Q I have been astonished at both my children’s birthday parties when several parents brought not only my children’s invited friend, but their other children, too. I had to pay extra for them, didn’t have enough food for them, and just wasn’t prepared. How can I make sure this doesn’t happen next year?
A It’s fine to write, “no siblings, please” on the invitation. It’s their lack of manners to bring children who weren’t invited, not a lack of manners on your part to make this statement. If you don’t want to do this, then be sure to ask for a telephone response and say, “We’d love to include your other children, too, but just can’t, so hopefully you can find a sitter, or feel free to drop Billy off — we have plenty of adult supervision so you don’t need to stay.”
Q In my business I have frequent occasion to write (yes letters) to various tax authorities, not knowing the name of the person who will be reading my letter. In the “old days” an acceptable salutation was a simple “Gentlemen:” Today that’s plainly inadequate, but what should replace it? “To whom it may concern” sounds ponderously silly …. “Gentlepeople” sounds religious.
A You can either address the recipient by title, as in “Dear Tax Assessor:” or “Dear Tax Authority:” or you can open with the now traditional “Dear Sir or Madam:” or, also acceptable, “Dear Sir/Madam:” If your letter is intended for an unknown group, then “Dear Sirs or Mesdames:” is fine.
Q My parents are divorced, and not in a good way. How do we manage holidays and special events when they both invite us to their houses or both want to be there? I don’t want to ruin special moments for my children, because it is awful to be in the same room with the two of them and their nasty bickering.
A You have to make your priority your own family and the creation of your own special moments and traditions. You have to say to each of them that you want special times to be happy for your children, so you have to call a halt to having them both be present because the stress they cause ruins any event. You also shouldn’t be forced to drive from one house to the other on a holiday to avoid choosing one invitation over the other. Think about celebrating a holiday on its “real” date with one parent, and having a second celebration on another day with your other parent. Take turns, annually, so each gets the “real” date every other year. That works for holidays, but not for one-time events like baptisms, bar or bat mitzvahs, athletic events, recitals, graduations and weddings. When these events are planned, ask your parents if they can be civil to one another, for the sake of your children, so that neither one of them misses out. If they can’t, then you’ll have to draw straws to determine which one attends.
Have a question? Email Catherine Michaels in care of arts [at] hersamacorn.com