A: She's being insensitive to you. Being fair to one's children is not a matter of everyone being treated exactly the same. If one daughter looks smashing in green, and the other looks sickly, you don't buy both green sweaters because that's treating them equally. Your oldest daughter gets financial help from you, the others don't, and no one resents that. It could be that instead of being with your eldest daughter's children as a group, you could occasionally take one or two out to a zoo outing, say. Otherwise, you need to explain to your eldest that you have the same amount of love for all your grandchildren, and that means being flexible enough to recognize the best way to show it.
Q. Re: Sex dilemma: Some advice: Stop referring to it as artificial sex. It's still sex, and it's great that pleasing you is important to him. I suspect in addition to the enhanced physical pleasure (which few men could compete with anyway), there's additional intimacy that comes from bonding in this way after the accident.
A: Good point—it is sex.
Q. Catholic Wedding Etiquette: My cousin is marrying a Catholic woman (we are Episcopalian) in a Catholic church. My children are 9, 7, and 4, and were included in the invitation to both the full service and the reception following. I love my cousin, but I do not want to attend a full Catholic service. I do not agree with a lot of the teachings of the Catholic church, I do not appreciate that I cannot take Communion, and the sheer length of the event followed by a reception is too much for my children to handle. When I brought this up with my aunt, she told me that it is rude to attend the reception only and that I need to put my personal feelings aside for the day. I think they are asking some pretty big compromises in the name of their wedding. I love this column and the responses to follow, so any advice you have I would appreciate. What would you do in this situation?
A: Attending a wedding at someone else's church does not imply endorsement of all that denomination's teachings. It's an endorsement of the marriage of two people you presumably care about. It's nice of your cousin to include your children in the invitation, but you should probably just get a baby sitter for them. That way you can just enjoy yourself and not worry about handling restless kids. If you can't make that work then decline and send a lovely gift.
Q. Re: Ex's baby: I'm a father and stepfather to a gaggle of children. Prudie is right. Over the long haul, all the children will benefit from having a higher-functioning family where all the kids treat each other well. My older stepchildren have been amazing to, for, and with their half siblings. In fact, they have talked my now-teenagers out of bad choices in ways that I never could have done as a parent because the little ones look up to the older ones.
A: Thank you for this perspective. Such closeness not only benefits the kids, but the kids, as they grow up, will appreciate that the adults did not create barriers to them feeling like true siblings.
Q. My Intern Doesn't Wear a Bra: For the first time in my young life I have been bestowed with an intern, Melissa. Melissa is smart, hard-working, and an asset to the company. Her only shortcoming is that she has gigantic (bigger than double-E) breasts but does not wear a bra. It is very obvious and, in my mind, does not look very professional. I'm not sure if I should ask her to please wear a bra or even address the issue. At the risk of sounding like a Puritan, Melissa's lack of a bra makes me uncomfortable. As a well-endowed woman I have always striven to be properly supported.
A: Melissa needs to understand that in a professional environment she needs to not only be an asset but restrain her assets. This is the kind of thing a more experienced professional can tell a young one. Pull Melissa aside and say that her work has been great, but her attire is not up to office standards and she needs to be wearing more supportive undergarments. You can smile and say that she can see you know of what you speak.
Q. Travel After Kids: My husband and I are travel nuts. We have been all over the world and leave the country at least once a year. We plan to start trying for a baby next year. While we plan to bring our children with us traveling, we also want to, on occasion, leave them with grandparents for a week or so and travel alone. When we mention this to people, they react as if we'd said, "When we have kids, we plan to feed them poison." We've also been told that we should plan to give up overseas travel until they're grown up. Both my husband and I were raised in an environment where it was not uncommon to be left with family for a few days or even entire summers. Is this irresponsible and naive of us to think we could continue traveling (and occasionally travel alone)?
A: One of the things you will discover when you become parents is that many other parents think their style (securing the offspring with bubble wrap, for example) is the only proper way. Of course you can continue to travel with your children, and of course a week with the grandparents can be a wonderful treat for all generations. Since you’re not even pregnant and you’re already being accused of being a bad mother, take this as a lesson about keeping your reproductive (and vacation) plans private for the time being.
Q. Re: Boss Follow-Up: She said she got a promotion and a raise. Isn't that different than being threatened with firing? She got what she wanted, and he got what he wanted. They are both at fault.
A: I can't believe that people think this was a happy quid pro quo. The boss was in a position of power and used his to manipulate a young, vulnerable subordinate. She knows this is what he does with young women. Sure, it would have been better if she'd refused, but surely people understand things don't tend to go well for those who decline. Well, at least these responses will give the letter writer a taste of what's ahead if she comes forward.
In a new approach, we’re publishing the chat transcript in shorter, more digestible pieces. You will still be getting all the questions and answers, and we may even publish bonus letters Prudie didn’t get to address during the chat hour.