While I’m away, readers give the advice.
On being asked to return something given to you as a gift: Just about the time I got my first apartment, my parents were reclaiming my brother’s room as a den (he had married at this point). My mother gave me his bed. I bought a dresser and nightstand to match, and when I later married, this became my guest bedroom set.
Thirty years later, my brother and his third wife bought a larger home. My mother called and said Brother needed his bed back. I told my mom I had had it for 30 years compared with his 23, therefore the statute of limitations had passed on returns. For once, she was speechless!
Gimme My Gift Back!
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On having been the “class weirdo” and not wanting to raise one: With four teenagers, we’ve finally realized we can’t ensure our kids will do anything. We have an Irish dancer, two lacrosse players and a wrestler. We have some who cook, some who get straight A’s, some who make their beds without being asked, some who walk the dog just for fun, some who get lost in books for days on end, some who surround themselves with friends, and some who go to church even if the family sleeps in. We have some who tell us everything that’s on their minds and hearts, and some who need quiet space and time within which to reveal just a little.
What can we ensure? That they know we love them, regardless. That they know we are there for them — supporting their passions, buying into what THEY love, and helping them correct wrongs. That they know to be kind and respectful to others and do their best with whatever talent God has given them — whether that’s reciting a dead-parrot skit, mastering the Rubik’s cube or dancing a jig.
For Our Four
I told my kids over and over that it was important for them to learn how to pretend to be a grown-up for those occasions (some workplaces, church, funerals) that require standardized behavior. I told them honestly that I still do that regularly, and am still wondering what I will be when I grow up. That wondering part was somewhat truer at 45 than at 66, but I just retired and feel nicely unleashed to do many of the things I had no time for before, even if they seem weird to others.
My son was very intelligent, and unusual. He had many friends who valued him for his ability to deal with their serious weirdnesses, and who genuinely appreciated his. I only found out how many at his memorial services!
On when to tell young children of their parents’ impending divorce: I believe the kids should be told as soon as possible, with all present, in a family meeting of sorts. Kids are masters at picking up nonverbal cues that something is amiss (when they haven’t been told yet to ignore their intuition. Don’t get me started). When parents withhold information like this, kids often walk around unconsciously holding their breath, waiting to find out why the air is so heavy.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at washingtonpost.com.