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Good manners are learned from your family

Etiquette for Families

Family etiquetteMeet our resident family etiquette expert on StageofLife.com

Stage of Life is pleased to introduce etiquette expert, Jay Remer, to its team.  Below you will find tips, advice and articles from Jay on important etiquette topics specifically tailored to parents, children, in-laws, and families.

But wait...

Ask Jay a wedding etiquette question ...ask us a family etiquette question now.  If you have children and have an etiquette question, contact us and we'll post your question and Jay's reply here.

Read below for real-life etiquette advice submissions about family manners, and don't forget to check out all 10 of our etiquette advice pages for the other stages of life.

Etiquette Tips for Families

Son's Girlfriend Doesn't Help Out

How do I get my son's girlfriend to help out when they stay here? 

Dear Jay,
My son has been dating his girlfriend for over 8 years. They are living together but stay at our house often on the weekends. His girlfriend never asks if she can help clean up, or help me when I'm getting dinner ready.  When they were younger, I dismissed it, but now I think it is rude not to offer.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: I recommend that you have a private chat with your son. It is best for him to communicate this to his girlfriend. Alternatively, you could ask in a nice way, if she would mind giving you a hand. She may be reticent to ask because it is your house. I hope this helps.
  - Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

New Baby = No Time for Grandma

Was I wrong to tell my son that he has to find time for me during my visits to see his new baby? 

Dear Jay,
I had my first grandchild A few months ago. My son and daughter-in-law had not invited me over to their home, but have said to come over anytime.  So I have invited myself a few times and in conversation it seems like it's an inconvenience as to when he will be awake for me. I know life is hectic for them and I am trying to be sympathetic to that. When I get there he either has to be breastfeed or he has to take a nap. My daughter-in-law leaves the room, and my son goes about doing his chores. I am left sitting there. I have offered to help, but they say it's under control. They say they don't have time to visit but I can sit and wait until he wakes up. My ex, (son’s father) apparently has had the same feelings, which I just found out after I hurt my son’s feeling by saying he really needed to find time for me. Was I wrong in saying that to him?


Jay's ANSWER...
A: Bringing a new child into the family is incredibly stressful, especially the first one. Babies are on a schedule that is comprised of eating and sleeping more than anything else. It sounds like the new parents need some more time to let this new addition to their lives settle in. You would do best to follow their suggestions. Your son is under no obligation to make time for you. I would consider making an apology and having compassion, not only for the new family, but also for yourself. You’ll have plenty of wonderful times with your grandson, but he is the responsibility of his parents. In their home, it is their rules that must be followed. You are a guest in their house. I hope this helps.
  - Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Privacy Please

Is it important to give a house guest their privacy or can a homeowner do whatever he or she wants? 

Dear Jay,
My husband just went to visit his 88 year old mother. She went into his room and took some papers off of his bed and went in the kitchen to read them. When he asked her why she had his papers and why she was reading them, she said, “Well, it's my house and I can do what I want!” I think there should be some privacy when you are staying at someone's home as a guest, isn't there?


Jay's ANSWER...
A: Yes, privacy is important. This issue is not your responsibility, and your husband and his mother are not exactly strangers. Their dynamics go back to the cradle. It may be possible that at 88, his mother may be suffering from mild dementia, especially if this behavior is new. In this case, compassion is required and close attention to her safety is far more important than looking at your husband’s documents. A chat with the family doctor may be in order. I hope this helps.
  - Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Tired Hostess Needs a Break

How do I deal with my husband's work colleagues and my sister during visits when all that they seem to do is tire me out? 

Dear Jay,
My husband loves to invite his colleagues over to our house more often than I'd like; however, I do support him at his work and realize that creating camaraderie is important to his position. Most get-together's involve alcohol and most of the guests have children. It has become an issue for me not only because we have a pool, but also because the parents show up and behave like they no longer have children! They walk out of the pool and straight into the house, handle the food/appetizers with bare hands, use my knickknacks as toys and so on! On one occasion a toddler fell into the pool. Both parents were inside the house enjoying the party. Another guest had to jump in to get the child out.

We've had the discussion several times and my husband insists that if he tells them 'no children' no one will show up. I don't expect them to never bring the kids, but so far in 3 years I don't have a good time. I end up watching the kids, I do all the cooking/cleaning, and I haven't gotten to really talk to anyone without interruptions from kids, so I don't really know any of the spouses. I say let's have one occasion where it's just the adults. My husband disagrees. 

The other issue is that none of those colleagues ever reciprocate an invitation to their home. If we don't have something at our house, we don't socialize! I'm bitter now and refuse to do it any longer!  

On to my other issue....my sister has visited two years in a row with her grandchildren. I don't have young kids, my child is all grown up, so having kids in the house for me is a task. When she visits she puts lots of pressure on me to tend to all of their needs - from prepping the house for their visit, to cooking, to cleaning, to entertaining and more. 

I have some physical limitations and although I'm able, I do have a limit. However, her visit is not exclusive to visiting me. I'm in the middle of her and the rest of the family, so she stops here on her way for about 2 days, goes on to visit other family and on their way home stops here again for a week or so. She always says not to worry about doing anything out of my way for them, but I find myself in the kitchen from morning until night while everyone else is in the pool or watching t.v. Her yearly visit is coming up here soon and I don't want to tell her not to come, but how do I handle this without losing my relationship with her? Telling her I have other plans does not apply here or even saying that this year doesn't work for me. Even if I told her I will be out of town, she'll probably ask me for the house key! And that is where I'll lose MY etiquette! Please help!


Jay's ANSWER...
A: As to your first question, it appears that your husband is putting his relationship with his colleagues above his relationship with you. He may not realize that this is what is happening, so I suggest you discuss this with him, and perhaps he will look at things differently. I also suggest that you try the ‘no kids’ invitation; you are not alone in not wanting kids around all the time. When children are going to be around, hire a babysitter for them, even if you must pay. Trust me, this will get the attention of the other parents. They may suddenly become more responsible and more grateful.

As to your second question, your relationship with your sister is a long-established one. You need to sit down and explain things to her just as you have explained them to me. Again, she may not be aware of the toll her visits take on you. I hope this helps.
  - Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Napping During Visits

Can I nap while my daughter visits and chats with my wife? 

Dear Jay,
When my wife invites our daughter over to our house for dinner and a visit, is it rude for me to take a short nap while she and her mother chat?


Jay's ANSWER...
A: Not rude at all. I hope this helps.
  - Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Gifts for Unknown Grads

Do we send a gift because we were invited to a neighbor's son's graduation even if we hardly know him? 

Dear Jay,
Neighbors have invited us to their son's high school graduation party. We hardly know him, but we see the parents occasionally.  We cannot attend.  There is no rsvp on the invite. Shall we send a gift?


Jay's ANSWER...
A: The answer to that is usually based on the relationship you have with the graduate. From what you have said here, I think a card would be appropriate, but even that is optional. I hope this helps.
  - Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Torn Between Family Events

How do we choose which family event we should attend? 

Dear Jay,
I am torn between two family events.  My husband’s God-daughter is getting married out of state on June 27 and my nephew is graduating the next day on the 28.  My nephew is not having a party afterwards.  We cannot find a way to be at both events due to travel time (even checked into flights).  Over the past 20 years we have only seen his God-daughter a handful of times.  I am feeling torn because it is his God-daughter and I feel like we should be there.  We have little contact with his family as it is because of the distance.  Yet this is my last nephew graduating and I feel the need to be there for my sister and her son.  What is the proper etiquette for this situation?  Thank you.


Jay's ANSWER...
A: I would suggest you support your husband in this case. I imagine your sister would understand the conflict, as would her son. Send a gift and a heartfelt handwritten card to your nephew. Phone your sister and explain the situation. This is not an unusual kind of conflict that everyone experiences at some point. Spending time with your husband’s family is important. I hope this helps.
  - Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Aunt Wants to Throw Niece a Birthday Party

Do I have any right to throw a birthday party for my 2 year old niece since I have the means to do so? 

Dear Jay,
I am super close to my niece who will soon be turning two. My brother works a job that barely makes ends meet and my sister-in-law is a stay at home mom. I know if they had the means my niece would have the most amazing birthday party. I only have to take care of myself and have more than enough time and money to give her a great party. However do I have any right to offer to do so? And how do I bring it up without hurting feelings? Of course I want their input even though I'm footing the bill. How to do I go about bringing it up?


Jay's ANSWER...
A:  I would ask your brother if it would be OK to have a birthday party for your niece. Honor his reply. Keep in mind that 2 year olds have a very different view of the world, and a little bit goes a long way. Be sure this does not turn into some sort of statement from you that makes the parents feel inadequate in any way. I hope this helps.
  - Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Sister-in-law Draining Finances

Should I say something to my sister-in-law about her expecting my husband to pay for everything when they go out? 

Dear Jay,
My sister-in-law recently stayed when my husband invited her to our place for the weekend to go to a comedy night. He asked me to go, but we have two small children and I don’t like my sister-in-law’s company. She is rude and practically ignores me. I noticed that my husband brought the tickets to the shows and all the drinks, cab and late night snack for both of them. The evening totaled $400 and I was taken aback by the fact my sister-in-law didn't even offer to buy a round, especially knowing we need to budget as we are one income.

She does this all the time. I feel she has this need for my husband to pay just because she is his little sister. She is single, has a great paying job, travels often, has no kids, but has all meals and drinks provided by us when she stays over which is frequently. I've told my husband how I feel and I’m at the point where I don't want her here. She wasn't even grateful for the comedy night. I’m not jealous; I feel she is doing it on purpose to annoy me or something. It's also becoming a big financial strain as I find we are dipping into equity now. Should I say something to her?


Jay's ANSWER...
A:  It is unadvisable to get between your husband and his sister. Their relationship is just that, and really is not your responsibility. However, if your finances don’t allow for this level of largesse on the part of your husband, you and he need to have this discussion and reach some resolution. Presuming that your sister-in-law is out to annoy you is likely more your reaction to the situation than to the truth. Since there is consistency in her behavior, plan accordingly. I hope this helps.
  - Jay

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Braless Female Family Members

Is it okay for my mom and grandma to go braless? 

Dear Jay,
Is is appropriate for my mother and my grandmother to go braless and let their nipples show through her tops?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  It is not appropriate for your mother, grandmother, or any other woman to parade around like that. I hope this helps.
  - Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Uncomfortable Around Ex-Wife

How should my husband respond to his daughter's invite to stay at her home while his ex-wife is there with her new husband? 

Dear Jay,
My step-daughter invited us to our grandson's high school graduation and to stay over for a few days. This was a month ago. She now wants her mom to stay as well. My husband was left to raise 2 girls alone because his ex-wife left him for a 21 year old man (she was 30). She immediately had 2 other girls with the new guy. He was totally alone as she had convinced him to leave his home state. His youngest was only 5, and he had no other family around. He doesn't feel comfortable staying at his daughter’s house with his ex-wife and her husband. It doesn't bother me, but it does bother my husband. His daughter said that we can all be adults. He just really doesn't want to bbq and chat away with these people. Should he be an adult about this as his daughter said or does he have a right to avoid being around people he doesn't like?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: He has every right to decline the invitation. His daughter may well not understand the dynamics of this relationship, but she should be respectful of others’ feelings. I think the best would be to stay elsewhere and limit your social mingling to the graduation, and plan times to visit when his former wife is not around. I hope this helps.
  - Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Hosting Hecklers

What do I do when my mother-in-law and husband don't appreciate the trouble I go to in order to be a great hostess for them? 

Dear Jay,
My husband thinks I go overboard and am pretentious because I put down a table cloth and napkins when his mother and sister visit. I make an effort when anyone visits because I like to entertain. I have noticed his mother or sister don’t thank me for the hospitality I show. My husband thinks I make them uncomfortable when I am just being myself and taking pride in my cooking and home. 

We have two small children and its important that they see me being hospitable and when people come to stay we make a special effort. I feel I have been told not to be myself and not put on the occasions I would like to my standards. The standards I have are healthy meals with quality ingredients, a clean home, and a nice table setting. My husband just wants the meal without the trimmings on all occasions. I believe this is how he was raised and he doesn't want us to have our own way of doing things. 

On the first Christmas lunch we hosted as a couple, his mother was uncomfortable with a sit down meal, so my mother-in-law and husband tried to bully me into having a smorgasbord style. I laughed at the time and we ate at the table which was beautiful. Since then I have had terrible rows with my husband about parties I host for my children and BBQs and dinners I host for friends. I make nice food and go to a lot of effort while he will do something like get very drunk,  or burn the bbq meat, or ruin my dessert at a dinner party just to sabotage what I have created.

I feel like all my joy from these events is taken away by my husband’s horrible behavior and comments, and I shouldn't host anything anymore and fade into the background and do the simple meals and entertaining that my husband and his mother want from me. I want to be a good host in my home, but I’m worn down. Any advice?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:This is typical of the kind of clash that can occur when people come from different lifestyles. What troubles me most here is your husband’s lack of support and boorish behavior. If he has no respect for you and reverts to his childhood ways, he needs a stern talking to. Your feelings are every bit as valid as his. Perhaps he’d like to start cooking the meals. As to your in laws being ungrateful, one thing you can say to them as they are leaving without saying thank you is, “Did you have fun?” That should jog them into a thank you. If it doesn’t, I would flat out tell them, “A thank you would be nice; this food didn’t cook itself.” My advice until things change for the better is to serve them what they like, or maybe even let them roast their own hot dogs. Save your real entertaining for people who appreciate it. I hope this helps.
 Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Who Prompts Grandparents to Visit?

Am I responsible for reaching out to my in-laws about visiting their only grandchild or should they proactively schedule a visit? 

Dear Jay,
My husband and I had our first baby a little over 10 months ago.  She is the first grandchild on my husband’s side of the family. Both of my parents have passed away, so my in-laws are the only grandparents our daughter has.  Whenever we see my in-laws there is always some type of disagreement or argument. Six weeks ago we had a pretty big argument and things were said that were very hurtful to both my husband and I. We live in the same town as them, but they have not seen, talked to us, or asked about our daughter in over 6 weeks. What is the "normal" thing to happen? Do the grandparents make the effort to come see the grandkids or are we supposed to say come over and see your granddaughter? What is the proper etiquette for grandparents to see their grandchildren?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: This should be far more relaxed. There are no hard and fast rules about grandparents and grandchildren. A rule of thumb is that the younger generation calls upon the older generation, but this is not written in stone. Of far greater concern is that your in-laws are arguing with you. If I knew more about that, I might have some further comments. I hope this helps.
 Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Angered Over Last Minute Grad Guest Cancellation

Do I have a right to be angry at my sister-in-law for canceling on my son's graduation at the last minute? 

Dear Jay,
My son is graduating from high school tomorrow. I found out about 2 hours ago that my sister-in-law is not coming. She knew about the graduation date in November. She is a nurse and scheduled herself to work the Friday before graduation. She was going to work and then travel (6 hour drive) with her husband (my son's godfather) and arrive late in the evening and stay at my mother-in-law's house. Today she decided that she was not going to come (so I returned her ticket.) Am I wrong to be mad about her not coming and canceling at the last minute? We have always made an effort to go to her child's high school and college graduation. (If not all of us could go due to school and finals, half of us went.)  We drove to both times (about 32 hours of driving total) and spent about $800 in hotel stays. I am not surprised that she is not coming, but really want to read her the riot act when (and if) she apologizes because I cannot say "That's OK, I understand." because that would be dishonest.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: Holding anger and not accepting apologies will never serve you well. You have no idea why she changed her mind. Consider taking the high road in this case and accept that she did in fact have a good reason. She is not obliged to share her reason with you. I am not a fan of last minute cancellations either, but sometimes they cannot be avoided. I suggest The Golden Rule. You may find yourself in a similar situation one day. If you decide to “read her the riot act” you jeopardize your relationship. You are justifiably proud of your son’s accomplishment. Focus on that, and not on a story whirling around in your head that may well not be the truth. I hope this helps.

 Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Setting Boundaries for Family Visits

How can I tell my family that even though we are moving closer to them that they can't visit all the time? 

Dear Jay,
My husband and I live far from where our parents live; however, recently my husband has been offered a great job opportunity in the same state my parents live (4 hours distance) and my husband would really like to take the offer.  The problem is, my parents and sister will not hesitate to come and visit us.  I don't mind one visit every two months, but I know my family very well and I know they will make every effort to come and visit us every weekend if possible.  My husband is a very private person, he likes to spend time with me and our kids and these constant visits will not be good for the well being of our family life.  How can I relate this to my parents and sister in a nice way?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: Honesty is the best policy. I would suggest that you sit down with your mother and have a heart to heart with her. Explain to her just what you explained to me. Your privacy is a right. No one including family have a right to cross privacy boundaries. You will need to establish boundaries as non-negotiable facts and stand by them. Ask your mother to explain this arrangement to both her husband and your sister. This sign of respect for yourself will soon be reflected in their behavior. I hope this helps.

 Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Kids Taking Over the Vacation Home

How do I stop my children and step-children from overrunning my vacation home? 

Dear Jay,
My husband and I have been married 18 years. He has 3 adult children, and I have two from previous marriages. We bought a vacation home 5 years ago, and my stepchildren have used it as a party house drinking beer until the wee hours and leaving beer cans all over the lawn and fire pit.

I have one stepson who has brought 3 strange women, AND their children to the cottage on different family vacations. This past weekend I had 2 strange men at the fire pit that my step daughter invited. 

Needless to say, my dream of a vacation home has fizzled away, and I sometimes dread vacation time. I have at LEAST 4 kids there every vacation, if I have invited them or not. And guess who has to wash all the towels, sheets, blankets, etc..?  Me.
  
Any advice??

Jay's ANSWER...
A: This home belongs to you and your husband. The time has come for some house rules to be established by you and your husband - in full agreement. The rules are shared with the rest of the family. You are very generous to share your vacation home with your family. Somewhere along the line none of your collection of children was taught gratitude - how did that happen? You are solely responsible for the situation in which you find yourselves. Start teaching gratitude by setting a good example. You and your husband will be showing more gratitude for your vacation home if you give it the respect it deserves. Others will follow your lead. You can make the change. I hope this helps.

 Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Husband Never Offers Introductions

Am I wrong to expect that my husband will introduce me to people that I don't know when he is speaking with them and I am standing right beside him? 

Dear Jay,
Is it wrong for me to ask my husband to introduce me to people he knows? On the way to my husband’s son’s graduation I asked my husband if he would introduce me to his son’s side of the family because my husband never introduces me to anyone he knows even while I am standing right there with him. I have mentioned this to him several times and he says he never thinks of it. I take it as him being rude and disrespectful to me since I am standing right there and he never seems to even include me in the conversations by not introducing me. He got very upset with me when I asked him to introduce me to his son’s family and accused me of ruining his day at his son’s graduation. He even yelled at me and accused me of sabotaging the day.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  I am completely on your side on this one. Your husband has never been taught what good manners include. This is not his fault. It’s just a fact that you need to work with. My approach would be to sit him down and have a serious chat with him. Explain how his actions make you feel. He should offer you an apology. If not, go on to say that you will no longer accompany him to these functions if he is going to be so embarrassingly inconsiderate. I hope this helps.

 Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Husband = Cheater and Liar

Do I go to my husband's family functions even though I realized that he has been telling them lies about me? 

Dear Jay,
Should I attend my husband’s family functions after finding out that my husband asked them to LIE to ME?  He had a cell phone and told his family not to tell me about it because I BUG HIM.  This is not TRUE in any sense.  We both canceled our cell phones to save money, but he reinstated his and I did not know this for four years.  He did not want me to know about the phone because he was having an affair.  

I am still with him out of economic reasons. I found out about the phone because he slipped up. I was able to see his cell phone records and saw that everyone knew he had a cell phone but me. I realized that his sisters called him on his cell phone and noted that numerous times when we were together, things were mentioned about us not having cell phones. I am so hurt, I do not want to  have to see his family ever again...I mean, they believed that crap from him that I BUG HIM. They do not know about his infidelity.  Sadly, he claims I'm the "bad guy" whilst he is the one who cheated on me and our children.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  This is a very sad state of affairs, no pun intended. Your husband is a schmuck. I would phone whomever in his family you are closest to and lay all the cards on the table. Then, get yourself a job and get a new life. He should be ashamed of himself. The courts will not leave you high and dry. I hope this helps.

 Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Boyfriends Not Invited

Should we just invite my nieces' boyfriends to my daughter's party just to keep my sister happy? 

Dear Jay,
My daughter is having a very small 18th birthday party.  She is only inviting around 10 friends and her immediate family as she wants it to only be those she is closest to at her party.  My sister (her aunt)  is now up in arms and angry that her children were invited but their boyfriends are not.  she considers the boyfriends to be part of her family (her daughters are 19), but we don't really consider them as part of ours.  Do we have to invite the boys and keep my sister happy or can we stick to what my daughter originally wanted for her party?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  The party you are hosting is not your sister’s party. She is out of line in this case. The guest list is in the hands of the host - period. If your daughter has made her selections, that is how it will be. If your sister wants to throw a party, she gets the same consideration. Remember The Golden Rule. Stick to your guns and know that you do not owe your sister an explanation and you certainly do not need to invite her daughters’ boyfriends. I hope this helps.

 Jay

Contact Stage of Life with your Etiquette QuestionIf you have an etiquette question and would like a personal response from Jay and StageofLife.com, please contact us and we'll post your question and the answer in the hopes that it'll help others in the same life situation.

Left out of sister's life

Should I attend my nephew's graduation party even though my sister seems to want nothing to do with me? 

Dear Jay,
I have a sister who lives close to me and I never hear from her. I have health issues and it would be nice to get a phone call to see how I am or how my husband and son are doing. I have been the one who has called the last couple of times to see how she and the family are doing and always telling her at the end of the conversation to stop by or keep me posted on something that we have spoken about going on in her life, but I never receive a response. The same goes for the holidays; we are NEVER invited to her home (when she gets together with my older sister it really really makes me sad). 

I just received an invite via Facebook for my nephew’s graduation party, and I honestly do not even know him. Since my dad passed away 10 years ago, we haven't seen each other at family functions at his home. 

My question is: do I attend this graduation party even though my last phone call to her was a year ago at Easter? I feel I mean nothing to them or her so why bother? I know I have been invited because she wouldn't leave me out, but my heart feels it is just for the gift and my husband says we are just party fillers. My heart says just send a card and gift and decline and send my nephew good wishes. I just don't feel like attending this function when I truly have been shown I don't matter!

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  I completely agree with you. Family dynamics are often challenging and sometimes seem to make no sense whatsoever. I would send an email regret - no explanation required. I think your idea of sending a card and a gift is very generous; frankly a card would suffice. I hope this helps.

 Jay

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Sister-in-law issues

How do I deal with my weird sister-in-law now that she is getting married and having a baby? 

Dear Jay,
My boyfriend (now husband) and I moved to North Carolina before we were married and lived with his parents and his sister, who is 5 years younger. She was never very respectful to me, although never over the top, just apathetic and dismissive. We eventually moved out, to an apartment nearby and she would never contact her brother. When my boyfriend and I decided to get married she missed several appointments for bridesmaids fittings, and never RSVPd for the engagement party or bridal shower, only to show up last minute. At the wedding, she did not congratulate me, only skulked nearby. 

She is a weird person, in fact, we never really knew if she was so apathetic and awkward because she was unsure of her sexuality or something else, but we have tried to be nice to her. My husband gave her some work to do freelance, as a favor, and she never completed it until the last minute, getting my husband in hot water with his boss. She has been in college for 7 years and has not graduated. Also, when I gave birth she said she would come to the hospital, but never did.  She has still not met her niece and she is about to turn two this week. She lives 20 minutes away from us, but she has never reached out to my husband during this time, until recently, when his parents were in town. She asked to meet up with him, and met him with her fiancee (shocker) and told him she was pregnant. I know I am expected to go to the wedding and be civil to her, but I do not really feel comfortable, as she does not reciprocate. She never seemed interested in her niece, so I really lost interest in her. 

My husband's parents give her a "pass" on everything, so she does not feel like she has to be responsible. I do not want her seeing my child, as I am afraid she will let her down as well, saying she will visit but never arrive. My stance seems to be causing a rift in the family but what she does seems intentional and hard to forgive. I just don't know what to do!


Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Your best move is to be forgiving and to allow her to live her life as she sees fit. She may be quite different than you, but she has the same rights. As to her hurting your daughter’s feelings, your daughter is 2. She will not have her feelings hurt. It’s your feelings you’re concerned about. By allowing her some space, your feelings will settle. Just because she is family does not mean you need to have contact. Be grateful that you aren’t facing the same challenges and be helpful instead of hurtful. I hope this helps.

 Jay

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Niece's Graduation

Is it okay if I don't attend my niece's graduation even if it would mean a lot to her? 

Dear Jay,
Is it rude to not attend the high school graduation ceremony for my my niece, whose mother (my sister) recently passed away?  They live 375 miles away and the graduation is on a week night. I understand it is a very emotional time for my niece and I want to be supportive, but is a difficult trip to make at this time.


Jay's ANSWER...
A:  A heartfelt handwritten note will mean a great deal to your niece. Attendance is an option, but certainly not an obligation. There will no doubt be plenty of friends there to support her for this great occasion. I hope this helps.

 Jay

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Visit protocol

Do I need to visit my sister when I'm in town? 

Dear Jay,
Is it rude to spend a few nights in a town, staying in a hotel, even though my sister lives in that town and not informing her we are in town?


Jay's ANSWER...
A: Absolutely fine. It is not necessary for family to know your every move. I hope this helps.

 Jay

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Graduation Celebration Bill

Is it in poor taste to not pay for everyone coming to the dinner to celebrate my sons' graduations? 

Dear Jay,
My sons are graduating high school next month and we are hosting a party the day after.

My question is that right after the graduation ceremony we would like our family to go eat together at a restaurant, and I need to know if its in poor taste to not pay for everyone.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: It’s not in poor taste unless you forget to mention that this will be a dutch treat meal, and give everyone the choice to accept or regret. If you want to host the party yourselves, you’d obviously have to pay the whole bill. I hope this helps.

 Jay

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Cook Out Hook Up

Is it okay for me to pursue a relationship with my daughter's boyfriend's grand uncle? 

Dear Jay,
I went to a cook out of my daughter's boyfriend’s family. I was approached by his Grand Uncle. We hit it off, but my daughter says if you marry him, that would be weird because he’s already family. Is it wrong???

Jay's ANSWER...
A: There is nothing wrong at all. Any relationship would only be by marriage, not by blood. Follow your heart. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Wedding and Shower Date Disaster

Do I have a right to be angry that my nephew's bridal shower is on the same day as my son's wedding even if they knew the wedding date well in advance? 

Dear Jay,
My son is the first one to be engaged and set a wedding date of my siblings.  My nephew became engaged shortly there after. He contacted my mom to confirm the wedding date so the weddings were not on the same date; however, the maid of honor is hosting a bridal shower on my son's wedding day.  Invitations were sent out 4 weeks before her invitations were mailed.  Now my sister and her family will be attending the bridal shower and not my son's wedding.  I was disappointed that my nephew or his future bride allowed the maid of honor to schedule the shower on this date. The maid of honor sent an invitation to the grandmother but not to me, knowing my son's wedding was on this day. I sent my nephew a message letting him know I was disappointed that the shower was on my son's wedding day. Is that inappropriate of me?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: Not at all! I would be fuming. The shower should be rescheduled. If not, trust me - the guests will know what the right thing to do is. There is nothing to do at this point except to be gracious if they come to their senses and change the date for the shower. Have compassion for them and for yourself. We all do stupid things. I hope this helps.
 Jay

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Wedding trip hijacking mother-in-law

Are we under any obligation to visit with or stay with our family while in my husband's hometown for a wedding? 

Dear Jay,
My husband is the best man in a wedding in his hometown this summer.  We have 5 children and live on the other side of the country so this is actually our first visit out east.  We have arranged to stay in a condo for all but a few days despite his mom’s insistence to stay with her.  I know her feelings are hurt, but my husband simply can't stand the thought of even a couple days at her house.  Now she is trying to "force" interaction between my husband and his brother (who also lives in the area)). The brothers don't really get along, but she's acting as though my husband needs to reach out. My question is whose responsibility is it to initiate a get together?  Is it rude for neither brother to try?  Is it ok not to contact them when we are there or are WE being rude? Thank you.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  No one is under any obligation to contact anyone. Your mother-in-law has no business involving herself in this affair. You are grown ups for goodness sake. This behavior has been going for years, no doubt. You are not being rude. From your brother-in-law’s perspective, he may even view your keeping to yourselves as considerate! I hope this helps.
 Jay

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Dealing With People Who Invite Themselves

How can I tell my sister that I don't want her to come to my Mother's Day outing? 

Dear Jay,
My sister asked me what I was doing for Mother's Day this year and I told her my daughter was taking me to a local restaurant.  She knew the restaurant well and said, "They have good food so maybe we will go with you."  I don't mind, but by the time she gets her whole family and their mates and grandchildren the group is so large that we have waited for hours in the past to seat the whole family. This is unacceptable to me considering our past experiences. What do you do when people invite themselves? The event is ruined for me because the group is so large you can't sit and talk to everyone. There are only four people in my immediate family. I don't want to hurt my sister’s feelings, but it's just not setting well with me.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: I am so sorry I missed this timely question, but here is my answer anyway. You knew the moment your sister suggested she join you that you did not want that. You can’t say “Now I don’t mind” in one breath, and “event is ruined for me” and “not setting well” in another. There is nothing wrong with wanting to enjoy Mother’s Day with your core family. Suggest another time in the near future when a larger family get together might work better. If in fact you really don’t get to spend much time together - just the 4 of you - then you have a very strong case when it comes to Common Sense. Have confidence that your sister knows right from wrong and will fully understand. I hope this helps.



 Jay

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Funeral or Graduation?

How do I decide whether to attend my wife's grandfather's funeral or to go to my nephew's graduation? 

Dear Jay,
My second wife’s grandfather just passed and the funeral is the same day as my nephew’s high school graduation. I’m the one who would make sure all his cousins and my four children attend. What do I do? My wife wants me to go with her.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: You should go to the funeral with your wife. You will need either take your children to the funeral or find someone else to take them to the graduation. I hope this helps.



 Jay

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Wife Won't Budge on Having House Guests

Is it wrong for relatives to want to stay with us even if they aren't predominately coming to visit with us? 

Dear Jay,
My wife doesn't want to allow family or friends to stay the night at our home because she feels our home is being treated like a hotel even though we haven't had anyone stay overnight at our house for years, and very seldom before that. 

Recently, my niece asked if she and her friend could spend the night.  My niece and her friend (female) are planning a trip to Santa Cruz (about an hour away from us), and she called asking if they can spend one night at our house. This is the first time she has ever asked to stay at our house.  My wife does not want them to stay because she feels they are treating our home like a hotel since their primary reason for staying with us is not to visit with us but to go to the beach. Also, if we say yes this time she'll do it all the time.

Two years ago I had an aunt, two of my only first cousins on my mom’s side, and one cousin’s husband come into town from Europe. We aren’t close relatives, but I wanted to invite them to stay at our house as we have plenty of room/couches. My wife got upset and threatened to leave during their stay again claiming they weren’t here to visit us but just using us as a hotel.  I ended up getting them a hotel room for the 2 nights, but I felt so bad.

Is it impolite or out of the ordinary for family/friends to ask if they can spend the night when they are in the area for other functions?  Or primarily to visit other family members that don't have room in their home? What about when a trip is not just solely to visit the host?

Another issue my wife has is not enough time is being given to ask it they can stay.  In the case of my niece, she asked 10 days in advance, and my aunt asked about 2 weeks before their proposed visit. What is the appropriate amount of notice that should be given?

Also, in the case of my Aunt the initial request actually came through my Mom not directly from my Aunt.  Is this so inappropriate or out of the ordinary?

Obviously the real issue is my wife doesn't want overnight guests period though she doesn't admit that this is the issue. Isn't that what any house guest is ultimately doing - getting a free place to stay?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: A bit of Common Sense and a look at The Golden Rule may help here. I understand your position and completely agree with you. Family visits, no matter how long or short, are good. Your wife should be grateful that she is in a position be able to offer such hospitality. There is nothing unusual or impolite with anything anyone has done so far. Try to convince your wife that taking the high road will pay dividends in the long run. Perhaps she is familiar with the idea of paying it forward. If she won’t budge, encourage her to go on a field trip, as she threatened to do. I hope this helps.



 Jay

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Graduation Meal Payment

Who pays for the meal after the graduation? 

Dear Jay,
I am going to my grandson's high school graduation. Who should pay for a dinner the next day?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: Whoever is throwing the party generally pays for it. If your son or daughter is the host, and you wish to contribute, mention it to him or her privately. If you are not planning to contribute, you need do nothing, unless of course this is your dinner party. Then you get to pay. I hope this helps.

 Jay

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My Husband's Yucky Friends

How do I tell my husband I don't want his unlikeable friends in our home? 

Dear Jay,
My husband had some friends over at our home that I don't approve of. They came while I was at work, and just my husband and my daughter were at home. I don't like these people, so I don't know how to deal with them without arguing with my husband.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Your husband has a right to invite his friends over to your house when he wishes. If you think there is a safety issue for your daughter, you need to discuss this with your husband, as uncomfortable as this may be. Your daughter’s safety cannot be compromised. Perhaps she has a friend or relative she could go stay with while you’re at work. Call Family Services if you need to. However, if there is no safety issue, I think you have a weak case. I hope this helps.

 Jay

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Sister-in-law overstepping her sibling bonds

What should I do about my sister-in-law's invasion of my bedroom and house? 

Dear Jay,
I am in my second year of marriage. My husband is the last born and the only boy. In our first year of marriage his eldest sister (42 years old - unmarried) was at our house every day of the weekend. She would arrive at 7am in the morning while we were sleeping and leave after midnight (every weekend), and my husband would say nothing.

She moved to another country for work, but came back to work for a project for a week. Her company paid for her hotel during this time, but she opted to stay with us the whole time. In this 1 week she let me do all the cooking and chores and never helped.

The most confusing part is that while we had set up the spare bedroom for her, she one night chose to sleep in our bed with us (me and my husband). I found this very uncomfortable as it didn't seem right. My husband still did not see anything wrong with it. Since he did not say anything I chose to not say anything either, but I am still not happy about it.

On other occasions my husband and I would be in bed watching a movie on a laptop and she would jump into bed and join us, or while we are in bed she’d come into our room and use our dressing mirror and other stuff. Is this normal? Shouldn't she respect our matrimonial bed/home?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  This is unusual, but not unheard of. If it has reached its tolerance for you, speak with your husband. His sister has some serious issues. He will need to deliver the news to her that your privacy needs to be respected. It’s best that way. I hope this helps.

 Jay

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Meddling Mother-In-Law Wants Explanations

How do I respond to my daughter-in-law excluding my daughter from my granddaughter's birthday party? 

Dear Jay,
My daughter and daughter-in-law don't exactly get along.  I've tried to tell them that when we have family functions we can all be civil and adult.  My daughter-in-law is having a 3rd birthday party for my grand baby and chose to leave my daughter and her husband and child out.  My daughter really loves the little niece, but my daughter-in-law doesn't want them there.  They did invite us and many other family and friends. 

How do I handle this?  Do my husband and I still go, but ask them why she wasn't invited?  Or do we go and not mention this at all?  It hurts me too because I feel that is very rude and selfish. When they are all together there has never been an outburst or altercation, so I can't see why this would be any different?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  As with any party, celebration, or event of any kind, the host has full control of the guest list. What is rude is asking for an explanation as to why someone was not invited, so my advice is to go with your second option. Furthermore the relationship your daughter has with her sister-in-law is not your responsibility, is it? As difficult as it may be, meddle less, enjoy them on their own terms more. I hope this helps.
Jay

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Mother's Day Invite Dilemma

Am I obligated to go to an annual Mother's Day event even if my husband won't be there? 

Dear Jay,
Every year on Mother's Day we go out to breakfast with my husband's mother and the rest of his family.  This year, however, my husband will be out of town over Mother's Day.  Am I still obligated to go to breakfast with his family?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: No, you are never obligated to accept any invitation. If you don’t want to go out, give your regrets. It’s perfectly fine. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Brother bothered by lack of uncle participation

How do I tell my brother that I am not really interested in coming to his kid's elementary school activities? 

Dear Jay,
I invited my brother and his young son to our daughter’s college graduation.  In turn, he invited us to his son’s elementary school chorus concert. He's complained in the past that we don't attend his son’s activities or do things with his son which is not true. I really don't want to go to an elementary chorus concert. Our kids had a lot of these type events and we never invited family, thinking it was a parent event not an extended family event. It's a 30 minute ride one way. If he doesn't attend our daughter’s graduation I won't be offended, but I'm afraid if we don't attend his son’s concert he will be.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: You are under no obligation to attend this concert. You and your brother should be able to have a brief discussion about this. It’s a very small matter. If he is going to get worked up about it, that’s really his problem to deal with. You can apologize for not going, but I think honesty is the best policy. You did nothing to apologize for, really. Tell it to him just like you told me. Your life experience is totally valid. Graduations and school choral events are quite different! I hope this helps.

Jay

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Graduation dinner dilemma

Who should pay for my son's family when we take him out for his graduation dinner? 

Dear Jay,
My husband and I would like to take my son and his family out to lunch after his graduation, my husband only feels we should pay for my son, but I think we should pay for our daughter-in-law and grandkids, too. Who's right?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: You are right. If your husband wants to only pay for your son, don’t invite his family. Your husband might do well to be grateful that he has the opportunity to share in the celebration of this important milestone. I hope this helps.
 

Jay

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Ex-boyfriend is now the brother-in-law

Is it okay if I contact my ex-boyfriend (who is now my brother-in-law) about being my business partner? 

Dear Jay,
Is it okay to contact my ex-boyfriend who has been my brother-in-law for 6 years? I just don’t know if it is ok to communicate with him and just treat each other as siblings in law because of our past.

I don't want to refuse my in-law's invitation anymore for Christmas, Fiesta or New Year’s just to keep away from my ex-boyfriend. I am very close with my husband’s parents, aunties, uncles and his siblings. We enjoy each other's company, and they treated me like their own sister, daughter and niece.

In 2013, my ex-boyfriend and I became friends and had regular communication through Facebook since he is working in Japan as an OFW. We decided to become business partners, with my husband's consent of course. Just a few weeks ago, he sent me a nice message on my birthday. I never expected it, and  I was so happy and thanked him, but he never texted me again. My brother-in-law (ex-boyfriend) is getting married this year and wants my youngest daughter to be part of the entourage.

I have so many plans for our parents and his younger brothers and sister. I want him to be my business partner because he has the potential and the skills and the bigger share of our profits will be for my in-laws. I cannot do it on my own because my husband and I also have another business for our kids’ future. What do you think I should do? 

Jay's ANSWER...

A: There is no reason for you not to be friends with an ex-boyfriend. You can be business partners, too. Work at resolving misunderstandings as soon as they occur. My advice is to do what’s best for you and your family. If having a business relationship with your ex is what’s best, do it. I hope this helps.
 

Jay

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Thank you for car loaning

How do we express our thanks to my mother-in-law for allowing our son to use her spare car? 

Dear Jay,
Should I be expected to thank, in person or through the use of a thank you note, my ex-mother-in-law for allowing my son, her grandson, to borrow her car (which is a spare car), until his mother, her daughter, and I are able to buy one for him ourselves?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: Spare or not, what a kind and generous offer. Of course you should thank her! Why wouldn’t you? And so should your son! Hand written thank you notes do not go out of style when families break apart. Teach your children the right thing to do. Gratitude can not be overstated. By the way, you should pay for the insurance and maintenance on the car. I hope this helps.
 

Jay

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Easter Hostess Skills

What do I do about my sister-in-law's ineptitude about hosting Easter at her house? 

Dear Jay,
My brother and his wife usually host Easter for our family and his wife's family. Three years ago on Easter his father in law passed away suddenly. Since then, Easter is becoming a point of contention between myself and my sister-in-law. 

This Easter (three years later), my sister-in-law planned and scheduled the egg hunt according to her own families' availability. She texted me the time of the egg hunt the day before; 10:30 a.m., which did not work for us because my husband had to work in the morning. Then after questioning her about why it was so early, I learned that she had planned this around her own family but did not ask anyone in my family what worked for them. 

In addition to that, she doesn't exactly host all of Easter; she has the egg hunt at her house and the rest of us (mostly my side of the family) bring the food, ham included, because no one in her family will or can cook (this is another point of contention; in my family if you host it, you do the major cooking). This year, she asked my grandmother to make the main meal; my grandmother is only partially retired and had to work on Easter (and on my side of the family has been relieved of hosting holiday dinners). I feel like if her family wants to celebrate Easter among themselves then they should be honest about it with my family. The way things happened this year made myself and others feel like second class guests who were only invited to provide the food for THEIR Easter. 

I did text her back and expressed my feelings as delicately as I could, but they were not met well. In fact, my sister-in-law's mother got on Facebook and posted a vague, passive-aggressive status that was directed towards me (which I ignored), and she has made other posts on my Facebook since then. I don't know if I am right, just how the whole situation made me feel and I'd really appreciate another view point.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: Your sister-in-law invited you to an Easter egg hunt, which was to be followed by a meal. Your only obligation is to either accept the invitation or regret it. You do not need to concern yourself with how the party was planned or how the food is being organized. It’s none of your business because it isn’t your party. Perhaps next year, when you host the party, you will do things differently, which is your prerogative. Obviously your style of communication wasn’t as delicate as you had planned. You owe them an apology for butting in where you didn’t belong. Apologies go hand in hand with forgiveness. You would do well to look at the principle of Responsibility. Take responsibility for what is yours; leave the rest to the others. I hope this helps.
 

Jay

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Boyfriend on Family Trip . . . Uh oh

What's the etiquette for rooming with my boyfriend on a family trip? 

Dear Jay,
My boyfriend is coming on a trip with my family. Is it ok to ask my family that my boyfriend stay with us (sharing a room with me and my brother) or should we pay for our own room? We're in our mid to late twenties and have been dating for 3 years. My parents don't 100% approve of my boyfriend, but I am hoping for a fun trip where we can all get along. Suggestions?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: There are a a lot of obvious questions that come to mind such as why are you going on this trip if there’s such tension? I have to assume you’ve already asked and satisfactorily answered this and similar ones. That being the case, from a strict etiquette point of view, if your parents are hosting, i.e., paying for this trip, then you and your brother share a room, and your b/f has his own room. Or, your b/f and your brother share a room and you have the single. If you had been living together for three years, the answer would be different. I hope this helps.
 

Jay

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Twin Excluded From Birthday Party

How do I handle my brother making singular family plans for our joint / twin 70th birthday celebration? 

Dear Jay,
I am a twin, and my brother and I will be 70 soon. My mother who is 95 just told me my brother has organized a party, so she said she would provide a cake for us. He then said the party was only for him and his family and my mum. My mom doesn’t know what to do because she wants to see both of us on our birthday.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I suggest that you phone your brother. He may be confused. If this is the case, be gentle and compassionate, and take note. If he’s not confused, and there’s no criminal reason for you to be excluded, he needs a reminder to mind his manners. Your mother is 95. He should be as grateful as you and your mother are to have such longevity. I hope this helps.
 

Jay

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Deep Cleaning Needed

When we stay with my parents, is it rude to provide a cleaning service while we are there if the house is a wreck? 

Dear Jay,
I live very far away with my husband and 2 small children so we don't get to visit grandparents more than once every 2 years or so. When we visit, we generally try to stay at least 2 weeks but this time, I arranged for a 5-week visit after confirming with my dad and step-mom that the longer visit would be ok.  They both work full time and can't take off much time during our visit, but we will maximize time together during evenings and weekends.

My conundrum is because they are so busy with work, basic housecleaning is neglected. The toilets have rings in the basins and there is dog hair everywhere. They have two large dogs who are inside dogs and allowed to be on furniture. While my kids have not been diagnosed with any specific allergies, they have both developed runny noses within the first few days of being here and I can't help but think it is associated with all the pet dander.  I'd really like to pay for a weekly cleaning service while we are staying here, but am pretty sure they will be offended when/if I bring it up. I'm not sure how to proceed. I realize I could just roll up my sleeves and do some cleaning myself, but I'd rather outsource it and spend the time playing with my kids instead. Help please? Is it totally rude to offer to clean or pay for cleaning for the home you are visiting?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I understand your dilemma. One principle I promote to all house guests is to leave the place in better state (if possible) than when you arrived. So doing a little bit here and there yourself would certainly show gratitude. If you sense that she can’t afford a cleaning service, you might suggest giving her five  cleanings in thanks for the five weeks you’ve been houseguests. Otherwise this may well turn into a Golden Opportunity to teach the kids how much fun housekeeping can be! I hope this helps.
 

Jay

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Footing the Graduation Celebration Bill

Are we responsible for paying the bill for our daughter's graduation dinner? 

Dear Jay,
My daughter is having an immediate family dinner celebration for her college graduation.  Along with her parents and sisters, we will have her aunt, two cousins and one of the cousins husbands in attendance.  My daughter wants to have the dinner celebration at nice sit down restaurant where we live.  Should my husband and I pay for everyone's dinner in attendance or should they be responsible to cover their own?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: If you and your husband are hosting this dinner, you will be responsible for the bill. If you want this to be Dutch Treat in some fashion, you must clear this with the others before moving forward. In such case, you would not be the host, as it would be a jointly sponsored party. Whichever choice you make, have a wonderful celebration for a very special occasion! I hope this helps.
 

Jay

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Mother of the Bride Wants to Be Involved More

How do I get my daughter to understand that I should have a bigger role in her wedding planning? 

Dear Jay,
My daughter was recently engaged. Her father and I have been divorced for over 15 years and we are both remarried. She has been living on her own for several years. I assumed that the mother of the bride had a huge role in the wedding and thought that she understood that as well. She is wanting to include the step mother in a great deal of the planning. She is even considering having the ceremony at one of the step mother's family’s homes, after we had discussed having the ceremony at our home. She feels she has to do what her father wants or he won't pay for the wedding. These actions by her hurt my feelings and I've told her this. She gets upset and voices to me that she wants me to put my feelings aside for "just one day", but she doesn't voice those same feelings to her dad or step mom. I just feel that her wedding is a bonding experience between the two of us and some of the planning should be just between us and not include the step mom. How can I get her to understand this?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I do not think it advisable to “get her to understand this”, nor do I think she would have the slightest interest. She has her idea of what her dream wedding process is, and you have yours. She’s the bride, so she gets to make that decision by herself. In my opinion, she is well within her rights, and her common sense, to carry on as she sees fit. I understand where your pain is coming from, but as she requested, “just one day”. Your first mistake appears on line one above - “I assumed that the mother of the bride had a huge role…….” That was an invalid assumption, and things continue down hill. My best advice is for you to step back and allow your daughter to make her own choices about her most important day. I hope this helps.
 

Jay

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Too Much for the Hostess

How do I say "no more" without sounding horrible when it comes to hosting a shower and hosting family at my home? 

Dear Jay,
I am hosting a shower for my nephew’s bride to be. Relatives are coming in from out of town, including the parents of my nephew (they are my deceased husband’s sibling). They are staying with us, as are my nephew and his bride to be. They called today to ask if the bride’s parents could also stay here that weekend. I was a bit taken aback. I have never met them and will be very busy hosting the shower. I was unsure how to respond. I did mention there's a hotel in town and they may feel more comfortable staying there. I'm a bit perturbed by being put on the spot like this, as I feel I'm already extending my house to several people AND hosting a bridal shower. Am I being unreasonable?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: No, you are not being unreasonable. Be firm but understanding of their dilemma - albeit self-induced. You do not need to give one word of an explanation if you don’t want to. When the house is full, the house is full. And that’s your call; and that’s that! I hope this helps.
Jay

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Niece's Party Dilemma

Should I still attend my niece's birthday party even if my son will be with his dad that day? 

Dear Jay,
My 7 year old son will not be at my 5 years old niece's birthday party. Should I still go without him when my brother knows my son can't be there because he will be with his dad (I am divorced)? For 4 years, I have not had my so with me on this particular day of the week. The entire family knows this well.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: You should still go. Perhaps you plan ahead and make some sort of special arrangement for this day next year. Seems like a rather small request to me. Take a nice gift and enjoy the party! I hope this helps.

Jay

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Private Room Necessity

Is it selfish of me to ask for the private room if we are paying for the trip? 

Dear Jay,
My husband booked a hotel for a week long vacation. We paid for the room and were going to go alone, but we thought my mother-in-law might have fun too and invited her. My father-in-law who generally prefers not to travel, then decided he wanted to come too. The hotel is a suite with one private bedroom and a living room with a sofa bed. I am currently experiencing some medical issues and privacy is something I really prefer to have. It makes it much more possible for me to go on the trip and allows me to go to bed earlier when I get tired while everyone else can stay up and talk. Without the room, I'd have to seriously reconsider my going, which would be very disappointing since I really want to go and I had to miss out on the last trip like this.

In the past, when we've been in these situations, we've given them the private room just because they are older than us. Is it rude if we take the private room? What determines room assignments, age or who paid? I don't think they'd be upset, but I also don't want them to think I'm being selfish.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: You are far from being selfish! To begin with, room assignments, with no extenuating circumstances, goes by who pays and then by order of precedence (oldest, most respected, etc.). In your case however, your health is an extenuating circumstance. That trumps the rest; plus you’re the one who’s paying. You are entitled to the room. Remember to follow The Golden Rule. It goes both ways :). I hope this helps.

Jay

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Booted Over Supposed Argument

How do we react to getting kicked out of my son's house? 

Dear Jay,
We stayed at our son’s place. His wife thought my husband and I were arguing on the back verandah. She told us to leave because she didn't want her house contaminated in case she had children. How do we treat this situation now after what happened?

Thank you and awaiting your reply in anticipation.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: This sounds bizarre, almost cultish. I suggest you have a chat with your son. He will want to get to the bottom of this, one would hope. Explain what happened and how it made you feel. Don’t be accusatory or defensive. You are due an apology, and if you can find it in your hearts to forgive and have compassion for this woman, do so. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Violent Attack Over Beer

What should I do to try and keep the peace after a violent fight in my family? 

Dear Jay,
About a year ago my 5 month old, husband, and I went to my sister's house for my brother-in-law's birthday party. My husband brought a couple beers with him and as soon as we arrived my husband asked my brother-in-law if it was alright that he drink in his home. My brother-in-law said, “Yes, of course!"

About 30-45 minutes go by and my brother-in-law's dad decided to get in my husband's face about him drinking, in front of just my dad and a family friend, and proceeded to yell and scream and call him names. My husband came inside and told me to put our daughter in her car seat so we could leave. My husband went outside to get the car ready to go and while I was putting my daughter in her car seat my brother-in-law's father decided to start yelling at me, too. Names were called on both sides, and my husband came back inside and a fight almost broke out but was stopped by my dad and oldest nephew. My brother-in-law also had an older brother that was there. He decided to get a huge pipe from the bed of his truck and threaten my husband with it. I got my husband and daughter in the car and drove away. Next thing I know, the brother tried running us off the road with his truck, that he had his pregnant wife and 2 other children in with him. 

I was so shaken I just parked the car and let them drive away. Now it has been over a year and my niece and nephews birthday parties are coming up. My sister has invited all of us to the same party for each child. What would be the best way to handle the situation without hurting the children's or my sister's feeling and without having to put my child and husband in that situation again?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: This is not an issue about hurting anyone’s feelings. This is a safety issue. Obviously there is a good reason why there is no drinking at your in-laws, and the first mistake was crossing that boundary. Even though the host said it was okay to drink, the question should never have been asked. When one goes to a non-drinking household, that rule must be respected. The father-in-law is no treat either. He had no business spouting off, but there are people like that in the world. My advice is to avoid them and detach from them. In the future, your husband should refrain from drinking at your sister’s house. Her husband needs to speak with his family and explain that in his house, he rules, without needing any help from either his father or brother - both of whom are thugs. Children should never be exposed to such displays of fighting and swearing. It is your job as mother to protect your daughter. Removing her from the situation was the right thing to do. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Unexpected Visits a No No

How can I get my mom to understand that I don't want her to drop by unexpectedly? 

Dear Jay,
We smoke - my mother does not, so out of consideration I ask my mother to call before she visits -- she does not! I am 58 years old and she is 78 years old -- I have requested this for numerous years!!  My sons ask her also to call before she visits-- she does not!! Then she doesn't understand why it upsets us! please help me!!

Jay's ANSWER...

A: Smoking has very little to do with this. I would imagine you don’t want people just popping in anyway. Make it a house rule, and suggest to your sons that they do the same. What this in fact does is show that you have respect for your privacy and for your house. Explain this concept to your mother. None of us are too old to learn to behave. Let her know she may well be turned away at the door if she doesn’t give you a heads up. Let’s hope this works. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Unequal Vacation Payment

Is it wrong for my friend to think her 18 year old daughter should vacation for free? 

Dear Jay,
We are making plans to vacation in Florida next August 2016. There will be 5 people traveling together, and we plan on renting a house for our stay where we will each have our own rooms.


My question is, should my friend’s daughter, who will be turning 18 around that time, be able to stay for free? My friend seems to think that her daughter should stay for free at the house and that the rest of us, including herself, should make up the difference.

I don't think it's our responsibility to pay for her daughter’s stay and that either her daughter or herself should be responsible. I also do not want to be unfair about it either.

What would you suggest?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: The solution is to divide the whole bill by 5. One couple pays for 2 people, the other couple pays for 3. This would include food, rent, gas, etc. Everyone is an adult. The responsibility for the daughter is her parents’. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Car Wars

How do I get my daughter to understand that although I want to help her out, that my car is mine, not hers? 

Dear Jay,
I have a 37 year old daughter and 3 grandchildren who live close by. my daughter, now divorced, no job, has child support coming in and her car has been out of service for 6 months. I started letting her borrow my car for normal errands. It seems to be getting out of control. She even had her own key made! She feels I should let her use it for personal use.

I don't mind her using my car when I am working, but evenings I like my car to be available for me. She wants to take my car the night and weekends, and she wants me to babysit. This leaves me with no car all night until the next day. Or lately, I have evening functions and she wants to use my car the same night. She wants me to find another way! She does put gas in it, but lately she has it more than I do. Am I wrong? My husband works all different shifts so his car is not always available. How do I put a stop to this? I feel like I am enabling her to rely too much in many areas she should be doing on her own.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I think you have a very clear read on the situation. I would highly recommend that you seek family counseling - just you and your daughter. I think a counselor can explain in such a way that your daughter can feel as though she is part of the solution and not just a problem. In the meantime you need to lay out some ground rules. These are non-negotiable. The car needs to be a part of this. You and your husband make up the rules. Your daughter (and both of you) follow them. If you do not show your daughter that you have respect for your “castle” and your car, she might think she shouldn’t either. It is hard for a mother to detach, which is why I am suggesting professional assistance. I hope this helps.

Jay

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No Thank You Notes = No Gifts

Is it time for me to stop sending my adult nephews birthday gifts especially since they never express gratitude? 

Dear Jay,
I have 3 adult nephews in their 20's. I'm starting to not feel the joy of giving them birthday gifts. When I do send gifts, they can't be bothered to send a thank you or acknowledge them. I was raised and still practice immediately sending hand written thank you notes to someone who has taken time to send me gifts and get frustrated when they can't even text me thank you. I would take a text even! My middle nephew turned 25, and I recently expressed to my mother my frustration and said I wasn't going to get him anything. She was horrified that I would even think this.

At what point can we stop giving our adult nieces and nephews gifts? I'm willing to do a card, but feel I shouldn't have to keep spending money when my husband or I don't even get at thank you. I would rather spend the money on my little young nephews and see the joy they get from opening their gifts and playing with what we get them.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I agree with you. I don’t understand what your mother’s point is. Of course you should be acknowledged! I would give them each a lovely box of note cards as your final effort. If this doesn’t get through to them, strike them from your list. Remember the Golden Rule and Common Sense. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Unreasonable Requests

Am I being unreasonable with putting restrictions on how many people stay at our home and limiting the duration of the visit? 

Dear Jay,
My partner’s daughter is graduating from high school in a few months and family from out of town will be visiting. My partner would like to host all of them at our home. There will be at least 7 people coming and we have one spare room. I suggested we could host 3 comfortably (his mother, daughter and grandchild), but perhaps the other 4 (brother, sister-in-law and their two 19yr olds) could get a hotel room which we would pay for.  There is a chance they want to stay for over a week, and I explained I just simply would not be able to have that many people in our house for that period of time. For 2-3 days sure, I could suck it up, but any longer and I just don't think I could do it. He feels I'm being extremely unreasonable and is barely speaking to me. We have a small house to begin with and two other children at home. Am I being unreasonable?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: Your partner needs to smarten up. He is the one who is being unreasonable, not to mention disrespectful. It’s your house, too. Decisions of this nature need to be agreed upon. This is a relatively easy discussion to have. I would sort this out by letting your partner know how his actions make you feel. If he doesn’t seem to care, you have bigger problems on the horizon. I hope this helps.

Jay

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50/50 fairness for visiting families

Even if we don't enjoy visiting my husband's family, he insists that we still need to be fair and visit each side of the family equally.  Should I agree with him? 

Dear Jay,
My husband and I don't get along with his family, but my husband says we still need to split holidays 50/50 between my family and his to be fair. My in-laws live far away and expect us to rent a car or take a cab when we fly to come visit them. I find this rude as we barely see them, I'd expect them to want to spend time with us and it is very expensive.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: The issue here revolves around the comment on fairness. To whom are you being fair? Certainly not yourselves. I think you need to reset your priorities. If neither of you want to spend time with his parents, you are under no obligation to do so. Who knows, maybe they’d rather see less of you two also. This is not an issue about time and money. It is an issue about respect. You are not showing yourselves the respect you should. As a result, no one else will either. My advice is to remove the mantel of being a victim and start calling your own shots. Being resentful of people you do not like is a waste of energy; spending time with them is a waste of time. Not all families get along, nor do they have to. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Too much time and energy for the niece, not enough for me

How do I talk to my husband about what I think is an inappropriate relationship that he has with his niece? 

Dear Jay,
My 46 year old husband goes to his 30 year old niece to discuss the problems in our marriage rather than communicate with me. He also does things for her (such as yard work, welds Christmas tree stands, etc.) and asks her not to tell me because I will get upset that he doesn't take the time to do things for me. I saw texts and calls between them at all hours of the night on his phone. I find something to be wrong with this. Your opinion?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I agree with you; something is terribly wrong. I suggest you discuss this with your husband, not your niece. This may be an uncomfortable discussion, but any relationship that is expected to last must have the component of honesty. State facts, but let your husband know how discovering these facts makes you feel. Do not be accusatory, but rather take the responsibility for your feelings completely, all the while asking for his understanding. He does need to provide an explanation, and will likely be more willing if this discussion is not confrontational. Professional counseling may well be in order. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Not until they are married

How do I tell my daughter that I love her, but don't want to do a couple's vacation with her and her boyfriend? 

Dear Jay,
We have one daughter who is our pride and joy.  She’s a wonderful child, student, and athlete. She recently graduated college and moved back home because she got a job in our area.  We are thrilled to have her back home.  She's dated but never seriously until recently and I think this may actually be "The One". He's eight years older, very settled, and we like him just fine. She goes and stays with him on weekends, and they have been on a number of vacations and trips over the past year. She recently suggested we all go on a vacation together. I'm not a prude; however, I am not comfortable with this idea since they are not married.  I am okay with the two of them going places and doing things, but I just don't feel comfortable doing the couple's thing with me and my husband since they are not married. Is this wrong? She knows my opinion about things, but I respect her decisions as well. I'm not sure how I should  explain this to her?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: Having an open and honest discussion with your daughter is important, and it should not be fraught with fear of rejection. I always advise that honesty is the best policy. But, be open to listening to your daughter’s point of view. She may be able to make you see things from her perspective. No one is wrong or right in this situation, but people’s feelings are all valid. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Funeral etiquette for distant relatives

What is a proper way to pay our respects for our daughter-in-law's grandfather who we didn't know? 

Dear Jay,
What is the proper etiquette for attending the funeral of a daughter-in-law's grandfather?  The funeral is three hours away, and we did not know him or any of the family other than my daughter-in-law. Should we attend? Should we send flowers or should we consider something else?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: The choice is yours, but I would think a note of condolence and a contribution to the charity of choice would suffice. If your son indicates that your support would be appreciated, consider going. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Awkward 2 Year Old Twins Party

Even if I feel uncomfortable, should I still attend my granddaughters' birthday party? 

Dear Jay,
Should I go to my granddaughters’ (twins) 2 year old birthday party when my son is locked up in prison and the other family has not liked him. Also, the baby's mother is seeing someone else, and the maternal grandmother has kept them from seeing us even before this because my son broke up with her daughter and was seeing someone else. I am very uncomfortable going, and I do get the twins once a month at my house for which I meet them and they are always 45 minutes to 1 hour late. Should I stay away from their family functions and not go even though they will say that we have acted as though we're not interested in the girls lives, or do I go because it is the right thing to do? The twins have a half brother, and I thought that maybe I will take him? What do you think?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: If you are invited to such functions, you have the option to attend or not. If you are not invited, you should not attend. Since you see them every month anyway, I would not bother going, but you could certainly drop off gifts, just not near the time of the party. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Brother Block

Do I really need to invite my loud mouth brother-in-law to my husband's party if my husband wants him there? 

Dear Jay,
It is my husband's birthday, and I am throwing a party with some help from his 3 grown-up children. He rarely speaks to his brother and his wife even though they live close by.  They don't get along well as his brother is a loud mouthed and obnoxious person who cannot stop talking, mostly about all his medical problems.  Somehow, my husband found out about the party and asked if his brother was invited, to which I replied NO.  He would like him to come.  What do you suggest I do?  The party is in 3 days.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: Invite him. This party is about your husband, not you. I know it’s a drag, but sometimes, especially like on birthdays, we have to put our best foot forward. Look at this as an opportunity to fine tune your “just going to ignore him” skill. Be cordial and be thankful for your husband and his children. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Not given a proper invite to mom's party

Should I approach my sister about her negligence for not properly inviting me to my mom's 70th birthday party? 

Dear Jay,
My sister and brother decided to throw a 70th birthday party for my mother. I am the oldest child, my sister and brother are 3 and 6 years younger than me.  I am not close to my sister, and she has not invited me to any events for her children since my father passed away in 2007 - and even prior to 2007 I was only invited because my father would not go if I was not extended an invitation.  I invite my sister to every event I have with proper mailed invitation because like my father, I believe we are family and the bottom line is we cannot change that and when push comes to shove that is all you have in this world.  (Clearly there are some issues here between my sister and I - I have tried to address them, but do not get a response so I stopped and just try to do the right thing.)   

I am a little upset that my sister included my brother in this planning, but did not ask me to be part of the party planning.  Not only that, but she did not send me an invitation.  The day the RSVP's were due, when my brother realized I was not on the list he texted me a picture of the invitation and asked if I was free.  All the RSVP information on the invites were for my sister.  I am going because it is my mother's 70th birthday, and I love my mom.  Is it wrong to address the hurt feelings with my sister including the lack of proper invitation?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I advise that you take the high road on this one. Let’s look at the facts. Your brother and sister are hosting a party, to which you are going because the guest of honor is your mother. Your role is mainly that of a guest, with some seniority being the eldest daughter. Do not bring up any topic with your sister that might cause anyone any stress. If this means avoiding her other to thank her for hosting such a lovely party, then so be it. There will hopefully be plenty of other people for you to chat with. I am not condoning your sister’s disrespectful (clueless) behavior, but I see no advantage to stirring the pot at the party. After the party, in private, by all means let your sister know how her actions made you feel. Your feelings are valid. I would hope your sister would want the same consideration were the shoe on the other foot. I hope this helps.



Jay

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Dysfunctional family falling apart with social media

How do I fix the relationship with my husband's dad and his step mom? 

Dear Jay,
My 9 year old daughter (my husband’s stepdaughter) auditioned and was accepted to get in to dance in the parades and on stage in Disney Land (in April 2015). At the time this was planned in 2013 my husband had a job; however, between then and when the money became due to pay the remaining amount for the trip he had lost his job. Although we paid for my daughter to go, we were unable to afford to pay for us.

It was suggested to us to ask my husband’s parents for the money to borrow and repay so we could see her dancing in Disney. I initially did not want to ask, but gave in as I figured the worst they could say is no. Which when we asked they did say no. 

Last week I saw my husband’s dad post on Facebook about him and his wife going on a cruise, and I became a little upset, not because they have money to go on a holiday, but seeing this makes me upset I cannot be there for my daughter. I figured it was rude to ask them not to post, the issue is mine not theirs, so I blocked my husband’s parents on Facebook so I wouldn't become upset when they posted about it.

My husband’s step mother became so irate that even though she was due to look after my 1 year old son (her offer) as my husband had a job interview, she refused. I realized that she obviously was hurt I blocked her on Facebook, so I texted to apologize and explain why I did it.

Instead of accepting my apology she texted me back with a barrage of insults and called me names, told me to grow up and pay my bills, and insulted my daughter saying she was spoiled and needed to stop expecting everything she wants. She insulted me so much I texted back to stand up for myself. I did not call her names, but I did say one thing I regret which is that after my husband read her response he advised me that "They've finally pushed away the last of Dad's kids to speak to him". Even though it’s true, I feel like I should push him to carry on a relationship with them.

My husband’s Dad has allowed his new wife to berate each of my husband’s two sisters and brother so much none of them have contacted or seen him for over 3 years. My husband has Aspergers and has taken a LOT from his Dad and step mum, but because family is important to him, he allows it to continue. He never stands up for me especially when his Dad wrecked our wedding day by causing a scene and storming out just before his speech.

My husband said until his step mother apologizes to me he will not see his dad or her. Do you have any advice on what I can do as I know neither or them will apologize, and while I do not want to see them, I do not want to deprive my kids of the only grandfather they have and my husband of his father?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: This situation illustrates one of the downfalls of social media, especially in a dysfunctional family, which by the way, most of us live in. You must take full responsibility for this fiasco as you caused it. You are going to need to make further apologies, and take your medicine. There is no point to trying to defend yourself when you are wrong. An apology and asking for forgiveness will work far more effectively. They may not be quick to forgive you. They may have felt that betrayed by you. 



Jay

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Problems with Parents

How should I handle the way my parents choose to grandparent unequally and badmouth my husband? 

Dear Jay,
I am 27 and am married with two children under 4 and one on the way.

My parents will invite my oldest daughter out to things, never my 1 year old or myself and definitely not my husband.  They even asked me to allow them to take her out for a couple of weeks away.  I keep saying no to long trips but ok to trips that take maybe an hour or two.  Should I be offended by how they seem to want to play family and exclude the rest of us as if she is not our daughter, but theirs?  Also, should I be offended on behalf of my younger daughter?

Also, should I be offended that my parents judge my husband for finally choosing to go to college while our children are young so that he can better our world?  They judge him because he isn't well paid like my sister's husband who has been known to cheat on her and their child? They bad mouth him constantly to me and our children; am I wrong to tell them if they don't stop that they can't be near their grandchildren anymore?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: First of all, you cannot be offended unless you hand over your power to someone else and allow them to offend you. So, no, you should not be offended by any of this. I would side with your parents as far as the visit issue is concerned. I wouldn’t want to go out with a one-year old either. Sometimes bonding with a grandchild is best done one-on-one. Perhaps that is what they prefer. As to bad-mouthing, there should be none of that, especially around the children (no matter how young). You and your husband need to communicate more and establish some house rules which everyone will live by. Your home is your castle. Show it the respect it deserves and others will soon follow. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Grown Children Footing the Bill

How do I tell my grown children that it would be nice for them to pay for the dinner bill from time to time? 

Dear Jay,
We have always treated our kids when going out to dinner, hardly ever do they pay for the bill when it comes.

Our kids are all grown and working good jobs. Is it ok to teach them to reciprocate and treat us to lunch or dinner once in a while? How do I bring it up with them? I feel it is a good thing to teach them.

Your thoughts as soon as possible.

Thanks!

Candy

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I agree with you. Teaching children to have gratitude is an important gift. Reciprocation fits into the gratitude category. I would approach the subject from a “when you are treated to a meal or the movies by other people, not us of course, you do remember to reciprocate, don’t you?” The trick here is to not come off as having this be about you. Parents customarily do pay for their children, in some circles forever! But this is not a habit or courtesy that should be practiced outside of immediate family. Even then, it’s not equitable, but sometimes parents insist as it gives them a sense of usefulness, connection, and joy. The subject is an awkward one, and this illustrates just how important teaching these skills by example is, and from an early age. Such teaching avoids such awkward moments down the road. I say this because the conversation may feel awkward, but nonetheless, it is an important one to have. I guarantee you, your children will start treating you from now on from time to time. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Vacation Home Dream Becomes a Nightmare

Am I being stingy, or should we limit the amount of time family members can use our vacation home? 

Dear Jay,
My partner (of 20 years) and I purchased a vacation condo in Florida two years ago.  Although we only get to spend about 10 weeks a year there, we love having this place, which we look at as a peaceful haven, where we leave the stresses of everyday life behind.  Our lanai overlooks a golf course and lake, we have the use of two beautiful community pools, and are a 25 minute drive to many attractive beaches.  It truly has the feel of resort living.

When we purchased it, we agreed that part of the fun would be to share it with family and close friends.  We have had lots of alone time there, but have also had some wonderful visits with close friends, spending quality time with them that no one seems to have the time for back home in the North East.  I even got to spend a wonderful five day visit with my closest cousin-just the two of us, talking and laughing about everything.  All great times.

We agreed to let siblings and their families visit on their own, as we can't spend our vacations with everyone, and there is only room for four people to stay at one time.  My brother and his wife visited last year, and haven't asked to come back again.  They left the place as neat as they found it.

This January my partner's brother and his family made their first visit.  We knew from the way that they kept their own house that cleanliness would be a problem, so my partner paid a cleaning lady to come in after they left.  Brother and family had the time of their lives, texting and phoning to tell us that our place is gorgeous, they loved going to the beach everyday, this is the best vacation of their lives, and basically they felt like they were in Heaven.  They left balloons, flowers, card, wine....ok, they were very appreciative.  I knew they wanted to go back again, that is for sure.  Then, much to my surprise, within one week of leaving our condo, they called with a request to visit again just TWO months later.  I have to say, I was taken aback, and became concerned this would become a pattern- that they would want to visit as often as we would let them.  My partner assured me that they can't afford to go that often, and since the condo was empty when they asked to return, she wasn't going to say no to them.  They are there as I write this.  The kicker is that my partner arranged to see a business client in FL this week, and will drive over to the condo after Brother and family leave so she can clean up after their mess.

I am fearful that they will really take advantage of our vacation home if we let them.  I am trying to talk to my partner about being preemptive, and setting limits for family visits...I think two visits per year per sibling is more than generous.  If we state this to family upfront, it will let them know that we have our limits, and will relieve me of the stress of wondering when the next request might come.  My partner doesn't even want to start this conversation.  She said "I don't want to ruin my relationship with my brother".  Are you kidding me?  He wouldn't want to ruin his chance of having those two visits.

My partner thinks that I am being stingy.  If our condo is sitting there empty, why shouldn't someone else be able to enjoy it.  I don't want to be taken advantage of, or have to worry about how we are going to deal with other's messes all of the time. We spent a lot of money on new carpeting and furniture, and would like things to stay in nice condition for as long as possible.  Is it crazy for me to want to set limits on annual visits?  This isn't what I envisioned when we first discussed sharing our condo with friends and family.  Our little peace of heaven is now becoming a source of stress for me.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I rarely advise compromise, but in this situation, that is going to be my recommendation. I sense that in the end however, that the result will be seen as all-win. You must realize that the stories you are telling yourself about this situation are the cause of your stress. Realize that you do not fully understand the relationship your partner and her brother have. You don’t really need to. Just allow your partner to host her brother and his family. If wear and tear and cleaning become an issue, then address the problem. But as they say, don’t fix it if it ain’t broke. 
On the other hand, your home is your castle, and having general house rules that you and your partner agree to is very reasonable and appropriate. Your partner should respect your feelings that result from the angst over worrying about how your condo is being used. You may want to relax your concerns until such time as they are warranted, but there are plenty of other rules that should be established for safety and emergency reasons anyway. Establishing such house rules or policies will establish a respect and sense of gratitude that may have needed strengthening. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Ex-husband rules for sleepovers

Can my ex stay over at my mom and dad's house? 

Dear Jay,
Is it disrespectful for my ex to spend the night at my parents’ house with our child?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I think this all depends on the circumstances; but in general, if the host (your parents) invites him to stay, there is no disrespect. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Sister-in-law's huffy response to party guests

How should I respond to my sister-in-law inviting her daughter's boyfriend to my husband's 45th birthday party without my consent? 

Dear Jay,
I had a 45th birthday party for my husband. It was an adult party, but I did invite a few of the teens to attend.  My niece texted my daughter asking if she could bring her boyfriend, and I told her not tonight another time (we have never met her boyfriend before). My sister-in-law let my niece bring him without calling or texting us for permission. When she arrived she went  right to my daughter and questioned her why she told her daughter she couldn't bring her boyfriend.  Then she pulled me aside and asked me why it was such a big deal. I told her the party was about her brother and his 45th birthday, and I didn't want extra kids here.  Her kids were invited, of course.  She was very upset and stormed out yelling and making a big commotion within 15 minutes from arriving.

Now she wants nothing to do with us. I don't feel that I was wrong, but now I feel guilty.

What should I do?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: This goes way beyond being right or wrong. This is about a serious lack of respect within this family, and a serious inability to communicate without being uncivil. My advice is quite simple. You are the host. You set the guest list, and you have to answer your guests questions, whether they are appropriate or not. You must take full responsibility for this disruption and apologize to everyone involved by explaining what your motives were. What were your motives? Whatever they were, they have pushed more than a few buttons, and have caused a lot of stress. You owe everyone whom you have treated this way an apology and explanation. You owe this to yourself, too, if for no other reason so that you don’t make these mistakes again! I hope this helps.



Jay

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Information on funding

How can I properly check on the status of my funding when I need it right now? 

Dear Jay,
I was considered as a candidate for financial hardship from a Breast cancer foundation.  What would be the proper way to check the status of the financial help they are sending to me due to the need of it now?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I am sorry to hear you are battling cancer. I do hope you have a full and speedy recovery. My advice is to call them on the telephone. You want to establish a relationship with someone at the foundation on a professional, yet somewhat personal level. Health and finances are two huge concerns to everyone. I do not think this is a suitable email topic yet. Establish a contact; inquire of them what the status of your candidacy is; follow up with email - be sure to get their email address. I hope this helps.



Jay

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Hurt over son's bad manners

Should my son be responsible for introducing me to his college girlfriend and her parents? 

Dear Jay,
My 17 year old son just starting dating a girlfriend which he hasn't brought home yet to meet me. When I met him at a college orientation she was with him and her parents sitting several rows behind them.  Who should introduce me to the girl and her parents? I was totally blindsided as my son told me he wanted to drive himself and meet me there. Being a single mom I felt so out of place as my son never introduced me to anyone. I left feeling hurt and alone. Please help.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I can understand why you feel alone and hurt. When children leave the nest, this is how many folks feel. Allow him to follow his own path. He is an adult now, yet has some social skills yet to learn. Somehow growing up, he never was taught about making proper introductions. You could take the initiative and introduce yourself to his girlfriend, although he should know better and should do so himself. This is no time to play the role of the victim. It is time however to step up to the plate and lead by example as to how to do the right thing. I hope this helps.
Jay

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Las Vegas trip funds

Should I feel obligated to help out my wife's out of work son to fund his Las Vegas trip? 

Dear Jay,
This is my second marriage, and my wife's fifth.  I have two young adult children; she has five.  Notwithstanding there is no obligation for me to spend money on her children, I've done so on occasion because my wife's not working due to a medical compensation claim.  The claim will be legally resolved shortly.

One of my wife's sons has a birthday coming up in April. He's unemployed and has been actively looking for work.  His lady-friend is planning a trip to Las Vegas for the two of them.  Is there an obligation to help the son financially?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: No, there is no obligation to help finance this trip. Sin City is the last place someone should be going who is out of work unless he is going there to look for work. Don’t be an enabler. Let them follow their own paths. I hope this helps.
Jay

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4th of July birthday party?

Can I throw a birthday party for someone on the 4th of July even if their actual birthday isn't that day? 

Dear Jay,
Is if okay to have my mother's 60th birthday party on July 4th? Her actual birthday is in the beginning of July, but not on a Saturday. The closest Saturday is July 4th.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: Yes, of course. Have a wonderful celebration!
Jay

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No boyfriend, please

Are my husband and I wrong to not allow our college aged daughter to bring her boyfriend home with her while she is on break? 

Dear Jay,
Is it unreasonable of my husband and me to not allow our out of state college age daughter to bring her boyfriend home to stay with us on her break if we are uncomfortable with that?

We don't want to hurt her feelings, but we feel strongly about her not bringing him here.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: Your home is your castle. You and your husband decide what the house rules are - no one else. If you feel so strongly about this, my question would be why she asked you in the first place? Did she not know your thoughts around this sensitive subject? You will need to explain why this house rule is in place. I am not suggesting you need to have a debate on this rule, but you should explain your beliefs other than just providing the stock answer - because I said so. As to being unreasonable, your rule is neither reasonable nor unreasonable - it simple is a matter of fact, because it is your house. I hope this helps.
Jay

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Help! My Aunt Hits on my Husband!

Should my husband serve my aunt first even if she is totally disrespecting me by hitting on him? 

Dear Jay,
I had my Aunt at my house. I love her because she is blood, but unfortunately I cannot trust her to be alone with my husband. In a normal situation should my husband serve her first when it comes to food and drinks because she is our guest, or should he serve his wife first?

This is not a normal situation though, and I told my husband that I could not trust her not to hit on him, but still had her over because I trust him. Would these circumstances change who he should serve first? I got a bit jealous when he continued to serve her first and sometimes only served her leaving me to serve myself. I’m not sure what the usual etiquette would be here.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: From a strictly etiquette point of view, the guest is served first. You should however also be served before he sits back down. That however is rather minor compared to the far bigger and more serious issue here. Have you no respect for yourself? Has your husband no respect for you or for him? Obviously your aunt has no respect for either of you. If you really cannot trust her, you need to be sure your husband understands how this serious intrusion into your private lives makes you feel. He must clearly rebuff her advances and make sure she knows her behavior is unacceptable. You should also draw her aside and let her know that this must stop or she’s off the guest list permanently. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Asking guests to pay for a party

Is it okay to ask guests to pay $50 each to attend a 90th birthday party for my mom, so I don't need to foot the whole bill? 

Dear Jay,
My mother will be 90 years of age on June 25th.  My father is deceased, 2 yrs ago my mom lost a son and last year she lost her oldest daughter.  I have 1 sister and 4 brothers left, 3 of which are disabled and on limited income.  I want to give my mother a special birthday dinner and do not want to get stuck with the entire bill. The list would probably include 100 guests. Is it proper etiquette to ask/charge $50 per person? Please help me with some ideas.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: No, it is not OK to ask/charge anything for a party you are hosting. A celebration for this number could perhaps be arranged very inexpensively at a church hall with coffee and cake. It is the camaraderie that should be the focus. Finances do not allow for an extravagant dinner party. Most of the guests you invite would feel very uncomfortable, as would your mother. If you personally can foot the bill, that is another matter. Otherwise, a greatly scaled back event would be appropriate. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Lopsided Grandparenting

How do I deal with my reclusive daughter-in-law who doesn't seem to want me to visit? 

Dear Jay,
My daughter-in-law is very reclusive. This summer during harvest, a very busy time of year for her husband (my son), she took their 4 kids to visit her parents several states away. This was no surprise to us since she had done that the year before as well, staying 2 months with her parents.

This summer, she stayed past when school started, and they informed us that she was homeschooling. We had concerns and worries when our son went to visit them in September, and they did not come back with him. Finally, he went there over Thanksgiving, and they did come home with him. Only 'home' was not the country home where their farm is.  Our son informed us that she  wanted to live closer to town, so they have rented a house about 45 miles from where their farm is and my son commutes.

Since they have moved to town, I have seen my two older grandchildren once when they came to our place with their dad for a Christmas party, and then we did see our son and his entire family on Christmas day. They did not come for Christmas dinner, but came later in the afternoon for about 4 or 5 hours.  Keep in mind that we hadn't seen any of these grandkids while they were at their other grandparents for 5 months.

They recently had a new baby.  Our son called us to tell us, and he said that we could come to the hospital the next day to visit. Of course we wanted to see the baby, so the day the baby was one week old, one of my daughters who still lives at home and I went to their house on our way to do errands in town.  

We found their house and knocked on the door.  Our son was still out in the country working.  The first thing my daughter-in-law said to us was, “I didn't know you were coming."  I told her that we wouldn't stay long, but that we just wanted to see the baby and her, and give them some newborn baby presents.  We also wanted to see the older kids, and give them some Valentines.  We stayed about 10 minutes.

Now our son has called to tell me that if I want to come visit, I should call first to see if that is OK with his wife.  I asked how I was to contact them since they often do not answer their cell phones.  He said to call him on his cell and he would get ahold of her to ask.

The last time I was invited to their home was over 3 years ago for a 30th birthday party for my son.  I was asked to bring food for that party which I gladly did. I don't want to cause stress to my son, but he doesn't seem to realize how lopsided the grandparenting is. I am discouraged. What should I do?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: Let me first make a few observations. One, grandparents have no rights as far as when they can or cannot see their grandchildren. Two, you should always call before going to call on someone, family or not. It’s rude not to do so. Three, your daughter-in-law feels more comfortable with her parents than with you. Four, allow your son and his wife to set up their household with their rules. Everyone, including you, must honor their privacy. 
My feeling is that if you back off a little and stop scorekeeping, life may well improve. If you don’t, it won’t. That I will guarantee. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Left out

Am I wrong to feel left out when my family doesn't include me in their adult games and activities even though I am 19? 

Dear Jay,
I love my family, it just feels like they treat me like a teenager still even though I'm nineteen. For example when family comes over and everyone is chitchatting and playing board games of four, I feel left out because they don't care to incorporate me in games or talk to me. I try my best to mingle, yet it feels lonely why they get to have fun.  If guests ever came to my house in the future I would want everyone to play together.  Why does this feeling like they don't want to hang with me happen?  They are older and have more in common so can see, but why do they make me feel left out every time?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: How sad this makes you feel. I can hear it in your words. My advice is that you sit down with the person to whom you feel safest and explain how this behavior makes you feel. They will not know this unless you explain it to them. People generally don’t want to hurt other people’s feelings. Perhaps they will make more of an effort to include you in future games, or at least give you a reason why you are not included. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Exhausted from family visits

How do I deal with my children and grandchildren visiting all the time when no one helps me and everyone expects me to do all the work? 

Dear Jay,
I am a widow and remarried 10 years ago.  We have a lovely blended family - my 3 kids, his 2 along with 3 grandchildren.  The children live in 4 different states and have to spend the night when they visit because of distance.  Holidays involve everyone staying in our home.  We are able to accommodate everyone, but they drag the visits on for days (5,6 and sometimes 7 and up). The whole time they visit, they expect to eat, and what is really upsetting me is they expect me to cook big meals and provide everything they eat for free. They do not help at all with cleaning up after dinner.  My husband helps, and it is often the two of us slaving away at a stove or sink, while our children are enjoying themselves visiting each other. My husband thinks I am terrible for complaining. He says children shouldn't have to pay to eat at their parent's house. But these "kids" are in their twenties and thirties. Though my husband is retired, I still work, and I would like to relax when I have time off. Every holiday I get, however, someone visits and I work so hard that I can't wait for the holiday to be over. 

It came to a head when the oldest visited with her 2 children and husband. Her husband's father was ill in a nearby city, so they came during the work week for a 3 day visit in order to deal with the sick dad-in-law. We were happy to help so they didn't have to get a hotel. I was working, and I came down with a cold. Even though our daughter never visited her dad-in-law, she had a grand time hanging out at our house with the grandkids.  When I dragged in from work, she was ready for me to fix dinner for everyone. I complained to my husband, and he just said that I cook too well and everyone loves it. How in the world do I fix this situation? I love seeing the kids, but I feel so trapped and enslaved.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I agree with your husband that children should not have to pay for the food they eat at their parents’ house, unless of course circumstances dictate otherwise, which in this case they don’t. However, that does not mean you have to do all the work. In fact you shouldn’t necessarily have to do any of the work! But you will need a new system with a few ground rules. First of all, start and stop dates for visits is a reasonable request. At least then you know who is coming and going and when. Secondly, you need to assign tasks to everyone, so that everyone helps out. One way to accomplish this is to have a hat right at the front door. When they come in everyone takes a piece of paper from the hat. On the piece of paper is written a task. Make sure you have all these covered. People may need more than one draw from the hat as all the tasks need to be assigned. This can be arranged by family or by individuals, but you do not have to draw anything from the hat. You are already providing enough- and you are working! Be sure to let them all know ahead of time that there are new house rules and explain them - that way there are no surprises. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Wedding dilemmas from bride's real mom

What is the wedding etiquette for including a mom who lost legal custody when her daughter was 7 years old? 

Dear Jay,
Due to a drug addiction and brain injury from a car accident, I have raised my sister’s daughter as my own. I gained legal custody of her when she was 7 years old. She is now engaged to be married and her mother is somewhat back in her life. There is friction between them since my sister wants to be her mother again and be more involved. My husband is walking our daughter down the aisle and I already see problems arising regarding the wedding (since I am not the actual mother of the bride and so on). Family gatherings have become very uncomfortable for everyone.  My sister doesn't have the relationship I have with her daughter and tends to try and force it upon her.  At almost every gathering my sister is in tears regarding her daughter. What can I do to make this better?  What is the etiquette regarding her wedding day?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: The etiquette suggests that this wedding day is all about the bride. Her wishes should be followed by all involved. This has nothing whatsoever to do with mothering. You and your sister need to back off and let your daughter/niece choose how she wants her day to unfold. On another note, there is serious need for family counseling here. I would consider contacting Family Services and getting some professional help to guide you through this transition. You may want to go by yourself initially. Anyone invited to counseling must agree to go; they cannot be forced. Have compassion for your sister and for yourself. Take the high road and put the needs of others ahead of yourself. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Super Bowl Party Shut Out

Am I out of line being angry at my sister for not inviting my daughter's boyfriend's parents to her home for a Super Bowl party? 

Dear Jay,
My sister had a Super Bowl Party, and when my daughter, 26, asked if her boyfriend’s parents could come, she basically said no, and that she wants to keep it small. We were shocked! His parents, in the past, have been at all the major holidays with our family. They have no other family, and really enjoy being with all of us. My sister doesn't really like them. She said they don't fit in. My daughter had to tell them that they were not invited. Awkward! As her mom, I had to help her decide how to handle this so we could all be together still. We ended up going to my sister’s, and his parents did something else.

Now there is this tension between all of us. I've tried telling my sister that I was annoyed with her decision to not invite them. It was just for a few hours, and they are like family. She only said, "I did nothing wrong. I can have who I want in my house." She sounds so immature. She is 50.
She then posted a remark on Facebook about it. That's when I got really mad, and we haven't spoken since.

I'm not sure what the next step will be, but I have no intensions to contact her further.
What do you think?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: On one hand, I agree with your sister. She can invite anyone she wants to her house. Your opinion does not matter because it’s her house. I recommend not offering it in these situations. Would you invite someone to your house you didn’t like? I wouldn’t. On the other hand, she has crossed a line when she went public with this. I advise you to ask her to remove the comment from FB. We all make mistakes and all bear responsibility for these errors in judgment. What is called for here is open communication and compassion. Do not hold a grudge. Have you heard of Byron Katie? I recommend you buy her book and read it, and share it. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Paying my sister's way

How do I tell my sister that I will not help her financially without hurting her feelings and without feeling guilty about it? 

Dear Jay,
I recently became a widow. My husband was a very good provider. Now, my sister is expecting me to bail her out of her money problems on a monthly basis because she thinks I have all this money. How can I resolve this problem diplomatically without feeling responsible or guilty?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: You are not responsible for your sister’s problems; therefore you should have no feelings of guilt. You can simply explain to her that you are on a tight budget, and that she needs to take care of her own financial obligations. You would be doing her a favor, so no guilt! I hope this helps.

Jay

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No thanks on all girls vacation

Am I wrong for not wanting to be on a vacation with just my sister and my mom? 

Dear Jay,
My mother invited me and my sister on a vacation.  I turned down the offer stating I would not be able to get off work during the time they were planning on going.  My mother said she understood but then mentioned we will have to schedule a trip for the three of us another time.  I am really not interested in ever taking a vacation with just the three of us.  I would consider a family vacation where my husband could join, but I don't want to do the 'girls' vacation.  My mother offers to pay, so I can not use the financial excuse.  Am I wrong for not wanting to go?  How can I politely state that I do not want to do these types of vacations?  I love my mother and sister, but do not want to vacation alone with them.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I have no idea why you do not want to spend time with just your mother and sister, but fully understand that reasons could definitely exist. So to answer your question about being wrong, I have no idea. What is your reason? Perhaps you have limited vacation time and you want to share that with your own family - fully understandable. I always say that honesty is the best policy. Let them know your reasons and take full responsibility for the decision, without blaming either one of them one bit. I hope this helps.

Jay

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90th birthday plans

Is it tacky for my mother-in-law to come up with her own 90th birthday party plans? 

Dear Jay,
My mother-in-law will be 90 years old in two months.  Last night she took our 48 year old son aside and told him she wants to take the family out to dinner for her birthday.  He told me this today. My husband and I had planned on taking her and the family out to dinner already, but had not said anything to her about it yet.  It is still two months away. For all she knows we may have wanted to surprise her.  I think it's rather tacky of her to have her own "party".   I know she is afraid we might not do anything to celebrate and that would crush her, especially that she couldn't brag to her friends that we took her out.  I think she should graciously keep quiet and trust that her family cares enough to celebrate her 90 years.  I am rather pushed out of shape that she is sort of making sure that we don't forget. In fact it seems manipulative.  Is my thinking wrong on this?  What should I say to her when she tells me she wants to take us out for her birthday?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: My gut tells me that you are way off base here. You are making a lot of assumptions. And I think they may very well be untrue. I could list a whole lot of assumptions on the opposite side of the spectrum, which may be equally untrue. Assumptions are that way by definition. My advice is that you graciously accept her invitation. Have compassion for her and for yourself. At 90, it is not up to anyone to deny her any pleasure. My advice is always based on common sense and the Golden Rule. I hope this helps.

Jay

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In-law's visits hurting marriage

Am I being unreasonable when I want to end my in-law's 1-2 week visits every 2-3 months? 

Dear Jay,
I've been married for 9 years and I have to deal with my in-laws coming to our house every 2-3 months to stay for 1 week to 2 weeks without them asking. It is causing a problem with me and my husband because he does not know why they can't come here whenever they like as he pays the bills. I am a private person, and I do not like houseguests because they make messes and are just generally in my space. How do I get this to stop? Am I being a difficult person by not wanting to accommodate his intruding parents?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: Your husband needs to grow up. Just because he pays the bills, that has nothing to do with how your household is run. You need to agree on guidelines for guests and other issues. If your husband does not agree to accept and understand your feelings you have a problem that may require professional counseling. You are not being unreasonable. I wish I could help you more. I hope this helps at least a little bit.

Jay

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In-laws visiting expectations

How should I deal with my in-laws never visiting us but always expecting us to bring our 5 month old son to visit them? 

Dear Jay,
My husband’s side of the family never comes to visit him or their 5 month grandson/nephew yet are very persistent about us visiting and taking my son over more often so that he can be more "familiar of them." When comments like that get thrown at me, I think, if you really cared you would make yourself familiar and visit him! We visit once a week. We live in Northridge, CA and they live in Camarillo, CA about a 40 min-1 hr drive. I occasionally invite them over, but obviously when they do come it's something totally out of their way yet they can drive to family gatherings/parties that are totally out of their way but not to our home. According to them it's easier for us to go. Obviously this drives me insane. 

I have mentioned it to my husband many times.He totally agrees with me and says he needs to have a talk with his mother and his sister. It hurts me so much because I know that if my parents, sister and brother lived at this distance away from me they would make time to come visit especially now that my 5 month old son is in the picture. They are absolutely crazy about him and it would be random spontaneous visits not so much planned and I would never need to beg them to come. How should this be handled?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I understand your frustration. First of all, a rule of thumb I live by is to not take anything personally. That alone will relieve a lot of your anger. It’s their problem, not yours. If you don’t want to visit them, don’t. Secondly, your husband needs to have that talk sooner rather than later with his mother and sister. It’s wonderful to have such a supportive husband. He needs to explain what your visiting/traveling rules are. Do not allow his parents to bully you. Thirdly, have compassion for your in-laws, and for yourself. Humans are not built perfectly. We all have flaws and make mistakes - and that’s OK.  I hope this helps.

Jay

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Picking up the tab for guests

Are hosts of visiting relatives responsible for picking up all the restaurant tabs? 

Dear Jay,
When out of town relatives visit and stay in our home for a few days, are we responsible for picking up their portion of any restaurant tabs incurred during their visit?  We already provide them with meals in our home as well as free transportation.  My wife believes that we should pay for absolutely everything, something that the relatives don't do when we visit them.  I don't agree.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: The option to pay or not is certainly not cut and dry. If your relatives cannot afford such luxuries as going out to restaurants and you invite them out, you are responsible. Maybe when you visit them, they cannot afford to pay for you. If this is not the case, then I would have to side with you. There is definitely no rule that suggests you must pay for absolutely everything. I suggest that applying some common sense and the Golden Rule may be appropriate. If however they cannot afford to pay, I suggest you consider being grateful that you can. Having compassion for them and for you is always helpful. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Grandparent naming

Who gets to choose how a grandparent is addressed by the grandchild - the grandparent or the parents to be? 

Dear Jay,
When it comes to grandparent names what is the proper etiquette in who gets to choose the name for the grandparent?

I am a step-mother and have a preference of what I would like to be called as a "grandparent" but the parents-to-be (step-son and wife) feel that it is their choice of what I will get called.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: Common sense would dictate that the grandparent must at least agree to the name that will be used to address them. Surely some agreement can be arrived at without a big argument. If not, there will surely be bigger fish to fry down the road. As the senior, take the high road and try to be flexible. However, it is how you will be addressed, and you should have the final say. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Monster sister-in-law is driving me insane!

How do I handle my controlling sister-in-law when my husband allows her to display rude behavior in my home? 

Dear Jay,
My sister-in-law asked us if she can stay with us while she comes to our city to host a Scentsy party.  I am so uncomfortable around her and this causes problems as my husband does not really seem to understand how it affects me and our relationship after being around her for more than an hour or so. We are usually around her and their family for 5-9 hours at a time (because they live 2.5 hours away), at his mom's, which is also difficult.  But having her in our home makes me so anxious.  Whenever she comes, she usually invites herself and even if we say it isn't a good time, she persists.  She goes through my cupboards and eats food without asking and is a slob.  

She is also very critical, always telling us what to do, especially my husband.  She makes comments about how I do my hair, and so on.  My husband caters to her every demand, and this is difficult to see, because I feel that she is disrespectful.  I'm the only one that cooks out of all of us, and I don't want to host.  She put her fork in the community butter dish and keeps her shoes on in our house when she KNOWS that we do not want this.  She just says, “My shoes are clean.”  Even when we had multiple house guests here at once and I had everything planned for where everyone was going to sleep (after she invited herself and I said we had no room-she persisted), she ended up changing the plan to suit where SHE wanted to sleep, and when I got upset, my husband just let her run the show.  HELP!  She also drinks a lot and the drunker she gets, the worse the behavior gets.  I just don't know how to deal with this anymore.  It is causing me so much anxiety, and I feel like an idiot.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: You are not an idiot for feeling the way you do. Your husband has his priorities completely backwards. Unfortunately, the time has come for to lay down the law. He will need to decide between you and his sister. Your home is your castle and you have every right to have your house rules honored. If your husband can’t stand up to her - and family dynamics often are so toxic that he simply may not have the skill set required to deal with this monster. You are well within your rights to have a private conversation with her and explain that if she doesn’t honor your household rules, she is not welcome in your house. I wish there were gentler way of handling this, but I’m afraid anything short of this will simply fall on deaf ears. I hope this helps.

Jay

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Loud partying drives me crazy

Should my parents speak up about my brother and sister-in-law's loud partying on special occasions? 

Dear Jay,
I live with my younger brother and parents at my parent’s house. My older brother and his wife also live with us, but they live on the highest floor. We all have our own floors. My older brother and his wife heavily party during special occasions - loud music and loud dancing. It’s so loud which makes it impossible to sleep, and it goes on until late night and early morning. I understand it’s rare - just on special occasions or holidays,but I feel they are extremely disrespectful, careless, and rude. They don't care that my parents nor I want to hear it and want to sleep. My parents treat my brother and his wife like they are a god and goddess. I know my sister-in-law wouldn't dare do this in her own parent’s house. Her strict mom wouldn't allow this. It feels unfair. Do you think my parents should stop this behavior by saying something or should I stay out of it?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: Someone must be the head of the household. Presumably your parents play this role jointly - at least in an ideal world this would be how it works. I suggest a family meeting to discuss household rules. This should be headed by your parents, and any grievances must be voiced with respect and civility - no raised voices. You are in fact a small community living literally on top of one another. There must be a high level of mutual respect for everyone. If this does not work out, you need to consider setting up your own household elsewhere. I hope this helps.
My best,

Jay

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Tardy husband gets defensive

Is it unreasonable to expect my husband to communicate with me about when he will get home from special work functions? 

Dear Jay,
My husband asked a couple weeks ahead of time if he could stay late at work because they are reorganizing teams and his current team was doing a get together before they part. We have 6 boys that are young, as in 8 and under. I asked what time he thought he would be home on a number of occasions. He didn't know. The night comes around and I call about 5pm to ask what the plans are for the evening. He says dinner at 6:30 then they are going back to the office to play games. I say, “So you should be home by 10 or 11?” He says, “Yes.” Then when it was approaching 10, I called to see if he was on the way or what was going on. He tells me they're still playing and that he will leave in about 45 minutes, and this would have put him home at midnight or later. I got frustrated. When he got home I asked him if from now on when he goes out if he is going to be later than the estimated time could he call or text me and let me know and also to maybe get a better idea of time frame before the day of event.  He got defensive saying that he didn’t want to check his watch all the time and that I was being unreasonable. Is it unreasonable for me to want more communication about when he will be home especially when it is later than anticipated? I'm not saying he has a curfew, I would just like to be kept in the loop and have better time for planning with 6 kids.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I could not agree with you more. Of course he should let you know if he is going to be delayed. With six boys, the last thing you need is to worry about your husband’s safety. Timing however is everything sometimes. Nailing him when he walks in the door after a long day of work is understandably going to be met with resistance. Pick a time when you can have his undivided attention and clarify why this ground rule is important to you. If he understands how his actions make you feel, he should change his tune. Come at the discussion as a team player, and not some dictatorial victim. Remember more flies with honey than vinegar. He is very likely not behaving like this with the intention of annoying you. Have compassion for him and for you. I hope this helps.
P.S. NEVER argue in front of your boys, please!
 
My best,

Jay

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Not invited and not admitted

How do I help my teenaged son understand that it isn't okay to go to party uninvited even if others do? 

Dear Jay,
My 16 year old son was invited by friends to go to a school mate's birthday party last night (Friday night, high school party). My three concerns were: are parents home, are you invited, and how are you getting home. I confirmed that the parents would be home. He texted the birthday boy and asked if it was okay to come. The response was "I'm not allowed to have any more people, sorry"... So my son wished him happy birthday and dropped it. The birthday boy sent my son a text a few minutes later and asked him to tell everyone that he wasn't letting them in, that he didn't want things to get out of control. So my son passed on the info which was promptly dismissed by all the kids, except my son.

Today I am dealing with a very resentful 16 year old because 20 other kids who a) were not invited and b) just showed up, were allowed in and had a great night. I stand by my insistence that you never show up uninvited. He is mad that I told him to ask. He says “It's high school, you just show up. I'm the only one who asked and I got told no. Everyone else just showed up and had fun".

Am I wrong to insist that it's in poor taste to show up uninvited? Is that common behavior and accepted now? The parents admitted all the kids who showed up uninvited.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: You are absolutely correct. This is precisely why kids growing up today stand little chance of being taken seriously in the real world when they need to function as adults. One, his parents are at fault - which happens far too frequently for not setting guidelines about who will be attending the party. Two, the birthday boy had no business texting your son with such a directive. There are times when party invitations are less structured, which is fine. However this situation is very hurtful for your son. I would be on the phone with the birthday boy’s mother and ask for some clarification. 16 year olds don’t always get the facts straight, and they obviously need guidance to avoid such problems from occurring in the first place. Since  the parents are clueless,  your job is to sit down with your son and explain to him the difference between right and wrong, and why. He is justifiably upset. Work as a team player, not as a dictator. But remember, you are right, and this is a great opportunity to turn a lousy situation into a teachable moment - with compassion. I hope this helps.
 
My best,

Jay

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Gift basket let down

Should I be hurt that my sister-in-law and my niece wouldn't open the gift basket I gave them with me present? 

Dear Jay,
This Christmas, for gifts, I made baskets, each included items I personally selected for the person who would receive it.  For instance, my niece got a $50 gift card to her favorite restaurant, and about $50 worth of other items in her basket.  This year, eight of our family members met at my house to exchange gifts.  We all opened them at once, ooohhhing, and ahhhhhing and thanking the gifter.  When we finished, I noticed that my sister-in-law and her daughter (my niece) had not opened their gift baskets.  I asked them to open them, and my sister-in-law said they decided to open them later at their house. I said, "This is my gift to you, and I really want you to open them now. That's why we are all here."  Again, she said, "No, we will open them later. I asked again, and she said, "We don't have time. We are getting ready to go to the restaurant."  I said, "We still have 20 minutes before we leave. Please open your gift." She refused. The next day, my sister-in-law said, "Sally got a cute bird in her basket, and I ran to mine to see if I got one too, but I didn't. I was so disappointed." That's the only comment that I received about their basket gifts.  Neither ever thanked me or even mentioned the baskets again. I feel very hurt by both of these women. I will never make them another basket. Am I wrong to feel this way?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I see two dynamics at play here. The first is your insistence on gifts being opened over and over again. I believe a gift is given with no strings, including when said gift is opened. On the other hand, your sister-in-law’s behavior is bizarre. So is her response after opening the gift. I wouldn’t make them another basket either. But I do think you may want to sit down with your brother and let him know how his wife’s behavior made you feel. It would be even better if you could sit down with your sister-in-law and share your feelings with her, but I don’t see that happening. The other option is to continue giving the baskets, knowing that they may not all be opened at the same time. It is Christmas, and the feeling of generosity is important. Be generous, but readjust your expectations. I hope this helps.
 
My best,

Jay

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Vacation party poppers

If our vacation hosts don't want to sight see or have fun, can we rent a car and do it on our own? 

Dear Jay,
My husband and I were invited to visit his brother and wife in a vacation rental home they had rented for 1 month.  We were invited for 1 week.  We were asked to bring a list of things we wanted to see and do.  We were arriving by plane and did not rent a car.  After being there two days it became apparent that they did not want to sightsee or leave the house.  Would it have been appropriate to rent our own car and sightsee on our own?  Or would that have been considered rude as we were their guests and should do as they do?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: It doesn’t sound like your hosts are taking an active role in your visit. By all means, strike out on your own, and invite them to join you. Maybe they’ll get the message. I hope this helps.
 
My best,

Jay

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Honesty is the best policy

Should I tell my aunt and uncle that my boyfriend stays with me sometimes while I am watching their home? 

Dear Jay,
Is it okay to bring my boyfriend to stay over?

I live in my aunt and uncle's house and I pay them for the room I'm using. They live in another country, so I rented a room so the house is not empty all year. I'm allowed to use everything in the house, I keep it clean, and I always pick up their mail which is a lot of huge boxes. My boyfriend lives 40 minutes away and sometimes he stays the whole weekend with me. Is that a bad thing? My aunt told me to pretend this is my house and not feel like a stranger. Obviously my uncle and aunt don't know that my boyfriend stays here sometimes, and I don’t know if what I’m doing is wrong. We're both young adults about to be engaged, so it’s not like I'm bringing just anyone. It is easier for me and my boyfriend to stay at my place because we don’t spend so much on gas and he lives with his sister and brother-in-law in a one room apartment, so its uncomfortable if the four of us stay in one place the entire weekend. Is this inappropriate?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: As long as you uphold your end of the bargain - keep the place clean and collect the mail - I see no reason at all for you not invite your boyfriend for weekends. It would be a good idea to let them know, however. Too many things can happen, and as a homeowner, knowing who is coming and going in and out of your house is reasonable and important. It sounds like your aunt and uncle are pretty flexible, but don’t push your luck. You’re doing nothing wrong, but honesty is the best policy. I hope this helps.
 
My best,

Jay

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Honesty is the best policy

Should I tell my aunt and uncle that my boyfriend stays with me sometimes while I am watching their home? 

Dear Jay,
Is it okay to bring my boyfriend to stay over?

I live in my aunt and uncle's house and I pay them for the room I'm using. They live in another country, so I rented a room so the house is not empty all year. I'm allowed to use everything in the house, I keep it clean, and I always pick up their mail which is a lot of huge boxes. My boyfriend lives 40 minutes away and sometimes he stays the whole weekend with me. Is that a bad thing? My aunt told me to pretend this is my house and not feel like a stranger. Obviously my uncle and aunt don't know that my boyfriend stays here sometimes, and I don’t know if what I’m doing is wrong. We're both young adults about to be engaged, so it’s not like I'm bringing just anyone. It is easier for me and my boyfriend to stay at my place because we don’t spend so much on gas and he lives with his sister and brother-in-law in a one room apartment, so its uncomfortable if the four of us stay in one place the entire weekend. Is this inappropriate?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: As long as you uphold your end of the bargain - keep the place clean and collect the mail - I see no reason at all for you not invite your boyfriend for weekends. It would be a good idea to let them know, however. Too many things can happen, and as a homeowner, knowing who is coming and going in and out of your house is reasonable and important. It sounds like your aunt and uncle are pretty flexible, but don’t push your luck. You’re doing nothing wrong, but honesty is the best policy. I hope this helps.
 
My best,

Jay

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Not invited by insensitive brother-in-law

How should I react to my brother-in-law not inviting my children to his wife's 50th birthday party? 

Dear Jay,

My brother-in-law is throwing a 50th birthday party for my sister-in-law (she knows about the party and sent out the paperless invitation). Some nieces and nephews have been invited. It was said that only the married ones are invited and then I saw the guest list and there are nieces and nephews on the invite list that are not married and some other guests the same age as my two sons that are not family or married that are invited along with their boyfriend and/or girlfriend. I have two adult children that were not invited. Someone slipped and said that my brother-in-law is not inviting all of the nieces and nephews, because he doesn't want a lot of drinking going on, so that is obviously how he looks at my two adult children. My other brother-in-law’s children that are married have not been invited either. I am hurt by the remarks made by my brother-in-law. If you invite some you should invite everyone. They obviously picked and chose who they wanted to invite. I can assure you they could care less if they offend anyone. My brother-in-law is loaded and can afford to throw a big party. Money is not the issue. Another line was the place can only hold a certain amount of people. I looked the venue up and that is a total lie. They have forgotten where they came from.  I have decided to not attend the party but my husband is going.

Jay's ANSWER...

A:  I fully understand your hurt feelings. And I understand why you are regretting the invitation. Family dynamics are often very fickle, and when this sort of nonsense is going on, I always think it’s best to detach. When it comes to invitation lists, the host has total control over who is or is not invited. The mistake this host made was in opening his big mouth and inserting both feet! His thoughtless remarks have damaged family relationships. What is needed here is compassion and forgiveness. Your brother-in-law may very well have had no intention of annoying anyone, although he clearly has. This incident is hardly worthy of bringing down a close family. Take the high road and do not take his actions personally. Don’t give him that power. I imagine by you not attending the party, he will be more sensitive next time, but there are never any guarantees. I hope this helps.
 
My best,

Jay

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Not invited by insensitive brother-in-law

How should I react to my brother-in-law not inviting my children to his wife's 50th birthday party? 

Dear Jay,

My brother-in-law is throwing a 50th birthday party for my sister-in-law (she knows about the party and sent out the paperless invitation). Some nieces and nephews have been invited. It was said that only the married ones are invited and then I saw the guest list and there are nieces and nephews on the invite list that are not married and some other guests the same age as my two sons that are not family or married that are invited along with their boyfriend and/or girlfriend. I have two adult children that were not invited. Someone slipped and said that my brother-in-law is not inviting all of the nieces and nephews, because he doesn't want a lot of drinking going on, so that is obviously how he looks at my two adult children. My other brother-in-law’s children that are married have not been invited either. I am hurt by the remarks made by my brother-in-law. If you invite some you should invite everyone. They obviously picked and chose who they wanted to invite. I can assure you they could care less if they offend anyone. My brother-in-law is loaded and can afford to throw a big party. Money is not the issue. Another line was the place can only hold a certain amount of people. I looked the venue up and that is a total lie. They have forgotten where they came from.  I have decided to not attend the party but my husband is going.

Jay's ANSWER...

A:  I fully understand your hurt feelings. And I understand why you are regretting the invitation. Family dynamics are often very fickle, and when this sort of nonsense is going on, I always think it’s best to detach. When it comes to invitation lists, the host has total control over who is or is not invited. The mistake this host made was in opening his big mouth and inserting both feet! His thoughtless remarks have damaged family relationships. What is needed here is compassion and forgiveness. Your brother-in-law may very well have had no intention of annoying anyone, although he clearly has. This incident is hardly worthy of bringing down a close family. Take the high road and do not take his actions personally. Don’t give him that power. I imagine by you not attending the party, he will be more sensitive next time, but there are never any guarantees. I hope this helps.
 
My best,

Jay

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Overly Sensitive About Lack of Dinner Invites

Should I be upset that my family members go out to dinner without even inviting me along when I often watch their children? 

Dear Jay,

I give-up substitute teaching to be a paid babysitter for my brother's children when his wife goes on military duty. Sometimes for a couple of days and sometimes for a month or more. Babysitting is less money, but I enjoy spending time with the kids.  

Sometimes, right after babysitting for the day, my brother and his kids go out to dinner with my sister and her husband.  I usually find out later because the kids will say something about it.  Once they went out on my birthday without inviting me.  They tried to hide it because I had been calling both to find out about my sick niece and if I needed to watch her the next day.  I told them it hurt my feelings that they didn't ask.  My sister reminded me they can go out to dinner without me if they want.  True, but it just seems if I am good enough to babysit my brother's children, I should be invited to dinner, especially if it is right after a day of babysitting.  I know they go out without my husband and me at other times and I can accept that.  Especially, since, I think my sister's husband and my brother have a special camaraderie over drinking and they are closer in age.  I am a decade older than my brother and sister.  My sister and her family also enjoy joining us for diving vacations or other outings. And we always see each other for holidays.  Wouldn't it be polite for them to ask me to dinner or am I being too sensitive.

Jay's ANSWER...

A:  It would be nice to be invited out to dinner, especially on your birthday. However, there will be times when you will not be included. Don’t let this get to you. They are not intending to hurt your feelings. Your sister raises a valid point. I think the fact that you have raised this issue will likely result in them being more sensitive in the future. Your feelings are certainly understandable and they are indeed valid. But only you have the ability to manage them. In the end, it would be polite to invite you to dinner, but realistically this is not going to happen every time; therefore, yes, you are being overly sensitive. Be grateful for the many blessings you have being a part of a loving family. I hope this helps.
 
My best,

Jay

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We Feel Left Out During Gift Giving At Christmas

What should I do about my sister-in-law not liking me and not getting me or my children presents, even though I get them for both her and her kids?

Dear Jay,

My husband and I just got married this July. But, we have been together for seven years. He  has been the only father my children have ever known. His brother's wife (Shannon) hates me (she has never physically met me, but nonetheless, she hates me). Neither she nor my husband’s brother (Dan) get me or my children a Christmas gift, every year. I, on the other hand, always make sure to have at least one gift for each of them and their son always gets multiple gifts from Dave and me. I am wondering, what is the correct etiquette for such behavior? Should I continue to pretend like this doesn't bother me, or should I say something toward this "crazy childish" behavior? It is not so much about the "gift". My kids and I feel left out, when everyone else is opening presents around us, and we know that it is intentional that we get singled out. I can't help but feel angry, even though I feel I should not. I need help with this.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: Your sister-in-law is a monster. Her bullying tactics reveal a lot of insecurity on her part. Continue to take the high road, by doing the right thing. I would skip gifts for the adults next year and just give presents to their son. They may get the message; they may not. But at least the equation is better balanced. If no sign of gratitude comes, such as a thank you note, drop them all from your gift list and consider spending Christmas with people who are more in the spirit of what Christmas is all about. I hope this helps.
 
My best,

Jay

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My Sister-in-law Always Needs to be The Center of Attention

How do I deal with my sister-in-law's need to be the center of attention all the time? 

Dear Jay,

My sister in law must be the CENTER of attention at all times. She inserts herself into pictures, takes selfies, etc and plasters them all over social media.  Funny thing is she never includes me in any picture - even if I ask. There is a lot more to this story, such as my single brother being head over heels in love with her, and that she acts as if she speaks for my entire family. If you don’t go along with her, you don’t get to see her kids, or she won’t invite you to go out with other members of MY family. She is so arrogant and self important that I’d like to just cut ties, but both my brothers love her, and I won’t get to see nieces and nephews. I don’t know what to do.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: This is a dilemma. It sounds like you and she may be dealing with some insecurities here. I recommend that you have a chat with your brother (her husband), and explain how her behavior makes you feel. He is the one who needs to intervene here. You have limited choices. Don’t take her behavior personally - people who need to be the center of attention are all about them, not anyone else. I wonder what it is that endears her to the men, though. Have the chat with your husband and see how that goes. Feel free to get back to me then. I hope this helps.
 
My best,

Jay

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Meet Jay Remer - etiquette expert on StageofLife.comOur Etiquette Expert

Why Jay?  It's simple...Jay knows etiquette. 

For years Jay has planned and managed royal, corporate, political and social events and parties, some of them for up to 500 people.  As a graduate of the Protocol School of Washington, he offers workshops on business, social and dining etiquette, as well as international protocol for a variety of audiences.  From teenage students to corporate clients, Jay teaches everything from the basics of a handshake to the subtleties of developing a business relationship during a networking dinner.  His course on self-esteem in youth, in particular, has been encouraged by Dr. Piet Forni, founder of the Civility institute at Johns Hopkins University.  Originally from Delaware, Jay now lives in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada  where he has written a weekly etiquette column in the National Post and is a current columnist in New Brunswick’s Telegraph Journal.  He is a Social Etiquette and Good Manners expert on allexperts.com and has answered over 1,000 questions from people around the world...and he's now ready to answer your questions here on Stage of Life. 

Just let us know your question, your stage of life, and we'll post your question and Jay's official etiquette response on this page.

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