Carolyn Hax Live (Friday, May 4)

May 04, 2012

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 Friday, April 27 at 1:30 p.m. ET, 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

Got any of Carolyn's answers or readers' questions from the past year stuck in your head? Submit them for next week's Best of Hax 2011 chat that will take place while Carolyn is on vacation.

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

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Hi, everybody. Thanks for rolling with the time change. I'm glad to have been able to make Friday work, since a Thursday chat just never seems right.

Hi Thank you for taking this question. I am 26, my boyfriend of years is 24. Recently and unexpectedly, he 'bought' a house for his parents to live in because they could no longer afford the one they were in. He is not paying money for it monthly or at all, but his credit and name are on the house. I don't worry about the finances so much as what this could mean for our future together. If his parents feel comforatable asking him to purchase a house when he is just getting started in his career, what else could they ask down the line? I know that there is no answer to this as we can't predict the future, but I worry that as his mom is permamently disabled and his dad seems too lazy to work, he will end up taking care of them for the rest of their life. Something is telling me to run; something else is telling me to deal with this becuase I truly want to spend my life with this man. If it helps, his parents ask for support from his two older sisters as well. I do love his parents; they have always been positive, helpful, and supportive of us.

Wow. Since your BF's actions could just as easily be used as proof that your BF is his parents' stooge and that he's one of the great stand-up guys on earth, I think your only sane move now is to weigh his actions against the entirety of the context, and figure out which he is. Perhaps the most important element of that context will be what you glean from a conversation with BF about how he sees his parents and his role in their financial futures.

So why do I feel so icky? Not a rhetorical question--I know that at least part of the reason is that I secretly crave the attention I get from my husband's friends (I know, ew), but this crossed the line.

Yes, it crossed the line, but the ick that needs your attention is your craving attention.

For the record, I like a world that doesn't have hard, universal lines that tell everyone where flirting is okay and where it isn't. People have different natures, different needs, different tolerances, and different marriages. 

However, just working with your own personal lines, you've apparently crossed over. That's what an "ick" response is all about. So, you need to ask yourself why you want the outside attention, whether there's any harmless amount to seek, and where the line is between that and ending up a conversation topic on 

In the meantime, please pay some extra attention to your husband. Giving is receiving.


Dear Carolyn, My husband would be content to see his family once a year on Christmas, even though they only live about 100 miles away and are very warm people who adore him. I'm super close with my folks (I'm an only child), so I can't imagine having a parent/child relationship at such distance. Hubby is generally fine with visiting my parents whenever I want to, so that doesn't worry me...what worries me is that our different attitudes toward family will extend to the relationship we have with our kids someday. Hubby is very involved with them now, but they are only 3 and he going to want to let contact fade when they become adults? I don't think I could stand that!

Um. I doubt it will affect the relationship "we" have with your kids because you will have your own relationship with them. And while it's not up to you just to replicate your own child-parent relationship with your own kids (the kids hold the majority of the levers there), you can at least be the a conscientious parent and cultivate your part of a strong bond that way.

More important and immediate, though, is the issue of your husband's detachment from these apparently lovely people who don't live far from you at all. Maybe they're fine with the once-a-year attention, but it seems more likely to me that they'd love to see their boy more but are--as mature people would--choosing not to press. I hope you'll make the effort to see your husband's branch of the family every few months (assumign your husb is just laissez faire and not actively opposed).

As it happens, that's probably the highest percentage move you can make to keep a strong connection to your kids when they're grown: Show them how it's done.



My future husband and I are from opposite ends of the earth--semi-rural Texas (him), downtown Manhattan (me). We're currently living in the latter while we each finish grad school, then he's got a two-year fellowship in NYC and I'm sure I'll find a job in the meantime. After that, everything becomes a muddle, as he is insistent on raising our future children near his family in Texas, and I cannot imagine living in a community like that one. It seems all my friends have gotten lucky in that they've either (a) found local partners, or (b) entered relationships in which one or both people don't really care where they end up living. When it really comes time to make this decision, are we going to be up a creek? I'm content to delay talking about it till then, but only because I feel pretty confident I'll wind up with the final veto power.

NO no no no NO don't delay talking about it till then. I have to think that's only a plan to those who  haven't seen the smoking wreckage of an all-out war over how and where the kids will be raised when it's declared after the kids are born.

I'll probably take a thumping for this, but I also bristle when I see the term "insistent on" come from half of a couple when it comes to the way of life they will share. A marriage is about two individuals joining lives and creating a third thing altogether. It's not about one person taking on another to serve in an established role in a pre-determined scene.

Your fiance may have had an idylllic childhood, and taken things from it he has never seen available anywhere else, but that doesn't mean he'll be able to re-create those conditions after he marries you. It just doesn't work that way. 

Maybe he gets that and either you've misrepresented his intentions or I've overreacted to them, but I still advise you (and him by extension) to be very realistic about where the unexpected and the unforeseeable factor into your future plans. And, too, be open about what you can expect and foresee, including that you have major reservations about relocating to semi-rural Texas (or semi-rural anywhere, if that also applies). And, if you have reservations as I do about "insistent on," throw that in the pot, too. 

The time to figure out how well you function as a team, and how well you accommodate your own and each other's needs at once, is -now-, when the stakes are a painful breakup--not after you've raised the stakes to a painful breakup plus divorce plus custody battle. 

BTW--if your grad school experience puts you in social proximity to lawyers, ask them about your chances of getting yourself and your kids out of Semiruralia if you have kids there and then get divorced. Not pretty.


I wholly concur with the WOW! I think the LW is being somewhat self-centered. As an only child, I fully expect to help my mom in her later years, financially and time-wise. If my significant other had a hard time conceptualizing that past, "how is this going to affect my future finances?" I would be stunned and hurt.

I think it's possible to go too far in either direction, from both positions--i.e., in BF's position, there's over-and under-helping parents, and in the LW's position, there's over- and under-reacting to a potential mate's decision to support  his parents.

All the factors have to come into it, including whether the parents are reasonable, whether BF is financially responsible, and whether BF and parents respect each other's boundaries. 

Add all that up, and everything could be fine if the BF is taking care to use his money responsibly, to look long-range and to be open to the concerns and needs of a life partner if he ever commits to one. It could also be a disaster if he has decided that whatever his parents need is what they will get, regardless of his financial standing or of a life partner's concerns and needs.  

 FWIW, if he's able to afford the house on top of his other living expenses, and if he paid a price for it that the market will support, then he's managing to help is parents by investing, vs. just lighting money on fire.  

Only wanted to point out that she finds "unimaginable" that which he is "insistent" upon - which suggests to me that both of them have some flexibility and imaginative abilities to develop, whether or not they remain a couple.

Indeed, thanks.

The situation: friends who have two new infants and a toddler are showing signs of extreme stress. Both are still in maternity leave phase, but once the mother goes back to work, the father (despite being very capable and willing) will be in a very tough position. Various issues make hiring extra help a no-go. The two are somewhat private about their lives and don't like a lot of meddling, but they are very good people nonetheless and clearly could use some help. You're always suggesting ways that outsiders can help people with young children (bring meals, offer to take the baby for a walk, etc.). Is there any way to help people with young children who have difficulty accepting help or knowing what to ask for? Especially considering I'm a close friend to the father but not the mother? I want to be respectful, but it's driving me nuts that I can't do anything to get them through this bottleneck of newborns + toddler. It's hard to say "None of my business" as I watch a friend slowly drive himself into the ground.

The best remedy for people who need help but won't ask for it is the standing appointment: If this is the kind of promise you're willing and able to keep, then try telling the father that you'd like to come every, Idunno, Tuesday, bearing dinner and some free hands to hold babies. Listen carefully for the difference between "No, please don't," and, "Oh, you don't need to do that"--the former and its ilk mean "no," and the latter and dismissals like it are a "yes." 

Let me just say that the LW *should* worry about her BF's finances (among the other issues listed) - whether or not he's actually making the payments on the house, he's solely responsible for the mortgage repayment (yes, I'm in Lending). This will most definitely impact his DTI and potentially affect his ability to secure financing for his own home down the road. Food for thought if she sees a future w/him. His debt will impact their decisions together.

Thanks. DTI=debt-to-income, yes?

Thank you so much for pointing out how much this guy is asking of his wife. I was that wife for years, always offering support, talking over his job issues literally for hours each evening. It was exhausting. What finally tore it was that my own job situation took a precipitous turn for the worse, and my husband responded very poorly when I made it clear that I required some level of support and no longer had the mental bandwidth for multi-hour postmortems each evening, or the mental stamina to deal with his constant negativity. Depression can make people very very selfish. I know this, and it was still extremely difficult to not take his actions personally. Eventually I had to tell him that if he didn't get help, it might be a dealbreaker - not because I didn't want to help him with this big hairy ball of issues, but because I had let him know how much it was harming our relationship, and if, in that light and after all my years of support, he chose to *not* get help, that would have been a pretty strong statement about how he felt about me. He's getting help and it's a LOT better. I wish it had never gotten to that point, though. The guy from the column should definitely seek outside help. It's no fun to be where he is, but it's not exactly a bed of roses for his wife, either.

Thanks, this puts it very well.

Hi Carolyn, I would love to get your opinion on an issue that's been coming between my boyfriend (of 2 years) and I. I'm a crier. When we fight or when I'm trying to express something that's very important or even when I'm describing something that makes me REALLY happy. This really bothers my boyfriend. I know this and so I try very hard to control it, but it still happens sometimes. I understand his point of view, because I will usually be ok after crying in a few minutes or so, but he gets really upset when I cry and he stays anxious for hours. I grew up in a very emotional family and he grew up in a pretty calm, cool family. Do you have any ideas to help us overcome this issue, which is starting to feel like a major wedge driving us apart? I feel like I'm trying very hard and he's not making much of an effort to just roll with my emotions even though we've talked about this a lot. Thanks so much!

There does come a point when you're both asking each other for more change than you're able or willing to make, and it's possible to get there even when both sides are trying. It may be that you've already gone too far; you're asking him to change how he reacts to you, but he's asking you to change the way you react to the whole world. That's a taller order, if you think about it, and while both might be a bad idea, your prescription comes closer to changing who you are. The best route now might just be woning your tears: "Hey, I wear it all on my sleeve, that's me, and it's not personal and it's not changing."

In turn, you can help him by not reacting to his reacting. When he gets anxious, the best thing might be, odd as it seems, to be comfortable with your tears, vs. hard at work trying to beat them.

Since it all comes back to transparency,  try running that idea by him--essentially, the idea of just being yourselves, and freeing each other -not- to change.

Sorry about the vanishing act--I wrote that answer once, then totally rewrote it because I decided I was wrong. Good times. 

Last weekend our twenty-year old son came home from college for the weekend bearing a couple of loads of laundry. I do the laundry for him, happily, as it is kind of a running gag between us that it makes me so happy to be able to take care of him still in this little way. Anyway, as I was sorting the laundry, I came across a pair of girl's panties. Very cute they were, too, blue with flowers. Definitely not my son's underwear. I debated about whether or not to tell him I'd found them. There could have been a logical explanation, as in, "Those must belong to my roommate's girlfriend." (Son doesn't have a girlfriend.) In the end I decided the whole thing was none of my business and proceeded to wash, fold and put the article back in the basket with the rest of son's clean clothes. I figured when son discovered them back at school he could make of them what he would. Husband says I should have just thrown away the panties to save son any potential embarrassment. I say nonsense. What say you? Signed, I'm just the laundress...

Laundress 1, Husband 0

Wednesday's column about the bf who wasn't sure if he wanted kids resonated with me. But your answer left me with more questions. What are the positives in the math that lead people to decide to have kids? I'm not being funny, I'm seriously asking. I'm trying to figure out what would make having kids worth it, and maybe for me the answer is nothing. I want to see some that I raised go out and be a positive force in the world, but I'm not sure that's enough to balance out the "few (or a few years) of these scenes" with small children.

For a lot of people it isn't, and that's okay. It's also a crap shoot; you can imagine all kinds of scenarios, make your decision and still end up with a family situation that bears no resemblance to anything you predicted in the planning stages.

It's also an imperfect business even in listing the positives, because if I cite something like the sensory pleasures--the smell of a baby, the touch of a little hand in yours, the sounds of those little voices--I could also be citing the worst part for a parent of a different emotional and sensory makeup. (Some people find the little-kid years as involving physical touch or smells or noise well beyond their comfort zone.) 

I'm not sure what the answer is, except asking yourself what brings out your best. Because I think that's really the nut of it--would raising children make the best use of what you bring to the world, or would -not- having kids do that?

I didn't proofread that, so if I typoed, I hope it was at least a funny one.

Carolyn, I'm a working single mom, raising two small children 24/7. Boyfriend seems to start this "your distant" "you seem off" chatter when I am trying to make dinner, homework, baths,bedtime, playtime focused on children or trying to multitask. Feeling overwhelmed often, too much to do, would like some time to myself also. Do I need to balance his neediness too at these prime busy times? I ask him to table it and then that ends with him saying I am bitter, disrespectful. I feel there are 3 children not 2 at times. Mom who wants some time too.

Doesn't sound promising, I must say. You do need to be civil to him, vs. darting around and snapping. However, someone who sees you cooking, supervising homework, bathing kids, playing with them and tucking in them in on your own, and who doesn't jump in to help, is flirting with a degree of either cluelessness or self-absorption for which the prognosis is grim. The turning it on you could be terminal.

But, that's not a fair diagnosis unless and until you make your situation and needs explicitly clear. So, at least give it a good, honest conversation when you're -not- in the throes. Along the lines of: "When you see that I'm 'off' or 'distant,' it tends to be when I'm completely immersed in getting it all done. So, I'm thinking the best way for me to get less immersed and for you to get more of me is for you to pitch in. Dinner? Homework? What do you think?" 

If he can hear that, still watch you scramble solo and then still pout, then I guess it's up to you whether you want 2 kids or 3.


Thank you! I have spoken with him and he has assured me that he had a sit down with his parents before the help was given in which he outlined that no help of this magnitude would be offered to them again. They seem to respect what he has to say sometimes, and others not so much. My parents are well off and I've never been in his position to have to help my parents financially, so I have a hard time discerning if he is the stooge or the great guy (although he is great to me) Thank you, I have some things to think about.

I'm developing a pro-this-guy bias, so I'll come out with that upfront.

I think part of the discerning process has to be his skill at handling money and other responsibilities. If he's saving for retirement, using credit responsibly, and otherwise showing  regard for tomorrow vs. living day by day, then those are all good and important signs.

Also, the issue isn't so much whether his parents respect what he has to say, but instead what he does when his parents don't respect what he says. Does he cave or hold fast, on things minor or major?

I just wanted to throw in that there is another category: I adore children, they adore me (drawn to me like magnets), and I never want to have them. I am 41 and nuttily happily married. I am completely content, don't have pangs when I see babies, and people comment frequently about how incredibly good I am with children and how sad it is I don't have any. It is ridiculous to get upset by this, so I don't, but I did want people to know that you can NOT want children and still love children. You don't have to think they are just germy, projectile-barfing poopsacks to not want them.

Thanks. You can also think they are just germy, projectile-barfing poopsacks and still want them. 

That's how I'm referring to kids from now on. 

Dear Carolyn, My boyfriend of about two years is a causal smoker. He does not smoke everyday, but enjoys cigarettes on the weekends, at social events, and when the weather is nice outside. Last weekend we were at a family gathering and he went out to smoke with my brother-in-law. My aunt told him that it was a deadly, horrible habit and he would make a young widow out of me. My boyfriend told her that he was aware smoking is a bad habit, but adults exhibit bad habits every day -- like tanning and drinking -- but nobody judges them. My aunt, a lifelong tanning bed enthusiast, stormed out in a huff. Now the whole family is divided and my parents really want my boyfriend to apologize to keep the peace. My boyfriend and I are willing to apologize for the sake of family issues, but we can't help but wonder why smokers are singled out for their bad habits. Of course there is the argument that smoking lets off fumes that damage other people besides them -- but in this case, my boyfriend and my brother-in-law were outside and far away from others. Any thoughts on this? As long as my boyfriend is a casual smoker is this something he just has to deal with?

I think your parents are wrong about the apology, though you didn't ask me that. Assuming you've reproduced accurately what your BF said to your aunt, your BF was making a salient point in a civil way, to which your aunt, if she weren't a classic boundary-violator, could have said: "Touche." And there'd be no apologies being demanded from anyone.

As for why smokers are singled out, I'd say mostly that the public health campaign against cigarettes has been remarkably effective at stigmatizing smoking. Tanning beds are small potatoes by comparison, and drinking is apples-oranges, since drinking in moderation has its merits. (Any more ways I can work food imagery into this?)

Meanwhile, the public health campaign against butting into other people's business has been a complete failure as far as I can tell, so, yes, if your BF keeps up the butts then he can safely assume he's going to hear about it, possibly even if he has one cigarette a year alone in an empty field.


I moved across the country last summer solely for career reasons. Several months before that, I met a great guy from this area, and we started dating shortly after I moved. My parents disapprove of both the new city and the career path. Unfortunately, rather than trying to understand my choices, they have decided it's all my boyfriend's fault! The one time they visited here, they refused to even have dinner with him. My parents are planning a second visit to see me, and I want to nip this disrespect in the bud now. But how do I enforce boundaries against people I see only a few times a year, a few days at a time?

The same way you do with anyone else. 

"Last time you were here, you refused to see my boyfriend for reasons that were totally unjustified. He had nothing to do with my move here--I've told you this before and I'm saying it this one last time. If you insist on judging him for something he did not do, then I'm afraid you won't be having dinner with me, either. Your call." 

Any advice for a stay at home mom who gets a lot of flak from a lot of people because I employ a full-time nanny? No, I'm not lazy and I don't have any delusions that I'm too good to change diapers or anything; I'm just very lucky that we are comfortable enough to be able to afford help, and I truly believe that I'm a better mom because I'm not frazzled all the time. But when I say that, people invariably hear something different, and their judgments are harsh. It's gotten to the point where I feel ashamed when the nanny is outside with the kids because I know the neighbors can see her.

Wow. Tell them you're doing your part to create jobs in a down economy, conjure a vivid image of yourself flipping them a moster bird, have yourself a Mona Lisa smile, and carry on. 

Dear Carolyn, My boyfriend found out from a blabbermouth friend of mine (who was a little tipsy at the time) that I've cheated in past relationships (yes, plural, shoot me). He needs explanations and I don't blame him, but I can't help feeling angry that I have to go on trial for something that happened years ago. How much info is he really entitled to, and how much will hurt (rather than help) our relationship now?

If you hem and haw and blame your friend, it will hurt.

If you say you did it and that's (part of) who you were at the time, and if you can say honestly it's not a time you're proud of but not one you're lying to yourself about, either, then you will show yourself to be mature.

People who are mature can say that they are confident they won't be in, or put themselves in, that type of situation again. Mature people can also say they don't have any intention of cheating on anyone ever again.

Meanwhile, the mature people dating these mature people would also know that that's about as much of a promise as anyone can give. And would be comfortable with that.

So, you can do your part by not flinching, but the rest depends on whether he can do the same.

To the Mom with the Nanny: the attitudes of the people who judge you are PRECISELY the kind of thing that keep stressed-past-the-limit parents from getting necessary help. You may be erring on the side of over-caring for your children, but I'd call that the right side. And I wish I could smack the people who perpetuate the idea that needing help with your children makes you abnormal.


And you jogged loose another point that I didn't even think to make in my first answer: This one-parent-home-alone-carrying-it-all model of stay-at-home parenting is a relatively new (and really grueling and lonely) thing. I realize different societies have had their different ways throughout human history, but childrearing has so often been a communal business--be it through multiple generations under one roof, or siblings settling near each other, or older kids caring for younger kids, or village women helping each other, or even polygamy. Plenty of these have been rejected or evolved away for good reason, but the need for many hands hasn't gone away. So, judging people who have the means, opportunity or ingenuity to bring other hands on board strikes me as historically shortsighted. In addition to being a wow on nosiness grounds alone.

hmmm . . ."I don't have any delusions that I'm too good to change diapers or anything; I'm just very lucky that we are comfortable enough to be able to afford help, and I truly believe that I'm a better mom because I'm not frazzled all the time." so by implication other people who are frazzled aren't good moms? maybe there is something in your thought process to which you aren't owning up. It is rude for people to comment about your situation, but why are you discussing it and how does it even become fodder for conversation? To HEAR a SAHM talk about her FT nanny does somewhat reek of elitism, no matter how elegantly it is phrased.

You're assuming she has brought it up. The nanny is out there for all to see, so isn't it entirely possible other people are questioning her presence? Especially given that one of the staples of this forum is the unchecked opining about our lives by bystanders with no horse in the race?

And why attack the words the LW gave to us to explain her choice? Her using that rationale here is not the same as saying to a frazzled neighbor, "I'm a better mom when I'm not frazzled [AHEMlikeyou]." We've certainly heard plenty of people say they're better parents for taking a date night/exercise time/whatever else, and also plenty who write in frazzled and worried that it's affecting their ability to be good parents.

It's not just you, there are a few comments in the queue along similar lines--it has a whiff of rich-shaming. 


Well, realistically, they're only THAT for a little while. Once they get a handle on key biological processes, they mature into what we suavely call "little germ factories."

And they master that to become little hormone factories. Then they wipe out your savings and then some on college, or they don't go and wipe you out with worry that they won't be able to support themselves in an economy heavily weighted against those who stop at a high school diploma. 


My fiance was like that. I eventually had to explain that I was busy, and if he wanted more attention, he was going to have to take some of the workload off. I then told him exactly what I wanted: do the dishes every night, drop the kids off at the daycare every day, and cook once a week. In addition, I didn't want any huffing if I needed him to pitch in with picking up or chopping veggies or researching a vacation. Every thing he pitched in on, without me having to pester him, bought more time with me. Also, I started taking baths every night. Instant alone time.

We were due for a happy outcome, thanks. (Like how I made your and your fiance's accomplishment all about us? Im learning a lot here myself.) 

Hi Carolyn, I let a good friend move in with me while she's trying to disentangle herself from an unhealthy relationship with a domineering jerk. Friend only works shaky part-time hours and doesn't earn enough to live on, so I'm only charging her a microscopic rent, though she does take care of her own groceries and things like that. Anyway, she's been around for 3 months, and is a terrible houseguest--messy, overly emotional, not very respectful of my privacy or of the fact that I have to go to bed at a reasonable time to stay sane at my job. I'm about ready to kick her out, and would have done that months ago, but I see signs that she has been in contact with the ex-boyfriend and I know that that's probably the first place she will go (having no other financially feasible options anyway). So, the question: kick her out, knowing I'm pushing her back into the arms of the domineering jerk, or suck it up till such indefinite point as she becomes financially stable and leaves on her own?

Welcome to the limits on what you can do to help someone.

The ex-boyfriend might be a domineering jerk, but your friend apparently brings a lot of mess to the equation herself. Until you realize the role her chaos plays in this, your rescue impulses will betray you. And, until she takes on that mess, she's a dysfunctional relationship waiting to happen, and if it's not with this D.J. she's going to find herself another one.

So, you have a couple of lousy choices. You can be a saint and have her stay with you indefinitely, knowing you're nothing more than a safer crutch than the one she'd use in your absence; you can kick her out and hope the crutch she seeks out doesn't actually harm her; you can sit down with her, say you'd like to start planning her exit, and suggest she use the last days/weeks/months you're willing to keep her as a roommate to get her [solid waste] together. 

Regardless, you have to respect the boundaries between your business and hers.

Obviously I think the last of the choices  is the best bet, boundary-skirting and all, especially if you can say to her, "Until you're able to support yourself, you're always going to be vulnerable to this or any other guy"--fun, fun!--and  only if you're realistic about the chances she'll turn things around just-like-that.


Since the beginning of our relationship, my husband - who grew up in a more conservative culture - was sceptical about having opposite sex friends. So, I limited my relationship with men to varying degrees and this really didn't impact me since my closest friends have always been female and he did the same. Recently, he started a new job and all of his friends are female. He refers to two of them as his "best friends" (apparently, they are his best friends at work). He texts them, they confide in him (and possibly vice versa) and gives them a ride home occasionally. Initially, it didn't bother me but then I sensed a double standard and called him on it. He admitted he would have a problem if I did those things. Do I now get upset? Or, do I accept that his new relaxed rules should be the norm - for me as well?

Seems you need to ask the follow-up question, now that he has admitted he'd be upset: whether his change of heart means relaxed rules for you both.

hi Carolyn, My daughter is 13 and really wants to get a two piece bikini style swim suit for the summer. My husband and I both think she is not quite old enough for this. Her body is very mature, but she does not know how to dress it appropriately. Wearing a bikini at this age may attract attention she does not know how to handle and might not even want. A lot of her friends have two pieces and she is really wanting one and, in all liklihood, will buy one with babysitting money and wear it when we are not around. How do we handle this?

By accepting that a 13-year-old girl with a mature body can get into plenty of trouble wearing a one-piece. Help her pick out a bikini  that is appropriate for her age, keep the lecturing-to-listening ratio low, accept that she's going to make some mistakes, and give her freedom bit-by-bit so she can earn your trust.

If she says she's a better mom when she's not frazzled, that's about HER, not a comment about other moms. What she feels about other moms is not contained in that statement. Even if she said it to a frazzled neighbor, it might be tactless but it would still NOT necessarily be about the frazzled neighbor. It would be about the OP feeling that *she* *herself* is a better mom when she's not frazzled and she has determined that (a) she is not frazzled when she has a nanny and (b) can afford that. People PLEASE don't make other people's stuff about YOU. Probably 99% of the time it isn't.

That. Thanks.

And, that's it for today. Thanks again for stopping by at a new time, and Haley, thanks for sticking with me till nearly beer hour. 




Anyway, have a good weekend everybody, and don't forget to subscribe to my ramblings on Facebook. 





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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 She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and their three boys.

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