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by Abigail Van Buren

Mom Rations the Many Gifts Her Young Daughters Receive

DEAR ABBY: My sister "Tricia's" daughters, ages 5 and 7, are my only nieces. A few weeks ago, I sent the 7-year-old a gift for her birthday. When I didn't get a response, I called my sister to ask if it had arrived. Tricia said, "Oh, yeah, we got it. We've been busy and so we didn't open it. We'll get to it someday." I felt terrible knowing my niece didn't get the gift on her birthday and didn't know I had remembered her.

I have since learned that my nieces weren't given the gifts I sent last Christmas, either, which explains why I didn't receive thank-you notes. Tricia told me her girls get lots of presents so she limits when they can have them. She gives them as rewards or saves them for rainy days.

The younger daughter's birthday is coming up, and now I'm wondering what to do. I don't want to spend the time or money picking out something she may never see. Should I just send a card? Or call to wish her a happy birthday?

My sister is generous with my kids. They open the gifts right away and send thank-you notes. How do I reciprocate? -- HURT IN SAN FRANCISCO

DEAR HURT: By intercepting your gifts and presenting them as "rewards" or "saving them for a rainy day," your sister is defeating their purpose and may be taking the credit that should be going to you. Your nieces should absolutely know that you think of them on their birthdays and other holidays.

By all means call them and send cards. And start contributing to a college fund for them. Although they may not appreciate right now what a thoughtful gift you are giving them, I guarantee they will in the future.