Dear Annie: My 13-year-old daughter has been invited to her classmate's birthday party. The mom of the birthday girl plans to drop off the girls at the mall — six of them — for four hours, during which they'll wander around with money, cellphones, credit cards and a plan to get food at some point.
I am not comfortable with this. I called the mom and asked why she isn't going with them. Her daughter doesn't want her there. I suggested the two of us go with the girls and perhaps even let them go off on their own for short periods and meet up with them a few times. But no. She wants her daughter to feel "independent" and to give her her "space."
Besides the safety issue, I don't like the idea of just going to the mall to hang out. Not much good comes from that. My daughter always comes home wanting a bunch of stuff she doesn't need. When she buys clothes or junk impulsively, it always ends up in the trash or on the charity pile a few months later. We're on a tight budget, and this is not in it. I don't mind getting her friend a birthday gift, but that's different.
If it were anyone else, we'd just skip it. But this is her closest friend, so it would be devastating for both of them if she didn't go. But I really don't want her to go under these circumstances. — Between a Rock and a Hard Place in Ohio
Dear Between: Personally, I think your suggestion to the mom was a bright idea. That being said, it's her daughter's birthday, and they can do what they want. Likewise, you can make choices about what's right for your own family. If this mall idea is absolutely unacceptable to you, you are entitled to put your foot down and explain that different families have different rules.
But if you'd like to make an exception and let your daughter attend, lay down some ground rules to help her be safe and responsible. 1) She can only spend her own money — and not too much of it. Set a limit you feel is fair, such as $30-50. 2) Cash only. No credit cards. 3) Have her call to check in with you halfway through the night, perhaps while they're eating dinner.
There will come a time when she's always out shopping without her mom, so this could be the perfect opportunity to get her practicing good habits.
Dear Annie: I read your column about the bride who invited a co-worker to her wedding who asked whether she could bring her boyfriend. No wedding gift was received, and the bride asked what to do.
This happened to me, too, when I invited a co-worker to my wedding, along with her husband. We received gifts and cards from everyone but her. I always say that a card is more than enough and was saddened by this lack of etiquette.
So I asked a friend of mine whether he could mention it to her. She had left the company, and I had no contact with her. I didn't want to exclude her when I was sending my thank-you notes. I thought that perhaps she had given us a card and we'd misplaced it. Her answer was that she had found the gift under her car seat and would mail it to me. I never received the gift or a card.
I realized that some people are just inconsiderate. We had a wonderful wedding, and I refused to let anyone ruin even a minute of it. I realized that she was not really a friend at all, and her total lack of etiquette was how I choose to view her. — Disappointed Bride in California
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