DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have four children, ages 1, 2,9 and 5, and my mom and older sister are very mad at me cause I don't invite the whole family anymore to my children's birthday parties.
My sister lives about 3 to 3-1/2 hours away. She always invites my kids to her kids' birthday parties. Her parties are about two hours long, and you drive for seven hours back and fourth. Her house is very small, and I am not spending the money for a hotel for the weekend.
My mom says I am wrong. I also don't invite my sister's kids to my children's parties cause I have kid parties. They invite their friends. Again my mom yells at me and tells me I am very wrong!
Am I wrong for letting my kids have their parties? I am sorry but I can't afford to have a family party and a kids' party for all four of my kids. It's not because I want to hurt my family. I just think when the kids get to be school age, they should be able to have their friends instead of a family party. Please help!
GENTLE READER: Anything to stop the yelling, which is no way to ensure family closeness.
Of course your children should have birthday parties with their friends. But equally of course, they should grow up with their cousins, enjoying family occasions together.
Miss Manners' help consists of suggesting that you and your sister alternate having catch-all family birthday celebrations, aside from the individual parties for friends on each child's birthday. This needn't be for every birthday; you could have these seasonally, honoring everyone who had a birthday in that season, or even just twice a year, for the January through June birthdays and the July through December ones. Without being pinned to a specific date or distracted by each child's friends, such gatherings will be much more conducive to the bonding your mother misses.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have often felt put down when I read e-mails that open abruptly with no other greeting than my name. About 95 percent of the business e-mails I receive start this way. I have always been careful to reply with a "Dear," as doing otherwise feels unnatural and rude to me, but am I being archaic? What is the proper etiquette?
GENTLE READER: That e-mails need not resemble letters is upsetting two sets of people: those who are used to paper letters and consider e-mails to be their exact replacement, and those who have never been exposed to paper business letters and think that e-mail letters should be formal correspondence, in contrast to texting.
Miss Manners gathers that you belong to the first group, so you may consider yourself archaic if you wish. There may be instances in which a formal letter is sent by email for its speed, in which case the traditional salutations and closings should be used. But email, with its built-in headings and subject line, is more akin to a memorandum than a letter, and it is not rude use it as such.