DEAR ABBY: This is in response to "Where's the Fun in Upstate New York" (July 26), whose husband, "Hugh," insisted they buy their grandson a $100 savings bond for his first birthday when she wanted to splurge on toys and clothes. I understand her frustration.
Couples should decide together what to do, not tell the other what will be done. That said, I agree with Hugh that $100 to $150 on gifts for a 1-year-old is excessive. The child's room will soon look like an overloaded toy store. I have seen this in our extended family. At Christmas it took 2 1/2 hours to open all the gifts. Egads! We've become a nation of excess, and kids expect it.
Years ago, I approached the parents of our godchildren with the offer of savings bonds on holidays, which they gratefully accepted. Two of the "children" are now in college, and we're pleased we lifted a bit of the burden of the cost they'll face. I know it's not a "fun" gift, especially for the little ones, so we always include a token present for "now." I hope that couple can reach a similar agreement and not let this drive a wedge. -- SENSIBLE IN IOWA
DEAR SENSIBLE: The majority of those who wrote to comment on the letter from "Where's the Fun" were -- like you -- as concerned about the state of the woman's marriage as the gift issue. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: It's not like you to miss the warning sign of a controlling spouse. If Hugh is truly "wonderful in every way," then they should agree to disagree on this issue.
She should spend what she wants, within reason, on gifts of her choice for their grandson's birthday. If he feels strongly about the savings bond, which is also a wonderful gift, then they should get that, too. Because they are financially comfortable, and this is the only area of disagreement, surely Hugh can compromise.
I am alarmed that he has already decided what they'll be giving the child for every birthday. Grandparents traditionally engage in a mixture of indulgent and practical gift-giving. She was not looking to buy a wildly over-the-top gift. Hugh needs to relax and be a partner, not a dictator. And by the way, "fun" is not a dirty word. It's Baby's first birthday -- lighten up! -- MELISSA IN NEW YORK
DEAR ABBY: Some spouses suffer from "economic abuse" when one partner dominates financial decisions. I agree that a baby won't be impressed by pricey items, but this woman's gift choices are a form of self-expression. She should be allowed the joy of choosing presents and enjoying her grandbaby, especially since she contributes to household finances, but even if she didn't. Sometimes these gifts become treasured keepsakes passed through generations. -- GIVING MY TWO CENTS' WORTH IN ABILENE
DEAR ABBY: While the adults in my life did give me toys and material things for my birthdays and holidays, I am 26 now and I have little recollection of what they were. What I know now is that because of the generous gifts of savings bonds from those loved ones, my fiance and I were able to make a down payment on a beautiful home without being "house poor." Those bonds allowed us to make a major step forward in our lives and be comfortable and secure.
It means the world that the adults who loved me and are no longer with me are part of this house and my new life, even though they could not be at my wedding. -- SARAH IN HOUSTON
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I decided early on that we'd open a joint bank account and place half of each of our earnings into it. I opened another account in my name only for the other half. That way, if we disagreed on something -- such as a gift -- I could buy it myself. It has worked well.
I do agree that for the child's first birthday, Hugh's idea is best. The child will appreciate it when he's older. -- DEBORAH IN MARIETTA
To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)