Hyp­o­crit­i­cal par­ents risk alien­at­ing their chil­dren

The Washington Post Sunday - - MOVIE DIRECTORY - Carolyn Hax

While I’m away, read­ers give the ad­vice.

On sleep­ing ar­range­ments for un­mar­rieds: While we were still dat­ing, my wife’s par­ents didn’t want us shar­ing a room out of some ran­dom pu­ri­tan­i­cal in­cli­na­tion. It was some­what su­per­fi­cial be­cause they knew we would sleep in each other’s rooms while at col­lege, and we usu­ally stayed up later than ev­ery­one in the house, so it wasn’t keep­ing us from hav­ing sex.

The one last­ing im­pres­sion, though, was that their silly and ar­bi­trary rules made it that much eas­ier for us to cast off their ad­vice on other things as silly and ar­bi­trary.

Over­all, I think th­ese types of ar­bi­trary rules strain re­la­tion­ships.

Treat your chil­dren ageap­pro­pri­ately, and they will prob­a­bly come to you like an adult so you can help them with their real adult prob­lems. If you are wor­ried about the im­pres­sion on younger kids, tell any older chil­dren that you want them to set a good ex­am­ple and pre­fer guests to sleep on the couch, but you un­der­stand they are adults ca­pa­ble of mak­ing adult de­ci­sions. — Anony­mous On find­ing other ways to ex­pe­ri­ence fam­ily: I don’t have kids of my own and don’t want them, but my hus­band and I both re­ally en­joy chil­dren. Ever since our clos­est friends had kids (they’re 8 and 6 now), we’ve been go­ing to their house for a potluck din­ner once ev­ery few weeks so the par­ents can have grown-up com­pany with­out fork­ing out for a babysit­ter, and we can play with the kids. (We still have adult out­ings with them, too, just less of­ten than we used to.)

It turns out that my hus­band is the BEST wres­tle-monster around, and I’m a re­ally good au­di­ence for goofy songs and im­promptu dance recitals.

Last time we were over there, my girl­friend pulled me aside and said: “Susie just asked me if you guys are part of our fam­ily. I told her you are. Be­cause you are.” I glanced at Susie and she was grin­ning from ear to ear and when we left that night, she gave us mas­sive hugs.

If you have kids and you have friends, don’t be afraid to mix them. Not ev­ery­one wants to be a vol­un­teer aunt/un­cle, but a lot of us do. And every­body ben­e­fits.

— Ex­tended Non­Fam­ily On be­ing an over­whelmed parent: Lit­tle ones get more in­de­pen­dent and need less su­per­vi­sion as they get older, but peo­ple don’t re­al­ize that they get busier as they de­velop in­ter­ests and start school. The parent’s an­swer to sur­vival is to learn to say “No”: No, we don’t need an­other pet. No, we will not buy a bigger house with a longer com­mute.

No, I will not bake three dozen cup­cakes for the fundraiser.

No, you can­not do more than one sport per sea­son.

No, we will not drive to visit grandma this week­end; she can come here.

No, we are not mak­ing two dif­fer­ent din­ners; you will eat what is on your plate.

No, I will not host the baby shower.

No, I can­not be the den mother/class­room mom.

No, you can­not have an­other sleep­over tonight. No, I will not coach soc­cer. Your life is only as com­pli­cated as you al­low it to be. — I. On crit­i­cism: I com­plained one day to my mother-in-law about her son. She gen­tly said, “While he is your hus­band by choice, he is my son by birth. I know in­tel­lec­tu­ally he’s not per­fect, but my mother’s heart says he is. You’ll un­der­stand when ‘Billy’ (my son) has a wife.”

I took it to heart, as my dis­gruntle­ment was mo­men­tary but also, more im­por­tantly, not re­spect­ful to my hus­band or my mother-in-law. — Mid­west On pushy grand­mas: When they show up, be proac­tive. Im­me­di­ately hand over the baby — don’t wait to be asked; tell other child/chil­dren, “Go ask your Grandma,” or call her over and say, “Here’s a prob­lem for you to solve.”

Be very “ap­pre­cia­tive” of her in­volve­ments (“Gosh, it’s great to have help”) and keep on bom­bard­ing her with the kids. Tell her again how much you ap­pre­ci­ate the free time she gives you by tak­ing care of the kids. Leave her at the house and go shop­ping, get your hair done, etc.

Worked for me. —A. On dread­ing, then griev­ing, a mother’s death: Take some com­fort in the nat­u­ral or­der of life. I out­lived my first grand­child and it still makes my stom­ach hurt. Your mom wanted you to out­live her.

Sad­ness means you loved and val­ued her. Keep her mem­o­ries alive by talk­ing about her with fam­ily. You still have her!

— Maine Write to Carolyn Hax at tellme@wash­post.com. Get her col­umn de­liv­ered to your in­box each morn­ing at wapo.st/hax­post.

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

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