Show fam­ily what hav­ing a home truly means

Austin American-Statesman - - AUSTIN360 DAILY - Carolyn Hax Tell Me About It is writ­ten by Carolyn Hax ofthe Washington Post. Her col­umn ap­pears on Tues­day, Thurs­day and Satur­day. Email her at tellme@wash­post.com. CHRISTO­PHER LOVE­LESS

Dear Carolyn: My fam­ily con­sists of 20-plus peo­ple. Ev­ery Thanks­giv­ing we gather at my sis­ter’s house and Christ­mas at mine.

Our niece, who is di­vorced, has three chil­dren, but two are adults so they only show up later to snack and I guess visit us. Her youngest is un­der 10 so she brings him, and if she has a boyfriend at the time, she asks if it’s OK to bring him.

I am get­ting tired of meet­ing th­ese guys only to find out she is no longer with them and/or they have hurt her. How do I gen­tly tell her I no longer want to meet or have th­ese short-term boyfriends in my house? Any gen­tle ad­vice is ap­pre­ci­ated. — Anony­mous Dear Anony­mous: Can it be gen­tle if it de­nies you the thing you want?

This short let­ter hints at chaos in your niece’s per­sonal life; if noth­ing else, there’s some swirling mix of poor choices, poor treat­ment and sketchy pri­or­i­ties when it comes to men. Plus a kid who’s still very young.

And while I sym­pa­thize fully with the im­pulse to in­su­late your­self from this pain (her emo­tional pain, your pain in the butt), I’m not really wor­ried about you.

My worry stands with the son who has no say in what for him is the daily pres­ence of an ul­ti­mately tran­sient fig­ure who even­tu­ally dumps on his mom.

I also feel for the niece, though she at least has the power to help her­self. Here’s hop­ing she wakes up and uses it.

In th­ese sit­u­a­tions, one of the strong­est forces of love and sta­bil­ity — as in, the soil in which healthy choices take root — is an ex­tended fam­ily that acts as a safe place, a pa­tient ex­am­ple, a steady source of com­pas­sion where put-downs too of­ten pre­side. No mat­ter how you phrase it, nix­ing the boyfriends will come out as a re­quest that she keep her trash out of your house, and that’s not build­ing her up.

For the sake of her emo­tional health and her son’s, show them what good treat­ment feels like and what the word “home” rep­re­sents. You can’t make them get that mes­sage, much less ap­ply it, of course — but you can set it down be­fore them ev­ery chance you get.

Molly Kar­rasch, Ja­son New­man, Joey Banks in Austin Play­house’s pro­duc­tion of Ken Lud­wig’s far­ci­cal “The Game’s Afoot.”

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