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: 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 at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Twitter @askingamy or "like" her on Facebook.