Dear Amy: Every year, my husband receives a text message from his sister asking what our two children would like for Christmas.
She does not acknowledge our children's birthdays or any other special milestone that would warrant a call, a card, or a gift; but at Christmas she always sends gift cards.
My children and I appreciate the sentiment, but as she doesn’t really know our family or express any interest, I find these gifts as just “something to send.”
I would like to suggest that she not send anything, as there isn’t a connection between us, and her gifts do not have any other meaning than “a gift card from your Auntie.”
Should I just leave it alone and graciously say thank you every year, or should I/my husband approach her to say — don’t bother?
– Reluctant Gift Receiver
Dear Reluctant: Your sister-in-law asks what your children would like for Christmas, and then sends gift cards. Actually answering her question (“Mariah is really into music, and I know she would love a ukulele”), might help to promote some connection between these family members. (If you do answer this question and she still sends gift cards, then that’s a different matter.)
This aunt is doing … something. Granted, her efforts are not enough for you and yes, this is obviously disappointing, but you are quite literally looking this gift horse in the mouth and saying, “Well, nice try, but your measly efforts once a year are just not good enough.”
Do you and the kids remember your sister-in-law’s special days? Do you send along photos of the children when you deliver your gracious annual thank yous?
Your children deserve to have wonderful relationships with all of the adults in their lives, but many families don’t work that way.
My overall point is that there is a valuable gift hidden within this disappointing scenario: Authentic graciousness means figuring out how to feel and express actual gratitude, even toward those people who disappoint you.
Dear Amy: COVID-19 ruined my best friend’s wedding plans, forcing them to postpone their ceremony twice and ultimately limiting it to just immediate family.
However, they decided to have a big “re-wedding.” They invited everyone to attend. Many months ago, the bride asked me to attend as her Maid of Honor.
I accepted at once, excited to share the day, but also assuming that the pandemic would be well over by the time the event rolled around.
I was wrong.
I have a very young child who is too young to be vaccinated, and the travel required to get to the wedding would put me on different planes for hours, plus hours in airports.
A few weeks ago, after watching COVID spike and wane and spike again, I realized that my own risk tolerance was lower than I thought.
With a young, unprotected child at home and no family or friends around to help if I brought COVID home, I called my friend and told her I could not come to the wedding.
I explained my reasons and expressed my profound guilt and sadness and sense of selfishness.
Ever since then, things between us have felt understandably tense.
I don’t want to pester her (the celebration is in a few days), but eventually I do want to get on the phone and somehow clear the air.
I can absolutely understand why they might be upset and hurt.
How can I have a productive conversation here?
– Self-Assured but Guilty
Dear Self-Assured: View any photos (if possible) on social media, and anchor yourself to the realization that you are not at the center of your friend’s wedding celebration.
You’re disappointed. She’s disappointed. As adults and best friends, your relationship should be able to absorb and recover from disappointment.
Call her – don’t text – and if she doesn’t pick up, leave a message: “Your celebration looked so beautiful. I’m so incredibly sorry I couldn’t be there. Call back when you get a chance – I’m dying to hear about it.”
If she expresses her disappointment, listen, and respond with a (non-defensive) apology.
Dear Amy: I am fine addressing someone whatever gender-identification they prefer. What I object to is the use of "they" as a singular pronoun.
If people don't wish to be identified as male or female, a new word needs to be added.
I'd suggest "ye."
– Faithful Reader
Dear Faithful: Several readers have mentioned frustration using “they/them” as a singular pronoun.
“Ye” works for me. It’s got that classic “olde tyme” feel.
©2021 Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.