DEAR ABBY: All children are beautiful to their parents. My three children are of mixed race and get a lot of attention because of it. The boys are aloof about random compliments they receive from strangers. However, I'm worried about the pressure it may put on my daughter to be "pretty."
I care more about my daughter's character than her looks, but I'm concerned that if I say that to these people, it will come off as rude. Also, I don't want her to think I don't think she's pretty. How can I respond in a way that isn't rude to well-intentioned strangers, but at the same time allows me to make a statement about the importance of character over beauty?
- Mom of Beauties
DEAR MOM: When someone exclaims that your child is beautiful, accept the compliment and say something like this: "Yes, my child IS beautiful, but more important, she is beautiful on the inside." It will reinforce the message to your daughter that character is equally, if not more important, than physical beauty.
DEAR ABBY: Isn't the rule of etiquette that when a gift is given, it belongs to the recipient? My mother sends gifts to our infant daughter. She is the first grandbaby, and my mother is a doting grandparent. My question is what should happen when my child outgrows the items - clothing, shoes, toys, etc. My mother expects me to put them all in a storage bin and return them to her.
There have been times when I have packed up things to give to friends who have younger daughters than ours, or taken them to a resale shop. My mother then becomes upset that I'm not returning the items to her. She is saving them for my sister, who isn't even pregnant yet.
While I have no issue with saving some things for a potential niece, my friends need these things now, and I feel strange essentially being obligated to return them. Is my mom out of line? It's off-putting to receive a gift that comes with a return clause. - Confused in Central Texas
DEAR CONFUSED: It appears your mother is not only a doting grandma, but also someone who is determined to get a double bang for her buck. Once given, a gift does belong to the recipient. Otherwise, it's not a gift but a loan.
And, yes, however well-intentioned your mother may be, she is out of line to demand that everything she has given be returned to her. (I mean, what will she do if your sister has only boys?)
DEAR ABBY: When I'm dining out, sometimes the flatware is wrapped and banded in a large paper napkin. Do I use this napkin for cleaning myself, or do I ask for more napkins?
- Unsure in Connecticut
DEAR UNSURE: Place the napkin in your lap, and if you would like to have more, do not hesitate to ask your server. It is not a breach of etiquette to do so.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.