DEAR STEEL ADVICE: Grandparents are the best things in the world. They spoil their grandchildren rotten and they love them unconditionally. But when is too much too much? I don't want to end up being the parent who cannot afford the fun things for my children, but their grandmother gives them everything. How do I politely ask for them to cut back on the extravagant presents and toys? Please help.
-- ENVIOUS DAUGHTER
DEAR ENVIOUS DAUGHTER: It is a mistake to relinquish control of your child's environment. Don't let Grandma fly by the seat of her pants in the toy store. Give her suggestions for a wish list that you approve and ask her to stick to the list. Be specific so she understands what toys and gifts you want your child to have. Share a favorite catalog and circle items that you feel are appropriate. Excess playthings can stay at Grandma's house or can be donated to those who have less.
Having too many toys is overwhelming to a young child. Your role as the parent is to put the lid on what you feel is too much. The bond between grandparents and grandchildren is priceless and is cemented with times shared not with constant buying.
DEAR STEEL ADVICE: What is the best way to maintain a friendship when the spouses or significant others do not get along or just don't have anything in common and do not want to go? It is hard to keep coming up with excuses. Should I just be honest and know feelings will be hurt?
-- MY PARTNER DOESN'T WANT TO GO
DEAR FRIEND: Stop pretending your partner has a headache or has to work overtime. These lame excuses are transparent. Your friend may be the cheerleader in his or her camp and may also be dragging a reluctant partner to the foursome events.
Don't put your mate down when you decline the next invitation. Your sweetie may be a loner, shy or just plain doesn't like the other people. Plan an activity with your friend that does not involve your mate.
You are in troubled waters, however, if your mate has underlying control issues and complains if you plan solo events with your friends. Respect yourself and your own social needs before you wake up in isolation and wonder how you were weaned from enjoying companionship with others.
Need some Steel Advice? Email questions to: email@example.com or write to Mary Ann Wellener, Steel Advice Column, c/o Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Follow Mary Ann on Twitter at @PGSteelAdvice.