A: I'm so glad you've gotten therapy, but if you've stopped, this issue is a good reason to go in for a tune up and explore what's been stirred up by reconnecting with part of your family. As you know, the horrific violation you experienced can echo through your life—although it is heartening to hear that you've taken steps to deal with your abuse. As you know, small children often act out terrible things being done to them, and you have memories of doing inappropriate things to your cousin when she was 5 years old or less. But from your recent welcoming encounter with her, it doesn't sound as if she remembers anything or feels anything but warmth for you. Based on what you've described, it may be the best thing not to introduce this painful and difficult subject into your cousin's life. But you need to sort out these issues and their potential ramifications with someone who knows you and the entirety of your story.
Q. Re: Baby gifts: If you don't need an extra high-chair, bouncy seat, Pack ’N Play, or what not, at your house, why not tell your MIL that you want to keep some of the stuff at her house (assuming she lives in area) so that when you come to visit, you will have some baby stuff all set up.
A: Great idea. Even if she doesn't live that close, you can tell her than not having to schlep all the equipment with you will make your visits so much easier (and more frequent!).
Q. More Money, More Problems: A friend of mine has, through no fault of her own, some money problems. I could make these go away by loaning her some money. The amount she needs would be trifling to my bottom line. I am not being purely altruistic here. I have to have surgery in the near future and my friend has offered to help me. Well, if she gets her phone cut off, or can't put gas in her car, how much help is she going to be? I told her, if it would make her feel better we would write it up like a formal loan with a repayment plan. What is the best way to make a friend take your money?
A: The perfect answer would be that you hire your friend to be your caretaker. It's awkward to want to force money on your broke friend so that she can then volunteer to nurse you back to health. Instead, tell her that her offer of help makes facing the surgery less daunting. Say it would mean a great deal to be able to rely on her to get you through your recovery, but since you otherwise would have to pay for such services, you insist that she be financially compensated for her time. Tell her that because you want to reserve it in advance, you'd like to give her an advance, so that she is in the financial position to clear her calendar.
Q. Re: Dog gone: "You've got me laughing at the idea of banishing my cavalier from the bedroom. No one would get a minute of sleep due to the whining and howling. " The dog might fuss a little, too.
A: Truer words ... Thanks for the laugh.
Q. In-Laws’ Free Vacations: My husband of one year and I are in our late 20s and live near a popular city. Most of our family originates from another part of the country, and we have been getting visitors from his side. I get along with them fine, but I dread their visits. Any time someone visits, we end up being the family members who take them out and entertain. This would be OK, but we end up paying for everything. We never explicitly say we'll pay, but they twiddle thumbs when it's time to pay. My husband thinks it's fine since it's family and we are hosts. Prudie, though we aren't exactly struggling to get by, we're trying to buy a home and start a family. These are adults who are financially stable and vacationing on us. We always give his parents gas and grocery money when we visit. Even his very capable sister once stayed with us six months room-and-board free. My family has been extremely generous with us. I don't expect the same from his family (who is equally well off) but at least not to take so much. I've tried to talk it out, but he doesn't think it's a big deal. Help!
A: If your husband didn't think it was a big deal that his sister moved in with you for six months, the problem is not just with your in-laws, but with your husband. If your husband doesn't understand that running a hotel for his family, in which there are no check-out times and the bills are never paid, is an emotional and financial drain, then you've got issues. You need to tell him you're going to unilaterally start making some rules about how long people can stay, and how much entertaining you're going to do while they're there. Stop playing active host, and instead give people a key, show them where the refrigerator is, and tell them to enjoy themselves—you two are busy and just need to carry on with your normal lives. If your husband won't agree, then maybe hashing this out with a counselor for a few sessions will keep this from blowing up.
Q. It's Them or the Dog, and I Choose the Dog: My mom's family has done Christmas exactly the same way for the last (at least) 30 years. They spend all day inside at my aunt's house starting with stockings being opened (one at a time), then breakfast, then presents (one at a time), then dinner. My husband and I are very active people and this tradition is like torture. Add on to this that our (very well-behaved) dog isn't even welcome in the yard, so we'd have to drive five hours to sit around all day and find a kennel for our loved one. As a result, I haven't been to Christmas with that side of the family in nine years. Am I being unreasonable or am I allowed to have my own Christmas traditions that don't involve my aunts and uncles?
A: Either your family has a boat-load of presents (or they are the world's slowest unwrappers), because if they start at breakfast and don't finish until dinner, they must personally be keeping the retail world afloat. I assume you have seen your family in the last nine years, it's just that you've decided to forgo Christmas. If that's the case, you can just say visiting at a less frantic time is better for you. But perhaps, now that people are getting on in years, they are worrying that as a group all of you may never be together again. You can continue to absent yourself. But I'm going to suggest making a compromise. You could either arrive the night before, do the breakfast shift, then go home. Or alternately, have Christmas dinner and leave the next morning. Surely, you can find someone to look after the dog for a day. If you can't, an overnight at a kennel won't hurt—just don't tell the dog you're skipping Christmas.
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