Carolyn Hax Live: Of moose heads and wolf insults (Friday, July 25)

Jul 25, 2014

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.

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Just a sec ... left my coffee in the kitchen.

Much better. 


Hi everybody!

I think you slightly missed the point on the LW who was upset because her DIL requested that the grandchildren call her something that doesn't start with "mama." The name wouldn't have bothered DIL if she was self-assured and secure with her relationship with her family. If she was secure, she would have spoken up years ago to say that the name bothered her and suggested everyone try a bit longer to make the G-Ma name stick. LW needs to look at her relationship with her DIL. Does she enthusiastically support DIL in her role as the mother of her children and a member of the family, or does she secretly wish DIL wasn't there? Because that comes across. Calling her manipulative doesn't help. At the end of the day LW needs to think on whether she would be happy insisting on a name that makes a member of her family (DIL) unhappy because it touches on a home issue (DIL's role as a mother). Just use Jamanji and call it a day.

That's definitely an angle I missed, thanks.

I do believe it's more chicken-or-egg than you suggest, though, because it's so common for the new mate to be the one to step in and start alienating the (future) in-laws. Without knowing more, it's not fair to lay it all at the feet of the grandmother here.

That said, regardless of who started the war, Jumanji does indeed need to make the effort to broker a truce. Thanks again.

My husband of 12 years has started telling me stories, rather than having a conversation (we are parents to one child, both working professionals with graduate degrees, he's 39, I'm 38, if that helps you get a picture of us) He tells me about movies. He tells me about books, He tells me about ideas. All of this would be fine, if he were inviting me into a conversation about these topics, but he isn't. His oratory skills are fabulous, But these stories seem to go on forever, and end up feeling like book reports, blow-by-blow movie reviews, and sales pitches (unfortunately not the elevator kind). I really don't know what to do about the full account of the plots to movies and books that he feels compelled to give me, other than to suggest that he watch the movie again with me, or let me read the book so we can discuss, and unfortunately neither of these approaches has worked. Concerning his sales pitches for his entrepreneurial ideas, he is put off when I try to ask questions about the ideas as a method of interacting, as if I am criticizing the idea, and the only response to his ideas that he appears to accept is approval of same. Anything less than "honey, that is a great idea" is met with frowns and more explaining, as if I am dumb. I AM DYING FOR SOME INTERACTION HERE!!!!! Please give me the words to tell him I am interested in conversations and shared experiences, not being his audience - I need to say this in a kind way that does not hurt his ego, which will undoubtedly provoke pouting and a fight, but really does improve our interactions. The subtle approach has not worked so far.

Would it be so terrible to say it to him like this (but condensed)? Pouting and a fight will ensue, sure, but would that eventually pass and leave you with a better understanding of each other? 

If you don't think it would--if instead you expect it would be truth-telling, then fighting/pouting, then right back where you started--then I suggest marriage counseling, after you take the time to find someone good. There is no magic wording that will persuade a non-listener to listen, but a skilled intermediary can sometimes open things up.

Even in my 50s when I got divorced, I did not know what it meant to "get in touch with myself". I think it would do this young lady some favors to ask her some questions that she does not know the answer to, about herself. When she knows the answer, she's ready to move on. Things like, 1. What kind of music would you listen to if you were by yourself? 2. What entertainment would you choose for a weekend if money were no object? 3. What did you always want to learn but haven't yet? 4. How would you react to a panhandling family of a mother and 2 children? 5. Where are your priorities: what's more important to you: Having a lot of money, Being famous, Brightening someone's day, Creating something, Spirituality, Having power, Doing new things, Applause, what? 6. What are you good at? What are you below average at? I don't mean just school subjects, what about map reading, empathizing, coming up with creative ideas, cooking, organizing, etc. 7. What do you like to do with other people vs. alone? 8. Classic, rococo, modern, new age, heavy metal styles of home and art? 9. If you were in a family of 4 and the total income was $4000 a month, how would you spend it? How much rent, how much savings, how much clothes, eating out, gadgets? 10. Vacations with family, with friends, alone? Seaside, mountains, foreign cities, what? 11. Read books, watch sports or play sports? Beer or soda? Painting easels or drills? Medicine or homeopathy? Wicca, Christianity, other?

I love this--thank you. I'm going to kick it to Philes (okay Jess?) so others can add their ideas. 

***Please only use for live chat Friday 7/25*** Dear Carolyn- I've been with my spouse for fifteen years. We have a good relationship - it's respectful and friendly. We share responsibilities evenly, we rarely fight (no more than 3 major arguments in 15 years), we have many shared interests, and recently welcomed our first, much wanted child. The last 18 months have been extraordinarily painful, and we are just regaining our footing as a family after what could only be described as an unrelenting series of traumatic events. Those events, and the distance they created between us, leave me with an appreciation for our long history, and deep commitment and love but struggling to recapture the romance/passion/attraction we once had. We've tried dates, weekends away, wine, dinners out, a couples' counselor. But we've both changed so much, and experienced the recent traumas so differently that I'm not sure how to re-energize the marriage, and I feel the burden is primarily mine because my spouse's feelings towards me have not changed. Does it just take time? Is this a normal cycle for a long term relationship? Is there a point at which shared history and a good working relationship are enough? I feel so badly about this. I don't know how to make it better. -Lost

I can't say I do, either, because you haven't shared -how- you feel about your spouse, now vs. then. It's a striking omission.

What you've written, though, reads like a cry for permission to just ... be. With a series of traumatic events followed by a scramble to get back to where you once were--as if that's even possible--underscored by your apparent tilt toward self-flagellation, it's no wonder you're not feeling passion. For anything, much less your partner in trauma.

Please spend some time with no goal besides restoration. Take good care of yourself. Don't shut out your spouse, of course, but don't try to make things right, either. Just keep him or her close through warmth, gratitude and gentle treatment. Think of both of you as a body in need of healing, and act accordingly. 

When you're stronger, you'll be better able to figure out the riddle of your marriage--if you find you still need to. You ask if this is a "normal cycle," and without detail I can't say if yours is or isn't, but marriages do have cycles, and couples who have drifted do find each other again sometimes, if they're both patient and willing and there.


How do I politely handle a Stage 5 Office Clinger? I really like her, but her hour long end of day swing-bys are cutting into my work productivity. Using the phone, restroom, and concentrating on my screen do not deter her.

"I'd love to talk, but I have a lot to do before I go--thanks for understanding."

And if she ignores this request: "I mean it--not now [turn back to your work]."

Any reason you aren't doing this?

Hi Carolyn, How do you tell a friend that it might help to seek professional help for depression? A friend repeatedly send me long emails about how her mom continually degrades her and drives her to hit herself and fall into mood swings. She sends me articles on symptoms of depression and asks me for advice. I suggested she seek advice from a health professional, as had been stated in the article, but she got angry at me and accused me of not paying attention to her situation. She frequently does this and I have run out of things to say to her. Everytime I suggest therapy, she says she knows everything she needs to know. Thank you for your time.

You've already told her--rightly--so that's not the issue here.

Now the issue is backing up your request that she get help. Your friend doesn't want to get help, she just wants the warm, reassuring presence of her friend, and who can blame her? Therapy is difficult and scary and solitary, where having friends tell you how worried they are about you is so validating and it's right there on her phone.

Once you understand that, then you can also see that your reading and listening to and advising her all allows her to postpone a true reckoning with her mental health. Every time you indulge her, you help her avoid treatment.

So here's how I urge you to deal with this from now on: 

She: [Sends long email and asks you for advice.]

You: "I am not qualified to help you. Please talk to a health professional."

She: [Gets angry.] "You're not paying attention to my situation!!"

You: "I am paying attention, and I know I'm not able to help. Would you like my help in finding a doctor or therapist?"

She: "I already know what I need to know."

You: "Okay then. You're still upset, though, and asking for my help, so it does appear otherwise."

She: [Some other expression of disapproval.]

You: "I'm sorry to hear that. When you're ready to make an appointment, let me know if I can help."

--end of discussion on this topic--


A co-worker of mine is getting married and invited me to her wedding. I sent what I thought was a nice gift off her registry that cost about $60. We are in the same role at our office and make approximately the same amount of money (and are fairly well compensated). However, my husband is out of work and we have a hefty mortgage payment, a young child, and another on the way, so my financial situation is not as rosy as my salary might make it appear. My co-worker has been loudly complaining that people in our office are not getting her "nice" gifts and that she feels many people are being very stingy. She went so far as to say that she expects them to give her another gift at the actual wedding. This felt like a jab at me and I'm not sure how to handle it. Just ignore? Explain my situation? Give something else? I didn't think I was being stingy but I also am not eager to hurt what was otherwise a positive professional relationship.

The wolves who raised her must be so proud.

Ignore her. If you weren't yoked together at an office, I'd advise the great friendship rethink. Since she's in your future like it or not, I suggest sticking to whatever your original plan was for the wedding. You intended the gift as her wedding gift, so you're done, no bonus gift is necessary. If you were planning to go to the wedding, then go, and if you weren't, then don't. As I said, change nothing, as if her ugly, greedy sentiments were never expressed.

They were, of course, and you will have to keep them in mind outside the context of the wedding. I don't think it's an overreaction to view her now as someone you can't fully trust. She revealed her character with that loud complaining, and the news is grim. Keep things pleasant and positive but know the asterisk is there.

I know this isn't your gig, but could Jess address this with whomever manages the landing page for Discussions. EVERYTHING on that page, except for the current discussions, is OLD -- e.g., surely the Editor has a Pick that is newer than Zooey Deschanel hugging some random person three years ago. Surely there are newer photo galleries that can be offered. Surely there is a way to keep this page fresh. And most of it has nothing to do with "Discussions." Thanks.

Skip it and go straight to the source: is your direct route to all chats.

(But also, yeah, you're right - we can definitely do better there.)

Strange question....I am a working mother of three young children. It's been bothering me a lot lately that I feel unable to conjure up memories of them when they were younger. The only "memories" that I seem to have are scenes captured by photographs. I'm wondering if this is a result of working, and the resulting increased of our lives, or if this is just natural when you're children are all young and you're exhausted. I feel like all we do is rush around during the week, and I don't want to look back and feel like I missed my kids' childhood. At the same time, I'm afraid if I quit my job I will miss using that part of my brain, and be unable to break back into the workforce. Thank you!!!

Whenever you have one thing, you're generally going to miss another, so I can't say I'm terribly concerned about "that part" of your brain.

Losing your foothold in the workforce, on the other hand, is a real, quantifiable risk. So is missing your kids' childhood.

So the next logical step in dealing with these two conflicting objectives is to figure out which one has room to give. Obviously you don't think family life has any room, because all you do is "rush around" already.

So where else is there room? Can you farm out other responsibilities in your life (e.g., housework), so you're down to work and kids? Can you cut back at work without leaving altogether? Can you work somewhere else that is more family-friendly? Can you take a leave of absence that allows you to hold your spot while you weigh your options? Do you have enough saved or coming in from other sources to absorb an absence from the workforce--including a time and $ allowance at the end of this phase to retrain for your old (or a new) line of work? I assume you're raising these kids with a partner; if you were to wind up single somehow, how fragile would your financial condition be if you were out of the workforce when it happened, or if you had taken a long break from it? The retirement implications of opting out are better faced before you go.

This is all to say, you're looking at this emotionally (and you're dog tired), which is the hardest way to make a clear decision. Please take your feelings only as an alarm that you need to change something, then bring nothing but logic to that analysis. Figure out what you want, what you need, and what you can pull off. Try to get some sleep and then start the conversation, and the research, this weekend.

Just reading about the Wedding Gift Grubber made me want to go around and give all my co-workers hugs.

Looking forward to hearing from them 3 ... 2 ... 1 ... now.

Carolyn made some good points (as usual!) But you also mentioned that you just had your first child. Children can dramatically change your relationship. Before we had our daughter 3 years ago, my husband and I were like you, where we very rarely fought. But after having our daughter, sleep deprivation, hormones, shifting roles, trying to figure out how to best care for our daughter--those led to many arguments. It will take some time to adjust. If you have good friends with kids, it might help to talk with some of them, see how they got through the first few years. Another note: We also dealt with some trauma and ended up in couples counseling. At first, it didn't seem to really help, so we gave up on it. But then we ended up going back and trying to really open up about what we were feeling, even if it was painful and scary at times. And then it started helping. So you might consider counseling again, either for yourself or both of you. It might be, too, that the counselor just wasn't a good fit. Seeing one for yourself can help you deal with the traumas and figure out what you're feeling about your husband. Good luck!

Yes, thank you--and while a new baby alone sometimes doesn't introduce such marital strain, it does change your life dramatically and it is, for most people, exhausting. It's hard to feel anything for anybody when you're just flat-out wiped out. 

And, of course, there's the possibility of some depression here, too--both PPD and situational from all the trauma and its exhausting effects. The dulled feelings could be a symptom more than a problem unto themselves.


Please only use for live chat My parents gifted a family cabin to my 2 sisters and me about 6 years ago. Four years ago, my sister died and so my brother-in-law is now a third owner. BIL and I are putting time, $ and effort into refurbishing, making mutual decisions on things like flooring, lighting, furniture etc. His girlfriend is an interior designer who has been involved and helpful. My other sister is not in on this part as she lives far from the cabin and does not use much but loves it. Everything was going well and I was excited to go see the finished project a few weeks ago. upon entering the cabin, I was shocked to see a giant moose head had been installed over the fireplace. I absolutely despise it and it has become a source of much angst. My sister is appalled at the idea as well. The ceiling fan had to be taken to down to accommodate said moose. Any suggestions to get through this?

Name it?

First of all, I'd like to thank you. I think this is my first ever moose-head question. I'm a little nervous, truth be told. 

Second, just because your BIL has put in a lot of work and his girlfriend is involved and helpful doesn't mean you can't do a forest-item veto. Here's a way to do it in three parts, including gratitude, objection, proposed solution:

"I love what you two have done. It's amazing. I am so grateful."

"One problem: I'm totally freaked out by the moose. I didn't want to be a jerk about it so I didn't say anything right away, but I can't get over it."

"I'd like just to put some art up there. I'd even be okay with a fun fake moose head.* It's the dead animal part I can't get over."

Good luck.


*Google it! I might buy this one after the show (link).


It's funny. I'm the youngest of several children, and my mom often thought it was hilarious that there were no baby photos of me. She quotes Erma Bombeck on that one. Funny thing is....although she said it was universal, that didn't play out in my friends' families. It's just weird that this LW sounds so concerned about it and your answer was so serious whereas my parents (mom mainly) would chuckle at such an observation and say, "That's life!" Then again, the last family vacation we ever had was in 1981. Maybe it's not so funny.

I'm the youngest and there are no pictures of me, so I get it.

Well, someone kindly managed to capture this:


But the way I see it, it's how people feel about their families that counts. The OP is rushing around and fears she's missing something important. I'm not comfortable with an, "Oh, everybody feels that way," kind of brush-off. While just about everyone will struggle to remember details of life with small children (good thing, or else there'd never again be small children), not everyone pops up and starts asking, "Wait, am I doing this all wrong?" Yes, a lot do--but even then, there's no one right answer for all of them. Some find genuine peace in the answer, "No way can I stop working, I'd lose my mind," and some who decide to stop working are almost giddy at the relief they feel.

We're all chipping away at this giant block of granite, and we all stand to learn something from others who have done so before us--but we also bring our own strengths and skills to it. We're all making something unique. This mom sounds like she's ready to stand back a bit to see if she likes how it's turning out.

Worst Date Ever: I had a date with a cute guy at an Irish Pub back in the "salad days" of my youth - and we both suddenly felt like water was splashing down on us. We looked up, and saw that the moose-heads and other taxidermied animal heads were DROOLING on us! Water was dripping out of their mouths onto our heads! True story - it was a hot,muggy day so maybe it was condensation? BLECH. We never had a 2nd date - too traumatized!

You see "Drooling taxidermy," I see, "A dating Hoot is born." 

Or, a dating Hoot is preempted because this already wins.

I am leaving my job in a few weeks and searching for jobs in a different field when I finish grad school next May. I will have several transferable skills, but some of them seemed a little inappropriate to actually put on LinkedIn or my resume. Now, after seeing what you produced on the moose head question, I feel a lot more confident plastering on the top of my resume, "I Google crazy-weird things at work under tight deadlines with tremendously effective results."

I'd hire you in a heartbeat. Me, not so much.

At the risk of the OP feeling like this would be just one more thing on her very full plate to do, here's my suggestion at capturing memories beyond photos. This is something I wish I'd though of when my kids were younger, but better late than never. About 18 months ago, I started a family blog. It's not public (after all, who wants to hear anyone go on and on about how great their kids are), and in fact, I kept it a secret from my husband and kids for the first year. Not for any other reason than I wanted them to be surprised. Which they were, and they are thrilled to know I am capturing our memories in a permanent place. In any case, the blog is full of the memories of their childhood. As we all know, every day our kids do funny little things or have moments that make us burst with pride. So I started blogging them. It literally can be done from my phone or my tablet when I have a spare 5 minutes. The blog entries are not usually long. The entries are full of those little moments that cannot be captured by a photo, though sometimes I add photos too. It's free and easy and can be done anytime, anywhere. I use But there are lots of other sites. It makes me happy every time I make an entry. And like the OP, I am a full time working parent married to another full time working parent with two active kids. So I know this is something that can be done on an already very full plate. Carolyn's suggestions will help you manage the rest of your life and its many challenges. But trust me, the blog feels amazing. And it makes me feel like a great mom even on those days where I feel like I could being doing more for my kids.

Not only do I wish I'd thought of this when my kids were much younger, I also wish I wouldn't finish this chat and then not start a blog and keep letting all those moments be lost to the breezes, because I know that's what I'm going to do.



I wasn't the letter writer for this one, but a lot of people don't speak up about issues that they have about these things out of fear. They're afraid of looking "rude." It takes a lot to get over that fear and to just put oneself first.

You mean to just put one's work first, which one is paid to do. Call it the courage of one's contract.

Carolyn, that's a terrible insult to all wolves. In my experience $60 is extremely generous for a gift from a co-worker, unless (s)he is a friend outside of work also (not just the occasional weekday lunch, but socializing on evenings and weekends too). If this were me, my poor Aunt Suzanne would fall and break her hip, and no other caretaker could be available, sadly, on the exact date of the wedding, so I'd have no choice but to visit to care for her that weekend.

You're right. I owe an apology to wolves. I learned a lot today and I will work toward redeeming myself in the eyes of the wolf community, which has been so unwavering of its support of this chat.

My husband and I are expecting our first child. We have chosen not to find out the sex, largely because we want to hold off the avalanche of pink or blue for an extra few months (ultimately futile, we know, but important to us right now). My MIL, on the other hand, has pretty rigid views on gender roles - I have no idea how my husband turned out the way he did! - and we know she'll be dramatically offended if we try to articulate this to her. We can't decide if we should just lie and say we aren't finding out the sex because we want to be surprised, or, alternatively, if we should use this as an opportunity to try to (once again) explain how we think about gender. In the long-run, I know that, e.g., a pink dress from a grandma who occasionally says deeply anachronistic things is not going to ruin my daughter for feminism, and that we won't be able to keep grandma from being herself - but maybe it's worth trying to take a stand here?

It's not. At least, it's not worth trying to take a stand now. Your child will be immune to her influence until s/he acquires the language to understand what's being said about boys and girls, so luxuriate in that for a while. It's rare when you can safely postpone a battle.

You also don't have much leverage when you take it on preemptively. When the time comes, and Grandma says something to your child along the "Girls like pink" lines, then you'll be much more effective if the parent nearest to them states matter-of-factly, "Boys like pink, too ... did you know it used to be a boy color?" (handy link here, hi Jeanne). You take on this bias statement by statement--and, yes, count on your greater influence, and count on the fact that your child is an individual and will form his/her opinion to some extent without parental obeisance, as your husband apparently did himself.

All that said, I don't think you need to (or want to) lie about why you're waiting to learn the baby's sex. You can say it to your mother-in-law, just as long as you don't make it -about- your mother-in-law: "When friends have found out early, it became all about Boy or Girl. We're just enjoying the idea of either right now."

Congratulations and good luck.

My 17-year-old daughter has been with her current boyfriend for about 1-1/2 years, and he's about to leave for college in a few weeks - she's going to be a senior in high school. She's already planning to visit him "at least once a month" in college (no, I have not yet granted my permission for these visits) but he's going to be on the football team, the college is 8 hours away, and I'm trying to help her realize that he's going to have a lot of demands on his time (academic and athletic) and that it may be best to give him the space and time he needs to succeed in school and be supportive from a distance. I'm trying not to minimize her feelings that they're "in love" and talking about a future together because I know some couples who did indeed meet in high school and are now happily married. I just want to help her realize the relationship is going to change and it's important for them at their ages to experience new things and some independence. Any suggestions?

Eight hours away! Who's paying for her travel?

That natural obstacle might get a lot more accomplished than your words can. And, if he has demands on his time, isn't he the best messenger for that?

Plus, she will have her own work to do in school, which she can't just dump to spend a weekend (mostly) on the road.

1 + 1 + 1 = a strong possibility that you don't have to do much here at all besides let nature take its course. If she pays for the trip, has all her schoolwork done in advance and he wants her to visit, then let her. Maybe if those planets actually manage to align once a month (obviously I'm skeptical) then you'll have to have the please-don't-close-yourself-off-to-new-experiences talk, though even that comes with a caveat: If she hasn't spent past weekends traveling 8 hrs solo to a college campus, then this -is-the new thing, and staying home is the old one. Be ready for that when you go in.

Deep breathing in the meantime.

I tend to think that sometimes we bend over backwards to make sure our children are presented the version of society that we want them to see. But in reality, there are a lot of opinions out there, and we don't have to agree with all of them. If Grandma has mildly offensive - but not damaging - viewpoints, what harm could it be to expose the children to that? Then, when Grandma is gone, explain why Grandma might feel the way she does. Teach children that they can't control what other people think or feel, they can only control their reaction to it. Kids are a lot smarter then people give them credit for. Let them see that other people think, feel, and act differently then Mom and Dad - and then give them space to form their own opinions.

I love this, thank you. 

I do think some viewpoints are damaging, and often we only learn they are in retrospect (as with gender, sexuality, race, etc.), so I maintain allegiance to the on-the-spot, "Actually, [blah blah blah fact-check]" when we have both the facts and the presence of mind to do so. 

But there's no possible way to be present (or just presence-of-minded) All The Time, and so this philosophy of acceptance is a beautiful way to handle diversity of experience and opinion in general.

I left for college with my boyfriend in high school. It was too far for him to visit. I wish he had been able to, because then we would have realized sooner it wasn't a good fit. Young people need to spend time together so that they can figure out if they're a match.

Suitable for stuffing and mounting over the fireplace.

Look: color options!!

I want one with graffiti. Here, Etsy Etsy Etsy ...

My fiance's ten-year-old daughter said last week that she wants to call me mom. Her mom, who has 80% custody, is 100% percent against this. The daughter wants to do it anyway and not tell her mom. This doesn't feel right. On the other hand, her father and I want to support her in developing a relationship with me as she sees fit. If that includes calling me mom, then we embrace that. What's best for the daughter here if her mom won't budge in her opinion (and history says she won't)?

The best way to support the daughter is not to be a wedge between her and her mother.

Yes, the daughter wants to call you Mom, which is wonderful and loving and says you're doing well at developing the relationship.

I suggest you give the daughter a big hug and say you're so touched and happy she wants this, and that you feel the same way about her. Then say you understand why her mom wants to be the only "Mom," though, and you also don't want Daughter to be in the position of having to hide something from anyone--secrets get heavy. So, maybe you and she can come up with a name you both like?


Nutterati suggestions welcome--I'm sure many have worked past this same obstacle.

I realized recently that my friend and I feel connected in different ways. We live in different cities, so don't see each other often, but we do talk on the phone often (usually initiated by her when she's driving to/from work). I enjoy our chats, but I also make an effort to visit her and to attend celebrations for her and her family's life-events (showers, birthdays, etc.). At the very least, I will send a gift. She simply does not reciprocate (she has older children, I have none). I love her, but I feel that it's unfair that the friendship is on her terms, while there is no effort to connect in ways that are meaningful to me. I've already told her that I'd like to see her more, that I wish she visited me, that it hurts my feelings when she says she will attend an event but then doesn't. I guess I don't know what the next step is after you ask someone you love for something, and they can't give it.

You either continue the friendship on the available terms, or you end it. Bluntly stated, but that's the crossroads you've reached.

Without addressing the larger question, one thing my mom did that I love was writing notes on the wall calendar of our days. Not every day, but days that were somewhat 'notable', probably 10 days out of the month. Sometimes the notes were funny things that we did or said, sometimes big milestones, and sometimes just, "went to grandma's house and made cookies." Then we'd take them out and look at them from time to time so some memories stayed 'fresh'. As kids, we LOVED hearing about the funny things that we said or did, and now looking back, I love the evidence that I had a great relationship with my uncle that died when I was young. It's not a journal or a hour by hour account---just notes of the small things that eventually make up a childhood.

I like this too, thanks.

It always works out correctly. 1) Make it clear that all travel is on her. 2) All her schoolwork absolutely must be kept up. That is job one. 3) No surprise visits...ever. He is completely aware of all her travel plans. 4) if she was in an activity last year, she still does it (if she already indicated at the end of season she didn't like it that is fine, but if she has made a commitment for the last 3 years she will not let a team down.) I am telling you that if it is meant to be it will work out, not all guys are jerks that are going to cheat on her.

Yes to 3 and 4, solid additions, thanks.

I'm not sure where the "not all guys are jerks" comes in--I even went back to the original post, and there was no mention of an expectation of cheating in the Q or the A.

I am not a girly-girl, but my daughter loves dresses and wants her nails painted. So I'm learning about nail polish (who knew about clear coat?). But I think the key is to have all kinds of experiences and introduce your kid to lots of different kinds of people. Words are important, but what they see really sticks. When we visited my Dad a couple of weeks ago, my six-year-old explained to him that boys wear dresses, too, and that comes from taking her to Pride every year.

Yes to the varied experiences. Tying this in with the comment about not shielding kids from differing opinions, I'd even specify nonjudgmental exposure to varied experiences. Thanks.

My high school experience was rather tough as I went to three different high schools in three different states. I had a great friend from my first high school and we truly became like sisters. My first year at my second high school, my parents even flew her down to come visit me as a late Christmas present.  When I moved again before my senior year, I had an incredibly tough time adjusting. When I mentioned I was thinking about moving back to my first high school and staying with an old family friend, I didn't hear from her for about five months-she never returned my phone calls, emails, nothing and I felt abandoned by my friend when I needed her the most (and she also moved once across the country, so she knew what I was going through.) She later apologized and said she wanted to rebuild our friendship-only to do the same thing again a couple weeks later. About a year after her last "disappearance" I still occasionally get texts and one line emails from her about how she'll "always think of me as one of her best friends." I feel like I'm being drunk texted by an ex-boyfriend and it always leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Is there a cordial way to let her know that our relationship is not a friendship, and I'm really not interested in keeping in touch? (I also might be seeing her in about a week, due to a family trip we're taking to her college town were she's living for the summer. Yuck!)

How old are you both? College age still, it seems, but I don't want to assume.

I'm inclined to advise that you leave this one alone for a while. See her next week, read the situation, roll with the "drunk" texts without taking them as the last word on anything. I asked ages because she might still be going through a rough transition to adulthood, in which case there's a chance she comes out the other side in a better place and better position to be a true friend.

Of course, she could also come out the other side so different from you that even the pretense of a friendship is gone, but then you'll know for sure. 

Age notwithstanding, her texting and disappearing and etc. sound as if they're way more about her than about you, so if you have it in you not to take them personally, give a thought to waiting her out to see what happens.

Some Mom-alternatives coming in. Sans comment:

My name is Sue; my stepdaughter calls me SueMom. So does her husband and her best friend. I love it!

I was in foster care at 14 and my "mom" and "dad" were the reason -- abuse and neglect. I really wanted to call my foster mother "mom," but she said she thought that wasn't the best idea and suggested I call her "Mother," which I did until she died when I was in my 50s. It was a good way to bridge the gap.

In 20 years, this little girl could easily have 2 "Moms". My aunt and uncle both had kids from previous marriages, and they've been married now for 35 years. When my cousin says "Mom", I literally don't know if she's talking about her natural mom or step mom. That's what blended families do. Natural Mom may relax in a few years, and not see step mom as a challenge to her. Give it time.

Mama Sally (fill in the blank)?

Much clamor for a dating Hoot. I'll have to see when the moose is available and get back to you. A Valentine's Day peg seems like the natural thing.

In the meantime, we have the wedding Hoot soon, enough to make the driest taxidermy drool. Submit something here early--it helps me tons when I can read ahead:

Submit here (link, in a tasteful peau de soie).

When my son was about 8 he didn't like calling my spouse step-dad and came up with "New-Dad". We had a good co-parenting relationship between the 3 adult and we thought this was funny and his dad laughed at being called the Old Dad. My ex recently remarried and I was granted an upgraded title from Ex-wife to First wife. It's important to have a sense of humor!

True, but sadly one can't be implanted in humorless, defensive or angry parties to a co-parenting arrangement.

A couple of posts I forgot (aptly) about in the I-can't-remember-my-babies thread: 

This isn't really a question, it's more a response to Lack of Memories post. Now I realize I am only getting a small glimpse into this person's life but I too am a working mom but never have I thought that my job was making me not remember my kids childhoods. I think it's completely natural that when I think of my 4 yr old, I see his current personality, his preschooler haircut and that I don't see an infant. I can think back on pictures and videos of when he was a baby but don't think that's a sign of memory loss. It's like when you get a drastic haircut -- pretty much after the initial shock, you can't really remember how you looked before you cut your hair unless you look at a picture. So I guess what I'm trying to say to Lack of Memories is relax. And just remember to take more pictures and videos to preserve those memories. The important moments will stand out, no matter what.

True. Probably an issue best separated from a work-family balance question.

I feel this way all the time. I don't think it's bad. I thought it was a normal part of aging that you just start dropping memories to make way for new ones. I often will hear a song on the radio and tell my husband, "Ooh, I like this band a lot. We should go see them in concert sometime." And he'll tell me, "We did. Two years ago. How do you not remember that?" The LW sounds perfectly normal to me. I bet even if she stayed at home, she'd start forgetting things too.

My 3 mostly grown children (ages 18, 20, 24) all live/attend school at least a 2-hour drive from the town where their grandparents, father and I live. Good, happy relationship among everyone ... but the kids don't normally think to visit their grandparents when they're home for a weekend (even tho their dad and I set a good example of visiting our own g'rents with the kids while they were growing up). What's my role in this? My feeling is that they're old enough to decide what sort of relationship they want with their relatives and that they best know how to manage those relationships. ... or do I have some responsibility, especially for the younger ones, to continue to provide parental guidance with gentle reminders once in a while (not every visit home)? My parents, for their part, are always effusively glad to see the kids and tell them at the end of visits to make sure to come back when they're home again. So, butt out, or butt in?

Figure out a frequency of visits that you think is fair to ask, and back off for all but those visits. E.g., your kids come to town once a month, so you decide a good minimum is for them to see the grands every third visit. Leave the subject alone, then before the third visit, say, "How bout seeing the grandparents?"

Yes your kids are old enough to decide, but they're also young enough to need a flick to the forehead occasionally. Heck, my dad will remind me to call relatives occasionally. I'm grateful because I might otherwise forget. It's not a crime to promote family connections, as long as you don't harp.

There's a theme to today's chat, but I forgot what it is.

Did I forget to say the wedding Hoot is Aug. 15? It's Aug. 15.

Yes, we're at the end, how could you tell.

Bye everyone, thank you, have a weekendy weekend, and hope to see you here next week.

Don't phorget Philes (link) ...

And give me your drunk, your jealous, your inappropriate toasts yearning to be set free (Hoot link) ...

... and send Jess your suggested transcript headlines. 

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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 New England with her husband and their three boys.

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