Pas­sive-ag­gres­sive or per­fectly ap­pro­pri­ate?

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - YOUR DAILY BREAK - An­nie Lane

DEAR AN­NIE >> My wife and I are ap­proach­ing our 70th birth­days this year. As we have aged, host­ing com­pany and tak­ing care of vis­it­ing chil­dren and grand­chil­dren has be­come more stress­ful. Both of us have age-re­lated health is­sues. One of our daugh­ters (my step­daugh­ter), “Janet,” vis­its with her 8-year-old daugh­ter and 70-pound dog. The dog eats off the grand­child’s plate while she’s still eat­ing, jumps on fur­ni­ture and is not well­be­haved much of the time. Also, Janet vis­its twice a year and stays any­where from 10 days to two weeks each trip. While she is here she is “on va­ca­tion” and likes to be waited on by her mother. Af­ter her first trip with the dog, I said he should not come back when they visit, but she brings him any­way. We have four other chil­dren with five other grand­chil­dren who visit, and one daugh­ter also brings her dog, but the dog is well-be­haved.

So, re­cently, I de­cided to write a post on so­cial me­dia with some gen­eral rules for vis­it­ing chil­dren. I ex­plained that we loved for them to visit but, be­cause of our ad­vanced age and health is­sues, we needed to es­tab­lish some stan­dard guidelines: “First, please help pick up af­ter your chil­dren.” (My wife has tripped over shoes and toys left on the floor.) “Sec­ond, help out with house­hold chores while vis­it­ing. If you want full maid ser­vice, go to a ho­tel. Third, be­fore bring­ing a pet, check with us first. Well-be­haved an­i­mals are wel­come but it is based on our def­i­ni­tion of ‘well be­haved.”’

Re­sponses from the kids were mixed. Our youngest, who is 33, fully un­der­stood the need for the rules. My daugh­ter laughed about it but un­der­stood. Un­for­tu­nately, Janet and my step­son took great ex­cep­tion to the rules. Janet called her mother cry­ing and squalling say­ing she was never com­ing back to visit un­til I apol­o­gized. I con­veyed to my wife that I was sorry she was tak­ing that at­ti­tude but it is our home and we have ev­ery right to have stan­dard ex­pec­ta­tions of our vis­it­ing fam­ily.

The daugh­ter calls my wife on her cell ev­ery week or so com­plain­ing about me and telling her mother I need to apol­o­gize. This is keep­ing my wife up­set, and I told my wife this daugh­ter is be­ing in­con­sid­er­ate of her feel­ings and is ex­hibit­ing ma­nip­u­la­tive be­hav­ior. Help!

— Step­dad

DEAR STEP­DAD >> Your medium un­der­mined your mes­sage. It’s per­fectly ap­pro­pri­ate for you to ask your fam­ily mem­bers to help with chores, pick up af­ter their chil­dren and clear it with you be­fore bring­ing pets. In fact, it’s a shame that you even have to ask.

That be­ing said, the best way to have that kind of con­ver­sa­tion is in per­son. The sec­ond-best way is a phone call. The thirdbest way is an email. A so­cial me­dia post doesn’t even rank.

Your step­daugh­ter and step­son might have per­ceived the post as pas­siveag­gres­sive and em­bar­rass­ing. I’d en­cour­age you to re­flect on how you could have gone about this in a more di­rect way. If so, con­sider apol­o­giz­ing to them for that as­pect, and let­ting it be the jumpin­goff point for a discussion about mu­tual re­spect.

What­ever hap­pens, it’s im­por­tant that you and your wife har­mo­nize on fam­ily dy­nam­ics. Dis­cuss what your re­la­tion­ships with your chil­dren would look like ide­ally, and make a list to­gether of prac­tices you’ll both put in place to­ward that end.

“Ask Me Any­thing: A Year of Ad­vice From Dear An­nie” is out now! An­nie Lane’s de­but book — fea­tur­ing fa­vorite col­umns on love, friend­ship, fam­ily and eti­quette — is avail­able as a pa­per­back and e-book. Visit http:// www.cre­ator­spub­lish­ing. com for more in­for­ma­tion. Send your ques­tions for An­nie Lane to dear­an­[email protected]­ators.com.

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