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Lifestyles of the Hurried and Spoiled.

by Dear Jon
July 22, 2003

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Sort 226_Dear Jon-Lifestyles of the Hurried and Spoiled. ACTUAL LETTER TO DEAR JON:

Dear Jon,

How bad a sin is it to go faster than the speed limit?

In a Hurry

Dear Ina,

Speeding is not a sin. Lying about it is a sin. Complaining to the police-officer that you are being picked on when there are real criminals around is a sin. In other words, if you are going to speed and you get caught, be responsible.

Living your life as if it were one big crisis is a sin. Sometimes we need to hurry. Most of the time we only hurry out of habit, or a previous procrastination puts us in a position of hurrying. I had a breakfast appointment today. I left ten minutes earlier than usual. The result was that I drove calmly, letting stale yellows turn red instead of gunning through, waving in a car from a sidestreet, and generally driving the way we are instructed to in Driver’s Ed.

Instead of speeding and getting upset with everyone else on the road, why not ask yourself why you are in such a hurry in the first place. You might not like the answers, but facing them will do you some good.


Dear Jon,

Do parents have the right to limit the value of gifts given to their children by relatives? Or it is OK for said relative to be more generous than the parents would prefer?

Generous Relative

Dear Gen,

Of course parents have the right to be mean and boring. Parents would not be behaving responsibly if their kids did not find them to be mean and boring several times a week. “Mean” and “boring” are kid-talk for “boundaries.” Kids thrive on boundaries.

Grandparents thrive on spoiling grandkids, and aunts and uncles are great for bringing an element of sedition into the parent-child relationship. As an uncle I do not find it my obligation to be either “mean” or “boring” when I am with my several nieces and nephews. It is my role to sneak them candy with a wink of secrecy, teach them the lyrics of Led Zeppelin with arm-pit fart percussion, and be a general annoyance to my sisters. I write this in anticipation of a family reunion this summer.

However, I write from the framework of the working class. We are folks that do not have the money to indulge every whim in a child’s fancy. You might be writing from a suburban framework, where, the minute you turn your back, Grandpa is presenting your eight year-old with the latest computer gaming system.

Here are some boundaries. At Christmas and on birthdays, the most expensive presents should be bought by the parents unless a previous arrangement has already been agreed due to extenuating circumstances, such as, parents are in graduate school. For other visits, presents should be limited in value so as not to exceed the weekly allowance of the child. Rather than bringing toys with every visit, it would be better to do other cool things instead, such as, buy dinner for the family, or take the kids to a movie of their choosing (within parental boundaries) while the parents get some alone-time.

Grandparents that do not respect whatever boundaries are being set by the parents, are being malicious and subverting parental authority. This is adolescent behavior and it is immature. On the other hand, if parents have not communicated their boundaries to grandparents, then they have lost the right to veto the generosity in that instance. New bike? Deal with it. Do NOT veto the gift, and especially not in front of the kids.

I have heard about knock-down fights between parents and grandparents simply because Grandma wants to take Billy and Anne on a Disney Cruise, whereas Mom was scheduling those two weeks to just have some “family time together, ALONE.” But the cruise has already been booked, dear, Surprise!

I can imagine what a terrible problem this must be for you, and I feel your pain. If you would like to send some of your discretionary dollars to help the children of boring parents to go on Disney cruises with Grandma, you can send your checks c/o Dear Jon, The Partial Observer, Advantaged Youth of Boring Parents Fund.

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