Advice

Carolyn Hax: Not enough praise to please everyone in the family

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: My daughter and wife (daughter’s stepmom) both work in the same creative field. While Wife’s career has been bumpy as of late, Daughter’s has really excelled. She was recently nominated for a few awards for her work. I know Wife feels insecure about her professional accomplishments.

Whenever I mention something Daughter has done, usually in response to an acquaintance asking about my kids, Wife is visibly upset and touchy for several days after. It’s gotten to the point where I’m afraid to “like” Daughter’s Facebook posts, or publicly display parental pride. How should I balance between supporting my wife and cheering on my daughter? My ex (Daughter’s mother) recently told me that Daughter confessed she felt I wasn’t proud of her.

In Between

I wrote a whole answer and then deleted it. For this:

What’s with all the need for praise here, both given and received? Why does your daughter need your attention to prove you’re proud of her. Why can’t your wife handle her frustration with herself with at least a minimum of grace and without making it other people’s problem? And why are your daughter’s professional accomplishments even on the table as a possible answer to a friendly “How are your kids?”-type query?

I could make a bunch of smaller suggestions, but you’d all be better served by spending more time together for the sake of it, and valuing each other and yourselves with much less regard for professional plaudits du jour.

Dear Carolyn: I have recently started a job with an amazing paycheck, and since then have enjoyed spoiling my boyfriend at holidays and birthdays, something I was never able to do before. However, he doesn’t take care of material items very well. He’ll spend a lot of money on something, and then never clean it, or leave it outside in the rain. I bought him a $600 GoPro last Christmas and he has lost/found it more times than I can count.

I love to see how excited he gets when he receives something from me that he’s not willing to spend the money on himself, but it’s hard to watch him treat expensive items badly. It’s his gift, so I feel like I can’t tell him how to treat it, so should I even bother getting him nice presents anymore? Is there an alternative?

Should I bother?

Of all the first-world problems, this might be the first-worldiest.

Buy only what you can stand to watch him neglect. Or, spoil him with experiences, since he can’t misplace a trip or leave it out in the rain (as long as you're holding all the tickets and passports).

Or just spoil your future self by socking spare income away. Consider yourself noodged.

Re: Should I Bother: My boyfriend loses everything and it drives me crazy, so I came up with a gift category of “Things he won’t take out of the house.” He has not managed to lose the flat-screen TV I purchased for him. I also agree on experiences —those are a huge hit. Just, you know, keep track of the tickets yourself.

Anonymous

If he does manage to lose the TV, please send a detailed update, thanks.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at washingtonpost.com.

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