Dear Amy: I was raised in a religion that did not celebrate birthdays and most holidays.
In my early 20s I left that religion and do not practice any religion now.
As a kid I did wish I could celebrate Halloween and Christmas, but my family made up for it in other ways. We went on vacations and had plenty of toys and gifts.
My issue now is with the excessiveness I find in holidays and birthdays. When I celebrate these with family, I watch the kids tear through gift after gift, not even looking at each one.
I have 14 nieces and nephews, so it gets very expensive.
Besides Christmas, there is a never-ending cycle of holidays to buy for. It’s exhausting.
It seems like such a waste of money to give people things they don’t even end up liking.
If I had kids of my own, would I feel the same way? I know that part of the issue is that I don’t have childhood memories that make these occasions special.
I can’t stop buying gifts because I’ll seem like a Scrooge, but seriously, our culture is beyond materialistic! Plus, I feel like I never have money for myself after buying for everyone else.
My husband grew up in a family that took part in all of this, so not participating is not an option.
I enjoy celebrating weddings, graduations, baby showers, anniversaries — events that are true milestones.
How can I put all of this in a perspective that does not make me so resentful?
— Spent Aunt
Dear Spent: The events you seem to value as important milestones are all events that adults enjoy celebrating.
The events that you don’t consider worthy on the same level are those that children generally enjoy — also those that your family didn’t celebrate.
I suggest that birthdays are actually milestone events that are very important to children, not necessarily because of the gifts, but because of the recognition.
A birthday is quite literally the celebration of a person’s existence.
Given your background, your ambivalence toward gift-giving is completely understandable, and I agree with you that gift-giving and receiving is out of control in many families.
So — don’t do it!
You could try to be the fun auntie who takes all the kids ice skating the day after Christmas. You could send nieces and nephews a birthday card in the mail with a “coupon” to take a hike or bike ride with you.
Furthermore, if your husband is into gifts and gift-giving and you’re not — let him handle it! This is part of his family’s culture, and if he wants to keep it going, he’ll have to find a way to deal with it.
Dear Amy: My husband and I cannot come to an agreement on childcare when a child is sick.
We both are teachers and can carry over sick days.
My husband thinks we should take turns. This initially makes sense, however, over the course of three pregnancies and births, I used over 100 sick days.
I have been slowly building my sick time back up, with a goal of having six months of sick time saved. I want six months because in the event of a disability, I will have the sick time needed to last me until disability insurance starts.
My husband has close to 300 sick days saved up. I have around 50 days.
I am grateful for the 50 days, but it is not close to six months’ worth.
I still will take time off to take care of our sick children, but I think the majority of the time, it should be my husband.
We both are dedicated teachers and do not like missing school. We also love our children.
We cannot come to an agreement on this issue. Should I cave and plan to take turns?
— Sick of Sick Days
Dear Sick: The way you describe this, it seems most logical that your husband would take the majority of sick care for now, until you two reach a basic equilibrium in terms of your sick days in the bank.
Dear Amy: Thank you for your correct response to “Mama Bear,” whose abusive ex was the subject of a restraining order. Now the ex’s mother was reaching out to the grandchild.
I appreciate that you realize that family members sometimes violate restraining orders purposely by doing an end run around the order.
— Been There
Dear Been There: As I wrote in my response, “Mama Bear” is the gatekeeper.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at email@example.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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