Dear Amy: My parents spend winters in warmer climates. Their return home will coincide with a family get-together at their house.
In attendance will be my 20-something niece and her boyfriend – whose behavior needs improvement. He’s a nice guy otherwise, but he is evidently unaware of how to carry himself thoughtfully.
At my parent’s 60th wedding anniversary party, for example, he and my niece occupied the only prime space, directly across from my parents – using my parents as a backdrop for their makeout session.
I would have preferred those two seats be occupied by myself and my brothers – so we could be physically close to my parents during this celebration of their marriage. At Christmas at my parent’s house, my niece’s boyfriend occupied/reserved the front of the buffet line while everyone else helped to prepare it. He stood there (literally) wiping his dripping nose with his fingers and then transferring those drippings to the serving utensil he picked up immediately afterward.
I’m afraid if I say anything (praise in public, coach in private) my youngest brother will hear, go ballistic and temporarily avoid family functions, which would devastate my 80-year-old mother.
Can anything be done? Upset Uncle
Dear Uncle: It is the aunt/uncle’s time-honored prerogative to offer gentle suggestions to clueless young-adult nieces/nephews. This is not parenting. This is uncleing.
And so, if the couple is sitting where you believe you and your brother should be sitting, you say, “Hi guys, would you mind moving over two chairs so my brother and I can sit next to our parents?”
In terms of the buffet hoarding (a pet peeve of mine), in our large family we have dealt with this by one or more elders leading a blessing before the serving, acknowledging and publicly thanking the people who prepared the food, and then stating: “Let’s let the older people go through the line first, so they can get themselves situated. Then the rest of us can go through.”
I can’t speak to your younger brother’s choice to go ballistic. You are not offering judgments here – you are merely demonstrating some leadership.