Carolyn Hax Live: 'Goddess help us all.'

Apr 20, 2018

Advice columnist Carolyn Hax chats live every Friday at noon to answer any questions you might have about this strange train we call life.

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Hello everybody. I've got parent-teacher conferences for the dudes next Friday so I won't be able to chat. I'll be back on schedule May 4, and with any luck, spring in New England will be, too. 

We have a five year old daughter, conceived naturally. We weren't as lucky the second time around, but were able to conceive our second child, due in August, through IVF and through the use of donor eggs. We don't see anything wrong with this choice, although we understand it might be difficult for friends or family to understand. (That doesn't really matter to us, though.) Our concern is we want to control the information to our child surrounding his conception, and we want him to be aware that he is still 100% our child, but we had to have a little help for him. We think the best way to control the information is not to share it with family and friends so it doesn't ever "slip" out, but we are worried that not telling will translate as it being something we are ashamed of, which we are not. Our secondary concern is that we don't want our first child to ever make the second child feel "less than," so we want the information to come from us, naturally. Do you have any thoughts? We don't want our families to think we've lied by omission, either.

Congrats!

You might want to run this question by a counselor who specializes in these issues; no doubt the provider for your IVF would have names.

In general, though, I think you have the right idea by making sure you're the source of the information for both of your children. I am also a believer in telling kids things like this when they're old enough to retain the information in some form, but still young enough not to remember when they ever didn't know. That means they'll know before they can really understand it, which isn't the worst thing, either; you have more control of the narrative that way anyway. You can follow up with more information as they age into it.

Doing it this way helps with the family issue, too--you don't really need to keep them in the dark at all, but if you prefer to, then you won't have to for long.

I don't know of one offhand but I expect there's a book out there on this, both for the adults and geared to young kids. Anyone have one to recommend?

 

Hi Carolyn, I'm a borderline extrovert married to a definite introvert. I used to enjoy hosting parties/social events before we got together, but I know he's not a fan and haven't done anything for ages (I also didn't try because we lacked space when we first moved in together). Still, I'd like to host something occasionally. Any advice on how to organize something that doesn't completely stress him out or cause him to check out midway through? (I'm looking for ways to discuss this with him - not to spring a party on him, just to be clear.) Thanks, love your work!

Wait--you can't even say to him, "I'd love to have people over sometime. I know that's not your thing, but I'm wondering if we can find a way to make it work for both of us"? Introversion isn't the problem, if that's true--it's something else. Bigger.

BTW,  don't be so quick to rule out the "check out midway through" plan. One way an extro can host without overtaxing an intro is for the intro to hang out as long as it's comfortable to, and then skulk off to bed. You just have to let go of the idea of both of you standing on the stoop and waving goodbye to the last few guests. As long as one host is still graciously hosting to the end, there's no need to apologize for the other one who snuck off to get some sleep. Put it under the eccentricity umbrella and forget about it.

 

I have a daughter and some other moms of daughters and I have started getting together at a local playground at a set time each week. Recently a mom of a boy brought her son to the playground at the same time we were there. I asked her (nicely, I thought) if she would mind leaving because we had wanted it to be a girls-only time. She refused and seemed angry at me. If she comes back, is there a better way I can approach her? This has been such a sweet time for moms and daughters and having a boy there is naturally going to change things. We live in a world where boys get everything and girls are left with the crumbs, and I would think this mom would realize that, but she seems to think her son is entitled to crash this girls-only time. I know I can't legally keep her from a public park, but can I appeal to her better nature?

Can I appeal to -your- better nature?

Goddess help us all.

Shooing off the mom and her boy was terrible. And justifying it as a cosmic correction? Wow.

That kid is a human being--not with privileged little man feelings, either, but with feelings, period. Perhaps even a disposition that fit better into your idea of girl behavior than one or more of the girls there. People are not widgets. And the adult you shooed off is a mom, possessor of the same crumbs you've been fed, no? So don't you think she would have just liked to hang with some fellow moms in the park while she was out with her child?

I mean, maybe not now. I'd avoid you thereafter if I were the one you asked to leave on these terms.

If you're going to have an exclusive gathering, then host it on private property.

And if you're going to accuse anyone of being "entitled," then ask yourself who was claiming possession of public space for her own purposes.

I am an introvert who also has an extroverted spouse and together we have found a way to enjoy hosting events (which I typically like in theory and then start to dread as they get closer). Some things that have helped me: taking on active and specific hosting roles, which keep me moving, checking ice, clearing cups so I'm not stuck with the chitchat (it's way better than being a party-goer and not having anything else to do). I like events in the 15-25 person range, not a group of six having a single conversation. I also make sure that I've got time earlier in the day or weekend to myself. I've made it work for me because I do want to host events in my home--if your spouse is not a fan of entertaining in general this won't make it better, but if your spouse is willing to give it a try I hope this helps.

It may be that big parties are a non starter, but a dinner party for 8 including the two of you would be a pleasure. I guess I'd wonder if I were compatible if even that would not work. We rarely have big parties, but we often have anywhere from 2 to 6 people over for dinner and an evening, maybe watch a movie too. We are both fairly introverted but find this kind of thing a pleasure. So explore the kind of social life that would work for him -- if it is 'none' then maybe it is time to move on and find someone more compatible.

This is my wife and I. She's the extrovert. She'll often host her friends at our house. I'll hangout for a bit, say hi, catch up with everyone, then after a little while, I either head out to the gym or go to the basement to watch TV. It works for us.

I like the book "What Makes a Baby: A book for every kind of family and every kind of kid" by Cory Silverberg -- it tells about reproduction focused on sperm + egg (not specific people), so you can add in whatever details you want whenever you are ready.

Thanks, I'll look it up after the chat.

Could we please, please get the OT button working or seriously moderate the OT clique on the daily columns? By 8:00 am MT the comments section is clogged with what this crowd (do you want their usernames? They're easy to find) eats for breakfast, watched last night, how vacation is going and what their MIL's said last week. It's out of control. Thanks so much.

Hi there -- Thanks for the note. I wanted to mention this to the larger community. As the community editor here on The Post, I'm not proud of how long it has taken to fix this issue. I can promise it is high on the list and I'm making sure it will get fixed as soon as possible. 

I understand the best answer is a date or time. When I get that, the first thing I'll do is let the community know.

I've found that using the oldest-to-newest view is the best way to see column-related posts with the least OT stuff mixed in. 

Hi Carolyn - I have a former co-worker/friend who moved about an hour away several years ago. Before her move we were close, texting, talking multiple times a day. Once she moved that slowed down to where we would meet for a meal a couple times a year and text/call intermittently. Since last September, I have been the one to text and every time I do she tells me that she misses me and we should get together and even suggests dates. Each time I reply which date I would be available, she never texts me back. This has happened 3 times now. The last time I very specifically just texted a hi, how's it going with no suggestion of getting together. She did the same thing - I miss you, let's meet, are you available on ... and when I replied with availability no response. After the first time I wondered if I had done something and she was mad, but over Christmas she sent a card so I tried again. After trying 3 times I've pretty much decided the friendship has run it's course except for seeing what she's up to on Facebook , but I'm still really hurt over this. If she really doesn't want to get together, why keep suggesting it and then ghost me?

I don't know. It's possible she really does want to see you but the making-of-plans-plus-an-hour-of-travel hurdle is a quarter-inch taller than the height she's willing to jump for you. 

It's kind of cold to spell it out this way, I realize, but it's actually a few degrees warmer than your suggestion that she's ghosting you. That implies intent to avoid where my version is more intent to enjoy that gets overwhelmed by logistics.

It's actually, I think, in the same vein as some of the other etiquette ills we're seeing more of lately, like not RSVPing to things or not showing up after ticking "yes" or not sending thank-yous for gifts. I think our collective radar is shrinking fast, to the point where the only things typical people typically notice on it these days are the ones already right in their faces in the course of daily life.

Merely noting this, not defending it.

It would be an interesting, larger conversation to have though, I think. Isn't socializing while far apart a relatively new thing for humans? Can we pull that off against a villagey nature at the same time our attention spans are in freefall?

In the meantime, I urge anyone on the wrong end of this phenomenon to see if it's possible not to take it personally. Worth a try at least.

In this case, I also suggest just being straight with your friend, without anger: When she suggests a date next time, don't text back, but call her instead. "Are you serious about May 5? 'Cause I'm in. And I'm not letting you not text me back."

Dear Carolyn, My friend "Jane" just told me, as a courtesy, that she has struck up a connection wtih my ex-boyfriend "John" and that things are headed in a romantic direction. John and I dated for about three years ending 1.5 years ago; I consider him the one that got away and still have raw feelings of pain when I think of him. There are still local restaurants and social events I avoid so that I don't have to run into him as I try to ready myself for the possibility of a new relationship someday. Jane did not ask my permission to date John (I would not expect her to), she says she just wanted me to find out directly so that it didn't surprise me if I saw them together. I am worried that our friendship can't survive it if she starts dating the person who broke my heart. However, that doesn't seem like something that would be fair for me to tell her. What do I do instead? Stay quiet and silently pull away from the friendship if it turns out that's what I need to do?

Tough one, and not much you can do about it, I'm sorry. 

But the few things you can do have the potential to make a significant difference:

1. Stop avoiding these places you're avoiding. With apologies to Thoreau: demystify, demystify, demystify. Running into John in the new context of not being his girlfriend is the best way to render him--and seeing him--as ordinary as possible. If you were stuck seeing him every day, next door or at the next desk or whatever, then that would certainly be an obstacle to getting over him, but you're talking occasional contact--so the more that happens, the more of a non-event it becomes. As it stands now, the "ready myself" plan of avoiding him completely has probably only fed the John mystique. You want to land in the middle somewhere. 

2. Don't stay quiet, but don't go all in with a prediction that the friendship likely won't survive, either. Just say the minimum: "That will be tough for me, I won't pretend otherwise. I'm glad you told me though."

3. If Jane and John become a thing and you if you conclude that's it for you and Jane, then don't "silently pull away." Again, just say the minimum: "I'm happy you've found happiness. I've found I can't be in a front-row seat though. I'm not ready. I hope you'll understand."

By the way--he's not the one who got away. He's still around, so he's the one who didn't fit. Please please please trust that and free yourself of the image of him you've built up.

My 5th grade boy has always gravitated to playing with girls. Please don't group all boys into a stereotype of being disruptive or playing a different way than girls play. You do kids a disservice by not treating them as the individuals they are.

Re: Playground Drama - I have one son, and neighborhood turnover meant that all the people in his age range in the neighborhood are now girls. The summer before middle school, all the girls decided they wanted "girl time" and he was pointedly excluded the entire summer, including swimming in the backyard pool of one of the girls. I am proud he has been able to get past that and be friends with them since, but I think he keeps in mind that they are capable of "mean girl" behavior. Please don't let your daughters think that excluding people because of their gender is OK. Boys are people too.

I have two kids, a boy and a girl, and consider myself an extreme feminist, for whatever that's worth. (Just think that women should be treated like humans but apparently that's radical.) Think of it this way: you are perpetuating the exclusion of one sex over the other in society. Kids are kids. Adults teach them that one sex is different from the other, or only gets to do certain things. You are doing the same, but at the expense of a little boy who wanted to play on a playground.

So my son's best friend since middle school has been living in my guest room for a couple of months now, since his 18th birthday. His home situation has been very unstable for the past few years since his parents split up, and he bounced around their houses until he turned 18, at which point he began to stay with us because he could no longer tolerate the situation with his parents. He is a really good kid, has a job and does well in school, has gotten into college pretty much on his own, and just needs some stability to finish high school before he goes away to college in the fall. His parents know where he is, but do not check on him, that I know of, and seem to be wrapped up in their own issues still. He and my son are like brothers, except they don't quarrel, so I don't mind having him with us, and they are going to the same college in the fall. As I plan for end of year events, graduation, etc., I am treating him as if he were mine, as at this point, it seems that he will not have family support otherwise. I have invited both his parents to a graduation party I am having for the boys, but so far, have heard from neither. It pains me so much to see these adults abandon their great kid, but he seems resigned, and even a little bit relieved, to not engage with them. I don't know what my question is exactly, but would appreciate some insight into how best support a young person who seems very alone in the world right now, but is very much an adult, at least legally.

Aw geez. Here's some support for -you-. Big e-hug. You may well be saving this kid. 

Now. Is it possible the parents feel usurped, and "inviting" them to a party you're throwing for their child is (or will become) the thing they grab onto as grounds to accuse you of overstepping? It popped into my head as I was reading your question, so that suggests it is possible. And maybe it would have been a respectful gesture (as in, respectful of their role as birth parents the past few years and actual parents presumably before that) for you to call them to say you were having this party for the boys and would they like to co-host?

But at the same time, it might have been *dis*respectful of this kid's desire not to engage with his parents anymore, so you would have had to ask him before talking to his parents ...

Anyway, I'm obviously thinking out loud here, only because I'm looking under things and around corners for anything that might ambush you or make this kid's situation worse. But mostly what I see is grace under a terrible pressure on this kid.

The one thing I suggest is that you state clearly that he has a home with you as any child of yours does. If you don't, then he might have doubts about school vacations or holidays after he graduates or if he gets sick or injured or laid off or whatever. If you feel you can offer him that security, then please do so explicitly.

My brother is having a destination wedding that's going to require a minimum of a 12 hour flight and flying over an ocean. My husband and I have a small child, but no kids are invited, which I have no issue with. The wedding will be in a foreign country where we don't speak the language so neither one of us are keen on trying to find a babysitter we've never met prior. Most importantly, I don't want to want to be that far apart from my child while she's this young. (I do travel for business frequently but it's not far and not that long.) How horrible is it if we don't go? My brother and I aren't that close so I imagine he won't care, and the bride met us briefly twice so she hardly knows us. But my parents are getting really antsy about this and "how it looks." Well how it looks is that a couple picked a very faraway destination for a wedding and banned kids. I don't think it gets more simple than that. Is this something wedding guests and future in-laws really worry about? I don't think my husband and I have ever worried about such details at weddings we go to.

If "how it looks" is the only argument you or they have in favor of going, then, yeah. Don't go.

Depending on your definition of "really antsy," I don't even think this even meets the definition of wedding drama.

But I also suspect this isn't really just about your showing up to maintain appearances. Maybe I'm projecting too much, but the parental concern that makes more sense to me is that your parents are afraid their family is splintering and their kids aren't close. Which may be true, and probably would be true even if you, say, paid a babysitter to travel with you so you could actually attend the wedding (the deluxest deluxe destination plan), but that doesn't make it any easier for parents who are witnessing it after hoping for your entire childhoods that you sibs would look out for each other long after they're gone. 

So, stretching this projection to a new paragraph and into absurdity, maybe it would help your parents accept your absence if you made it clear you love your brother very much and wish you could be there, and it's no reflection on how close you feel, it's just a logistical problem of a small child and an adults-only wedding and 24 hours in round-trip flight.

Sitting at my desk, trying to subtly wipe away the tears after the letter from the mom who is giving her son's friend the love and stability we all deserve. Thanks for nothing!

Mine weren't subtle at all!

Wait-- I work at home. Heh.

Thank you for being you. That was my situation many years ago, except I was kicked out when I graduated at 17. I am now taking care of that mom that helped me as we deal with her pancreatic cancer and treatment. hugs!

Youse guys. I just got tissues.

If you're not up for a love-in, avert your eyes:

He is not alone in the world - he has your family and that seems a great thing to have. You are doing stellar work here supporting this young man!

OP, not only are you saving this kid but you are also serving as an amazing role model to your son (and others). Thank you, really. On a more serious note (in addition to Carolyn's advice) if you decide to become a more permanent "home base" for this young man, you may want to have some explicit conversations about financial support, especially as he leaves for college. It's a little uncomfortable but it's always best to be clear about boundaries and expectations up front!

I came from a very similar family to that of your son's friend. I think the biggest reason I'm a well-adjusted adult today is that in childhood I saw a couple of my close friends' families model how families are supposed to treat each other. You're doing a wonderful thing for this young man.

I have friends who did the same thing for a friend of their two sons. They lived their convictions and that is not easy. I am so admiring of them and anyone else who does this for a child.

My spouse left home as soon as he could and stayed with a friend until he could finish high school. Thirty years later, he has no regrets and is very clear that his parents whiffed, not him, and certainly not the family that hosted him. He was able to extricate himself from hell due to that family's generosity. And he's such a good dad now, in spite of his own parents being downright terrible at it--one abusive, and the other just absent. This isn't advice, just a note to say you may not see for years just how kind your generosity is, and how much it may ultimately have changed his life for the better. Thank you.

I am so grateful for the parents who are caring for their son's friend. The mom who wanted to exclude a boy from a public park vexed me pretty badly, and I was focusing my dismay about the state of the world into a laser beam aimed at her...beautifully dissipated by a letter showing such kindness and thoughtfulness. Hugs to that letter writer.

Yes to all of you.

And omg, you used the word "vexed." There aren't enough tissues.

Can I just offer my big BIG e-hugs to this wonderful parent, and some for this young man who has had such an achingly tough path to walk? Wow - was reaching for tissues reading this. You are showing him how whole healthy human beings behave in this world. You don't know me, but major kudos to you and your family, and from someone who has worked with abused kids, thank you, thank you!!

I know I'm in the minority in this chat but... Yes, the mom should have had a girls only thing on private property, and she should have let the boy play. But that boy, by his very gender and nothing else, will have a whole world of advantages and opportunities and higher wages open to him

No! I mean, yes, or by the time he's older maybe it's a maybe, but that is not relevant to who plays with whom and who is worthy of inclusion!

This poster says it better than I do:

Punishing a boy for the sins of humankind is not feminism, it's reverse discrimination. Even if it weren't a public park which anyone should feel welcome to use, anytime, it's just mean to exclude a child who doesn't happen to fit the mold. Wouldn't you be ashamed if the excluded kid were of a different skin color? Disabled? Different economic class? Among the advantages we can give our daughters, how about the gift of platonic friendships with boys? Some day they'll be colleagues, bosses, subordinates, mates. Why not invite interaction while you still have some say about the terms of play?

Inclusion is standing over Exclusion like Ali over Liston.

Okay, figuratively! Inclusion would never do that literally, of course.

I bought my sister a book called "The Egg That Was Me" it discussed how a generou bunny helped another bunny who couldn't have a baby. She reads it to her boys (both IVF and donor egg) regularly . The boys are 4 and 1.

Cool, thanks.

OKAY okay more love (and a close second in awesomeness, some financial aid tips):

My family took in my brothers best friend at age 17 and he became an incredibly important part of our family. Now forty years later, he is still part of our family and we consider him one of us and is called Uncle by our daughter. My mother adored him as do we all.

To the mom taking care of the high school senior with the absentee parents - you are the coolest mom ever.

My high school friend basically moved in with my family at one point. He even ended up staying with us the days before his wedding as his step-mother was less than supportive and his father just seemed to go along with it (his mother lived out of the area). 30 years later he is still part of our family.

For the OP, if you haven't investigated this with his school social worker, he could be considered an unaccompanied minor and officially declared homeless, which would make him independent on his financial aid application. You may want to have him see his school counselor for more information- this could greatly increase the amount of financial aid he's eligible to receive. And the less loans this kiddo starts adult life with, the better. Love to all of you.

As someone who has a kiddo in college and way more familiar with financial aid forms than I’d like to be, it could be a real gift to this young man to help him walk thru the process of being emancipated for purposes of college funding. He shouldn’t have it count against him that school will think his parents are contributing to his life when they aren’t

"Isn't socializing while far apart a relatively new thing for humans? Can we pull that off against a villagey nature at the same time our attention spans are in freefall?" It's a challenge to live far from ones you love - friends, family. I think of my cousins kids growing up in TX while their grandparents are in HI. Sometimes I think if I could un-move 3000 mi from my family, I would. But, there are many reasons I left and I've built a life I love where I am. I don't know how to reconcile this. Other than sometimes acquiescing to the sadness I have at not having some folks I love best in my nearby village. And traveling as I can to see them. It's a balancing act, one I'm not sure I've mastered.

If perfect is the enemy of the good, maybe mastery is too? I don't know. I don't think we should have to apologize for forming local bonds. It's not a rejection of loved ones elsewhere, it's just accepting the reality of connection. We want to feel connected where we are. I guess we could argue we're acquiescing to it vs. accepting, but, tomato tomahto. 

Dear Carolyn, My brother is really opinionated and can be very argumentative. One of his hot button issues is alcohol, he doesn’t believe in alcoholism. My wife’s father is an alcoholic and they’ve had a few rounds of arguments when we first got together. In recent years, they more or less let sleeping dogs lie. About a year ago my father-in-law was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver. Shortly thereafter my brother mentioned casually that he thinks people can get that even if they don’t drink and it’s not his fault he’s sick. My wife responded that he has it because he’s a drunk. She has avoided my brother since, which I support. My father-in-law died last weekend and my wife doesn’t want my brother at the services. I respect my wife’s position on this but I’m not sure how to tell my brother in a way that can, hopefully, preserve their relationship in the future.

A man who believes in arguments and doesn't believe in facts is not going to preserve a whole lot of relationships no matter what you do. Just please tell your brother your wife is understandably grieving and so, in light of their recent history, it's best that he not come to the funeral. 

I wrote to you last year about finding out about my half-sister after my father died. You advised that I proceed with caution and I did. We connected and it's been a bumpy ride as she understandably resents our dad and the way he treated her mom. I can't blame her and I can't explain it so I just let it go. The happy news is that we've slowly become family to each other and she's getting married next month and I'm walking her down the aisle! I'm bursting with pride about my beautiful sister and so happy for her. I'm glad I found her and reached out. Thanks.

Thank you, too, for the happy news. And for being so Googlable that I can include this LINK to the column.

Yikes, it's late. That's it for today. Thanks all, have a great weekend, see you in May!

And yes, I know I went over-, under-and through-board on the love-in, but I took a chance that I'm not the only one in need of a little affirmation of life.

In This Chat
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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