Wednesday, April 22, 2020

ABC Post 8--Ask Aunt Dorcas--Advice Freely Dispensed!

For today's post, I decided to host an advice column called Ask Aunt Dorcas.
Aunt Dorcas and her pet chicken, whom she is trying to resemble.
Dear Aunt Dorcas, 
I have a teen who thinks his world has come to the end because he's been stuck at home for 45 days with two "Boomers." He's got a lot more days to go. Any advice?
--Desperate Donna

Dear Donna--
First of all, I feel sorry for everyone in this situation. Most of us are stuck at home, but I doubt that many have your unfortunate combination of one lonesome teen and two Boomers. Kind of world-ending if you're 14, I would say.

Mom: Oh dear. I can't get into this Zoom call. Henry, can you help me?
Dad: HUH? Did you check your email for an invitation?

Teenager: Really, Mom? [clickclickclick] There you go. I TOLD you twice before, just click on the blue flixiated gizmo and open the refracticated icon! It's not that hard.
Mom, Dad, and Teen: DEEP SIGH.

So, yes. Outdoors is your friend, I would think. Take him to any walking trail that's open. Take him to a friend's house to shoot baskets, 6 feet apart. Work together to clean the gutters.
Make lots of food.

Best wishes,
Aunt Dorcas

Dear Aunt Dorcas,
How can a person live responsibly and compassionately in light of information overload and globalization without losing one's mind and becoming paralyzed? e.g., fairtrade coffee/chocolate, clothing factories in Asia, destroying the Amazon for toilet paper, polluting the ocean with microplastics, using/wasting energy on luxuries, like air conditioning, etc. 

Dear Amy--
That is an excellent question, and most of us who want to be aware and responsible have faced the same paralysis.

I wanted to be a good steward and not wasteful, so I've always donated good used clothing to Goodwill or St. Vinnie's. Good for me. Even better, I found out that the items they can't use get baled and sent to other countries, so people there can have affordable clothing. How virtuous I felt.

Then we went to Kenya and I found out that those bales of castoff clothing have pretty much destroyed the local fabric and clothing industries. Ok, now what?

I've sort of made peace with these dilemmas by knowing that I'll always have to balance many factors in these decisions: my information capacity, our finances, the people I take care of, my values, and the shortage of hours in a given day. People come before things, and God before all.

Empathy without boundaries leads to self-destruction, I read recently, and it resonated deeply in the sense of all the people who need my help, but also in these questions of economics and sustainability.

So I draw boundaries with how much information I take in. I define the goals of loving God, loving people, and living simply. And then I choose my "causes." I haven't worried too much about fair trade tea, but I deliberately choose to buy fewer things, buy things with less packaging, and repurpose to reduce the amount of garbage I generate.

I also find I have to draw boundaries with others. If your best friend is earnestly trying to convince you that your use of air conditioning is destroying Appalachia, it's hard to say, "I don't have the brain space to get excited about this right now."

But honestly, sometimes you have to. There isn't enough of us to go around to every worthy cause.

She can work on reducing electricity use while you buy locally-made clothing.

Best wishes,
Aunt Dorcas

Dear Aunt Dorcas,
If one is uninvited to a wedding because of social distancing concerns, is a wedding gift still necessary?

Dear Susan,
We never dreamt how many dilemmas this social distancing would foist upon us, did we? I decided to call upon the local experts, Matt and Phoebe, who are facing this very situation of a greatly edited wedding guest list.

Matt says: "I’m not sure I’m the best person to ask, since I wouldn’t care much. I’d probably say a card is in order though."

Phoebe says, "I think if the person feels the need to ask, then no. To me, that indicates they are feeling some level of inconvenience or apprehension about the prospect of giving a gift. In my opinion, a gift that cannot be given enthusiastically need not be given.

Certainly the couple would appreciate a gift (as they would have if the person had attended the wedding) but in my opinion a gift is never compulsory. Isn’t that the essence of a gift, after all—freely given? If I were in that situation, I wouldn’t want anyone to feel obligated.

That said, if it doesn’t overburden the giver, I think it would be kind and in good taste to give a gift anyway, especially if the person is close to the couple. The couple is likely feeling very regretful over having to uninvite people to their wedding anyway, and sad that their wedding is not going as planned. Receiving gifts despite those circumstances would mean a lot to some people.

If the uninvited guest feels burdened by the prospect of having to come up with a gift/is short financially, etc. but wants to acknowledge the occasion and show support, perhaps a card would be a good idea."

Aren't they wise? I sure think so.
Aunt Dorcas

Dear Aunt Dorcas,
I have a friend who firmly believes that you have to play with your children a LOT. As in, drop what you are doing and play with them if that’s what they want. If company is over, it does not matter, we go out and play with the children. 

Now, I could learn some from her, because I rarely play with my children. Read, yes. Card or board games, yes. But pretend play? It’s very hard for me.

Somehow I feel this is overrated in today’s world. I have hurts from my upbringing, but I don’t recall ever feeling hurt that my mom didn’t play with me. It never crossed my mind that she should. So am I just being selfish and trying to find an excuse not to give in to something that comes hard for me? Maybe. But surely there ought to be a balance? 
--Concerned Carol

Dear Carol,
Aunt Dorcas is heaving a deep sigh. This is something about which she has Many Strong Opinions. While she tries to be understanding and flexible with how today's young mothers mother (all those funny stretchy wraps and reasoning earnestly with toddlers and never giving them candy) this is a subject that turns her instantly curmudgeonly and old-fashioned.

Yes, parents should be involved with their children, and sometimes this will involve play. Every dad should have a tea party with his daughters about twice a year, if they invite him. Moms should play those unspeakably boring games with their kids maybe--I don't know, once a month? Even if they are sure that Jesus will come back and the entire Tribulation and the Great White Throne Judgment and probably the Millennium too will all pass before this Phase Ten game is over.

Moms also need to go outside every now and then to whack the croquet ball or pitch the softball.

But in general, children should play on their own. When children are in that imaginative play mode, they truly enter whatever world they've created. Maybe they're deep sea divers, as mine used to play, after they figured out that Ben's big boy shorts on their heads made passable diving helmets. Or maybe they're moms in church with their babies. Or whatever they imagine when they're immersed in their Legos.

It's unique to childhood, and adults destroy the magic. No matter how much you both pretend, it's not the same.

Kids need other kids, like siblings, cousins, and friends, to play this kind of immersive play with them. Not moms and dads.

I'm sure your friend is trying, like we all are, to be a good mom. She's making it harder than it needs to be. A mom needs to have her own friends and life, and she ought to let her children shape their own world of play without constantly inserting herself into it. The kids might beg her to come play because they're used to it, but Mom is doing them a favor if she joins them as a special treat, not as an obligation.

Somebody needs to be the adult. Mom will do a better job of this than the kids will. And they can do a much better job at being kids.

That's what I think.

Aunt Dorcas

Send your questions to, message me on facebook, or comment below.


  1. Love your answer to the fourth question. Seems like young parents these days are WAAY too involved in being their kids' friends, rather than parenting. Like you said, somebody needs to be the adult, and mom will do a better job of this than the kids will. Parenting is a noble calling. Embrace it.

  2. Replies
    1. Hi Caitlyn--Thanks for stopping by. I stopped by your blog as well! Good job!

  3. I too, loved your response to the parenting request. Your wisdom in this, Aunt Dorcas, I find refreshing. It's something I've pondered as a mom and observed how different moms relate to differently, and their children's demands accordingly. Involved, yes, but not trying to take on a role we weren't meant to. Thanks for the clarity.
    I also loved the responses for the gift question. Your daughter-in-law to be had a brilliant answer! Thanks Dorcas.

    1. Thank you, Lorraine. I'm glad you found it clarifying.

  4. I love this post! Please, please do more? :)

    1. Maybe I'll do another post when people send me more questions...

  5. Hi Dorcas,
    Your answer to the parenting question kinda struck me because that is the very question i deal with a lot right now. We have an almost 4 year old and a 1 year old. Similar to 'Carol' I don't enjoy playing pretend play but I'm good at reading books etc. But what do you do when your daughter will not play on her own? As in, I can get her started on playing something and 5 min later she's back glued to my side again. Or she'll play but constantly be talking to me throughout, esp if I'm sitting and sewing for example. She has a great imagination and sometimes she will play for a long time by herself. But its not the norm. Is it because she has no sibling she can play with yet? Are we missing something?

    1. I think not having a sibling close to their own age is a big factor for some children. They need conversation and feedback in their play.
      I think children can learn to play on their own, but the truth is I birthed a bunch of introverts, so maybe that's not fair of me to say that.
      It'll be interesting to see how things change as your 1-year-old becomes older and verbal.

  6. Dorcas, I love this post! Especially the questions on over-information and children's play. You touched two tender chords with me there! And your answers resonated with me. Thanks!!!