The Age of Fear: Carolyn Hax Live (Friday, November 8)

Nov 08, 2013

In her daily column in The Washington Post Style section, Carolyn Hax offers readers advice based on the experiences of someone who's been there. Hax is an ex-repatriated New Englander with a liberal arts degree and a lot of opinions and that's about it, really, when you get right down to it. Oh, and the shoes. A lot of shoes.

Carolyn was online taking your questions and comments about her current advice column and any other questions you might have about the strange train we call life. Her answers may appear online or in an upcoming column.

E-mail Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com.

Got more to say? Check out Carolyn's forum, home of the Hax-Philes and Hax fans. Comments submitted to the chat may be used in the discussion group.

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Hi everybody. A few of you pointed out that by penciling in the hootenanny for Dec. 6, I was squandering a chance to hold it on Friday the 13th. We can't have that, so, Hoot is Dec. 13. 

Hi Carolyn, You've said before (and in Monday's column) that the way people treat their dogs is a good indicator of the way they will treat their future children. What do you think about the practice of getting a dog as a "test run" for having children? Some family members of mine got a dog who is of a breed that sometimes has medical issues. It seems that their particular pooch drew the short straw, and my relatives have put a lot of time and money toward maintaining his health. Now that they have a child, their patience and budget are wearing thin. Pooch is a good dog, but has become increasingly needy as attention has been redirected to Kiddo, and is showing signs of separation anxiety. I don't have a dog, so I wonder, is it common for the dog to end up on the back burner so to speak after the children arrive? Do most dogs react this way? Is the dog-as-test-child practice unwise? What can one do to avoid a situation where the dog suffers when the kids arrive?

Bunch of questions here, so I'll start with the easy one: If you're planning to have kids, and if you're not an experienced, I-always-have-dogs-because-that's-how-I-am person, then I think getting a dog as a trial child is a terrible idea, for the reason you describe here. You didn't ask this, but I also think it's a good idea to shop carefully for a dog with health and other needs in mind. Some dogs that are popular or particularly cute can be terrible choices for inexperienced dog-handlers, for people on a budget, for people who plan to have babies in the near future, etc. Getting a working dog, for example, and expecting it to act like a pet can be a terrible combination. 

(more)

 

As for what to do when you're already in this situation, it's going to come out snotty but I don't mean it this way: People can avoid a lot of these problems by just paying attention to the dog. Yes, the baby will mean there isn't as much time, but people so often make room for follow-up children or other responsibilities, so the pet deserves no less. Being the caretaker of a living thing means you sign up for a minimum amount of decent care for the life of the creature.

That means enough daily walks, whether you have to go leash-and-stroller as you walk everyone at once, or hiring a dog-walker, or cooperating with another family or families to get all the pets some exercise (dogs love company anyway) at a local dog park. If the dog is not satisfied with a reasonable minimum for its age and breed, then it probably needs better obedience training. A dog will accept a demotion if handled properly. If you can't come up with the minimum, or if the dog has needs or a temperament that demand more than the owners can give, then the humane thing might be a new home for the dog. Not a shelter dump, mind you, not unless that's an absolute last resort (e.g., risk of harm to the child); I mean a dedicated search for a new home.

Again--far better for people deciding whether to get a dog to think it through completely, everything from suitability of the breed (including mutts, which often have diminant breed and the traits that go with that); size; exercise and grooming needs; temperament; skill of the owners, etc. If anyone asked me, I'd advise children first, and then adding a pet once the home scene is stable and there's energy left for more, with a caveat not to choose a pet on looks alone. 

Some of the best parents I know would rather walk on broken glass then have a dog......not very culturally sensitive in that note...

[forehead to keyboard.] 

I didn't say that only good dog parents make good people parents. I simply said that the way one treats a dog can be a good indicator of how one handles a child. 

 

Someone I'm very close to recently told me, "You know, you talk about [Topic] way too much. It's getting really boring." [Topic] is something that's very significant to me right now, and while I guess I knew I was talking about it a lot (to this person and others), it still really hurt me to hear that I'm boring others with it. Now I'm self-conscious about ever mentioning [Topic], which is a lonely feeling. What do you think I should do to keep from hurting friendships by being overly focused on this one thing?

Your very-close someone gets points off for tactlessness, but that doesn't mean s/he didn't do you a favor. Painful as it is, it's good that you know you've maxed out at least one person's listening capacity with this. Better that than alienating others as you unwittingly remain preoccupied by Topic. 

Here's what it does mean:

1. It's time to hire someone to listen to you. Whether Topic is a career issue or health issue or relationship issue, there's someone out there with the expertise to help you. If you can't afford that, then dig a little more. While the response to expensive/scarce professional guidance is inadequate to the need, there are people trying to improve access, be it through sliding scale fees or group care or affiliation with a larger entity that can absorb some of the costs. Start looking for your safe place to unload. And, for practical solutions to the Topic problem: Talking about it beyond even one listener's limits likely means it's time to find a way to stop talking and start moving forward.

2. You don't need to banish Topic from all of your conversations with loved ones. But, you do need to be mindful of your people's limits, and, ideally, open about them: "I realize I've beaten Topic to death, but I have something I'd like to bounce off you. May I impose on you for 15 minutes?" And stick to the time limit you promised, unless the other person is plainly okay with running long.

3. You do have to avoid Topic around the one who spoke up. No point in looking for loopholes there.

Good luck finding your way to the other side, where Topic barely crosses your mind.

 

While I don't think babies and dogs are the same at all (my dog doesn't need diapers, clothes beyond a sweater, or a babysitter), there can be a lot of good lessons in raising a dog before you have kids. When we adopted our dog, my boyfriend and I learned very quickly where we fall out vis-a-vis our roles-- he's the play parent, I'm the comfort parent-- and we discovered that we communicate very well when it comes to our dog's care. I also know what annoys me (e.g., when he tells me I'm letting the dog walk too far in front of me) and what makes each of us nervous (dog parks, at the beginning) and how to work through it. I knew I wanted to have kids with my boyfriend before we got the dog, but now I feel better about it, like I have a better idea of what I'm facing, good and bad. It helps if the two dog parents are on the same page from the beginning and are open about their expectations... which is the root of every decision a couple makes, isn't it?

Well argued, thanks. 

I would only add the obvious-but-maybe-not-really-when-you're-the-one-involved: No doubt a lot of people don't have your experience, and don't become good working partners through the dog experience--yet go ahead with the kids anyway. In a way, sharing the pet can become part of the stay-together inertia between two people who aren't a good fit. 

So, maybe I can revise my answer to, sure, have the dog as a practice child, but only when you're ready to learn as much from a bad outcome as you are from a good one. (Which applies even if you don't get a dog, actually.)

I had assumed the topic was not a problem, but something LW had gotten passionate about. Save the whatever, history of something. In my mind, it was the equivalent of being a parent with a new kid--you have a new hobby that takes up a LOT of your brain space, but not everyone shares it, and they have a loving but finite tolerance for it. So you try to stay within that tolerance--even if you have to artificially cap your enthusiasm. I think it happens to most people at some point.

Okay, I see that now--but usually that has a simple and usually accessible (thank you, Internet) solution in saving your Topic talk for those similarly immersed by it. Diaper talk with other parents of young kids, hobby talk with similar hobbyists, etc. 

I would add: Get really good at listening to other people about their Topics, so you are recirprocating in your relationships. Ask people, how's X going for you, or whatever else you want to talk about? Then people might be more likely to keep listening to you on your Topic.

"Listen" might be the single most useful bit of advice, for friendship, romance, career, parenting, even basket-weaving, though at some point you'll probably have to weave a basket. 

My girlfriend is overweight - in fact I think she's put on weight since we started dating - and I'm becoming less attracted to her. I'm hesitant to discuss this with her for a couple reasons. First is that I don't want to project my own insecurities or expectations on her. I used to be overweight but slimmed down through diet and exercise because I don't want to suffer the health problems that run in my family that are linked to being overweight. Second is she seems to me to be insecure about her appearance, and I don't want to aggravate that insecurity to the point of her developing an eating disorder or anything like that. Lastly, I'm not sure if I'm losing attraction because she's overweight, because we're just not compatible, or because she's considering moving away for graduate school and I'm looking for an excuse to detach. She doesn't like talking about emotional stuff - particularly about herself - so what should I do?

This is another question with many questions in it, and a bunch of possible answers.

To me, the biggest issue here is that you can't talk to her. "She doesn't like talking about emotional stuff" is not only her prerogative, but also arguably a more fixed part of her than her weight (though weight is a lot harder to change than people think it is, if recent research is pointing the right way). If you want to be with someone whom you can approach with whatever's on your mind, then she's not the girl for you, and it's time to break up.

Having a reason to break up that has nothing to do with her size allows me to dodge the weight question, but I don't want to.

Used to be I was irritated, even angered by people who saw weight as a dealbreaker. How shallow, I'd think--how dismissive of the human being.

Over time, I came to feel pity for people who saw weight as a dealbreaker. How shallow you must be, I'd think, to be so governed by people's appearances.

At the moment, I'm thinking no such unilateral things about the people who are concerned about weight and appearances, but instead about the relationships. If your attachment to your girlfriend is so vulnerable to a change in her appearance, then I don't like its chances even if she takes a turn for the thin. If you loved her enough for her, then you might not be thrilled with extra weight, but you wouldn't be eyeing the door over it.

Now, if we're talking about unlovable habits that happen to lead or contribute to weight gain, then that's something else. there are definitely some love-killing behaviors behind -some- significant weight gains, and while those are also ultimately about the relationship, they also speak more to the person inside than to appearances. 

We used the cats as practice for whether hyphenating our last names would work. The cats didn't seem to mind having hyphenated last names, so the kids (once they came along) got hyphenated last names too.

Oh, but you should have heard all the other cats in the alley, complaining about how inconvenient it was to have to say all those syllables, to remember whether it was hyphenated or two names or whatever else, and to burden their someday kittens with, what, Smith-Jones-Thomas-Felix. It was Topic A.

I've been dating a really fantastic guy for a few weeks. Things are going really well and I'm very excited! The but? He gives me little kisses on my forehead and cheek and head constantly. Those sweet gestures would be appreciated if it happened once or twice a day, but I am literally being mauled like every three or four minutes. We're not teenagers -- we're both pushing thirty! I've tried to gently explain that I'm not into that much PDA, but I don' think he understands that I cringe when I see him going for my forehead. How do I explain this really amazingly sweet guy that he needs to cut it out?

You just do. "I like you a lot, but I am not comfortable with these little kisses. I'm sorry."

I seriously doubt this will make everything okay, though. For one, "cringe" and "really fantastic" give me cognitive dissonance. You sure you're "very excited"?

And, the way each of us shows affection is like our fingerprint. Whether a person can significantly change that based on a partner's taste is, to my mind, beside the point, with the point being that each of us deserves to be with someone who appreciates our way of showing love. But, that's me. Your and his mileage may vary.

And, too, I'm uncomfortable with his being as affectionate as you describe and as undeterred by your, "I'm not into that much PDA," at "a few weeks." Yikes. I get that sometimes couples just catch fire quickly, but you two haven't--he's all in and you're all, ew. That's a flag. Maybe it's a mild one, that he's way more into you than you are into him, and maybe it's a serious one, that he's pushing too much intimacy too soon, and maybe it's somewhere in between--but, it's a flag of some sort.

So, speak up, see what you get and don't worry that you're doing something "wrong" or "mean" by drawing a line. Asserting yourself is how you find out whether you're right for each other, and better now than pretending and "gently explain[ing]" your way to a much more invested state.

Just curious: did you have a change of opinion about this? I feel like you answered a letter awhile back from a guy whose girlfriend gained an enormous amount of weight after they'd gotten engaged, and that you felt she'd done something pretty underhanded by waiting until she had a ring and then letting herself go. This - "If your attachment to your girlfriend is so vulnerable to a change in her appearance, then I don't like its chances even if she takes a turn for the thin" - seems like basically the opposite of that, or am I missing something?

You're missing, I suspect, the last part where I mention behavior changes that are about something more than weight. 

Uh, so wait - I can't be upset if my husband puts on 50 pounds and I no longer find him sexually attractive? How does that make ME the bad guy? And especially when I work hard to keep my weight in check and to make sure I still look good for him. Sex - and attraction - is a big part of relationships. Not the only thing, no, but it's a binder. And if one person starts to become less attractive/attracted, then yes, there's a problem and it needs to be addressed. I don't see why it's okay for someone to get fat and lazy (going to a big of an extreme here) but it's NOT okay for their partners to call them on it.

Same thing: "get fat and lazy," you say. That's behavior first, and weight a secondary consequence.

There are plenty of people who do not sit around on the couch eating chips who put on weight, maybe who work long hours and/or are caregivers to aging parents and/or have a bunch of kids and/or struggle mightily to stay "thin" using the same amount of portion control and exercise as someone else who is "thin," because with weight it's not a simple 2 + 2, there are multipliers involved--and in those cases, yes, I think keeping that spouse at arm's length over weight is a sign of a weak underlying bond. 

So, you deal with the input, which a person does control, and not the outcome, which is subject to certain variables. That just seems like basic kindness to me. 

Hi Carolyn, Husband and I (married 5 years, young kid) have had some issues and have been seeing a marriage counselor off and on over the past 6 months. The sessions are going well, and the counselor has said we're making progress. I think my husband agrees. However, there's a pretty major thing I've been leaving out: I feel like I've fallen out of love with my husband and have felt this way for about a year now (so it's not a fleeting thing). So we may be getting along better, but I don't know that I want to (or should) stay married to him when I feel so...indifferent toward him. So, do I bring this up in counseling? How?

With the counselor in a solo session. Don't just assume it can't be fixed without teasing out the difference(s) between now and five years ago. Good luck. 

With all the bullying in the news these days, I'm wondering (as the mom of a 15 month old) if you have any advice for raising children that 1) Don't Bully and 2) Don't allow others to bully them.

Sure, I'll dash that off in 10 minutes.

I'm going to kick this to Philes, since it's such a great and sweeping and relevant question, but I'll try to assemble a couple of coherent thoughts.

1. Even if we figure out the exact answer, your child will be on the giving and receiving end of some meanness at several points in life. There's no avoiding it altogether. "Best Friends, Worst Enemies," Thompson/O'Neill-Grace/Cohen, which I recommend often, is very clear and reassuring on this. Kids have to learn how to get along just as they have to learn to walk and read and all that, and the process isn't pretty sometimes. 

2. How are you at tightrope walking? To raise kids who don't bully, you need to supervise carefully and correct as needed, like when they say mean things to people's faces or behind their backs; to raise kids who don't allow others to bully them, you need to butt out enough for your kids to assert themselves instead of your doing it for them all the time. It's a constant balancing and re-balancing act as they grow. Bonus, you don't know whether you've gotten it right till it's almost too late to do anything about it. And, different kids/temperaments/personalities need different balances.

3. Another kind of balance matters, too--between their feeling important to you, and their not being misled into thinking they're the center of the earth. Your home needs to be a safe place for them to express their feelings and try new things (which will include trying on the idea of being mean to you, good times) and be significant--but you also need to be the boss. And, the wide wide world, where they are but a small speck, also needs to feature in their education. They need to get out, see others unlike them, give of themselves to others, get introduced to big ideas.

All this and more. I'll take a sec to put it on Philes now ...

 

Ta da (link).

I look forward to reading the thread later.

Your mileage may vary, but I throw "fails to immediately respect boundaries I establish regarding my body" in the Basket of Unequivocal Dealbreakers. And while I agree it's worth telling him very directly, once, that this is a problem, I think the LW might want to take a step back and think about whether she's happy to be with someone who can't pick up on the fact that she cringes when he kisses her forehead. Maybe I'm clutching my pearls here, but I think someone who fails to recognize that one will probably be kind of oblivious to her needs/wants/feelings in other areas, too. That works for some people, but speaking as someone who married a generally oblivious, non-empathetic man, I can say that it wears on you after a while. Sigh.

I agree with you that "fails to respect body boundaries" is an immediate dealbreaker, but I didn't feel confident that the LW established those boundaries clearly. So much backpedaling and rationalizing in the letter told me it was possible LW wasn't clear.

That, btw, is a whole other thing, and ties in the LW who was hesitant about speaking up to GF about weight gain: If you feel you can't say something, that immediately is a bigger problem than whatever it is you want to speak up about.

Comfort with basic assertiveness is a threshold worth forcing yourself to meet before getting involved with someone else. It can inoculate you against so many other problems.

And, no small thing, it gives you a baseline by which you measure your comfort with someone. If you're normally assertive in certain situations but with so-and-so you're not, it's time to recognize that as dangerous to your well-being and seriously reconsider getting or remaining involved with so-and-so. 

I think another important point is the behavior you model for your kids. There are so many ways that people "bully" others in subtle ways. Many families have a member who is "teased" constantly. Even if the people doing the teasing think it is all "In good fun," this tends to send the message that picking on people is not a big deal. That is a problem. The Dolphins scandal is still unfolding, but it is not really that surprising that many people thought of the alleged bully (maybe bullies) as good friends with the bullied. This is a pretty typical dynamic where some people think that playing pranks and teasing are fun.

Good point, thanks. This is an extension of the home-as-safe-place point I made, but it's important enough to warrant breaking it out. In a two-parent home, the respect in that relationship is on display at all times, evn when/especially when everyone's guard is down. 

I think that is pretty normal. I look at love like the tides. It ebbs and flows with high and lows. I will be married 23 years in February. Some days I ask myself "why did I get married" and then my spouse does something or we do something together and I tell myself "Yes that is why I married him"

I agree this is common and therefore a strong possibility, one worth holding onto as a point of reference, even a goal.

Since it could be other things, and since even if it's just a tidal thing that can be heavy to leave unspoken, I still think solo counseling is a good idea. Some have pointed out that couples' counselors often won't see one party solo, in which case I think it's worth pursuing the solo part with a different therapist. The marriage counselor can provide names, no doubt.

Thanks.

When I became engaged to my now husband, I explicitly told friends and family that I was not interested in any bridal showers. My husband and I had lived together for years before getting engaged and needed nothing for our home. I'm very quiet and shy with few female friends/relatives and was never interested in being the centre of attention. My mother-in-law ignored all of my protests and planned a bridal shower, inviting only her family members (most of whom I'd never met). I had no choice but to go and be gracious, even though the experience was extremely uncomfortable. Trying to be a good daughter-in-law, I never let her know how much she had upset me by steam-rolling my wishes. I recently discovered that I am pregnant and know that my mother-in-law will immediately begin plans for a baby shower when she finds out. I have no interest in repeating the experience and have decided not to commit to any future dates as potential surprise parties in addition to telling her that I would prefer to have no party. "Mom" has lots of anger issues and will not take the news well. Is it petty of me to say a polite but firm "no-thanks" to these parties or must I suck it up yet again?

Normally I'd say that baby showers are different, and that involving people in celebrations* can be an early step in creating a community for your child, but this is different. You're still at a point where your MIL is in control, you make no mention of where your husband is in all this, and a baby is about to make any MIL-boundary problems exponentially worse.

So, my advice here is that you take it up with your husband. Not just the shower, but the whole "anger issues when anyone says no to her" thing. He needs to be willing to serve as the protective wall between his young family and her issues. Is he? (If not, it's counseling or marriage seminar time, to allow a disinterested third party to explain the perils of not making each other your mutual priority.)

 

*They needn't be gift-shakedown showers. Your host can arrange it to be about collecting donations for needy moms, or a book shower for your child, or an advice shower, or etc.

Dear Carolyn, My husband and I have been battling infertility for some time now and have decided that this Thanksgiving, instead of subjecting ourselves to the sight of all our relatives with their happy little families and inevitable pregnancy announcements, we're going to spend the long weekend at our family's vacation home in the south, drunk and cozy and watching movies together. Finding out about this, my sister-in-law said it sounded like a great idea and has invited herself, her husband, her toddler, and her pregnant belly along. We're at a loss. The vacation home is understood to be for everyone's use, and there's plenty of space so "We booked it first" would not be a valid reply here. I feel like we can't catch a break and the universe is trying to drive me insane here! How do we graciously uninvite these relatives who ordinarily we adore spending time with?

Your husband has an honest talk with his sister, to say that you and he planned this as some badly needed alone time. You can't ask her not to come, I get it, but you can excuse yourselves kindly and go somewhere else.

I would hope she'd hear of your intentions and say, yikes, sorry, you keep your plans and we'll go somewhere else--but if she doesn't or can't, then do find another place to have your quiet weekend. Even if money is an issue, a holiday often provides opportunities: When everyone is focused on X, Y is often available at a steep discount. 

Good luck. 

 

Dear Carolyn, My fiance and I are getting married in early 2014. After some discussion, we decided we did not want kids at our wedding--several of our friends are new or newish parents and we are JUST SO TIRED of having their kids be the center of the universe, disrupt plans all the time, and so on. We just wanted our day to be one time when we could enjoy our friends' company in an adults-only way. We indicated as much on our save-the-dates, and have since gotten responses from a few people close to us that they do not plan to come since they can't bring their kids. These decliners include out-of-town guests, but many of them are our friends who live in town and could probably get sitters if they wanted to. That makes me think they have perceived my feelings about the heavy kid focus that's taken over our group, perhaps more than I thought they did. Fiance thinks we should stay the course, but I'm now wondering whether we should backpedal and plan for a ceremony that includes kids...I'd rather cave on this than not have loved ones at our wedding who might otherwise be there. What do you think?

A couple of thoughts. 

I would never boycott a no-kids wedding because I took offense at the exclusion of kids. I mean really--I'm nuts about my kids but a night of just adults is not exactly a hardship. Plus, I totally get that it's not everyone's idea of bliss to be around a bunch of squirmy people with volume-control issues. Who am I to tsk-tsk them and say they "should" enjoy having kids around, or that kids and weddings are a cute/beautiful/happy combination, or whatever else? Even if I didn't see the value of adult-only parties, which I do, it would still be your party, your tablet to write upon, and not the place for your friends to write their pro-kid righteousness.

The one exception I might make is if I were nursing and couldn't be away from my baby for the full length of a wedding and reception. In that case, I might ask for some leeway to have my baby on the premises, with the understanding that I'd leave the ceremony at the first little burble.

Anyway, I'm spelling all this out to explain where I'm coming from when I say that, yes, you can cave to have your loved ones there, but that won't change the fact these boycotting loved ones are out of line. But, that's to be expected, right? Since not everyone with small kids expects "their kids [to] be the center of the universe, disrupt plans all the time, and so on," but since these apparently do, then they're being consistent. Thats' something else to consider here---they're just being themselves, and it's not going to change, even after the kids grow up and their focus turns to something else.

So, it's up to you how you want to handle both the wedding and the long-term implications of friends with me-ist tendencies. As you're poised to decide, though, consider how you'll handle things if and when you have kids of your own. The more of a stand you take, the more imporant your integrity will be (i.e., the more closely people will watch). 

 

 

 

My fiance has been married twice before; I never have. I often wonder how fair of me it is to ask him about the past. We are both very open people and don't keep secrets for one another. He is loyal, kind, brave, decisive - all qualities I admire and value. I have learned that in his most recent marriage, he was not decisive at all. When we've had discussions about it, he explains as though he were not half of the decision-making process in that marriage. (For what it's worth, he doesn't put her in a negative light or place blame.) It just sounds like he kind of went with whatever she wanted (enormous wedding, vacations where she wanted, lots of visits to her family, move where her job was, buy the house she wanted, undergo years of fertility treatments because she wanted to). I don't know how to explain to him that it kind of worries me, or if that is even fair. I feel that we are equal partners and make decisions together. We are planning our wedding together, making work decisions together, and support each other to do the things that matter to each of us. Am I being unfair to be concerned about who he was in his last marriage? People do change, yes. I certainly have. I just sometimes have a weird feeling to learn about this character trait that is so so different from the man I know.

I think it's fair (and important) to say that the way he describes himself in his last marriage sounds completely different from the person you see, and then ask what he thinks the diference is--if he even notices there is one. 

In general, don't avoid a subject just because you're not sure how to phrase it. All you really need to do is replace the words you think are too charged or judgmental with more neutral ones. In this case, change "worried" to "curious" and you're good to go.

Then there is another way you can handle this: schedule a baby-sitter to take on the heavy lifting of kid duty and tell your friends "we really want you there, so much that we're hiring the baby sitter for you." If you can find a location that is off-site but close to the reception (so that leaving the reception to fetch the kids and come back with them is unlikely), so much the better.

You know, I almost suggested this, and then opted against it because the kids always end up at the party. But the nearby-but-off-site location is interesting. You'd need more than one sitter, though. 

What if you don't want advice or questions either? I'm having this weird urge to go hide in a cabin in the woods until I give birth. I'm not doing anything particularly interesting. I mean, billions of people have done this. Is it weird that I'm just not interested in discussing my future child?

Oh, gosh, no--I swear the population would double if new parents didn't have to run the gantlet of unsolicited advice.

Okay, maybe not double, but I've never had anyone report they were delighted by all the advice they got; all reports have been of how annoying and intrusive and persistent it is, this societal impulse to coach new parents.

And, you might want to stay in your cabin till your baby's an adult, because the advice flow isn't diminishing any time soon. (Was that part unsolicited?)

I just logged on and am reading from the top, but would you mind letting us know what "[Topic]" was at the end of the chat? I understand you don't want the specificity to derail the chat, but inquiring minds do want to know...

[Topic] is the thing in the briefcase in "Pulp Fiction."

Speaking of Tarantino, and of "reading from the top," I suggest reading chat transcripts all out of order, to make them edgy and postmodern. Or go all "Memento" and start at the end and read up.

When I suggested I'd hire a babysitter for the wedding, my brother balked at it would be "someone he didn't know" watching his child. Babysitter idea doesn't work. (We eloped.)

Good luck with day care, preschool, school, school buses, oh, whatever. Welcome to the Age of Fear.

How do I decide when to be honest and when to spare feelings? I want to be honest with my boyfriend, but am stumped when he asks if I have concerns about him long-term. The answer is that I do, but they are shallow and I can deal with them. He's 10 years older than me, significantly overweight with no muscle strength. It would really hurt him if I mentioned these things, and I truly can overlook them.

But ... why is he asking? Are you asking that of him?

If it's just conversation, then you can say, "Of course I do--I have concerns about -myself- long-term. I'd be nuts not to. Why?" ... and you'll be okay. But if he's asking out of insecurity, be it about himself or about your relationship, then both the honest route and the spare-feelings route have some major hazards.

So we're back to, how free are you to talk to this person? 

is empathy. If you can cultivate walking in another's shoes, that really goes a long way

Right! So, hop on over to the forum and post all your (or your top few) thoughts on cultivating empathy in children. Fanks.

I told a Friend of mine I thought s/he would benefit from talking to a professional therapist. Friend knows I've seen one on several occasions, and was always very supportive. Well, Friend flipped - took it as a personal insult; felt it was an attack on Friend's coping skills and resilience. The message I heard when Friend was so insulted is "Therapy is okay for weak people [like me] who don't know how to handle their [stuff], but strong people [like Friend] are above it." I admit that cut deep, and I took it personally. Where do we go from here? Friend is no longer speaking to me, and I don't think I owe an apology. Do I?

I think you owe yourself a party to celebrate losing a hundred or three- pounds of negativity from your life.

If your friend comes back with an apology, explaining that s/he was in a very bad place then and feels terrible now for taking it out on you, when you were clearly only trying to help and also ahem quite right to suggest professional help, then I'll take that back (and hope you take the friend back, too; people at low points do behave in ugly ways sometimes). 

One more viewpoint: It is easy for some people with kids to get a sitter - I do know some who have a regular one - but for others it can be hard. We never had a regular sitter because we used one so rarely and so if an even came up that was adults only it was sometimes a big task to call the last person we'd used, find out they were unavailable, track down a name, try to meet that person in advance, etc. And one of our children did find with sitters, but one was miserable with strangers (even though they were fine at daycare - and we did use daycare people as sitters when we could, but they often weren't available). So while I absolutely respected and didn't mind people who invited us to Adults Only events when we had young kids, I did find it very frustrated when we would have to give our regrets and they would be upset with us for not making it. I think it's just a reality that if you put that kind of restrictions on people, you need to also respect the fact that they won't necessarily be able to come. It doesn't mean they don't want to be with you, it just might be a lot more complicated behind the scenes than you realize.

It might also be a lot simpler. Yes, a lot of people try but can't find a sitter, or have reasons they can't--but that does not look like this:

"We indicated as much on our save-the-dates, and have since gotten responses from a few people close to us that they do not plan to come since they can't bring their kids." 

Not, they do not plan to come "since we tried and tried but can't find a sitter"--these people, "close" friends, gave the bride the Heisman because their kids can't come. The wedding is in 2014! And if there are extenuating circumstances, surely the couple would either know this already or the friends would kindly inform the couple of such, with their regrets.   

Of course no parents who try and fail to find a sitter should be harrumphed for saying no, but that's so not what's happening here. 

Wait, what--3:30? I thought it was 2:30. You're all supposed to yell at me when I lose my mind like this. Okay. Sorry sorry sorry Jess the Producer, bye everybody, have a great weekend, etc. Cheez.

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Carolyn Hax
Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997 as a weekly feature for The Washington Post, accompanied by the work of "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis. The column has since gone daily and into syndication, where it appears in over 200 newspapers. Carolyn joined The Post in 1992 as a copy editor in Style, and became a news editor before turning to writing full-time. She is the author of "Tell Me About It" (Miramax, 2001), and the host of a live online discussion on Fridays at noon on washingtonpost.com. She lives in New England with her husband and their three boys.

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