My husband’s brother died in his 30s, eight years ago, leaving a wife and 5-year-old son. Ever since, my husband visits his nephew, without fail, one night a week for a couple of hours. (The boy is great and doing well.) Meanwhile, we have two kids in elementary school, and my husband never gives them a two-hour stretch of undivided attention. One of our kids has autism, so it’s tricky to connect with him emotionally. But my husband doesn’t seem to try. I’m really hurt that he doesn’t spend more time with his own kids. I don’t want to say anything, though. It may put him on the defensive and make things worse. Thoughts?
There is an undeniable joy in being given something we want without having to ask for it. But your children’s relationship with their father is too important to leave to wishing and injured silence. As his partner in raising these kids, it’s your duty to speak to him about this.
Start by abandoning the notion of a competition between your children and his nephew. I totally get why the weekly visits annoy you. But every parent has a slightly different skill set and sense of duty. Your husband’s may match up more easily with his nephew. So, help him relate to his own children better.
Ask him to join you for regular family play dates. Let him see your tactics in action and maybe pick up some of his own. If he’s reluctant, press the issue! “Honey, these are our kids I’m asking you to spend time with.” He doesn’t sound like a shirker. Let’s hope that a gentle reminder and your good example will put things on track.
Couldn’t You Do That at Home?
My family recently attended the high school graduation of one of our children. My eldest son, who is 20, was in the audience with us. Before the ceremony began, while people were milling around and finding their seats, my son pulled out his deodorant and applied it to both armpits. He’s been doing this for years despite our constant admonition that this is totally weird and gross. But he insists it’s not a big deal, and that no one notices or cares. What more can we do?
In the words of the country music legend Merle Haggard: “Mama tried.” Mama is also right: Your son’s habit is totally weird and gross. Now that he’s 20, though, it’s unlikely that further words of parental discouragement will help him break this pattern. Instead, it may require the astonished and disgusted looks of his friends and lovers.
I took part in an intensive language program in India last summer. A classmate was ill for most of the time. She is allergic to a bunch of key Indian ingredients (potatoes, carrots and celery), and at first, it seemed like an allergic reaction or your regular Delhi belly. But her symptoms didn’t improve. She also had mild fevers and fatigue. Still, even though she had a typhoid vaccine and a typhoid test came back negative, she now claims to have had typhoid. I think she’s doing it for the street cred. (She’s studying epidemiology in the fall.) This really bothers me. I know she was suffering, but I also know she didn’t have typhoid. I want to say something because she is misrepresenting her experience, claiming an unwarranted expertise and perpetuating negative stereotypes about India. What should I do?
Back off! The only thing stranger than your friend claiming to have had typhoid if, in fact, she didn’t is your investment in the case (and apparent jealousy of the perks she may reap from her summer of intestinal distress).
Unless you went to every doctor’s appointment with her and saw every lab report, you don’t know what illness she suffered from. Even if you had, her medical history is none of your business.
For the record: Street cred is not a zero-sum game. An increase in hers does not mean a decrease in yours. Now, put this nonsense aside. And if you really want to improve negative stereotypes about India, you should cut phrases like “Delhi belly” from your vocabulary.
I work at a nonprofit that raises money to promote academic advancement in low-income neighborhoods. Like many nonprofits, we raise money by asking artists for donations of their work to auction at fund-raising events. But if the art isn’t purchased, is it better to return it to the artist, attempt to sell it at future events or trash it? (I’ve been advised not to return it, as it may be hurtful or embarrassing.)
Trashing unsold art is a terrible idea! No one knows better than artists that auctions are notoriously unreliable indicators of value. (Their results just reflect who was bidding that day.) Contact the artists to let them know their work didn’t sell and ask for permission to auction it again at a later date. That doesn’t seem hurtful or embarrassing to me. It seems respectful.
For help with your awkward situation, send a question to [email protected], to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.
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