Do I Have to Remind My Adult Child About Family Birthdays?

I have three grown sons, all of whom are married and have children. The wives of two elders meticulously observe every birthday and important family event with cards and gifts. My youngest son didn’t get married until he was over 30. When he was single, he often neglected these occasions. I would remind him of them, especially for his little nieces and nephews, but he was baffled when he acknowledged them. And I often hear my daughter-in-law talk about hurt feelings. Now that he’s married, I was hoping his wife would pick up cards and gifts for the family to unite. She does not. And my other daughters-in-law still let me know all my shortcomings. What more should I do?


Before we tackle yours, let’s get to mine: All we hear about the men in your family is that two of them are married to meticulous gift-givers. , and the youngest (most famous) passed his car to an inefficient person. However, somehow these men – blood related indeed – were not expected at all.

Now, there is no problem here if each couple has agreed to this division of labor. But it seems that sexism is simply expecting the new woman to deal with the problem of family gifts. It might also explain why you hear difficult daughters-in-law about this and not your son. They may resent their burden.

As for what you can do: Save yourself! I know you want family harmony, but you can’t force adults to send gifts. If your son or their wife tells you they’re upset about this, suggest they talk to your youngest son directly. This may motivate him more than hearing back from you. He and his wife may not be “gifted people,” but we all have calendars. (Or they might not care.) Get out.

My roommate and I have been living in the same apartment for three years. We are tight. He recently met a girl he met on Tinder. I never had a good feeling about her. Like she was always looking over his shoulder. Last week, she came in to pick up some items and totally flirted with me: touched my arm and said we should hang out. I know you say we shouldn’t comment on friendships if we don’t know what their deal is. So I don’t tell him, but I’m uncomfortable. Advice?


No no no! My general advice to stay away from other people’s romantic relationships is to never argue over silence in the face of your roommate’s girlfriend who is hitting on you. I suggested you keep quiet if you absolutely don’t like ambiguity, but that option disappeared when she crossed the line with you.

Tell your friends what happened calmly and objectively. It’s still not necessary to share your negative opinion of her or give him advice about a bad relationship. Be supportive, instead. He can get hurt, and your kindness will mean more to him than criticizing her.

A friend is throwing a small party for her 40th birthday in another city. I wasn’t invited, but she told me about it when I asked how she celebrated. A few days before the event, I received an email from my husband inviting me to contribute to a fund (organized by her friends) to buy a piece of art as a birthday present for her. So it looks like I was invited to join the present, but not the party. How should I answer?


I knew this was going to cause an uproar among the tit-for-tat gift crowd, but the birthday couple didn’t do anything wrong here. The only reason you know about your friend’s little destination party is because you asked her about it in person. That does not allow you to receive invitations.

Likewise, your friend’s husband simply forwards an invitation to contribute to a crowdsourced gift (arranged by a friend) on her important birthday anniversary. Skip it if you don’t want to contribute – or subscribe with the idea that you have to get something for giving. But don’t reach for banners like “tacky,” as some readers might. It’s clever. And standing guard against small financial imbalances is difficult in itself.

A co-worker moved in next door, and there wasn’t much distance between our houses. We have worked together for many years, but we are not friends. The family uses bed sheets that have a strong scent, and the smell drives me crazy. I like to bring unscented tablets to use instead. Think?


Wait! Do you smell their dryer in your house? (Never mind.) You can always ask. But if you go to the house next door, make it clear to your neighbors that you’re asking for help. They are under no obligation to cater to your heightened sense of smell.

If you’re content enough and are careful not to convey displeasure, they may agree with you. Also, they may not – in which case you should go home without another word on the subject.

For help with your dilemma, send a question to, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter. Do I Have to Remind My Adult Child About Family Birthdays?

Fry Electronics Team

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