DEAR STEEL ADVICE: When I was growing up I learned about Santa Claus not being real at age 6, too young I think. What is the right age to learn the truth?
DEAR TRUTH SEEKER: Six years old is on the young side to learn that the jolly old elf is a spoof. Most kids transition from believing in Santa Claus by the third grade or before they reach double numbers. Some go along with the pretense even when they realize the improbability of the whole preposterous story of Santa flying through the sky and dropping toys down chimneys. They don't want to disappoint the adults by letting on that they are pretty sure the parents bring the presents. When there are younger children in a family an older child has fun helping the parents carry on the fantasy. Even though every situation is different the Santa story is a magic one to believe in for as long as possible.
DEAR STEEL ADVICE: We have a family gift exchange at Christmas. We always are inclusive and set a modest budget. My sister-in-law always buys a gag gift instead of a nice gift. My brother-in-law takes this very seriously and picks a thoughtful gift each year. Of course many years he gets stuck with the gag gift. What should we do?
-- FAMILY GIFT EXCHANGE WOES
DEAR GIFT EXCHANGE WOES: You need to update the exchange rules. Send everyone an email with a refresher on the giving guidelines. You also might add that if you receive a dumb gift, pretend you like it and then try to trade with someone. Gag gifts are fine but they are to be in addition to a regular present. Your brother-in-law may not appreciate your sister-in-law's gag gift humor and she may feel candles, tea towels or fancy soaps are boring. Exchange has a double meaning if someone receives an unwanted gift and no one will trade.
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