Birthday gift quandaries?

Q  My 6 year-old son has been invited to so many birthdays for his school friends, who I don’t really know, and I never am sure what is appropriate to give, especially for the little girls, or how much I should spend. Any tips?

A   Let your son’s interests guide you when choosing a present. If there is something he really likes to do, chances are his classmates have some of the same interests, including the girls, so ask his advice!  If you still are stuck for ideas, then you can’t go wrong with a craft kit or game or learning activity that is age-appropriate. These are the gifts that hold a child’s attention and are fun to have. Other ideas might be dress up clothes or accessories for play acting, or a DVD of a favorite show or movie, or a book of stories. As to what to spend, this varies among communities, but most classmate birthday presents these days are in the $10 to $20 range.

Q  Very often, someone I’ve met before introduces herself to me. This makes me feel as though I am not memorable, and therefore, irritated. Can I say that she should know who I am?

A  Not directly. Good manners call for grace and tact.  Rather than saying, “I know who you are,” or “It’s nice to meet you,” you could say, “It’s nice to see you” or even “It’s nice to see you again,” which (gently) lets the person know you’ve met before. Or, if you want to be specific, you can say, “yes, we met last year at Adrienne’s tea. It’s very nice to see you again.”

Q  I am an independent contractor and often clients do not pay in a timely fashion. What’s an appropriate amount of time to wait to receive payment?  Often, it takes months for me to get a check.

A  The best policy is to make your expectations regarding payment a part of your contract with the person or company that’s hiring you.  Clearly stipulate that payment is due within 30 days of the invoice, and formulate a policy regarding overdue accounts. Make this policy a part of each invoice you submit. Don’t hesitate to call on day 31 to ask about the status of your payment.  If this is a persistent problem, then, with a new client, stipulate that a portion of the payment is due at signing, another part halfway through the job, and the balance upon completion.

Q  There is a parent of a child on my daughter’s softball team who is pretty awful in the things he says about his own daughter’s playing but also about other players. Should I say something to him?

A  No. If this parent is so insensitive, you don’t want to take him on. Instead, call the coach at home and explain the situation and let him or her deal with this obnoxious parent.

Questions for Catherine? Send them to [email protected]

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