you acknowledge his view.
FEEDBACK Regarding the letter-writer’s Abusive Husband (July 4):
Reader – “What people (in Canada) often fail to realize is this: While marriages may be “arranged” under a family’s customs, these unions still come under the laws of Canada.
“All the advice given in the specific column response to the letter-writer whose being abused by her husband, is excellent.
“She should seek out a woman’s shelter (online search through a computer available at a public library), and do it immediately. The experienced workers at abused women’s shelters will then advise and handle your situation from there.
“I echo Ellie’s advice: DO NOT TELL ANYONE of your plans and preparations. Not even your son. Let the shelter workers take that lead if/when they believe he’ll not side with his father. There’s just too much to lose.”
My husband and I divorced years ago. We’re both late-60s, still good friends. But he’s become increasingly dependent on alcohol. He drinks all day, just watching TV.
He lives in squalor having not cleaned for years.
I worry about him. I've tried being understanding, also pushing him to get help. Nothing works. I feel guilty about it. Any suggestions of help?
My Alcoholic Ex
I truly admire your kindness and caring, but there’s no reason/place for personal guilt. Staying friends post-divorce meant you each chose your own path, carrying no responsibility for the other’s behaviour.
Sure, you could occasionally send in a cleaner to his place, just to bear making a visit. It won’t change him.
Also, his alcoholism is too entrenched for you to effect change. There are “Stop Drinking” books, Alcoholics’ Anonymous meetings, professional addiction counsellors, if he’s ever ready.
For yourself, attending a few Al-Anon group meetings will provide insight/acceptance that drinking remains his choice.
Tip of the day:
Celebrating children’s birthdays, graduations and other milestones along with invited family/friends is a time-honoured tradition. But there’s no “honour” in setting up guests for a thankless cash-grab.