Old St. Nick, not Santa, for her kids

DEAR ABBY: I have decided that when I have kids I don't want to do the whole Santa thing. I'd rather tell them about the real St. Nicholas and what it means to give rather than to receive. Even though I'm not religious, I'll tell them about the birth of Jesus (even though he wasn't born in December), and tell them about the winter solstice.

After working years of retail, I have seen firsthand what people can be like around the holidays, especially parents buying expensive, high-demand/low-supply things for their kids, and parents who put themselves in debt to make their kids happy. I am saddened by stories of kids writing to Santa and asking him to get their unemployed parents money for food.

Most people I have spoken with disagree with my decision. They call me a Scrooge or say I'm "taking my kids' innocence away."

Do you think I'm awful for wanting to teach them about charitable St. Nick, instead of commercializing Santa Claus?

- Santa-less in Colorado

DEAR SANTA-LESS: I agree you should talk to your children about the birth of Jesus, as well as the pagan festivals that Christmas replaced, if you wish. While you're at it, also stress to them what the spirit of Christmas is supposed to be - even if its sometimes lost in the commercialism of the holiday.

However, wait until your children ask you about Santa. When they do, tell them the truth. That way, they will learn that when they ask their mother something, they will always be given an honest answer.

DEAR ABBY: When our son got married 10 years ago, we tried to establish a relationship with his wife. We found her to be strong-willed and controlling, and sadly accepted that she was determined to exclude us from their lives. We realized she didn't want to share him with anyone else. After they had two children, we were allowed to see them on their birthdays. As the years passed, we were also allowed some phone calls. But now, since his father died last year, my son agrees with his wife that no further contact with me is necessary.

Do I continue to send gifts and cards to the kids? If the children, now 5 and 7, are no longer allowed to see me, do I change my will?

- Heartbroken grandma

DEAR HEARTBROKEN GRANDMA: What a sad situation. If your grandchildren are not allowed to see you, then you really will no longer have a relationship. Continue trying to maintain contact, however, and perhaps the situation will improve later. You can do with your assets exactly as you please, but don't make any snap decisions now.