On high school relationships that carry over to college: In the last millennium, my steady and I went to different colleges. At the time, someone told me that going steady with someone at a different school was like going into a restaurant and bringing your own sandwich.
On phasing out monetary gifts for relatives who reach adulthood: Please consider sending a card or note even with no gift. Like many, my grandparents sent me birthday cards with a small amount of cash when I was growing up. Very sadly, they all passed away during my high school and college years. Fast-forward to marrying my husband in my mid-20s, when his grandmother included me in her list of grandchildren to whom she sends birthday cards (with small amount of cash “just for fun”). Over a decade later I still get a birthday card from her with a little something just for me. Do I need the cash? No. Do I expect it? No. But it makes me feel like a kid again to get a birthday card from Grandma. Just the card itself reminds me of all the loving grandparents I had in my life, and to pick up the phone and call this lovely woman who is in my life now. Your correspondence alone could really mean a lot to these young adults in your life.
Never miss a local story.
Wanting to still be a presence in our thoughts, but with limited resources in her retirement and no idea of what to give us, my aunt started giving money to charity in our names, a result that we would be informed about with a card. She always seemed to find a way to make the gift specific and meaningful. Among her most memorable gifts were those that indicated that a goat, pig, several rabbits, or half a cow had been given in our name to some needy farmer in Africa. Such choices always elicited a smile, a chance to tell a funny story when asked what we’d been given for a holiday gift, a very warm feeling for her, and a lesson in how even a small gift can make an important difference for those in far more need than we were.
I recently did this and had similar concerns about how to be fair. I wrote all three kids a note that said, “My aunts and uncles stopped my birthday checks when I was 18, and I realized recently that Eldest Niece is 25 this year and it’s maybe time to phase this out. To make it fair to all, I am enclosing a check for Eldest Niece for one birthday; a check for 2-Years-Younger-Niece for three birthdays; and a check for 3-Years-Younger-Niece for four birthdays. This way you all end up with the same number of gifts but I’m not sending gifts to just some of you in coming years.”
The eldest understood and the younger ones appreciated my (slightly pedantic?) fairness.
Doing the Same for Christmas!
Email Carolyn at email@example.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.