DEAR AMY: This year, my older (childless) sister hosted a family gathering on New Year's Eve.
Among the group were five children, ages 6 to 9. "Betsy" is fond of our kids, and our kids have visited her many times. They really are good kids, and they know not to roughhouse, especially at Aunt Betsy's. But, long story short, we adults weren't paying attention, heard a crash, and ran to see the Christmas tree smashed on the floor of the front room.
Betsy went white, went into the room, closed the door, and started to salvage what she could, I guess. The rest of us finished the washing-up and left. Betsy has been collecting ornaments from her travels around the world for years, and has (or had) several that had belonged to our mother and grandmother. She could tell a story about every single thing on her tree. Her collection is irreplaceable.
My brother, cousin and I have been trying to apologize, but our calls to her have gone to voice mail. What can we do to begin to fix this? — Wrecking Crew's Mom
DEAR MOM: If you had raced into the room to help your sister after your children destroyed her tree — it would have given you a chance to be helpful, apologize and assess the loss. Expressing your sincere horror in person is preferable to grabbing your children and slinking out into the night.
You need to write to her. So do your children. You should say, "I'm so sorry about this. Although the children created the damage, we should have been watching them more closely." Tell her you are horrified at the loss of these beautiful and irreplaceable ornaments and say, "I hope you will let us try to help rebuild your beautiful collection."
You should ask your children to choose an ornament from your own collection to send to her. Even if the ornament is clunky, silly or a kindergarten creation, the children need to understand that there are consequences to catastrophes, even if the catastrophe is accidental.
DEAR AMY: I am a sophomore in high school. Last semester was terribly stressful. I have many amazing friends who care about schoolwork and grades. We often study together at lunch. However, chemistry was really a struggle.
My father does not accept grades below a solid B. I ended up with a B in the class, but I did not do well on the final. I understand that I should have done more to save my grades during the semester, such as go to tutoring.
Every day when I come home from school he screams at me for my grades. This semester, I will try harder to get good grades and concentrate, especially on chemistry. I don't know how to fix this problem, because I get super anxious and start having trouble breathing. One time I started crying in class.
Any advice on how to be more independent about my grades? I want my dad to care about how I do in school, but I don't want a bad relationship with him. — Trying
DEAR TRYING: I'm sorry your father is putting so much pressure on you. This is very challenging for you — and most importantly it doesn't seem to work in terms of raising your grade.
You should meet with your teacher to come up with a plan for tutoring and study that could help you learn the material and maximize your performance.
If your father is really screaming at you every day, then this is verbally abusive. Your school counselor might be able to mediate a solution between you so he will ease up in order for you to concentrate. Otherwise please remember that one motivation for doing well in school is to get into a good college — and escape the daily wrath of dad.
DEAR AMY: We are grandparents and agree with your advice to the couple, "Drowning in Baby Supplies." We think that investing in our grandchildren's future is priority No. 1. We give our personal time, unconditional love, small gifts at birthdays and Christmas, and contributions that help to fund their 529 educational accounts. — Seattle Grandparents
DEAR GRANDPARENTS: Excellent!
(You can contact Amy Dickinson via email: askamytribune.com. You can also follow her on Twitter askingamy or "like" her on Facebook. Amy Dickinson's memoir, "The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them" (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.)