Dear Amy: My ex-husband, "T," and I have a 12-year-old son, "James."
One reason we got divorced is because T would not contribute financially. He feels entitled and expects others to take care of him and/or bail him out. I pay him child support.
On Christmas Eve, T takes James to visit his side of the family, where they give James presents. It's supposed to be an exchange, but T doesn't bring anything for James to give to his cousins. James just collects gifts.
When we were married, I bought the gifts for the cousins, but now that we're divorced, T brings James, always empty-handed.
He doesn't even take a bottle of wine for the host. I feel this sends a message of entitlement and inconsideration to James, which is how T operates in the world.
James is a sensitive kid and might soon realize the imbalance in the gift-giving. He only sees his cousins once a year, so there is no other opportunity to show generosity to them.
How should I handle this? Should I buy presents for James to take to his cousins? I don't want them to think the presents are from T, who would be fine taking the credit.
Should James use his allowance to buy his cousins gifts? I want to show him that taking without giving is not a moral value. — James' Mom
Dear Mom: You should ask your son, "When you see your cousins this year, wouldn't you like to bring some gifts for them?"
Ask him to sit down with you, make a list, note the ages, and brainstorm about affordable gifts these cousins might like.
Yes, I do believe that "James" should at least help to pay for these gifts. He will feel better if he does. (Some of my most memorable gifts from young relatives have come from the Dollar Store.) James might even find something (a dish towel, or a mug) for the hosts.
You seem to understand and care about what it does to a person's self-esteem when they receive — but never give. Your ex obviously doesn't understand this, and doesn't care.
Helping your son to understand and adopt YOUR values is your job.
Don't worry about whether "T" will take credit for this. Your son is old enough to distinguish between the parent who cares about others, and the parent who only cares about himself. Your work behind the scenes will be your quiet good deed this Christmas.
Dear Amy: I am early in my recovery from alcohol addiction. Like a lot of alcoholics, I'm worried about how to handle the holidays. It has been many years since I have faced the partying and celebrations without a drink in my hand.
I'm pretty nervous about this. Should I just not attend this year? — Recovering
Dear Recovering: Yes, the holiday season seems to offer all sorts of triggers and challenges for alcoholics, addicts, disordered eaters, and survivors of dysfunction.
Self-care during this stressful time is vital. In fact, your main overindulgence during this season should be toward taking care of yourself.
Avoid parties if you don't feel equipped to handle the temptation.
If you do attend, have a sober-supportive friend bring a non-alcoholic drink to you (if you don't want to go to the bar). You might want to bring your own seltzer and cranberry juice, so you can always have a full glass.
Have a list of support meetings on hand. Plan an exit strategy from a party, and if you feel stressed, leave quietly and attend a meeting, go for a walk or to the gym, of head straight to your happy and safe place.
Remember that the season itself is made up of single days, each of which you will get through — one at a time — by working your program.
Dear Amy: Recently you wrote an item in your column (responding to "Finger Lakes Fan") defending your use of the word "they" to denote a singular person without referring to the person's gender.
This is ridiculous and confusing to your readers. You should either refer to a specific gender, or you should write "he/she" if you aren't sure. — Fed Up
Dear Fed Up: I'm not asking readers about which words to use when referring to a person whose gender isn't known or designated.
I'm saying which word I use ("they"), so readers can adjust.
By the way, Merriam-Webster has just declared "they" to be their "word of the year." It's time to get used to it.
You can contact Amy Dickinson via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Readers may send postal mail to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or “like” her on Facebook.