DEAR AMY: My daughter is coming to our house for the holidays, bringing her three small children. The dinner is at my mom and dad's house.
She asked to bring her "boyfriend." They knew each other many years ago and have recently reconnected but have had only e-mail and phone contact.
I said it was fine for her to bring him to dinner, and her grandmother agreed.
Now we find out that she wants him to stay with her as a guest at her grandmother's house for the entire time they're here.
I was very upset when my mother told me this. I phoned my daughter and told her, "No way. We don't know this man, and to us he's a stranger."
I can't get through to her that just talking with a guy on the phone or Internet doesn't let you really get to know him.
I am worried. Am I old-fashioned, or do we have a right to be upset?
— Holiday Helpless
DEAR HELPLESS: Your concern is completely understandable. It's a shame your daughter doesn't share it.
Everyone's focus should be pointed toward the three kids. Their mom has every right to have a romantic relationship, but it is unwise for her to conduct this relationship while involving your parents and her children.
It is also foolish to launch into a new relationship over the holidays, which is a high-stress time for everyone.
If the guy in question wants to travel to see your daughter, he should stay at someone else's house or at a hotel. You or your parents might want to offer to watch the kids in the evenings so your daughter can renew her friendship with him with a measure of privacy.
DEAR AMY: We read in the newspapers about how worried the financial analysts on Wall Street are about whether our shopping will lift the fourth-quarter earnings for the year.
Isn't that a sign that we've lost the true meaning of Christmas?
We are in a recession, and many families are in crisis. Parents all over the country are probably preparing the talks they are going to have to give their children about scaled-back expectations this year.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized some sort of media-fueled, "keeping up with the Joneses" insanity takes over our country at this time of year.
My husband and I were talking about this and realized that it's ridiculous! Aren't most children already spoiled by excess? Shouldn't we all just step back and re-evaluate?
What if a bunch of us were to really shake it up and do something crazy this year, like ... throw a cookie-baking party while watching "It's a Wonderful Life" or playing holiday songs?
What if we don't buy gifts for everyone we know? What if, instead of going out and buying a whole bunch of new decorations, we just use what we already have?
Why don't we just go back to basics and celebrate the true reason for the season?
— The Sensible Elf
DEAR ELF: It's exciting that you and your husband have discovered the true meaning of Christmas, but I would argue that there are plenty of people who never lost it. Despite your assumption that most children are spoiled by excess, according to a census report more than 13 million children live in poverty (and these numbers were collected before the current recession).
Your suggestions are excellent. Possibly the only good thing to come from this economic downturn is the desire many people have to re-evaluate their values and do things differently.
DEAR AMY: One Christmas my uncle John gave his wife a flannel nightgown. His intent was to give her something that would keep her warm.
She was very offended by this gift. She took it as an insult that he would want to see her in something as unfeminine as a flannel nightgown.
Afterward, he looked at me and said, "Never buy a woman anything practical for a gift." To this day, I have heeded his advice.
— Mike in Denver
DEAR MIKE: Reading hundreds of "worst gift" stories has convinced me that women are both easy and very hard to please. Go figure.
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