DEAR ABBY: My daughter, "Bailey," will be 4 soon, and will be having a birthday party. We have been to a few of Bailey's friends' birthday parties, and present-opening turns into chaos. The birthday child doesn't have a chance to really look at the gifts, other children crowd closer and closer to the present-opener to get a better look, and some children cry about the gifts the birthday child has received while their parents promise to buy them a "better one" on their next outing.
I make sure my daughter is well-behaved when it comes to present-opening, but not all parents seem to feel the need to curb this behavior on the part of their children. Would it be acceptable to wait to open Bailey's presents until after the guests have left? -- WANTS TO BE A COURTEOUS HOSTESS
DEAR WANTS TO BE COURTEOUS: Children learn what is acceptable behavior and what is not because their parents take the time to explain to them what is expected, and correct them when they make a mistake. The parents you have described were either too ignorant or too lazy to do their job.
Although some "birthday mommies" provide gift bags or party favors for all the children to unwrap, most people consider the present-opening ritual to be part of the fun of the birthday celebration and expect it.
A better solution would be to hold smaller birthday parties for your daughter so things don't get out of hand. According to the chapter "Table and Party Manners" in "Emily Post's Etiquette": "One guest should be invited for each year of a child's age, plus one."
DEAR ABBY: My daughter-in-law, "Daisy," is a reckless driver who lives in a large metropolitan area surrounded by expressways. She tailgates, weaves in and out of traffic and passes cars at high speeds, often using her cell phone while driving.
Daisy has had several tickets. Despite this and pleas from my son and others to slow down, nothing has changed. I find this odd, because Daisy is otherwise a responsible person -- an executive with a large company, an excellent mother and a loving wife. However, she appears to have a blind spot about the risks she takes when she's behind the wheel. She justifies her speed as necessary in order to keep up with the demands of her schedule.
She would be grief-stricken if she had an accident that involved anyone, especially her infant daughter who is often in the car. Will the only wake-up call come in the form of a serious accident? -- DISTRESSED PAPA IN MAINE
DEAR DISTRESSED PAPA: Probably -- that or a near miss. However, I view your daughter-in-law in a different light than you appear to. A mother who drives aggressively with a child in the car and talking on her cell phone does not strike me as Mother of the Year. Studies have shown that drivers on cell phones are as impaired as those who have been drinking. She's being childish, selfish, foolish and irresponsible and should be ashamed of herself.
DEAR READERS: Today we remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was martyred in the cause of civil rights in 1968. His words ring as true today as when he first uttered them: "Along the way of life, someone must have sense enough, and morality enough, to cut off the chain of hate." He was a voice of reason in a time of insanity, silenced too soon.
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