Set­ting in-law boundaries

Los Angeles Times - - COMICS - Send ques­tions for Amy Dick­in­son to askamy@ amy­dick­in­ or to Tri­bune Con­tent Agency, 16650 West­grove Drive, Suite 175, Ad­di­son, TX 75001.

Dear Amy: I have won­der­ful in-laws. They take care of my daugh­ter and are very gen­er­ous. How­ever, they can be ex­tremely over­bear­ing and tend to med­dle into our lives.

They also push their tra­di­tions and opin­ions on us.

For our daugh­ter’s birth, they got her a pil­low that you dec­o­rate at ev­ery birth­day un­til they are 21.

My hus­band de­spised the pil­low grow­ing up and does not want it to be a tra­di­tion for our fam­ily. On her first birth­day, we “for­got” to bring the pil­low. They were very up­set and would not let it go.

We are in the process of buy­ing a home, and ev­ery home we like or see they go to the open houses, drive around the neigh­bor­hood, and speak to all the neigh­bors.

We feel our pri­vacy is be­ing in­truded upon, and we want to make our own fam­ily tra­di­tions.

How do we tell them to back off with­out hurt­ing any­one’s feel­ings? In­vaded

Dear In­vaded: You and your hus­band must build a vir­tual picket fence around your fam­ily. The fence will have a gate on it. Ev­ery time his par­ents try to climb over a picket, they will get a lit­tle bit hurt. But if they learn how to use the gate, they will al­ways be wel­comed, warmly and with­out reser­va­tion.

You need to train them to al­ways use the gate.

Don’t share any real es­tate trans­ac­tions with any­one. If they ask why you’re be­ing so cir­cum­spect, you should frankly say, “When there is any­thing to re­port, we’ll let you know.” If they ac­tu­ally follow you around when you’re look­ing at houses, you will have to come down harder: “Folks, hon­estly, your in­volve­ment in this makes us un­com­fort­able, and we’d like you to stop.”

In terms of the pil­low tra­di­tion, your in-laws were con­fronted by the fact that a fam­ily tra­di­tion they had main­tained for years was not en­joyed or ap­pre­ci­ated. I can un­der­stand why they were up­set. Ac­knowl­edg­ing this with re­spect and kind­ness (“I know you’re up­set, but ...”) will help them to move on. Per­haps they could move this pil­low tra­di­tion to their house (your hus­band didn’t en­joy it, but your daugh­ter might).

Dear Amy: I am host­ing an af­ter­noon birth­day party for my hus­band in a restau­rant, which in­cludes a buf­fet and DJ (we love to dance).

I am be­ing charged per per­son.

Re­gard­ing whom to in­vite, am I ob­li­gated to in­vite a niece’s live-in boyfriend’s 9year-old daugh­ter (who also lives with them)?

The only chil­dren who will be present are my hus­band’s three grand­chil­dren.

Also, am I ob­li­gated to in­vite each nephew’s longterm girl­friend whom we have seen at fam­ily func­tions for at least three years? Try­ing to Stay Within Bud­get

Dear Try­ing: If this were an “adults only” party, then of course you wouldn’t in­clude a 9-year-old. But it is held dur­ing the day­time, there will be other chil­dren there, and so it would be kind­est to also in­clude this other child.

If your neph­ews have long-term girl­friends who have been in their lives to the ex­tent that they are in­cluded/in­vited to other ex­tended fam­ily func­tions, then yes, they should also be in­cluded.

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