Advice Columns

July 10, 2014

Miss Manners: Birthday wishes are gift enough

What is the best response to a birthday non-invitation with a suggestion for a gift?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: In the mail this morning, I received five photographs of a young child aged 2, the daughter of a relative, in various poses, with the following non-invitation:

“It has been a great year and she is growing up so fast. Thank you for all the love and support from all our family and friends. We are not having a party this year and hope to see everyone soon. Renata has been blessed with all of you in her life and really does not need anything. However, if you insist on a gift, can we suggest contributions to Renata’s 529 College Savings Fund?”

What would be the proper response to such an invitation?

GENTLE READER: “Happy birthday, Renata.”

Her parents have invited you not to insist upon paying for her education, and Miss Manners recommends that you take them up on that.

“Best wishes” are best

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I like “Best wishes” or “Best regards” to end business correspondence, but I’ve been toying with alternatives for friends and family.

Here they are: “Live healthy,” “Live free,” “Be safe,” etc.

Am I creating a trend perhaps not respectful of tradition (manners)?

GENTLE READER: When traditions need improving, Miss Manners will let you know.

There is nothing wrong with signing off with assurances of sincerity or good wishes or affectionate sentiments. Admonishing your correspondents to lead safe, healthy lives sounds remarkably like nagging.

Coerced into child care

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I are in our early 50s. We have a friend who is in his 30s and single. Through a relationship that we won’t go into, he now has a 1-year-old daughter who stays with him from time to time.

Every time she comes into town to spend the weekend, she ends up at our house for hours on end. He might drop in and suddenly need to “run an errand if you can watch her for a bit.” Or he sends a text to ask what we are up to. If I say we are hanging around the house, he appears on the doorstep saying he knows we wouldn’t mind keeping her for a while.

We don’t have children, and really, at this point in our lives, are not good with children. We value our friendship but are becoming annoyed with this situation. Whenever I mention that we aren’t “kid people,” he laughs and says he knows his daughter is the exception.

Any way out of this without completely dissolving our friendship?

GENTLE READER: “I’m so sorry, but we just aren’t set up to have a child in the house on her own. We would love to see the two of you together or just you, of course, but I’m sure that your daughter would much rather have her father around — whom she came to see, after all.”

Miss Manners hopes that this will not only get you out of baby-sitting but will also encourage your friend to spend more time with his daughter or at least consider the responsibilities before having another.

Judith Martin writes the Miss Manners column with help from her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

© Universal Uclick 7/11

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