When Dad’s away, the kids will play — but he still has that ‘left-out’ feel­ing

The Washington Post Sunday - - MOVIES - Carolyn Hax

Dear Carolyn: I have the priv­i­lege of be­ing a stay­ath­ome mom to our 6yearold twins. My hus­band works full time and is out of town once a week.

I think we have a good re­la­tion­ship. How­ever, this is a con­stant is­sue: My hus­band would like to be in­cluded in our ac­tiv­i­ties — go­ing to the zoo, minia­ture golf­ing, in­door play­grounds, etc. — and feels that I pur­posely ex­clude him. I have tried to ex­plain that he’s not in town, the event is only of­fered this date/ time, and I’m try­ing to oc­cupy the chil­dren dur­ing their sum­mer va­ca­tion.

He be­lieves I should ask him if he wants to at­tend and sched­ule these ac­tiv­i­ties on the week­end when he can go. He feels I should ask him to join us even if I know he’s go­ing to say he can’t go.

I do want my hus­band to be in­volved in these fun days, but it’s chal­leng­ing enough to en­ter­tain the kids dur­ing the week; to limit these out­ings to just the week­end doesn’t seem re­al­is­tic to me. Am I be­ing in­con­sid­er­ate and dif­fi­cult?


A lit­tle, but it pairs nicely with his be­ing a lit­tle ridicu­lous and a lot out of line.

Ac­cus­ing you of ex­clud­ing him, on pur­pose, when you’re home and he’s out of town? Re­ally?

Of course you can’t save ev­ery ac­tiv­ity for the week­ends. But here’s where you’re choos­ing not to bend: Of course you can in­vite him “even if I know he’s go­ing to say he can’t go.” I think that plea right there ex­plains and re­veals the true na­ture of his dis­tress, and why he sounds un­hinged: He feels he’s miss­ing his kids’ child­hood, it’s eat­ing at him and you’ve given no sign that you un­der­stand how he feels.

So find out whether this is the case by giv­ing him that sign.

Again, it won’t be prac­ti­cal to push ev­ery­thing to the week­end. (In fact, to prove this to him, ar­range for him to be home for a sum­mer week with the kids while you visit friends — stip­u­lat­ing that he save the fun field trips for your re­turn.)

But, you can in­clude him in your plans this way: “I’m think­ing this week I take the kids to the zoo, on a na­ture walk and to an ‘open bounce’ at Ex­haust-aKid. Which one would you like me to save for the week­end?” It is a com­pact bun­dle of in­clu­sion, val­i­da­tion and re­al­ism that leaves you oth­er­wise free to man­age your week­days as the va­cant hours de­mand.

If he re­mains adamant that he’s be­ing wronged, then you no longer have the lux­ury of be­liev­ing this is about mini-golf. Ask him, kindly, what the real is­sue is. If com­pas­sion can’t coax out a truth, then let a skilled cou­ples’ ther­a­pist try.

Dear Carolyn: My prob­lem

seems very petty on the sur­face. I am in my 30s, and my mother still cor­rectsme all the time . . . most of­ten in front of other peo­ple. It both­ers me deeply.

You see, I was raised in a house­hold where you were ex­pected to get ex­cel­lent grades, have ex­cel­lent man­ners and not give in to emo­tional out­bursts, with par­ents who con­stantly chanted the mantra of “do bet­ter than we have done” — 100 PER­CENT OF THE TIME. I can ap­pre­ci­ate that a lot of their guid­ance has been ben­e­fi­cial — on work ethic, treat­ing peo­ple with re­spect but stand­ing up to dis­cour­tesy, and be­ing there to help oth­ers who are not in a good sit­u­a­tion — but it also has in­stilled in me an enor­mous amount of pres­sure to be per­fect. I have had to do an in­cred­i­ble amount of ther­a­peu­tic work to stop my­self from forc­ing this per­fec­tion­ist ex­pec­ta­tion on other peo­ple, in­clud­ing my spouse, while also al­low­ing my­self to fall down once in a while. I amalso an editor (and some­times writer). I self­edit all the time; I don’t need some­one else to pile on.

Some­times I feel like scream­ing at her in frus­tra­tion, “I am an ADULT and I don’t need you cor­rect­ing me all the time like I am­still a child who needs to learn how to speak prop­erly from you. I make choices in word­ing based on who I amand how I feel, not the King’s bloody English!” How can I broach this sub­ject with­out be­rat­ing her or dis­re­spect­ing the way she and my fa­ther par­ented?

C. These ma­ter­nal cor­rec­tions are all bun­dled up in the heavy emo­tions of your up­bring­ing, which is un­der­stand­able. Mom fussed you onto a ther­a­pist’s couch, af­ter all.

But the an­swer here is not to frus­tra­tion-scream your en­tire psy­cho-lin­guis­tic mis­sion state­ment. When you ex­plain your­self, es­pe­cially in public, de­fen­sive­ness gets the last word.

In­stead, pull out your most salient point and shut her down with it, lightly, in the mo­ment: “I’mall grown up, Mother. You can stop rais­ing me now.” Smile. Re­peat as needed, ver­ba­tim. This is her bag­gage on dis­play — don’t throw yours on the pile. Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@wash­post.com. Get her col­umn de­liv­ered to your in­box each morn­ing at http://bit.ly/hax­post.

Join the dis­cus­sion live at noon Fri­days at wash­ing­ton­post.com/ con­ver­sa­tions.


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