The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Life - You can con­tact Amy Dick­in­son via email: [email protected]­dick­in­

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.

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