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Brushing up on manners...

Etiquette for Grandparents

Grandparenting etiquetteMeet our resident 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 grandparents.  So don't wait...send us your grandparenting etiquette question now.  Whether you're a grandparent or have an etiquette question about one, contact us and we'll post your inquiry and Jay's reply here.

Ask Jay a wedding etiquette question

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

Etiquette Tips and Articles for Grandparents

Grandchildren Clean up Against the Wishes of Grandparents

Is it okay that my grandchildren cleaned up without even asking what my husband and I wanted to keep? 

Dear Jay,
Is it disrespectful for grandchildren who say they are coming to their grandparents’ home to help deep clean their house. Is it further disrespectful to tell the grandparents that they are throwing any and all expired food and anything that is not needed or necessary and not allowing either one a say. And is it disrespectful for the same grandchildren to pack up all of a group of a collectable collection, and then tell their grandparents that they should keep some of them out, as they look good to said grandchildren.

Then, these same grandchildren accuse the grandmother of micro managing, disrespecting and not appreciating the job being done after they spent a lot of money and time to help. The grandmother was just trying to guide the grandchildren to do what their grandfather wanted done.  The grandparents don’t have any say in how things are being done or what they really want done.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: I would tell your grandchildren to go home and clean their own house. Your home is your castle and unless you’ve asked them to come to complete a specific task, they are unwelcome intruders - plain and simple. Toss them out. 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.

Visiting Too Much for New Wife

How much visiting of grandchildren is considered too much? 

Dear Jay,
I am recently remarried and my wife thinks I am spending too much time and money traveling to see my grandkids in California and Wisconsin. I usually visit 2-3 times a year to each state. We living in Florida. I feel we have enough money to make the trips, she doesn't. Do I visit too much?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: No, you are not asking for too much. You should be able to visit whomever you wish whenever you wish unless, of course, she pays all the bills. Respecting one another’s freedom and privacy 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.

Invite to Party Not From the Host

Is it okay if I decline an invite to my friend's grandson's birthday party because it did not come from her daughter who is hosting the party? 

Dear Jay,
Last weekend my friend extended a vague invitation to her grandson’s first birthday party. The party is to be given by her daughter, the child's mother, at her daughter's house. I know her daughter has my phone number, and there hasn't been any word that the daughter extended the invitation. I feel uncomfortable going and am not sure why I have been invited other than to provide a gift. Although the other reason may be that my friend has always wanted to be a grandma and in her delight could be overstepping boundaries. What should I do?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  If the invitation does not come from the host, I would not attend. You needn’t read anything into a ‘vague’ invitation. She likely has overstepped her boundaries, as you suggest. 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.

Battle of the Grandmas

Who should have more sway about a grandchild- the mother's mom or the mother-in-law? 

Dear Jay,
My daughter is expecting her first baby. Her mother-in-law told her that a relative is already crocheting the baby's christening dress and it's nearly done. They didn't ask my daughter if she wanted to choose her own baby's dress or if she wanted to have them make it.

My daughter would LIKE to have had them ask her.  My daughter and I were actually hoping to choose the dress for the baby's christening ourselves (and have baby wear my own baby blessing cap), since it's my daughter's first baby, and my first grandchild. I'm not sure, but is it more culturally understood that the daughter and her mother to have a little more sway when it comes to milestone events in a child/grandchild's life?

My daughter's mother-in-law has a married daughter who will soon have children of her own and I'm fairly certain she would expect to help her own daughter with milestone events. I'm in a bit of a pickle. I have good relationships both with my daughter and her mother-in-law, although the mother-in-law is more overbearing than I originally understood her to be.

It would be easier for my daughter if the mother-in-law and her family asked before they make sacrifices (like crocheting a dress), so that my daughter wouldn't have to worry about pleasing everyone and the expense of her own preferences, and simply focus on the special time she's having preparing for a sweet baby to join the family.

It would be a real blessing if she could have more voice in these matters. At this point it is hard for her to tell the in-laws what she would have preferred. Do you think there is anything she can do at this point about the christening dress mother-in-law's relative made? Is my daughter bound to use it, since it was handmade (certainly with love), but still, there is the issue of boundaries here.  When is the time for her to talk with them about please asking first? Thanks in advance for any help.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  I’m not sure why you are asking this question and not your daughter. You have very little say in this matter, but you do have a very valid point. The in-laws have even less say! Your daughter’s boundaries have been breached. She needs to learn to stand up for herself and simply explain that she’ll be using an heirloom dress handed down in her family. If it’s just the cap that’s being handed down, then why not accept the dress being offered with gratitude? Your daughter needs to make the decision, not you. You are correct in saying that they should have asked her first, but that horse is out of the barn now. Who knows, maybe it will be absolutely the perfect dress. Now is the time for her to speak with her MIL. Where is her husband in all of this? He should accompany her to this discussion.You need to release any control. Grandparents do not have any rights, and their suggestions should be few and far between. 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.

Father-in-law bugging Son-in-law

How do I address my father-in-law when it seems he doesn't understand how much is insistence on calling my son "his boy" irritates me? 

Dear Jay,
Over the past 6 years, I have been having conversations with both my wife and her father regarding what her father calls my son.  He feels it is perfectly acceptable to call my son "his boy" even though I have mentioned that it is disrespectful to me numerous times.  It is now at the point where he will call him "his boy" behind my back when he thinks I can not hear him.  My frustration has now turned to anger and I do not know how to handle this.  My wife says that she talks to him, but seems to allow it as long as I am not around.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Perhaps what you need to do is to speak with your father in law and explain to him why calling him “his boy” is disrespectful and annoying to you. There is more here than meets the eye. This seems like a rather trivial matter as you have explained it, and so for it to escalate into anger is a puzzlement. Whatever is behind your anger needs to be uncovered and understood. A session with a family therapist might be fruitful if the answer remains elusive. 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.

Cheap Labor

Is it unfair that my parents are paying our college student way less than they pay a professional lawn service? 

Dear Jay,
My mother and father pay a service to do their garden clean-up every Spring and their weekly mowing. They pay more than $200 for the clean-up service. This year they offered our student who is a college student the job of clean-up. After he worked in very cold weather because they wanted it done right away, they only offered him $25. Nothing has changed in their financial situation. I feel like I should tell them he was expecting to receive at least $200. We all know what they normally pay.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  This is a matter for your parents and the student to settle. This is actually should not be your concern. Financial matters should always be discussed and settled before the work is done. If you had said anything to the student about the amount of pay, you need to clear this up. However, the rate of pay is not for you to determine. Typically students and lawn services are not paid at the same rate for obvious reasons. 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.

Pushy Mother-in-law Needs to Listen or Be Banished

How do I handle my overly pushy mother-in-law who forces her way into our lives and is making me dread my second child's birth?

Dear Jay,
My mother-in-law doesn't seem to respect what I say, for instance when my daughter was born I suggested that they wait until after we got back home and settled in a little bit to visit. They disregarded my request and came four days before my daughter was born and stayed a week after! Since then she wants to face time with us all the time and is very pushy about it. I think my husband feels like he is in the middle trying to please his mom, but also understands why I'm frustrated.

I'm due with our second child in July and I'm already dreading that time!! I know that they will come for the birth even if I ask them not to. I also just found out that my MIL is upset that I didn't let her in the birthing room at the hospital!  To me that is a very private time and we are not close so she should not be in there.

What should I do? I get frustrated because whatever I say doesn't matter, she still does whatever she wants, and I feel bad because my husband doesn't know what to do either!

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Your MIL is a tyrant, and most likely has been a bully all her life. She knows how to manipulate your husband, just as she has done his entire life. You must stand in your own space and lay down the law. You simply state how this birth will take place and who will or will not be around when. You have rights. If she insists on ignoring your boundaries and showing no respect at all for your family unit, she needs to be banished. This may be awkward and temporary, but she needs to be respectful of you and your family. She has no rights here - zero. 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.

Both Grandparents Visiting at Once

Who do we permit to visit when both grandparents request to see their grandchild at the same time?

Dear Jay,
What is the proper etiquette in handling the situation when one grandparent on the mother's side is visiting and another grandparent on the father's side wants to see the grandchild at the same time? The grandparent on the mother's side lives in a different state and the grandparent on the father's side lives in the same town. It has happened several times.

How do you handle all the hurt feelings?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: There is no need for hurt feelings. Invite both grandparents over together. These are happy times, not times for arguing and oneupmanship. And remember that anything that you say or do in front of the baby is absorbed like a sponge. 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.

Grandparents Paying for Grandson's College

Is it wrong that my husband's parents only pay for their oldest grandson to go to college but don't pay for our other children? 

Dear Jay,
My husband's parents are paying for his son (my step-son) to go to college.  However, they are not paying for our children (mine and husband's children) to go to college. I told my husband, if they will not be helping out financially for all of our children, they should not help out only the oldest and we should not accept the money.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Your in-laws are free to do as they please with their money. You are in the wrong. Be grateful for their generosity. 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.

Granny Wants to Respect Ex

Should I attend an event where my boyfriend's ex will be there as well? 

Dear Jay,
I'm in my 60's and a grandmother. I have been dating a man the same age who is also a grandfather. In the past year of our dating, I have been involved in many social events with his adult children and grandchildren.  I have been invited to his son's home for his grandson's 4 year old birthday party. The Grandmother, my boyfriend's ex-spouse will be attending of course. She has never remarried and we have never met. Being a grandmother myself, in no way would I want to be disrespectful to her. Would it be proper for me to attend the birthday party or should I just send a gift?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  I would suggest that you ask your b/f about this. If he wants to introduce you to her and she will be happy to meet you, and you would feel comfortable, I see nothing wrong with going. This event is after all a 4th birthday party. The focus should be on the child and likely will not be a long drawn out affair. If it’s a large group, which is possible depending on the size of the families involved, it might be easier. If there is going to be any friction, I’d skip going. But we all need to act civilly at all family functions, and there will be more of them, so now may be as good a time as any. 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.

My Mother-In-Law Interferes With My Parenting

Even though I live with my in-laws shouldn't I still be able to dictate how and when I spend time with my own daughter? 

Dear Jay,
I am married and have an almost 2 year old daughter. My in-laws have been completely interfering from day 1. We had to live with them because of financial problems, but they are still trying to control EVERYTHING and INTERFERING. My husband works afternoons/ nights and my father-in-law is only free at nighttime. Even though we have moved out since the last 5 months, they are still dictating when I can and can't have my own daughter.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  You need to have a chat with your husband and have him speak to his mother. She needs to back off. It’s very gracious of her to have housed you while she did, and for that you must express your gratitude. However, that does not give her any rights to how you and your daughter interact. If your son can’t face up to his mother, you will need to. This is for the safety of your child. She notices everything and will grow up with very mixed messages if you don’t draw the line. Your daughter is your and your husband’s responsibility - not your MIL’s. You may risk an estranged relationship with your MIL, but your self respect is far more important. She’s a bully. Time for her to back off. 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 Grandmother Needs to Establish House Rules

How do I deal with my teenage son and his girlfriend staying with me especially now that they have a new baby? 

Dear Jay,
My son and his girlfriend live in my home. They just had a baby. The first day they came home with the baby the mother-in-law was there when I got home from work and stayed until 10pm or after. They were in the kid’s room the whole time and I never got to see the baby or hold it. I feel very offended and disrespected by both her mother and my son, but when I told my son who is 19 he didn’t see anything wrong with it. What is reasonable and am I being overly sensitive? How do I handle this? The whole situation, them becoming pregnant, having to stay with me, him still in school paying her bills, her family expecting me to pay for everything…the whole thing has been very stressful on me and I’m a wreck.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  You have, as they say, created a monster. I’m afraid you need to take full responsibility here. First of all, it’s your house and you made the choice to allow your son to start his new family under your nose. Your son does not see anything wrong because he was never taught right from wrong, about respecting other people including you, and for not understanding the huge responsibility of bringing a child into the world. You need to teach him these things now. It’s not too late. There is no need to ask them to leave, but you need to establish some house rules. You first need to sit down with your son and his girlfriend and explain how you feel. You need to explain that you no longer can tolerate this and that things will need to change immediately. Anything that is inappropriate to you needs to be addressed. They will need to follow your rules. If they don’t like them or don’t want to, then they should set up their own household elsewhere. Since this is unlikely to happen, they will need to be grateful for what you offer them. There needs to be mutual respect here. You will need to make a plan though because you don’t want to abandon this wonderful opportunity to bond with your grandchild and with its mother. 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.

Mother-In-Law Wants to Attend All School Functions

Do I need to drop everything to accommodate my mother-in-law because she wants to attend all of her grandchild's school functions? 

Dear Jay,
I am curious as to what the etiquette is on a mother-in-law inviting herself to school functions. Ever since my son started school, my mother-in-law will look at the school calendar online, and then text saying she will be at a certain program, etc. She lives out of town, so when she comes we have to completely clear our schedules to accommodate her. We invite her to the schools Christmas program, but not smaller events such as Veteran's Day, Field day, etc. My question is, am I obligated to invite her to school functions and programs, and how do I handle her when she tells me instead of asks me if she can attend?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Grandparents often enjoy attending school functions, and I think this is a great idea. What I don’t think is a great idea is you having to completely clear your schedules to accommodate her. Going to a school play is one thing; changing your busy day to accommodate her is quite another. The best way to handle this is to let her know that you look forward to seeing her at school, and leave it at that. You are not obligated to entertain her, but do let her know how grateful you are that she makes the effort to come to school. 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.

Gift for Granddaughter

Should I change my gift now that my granddaughter is married? 

Dear Jay,
I usually give my granddaughter a $250.00 gift every Christmas. She’s now married. Do I still give her the money?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  The choice is yours. You could give them a combined gift or two separate gifts. The value is totally up to you. Follow your heart. 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.

Overbearing Mother-in-law Wants Her Way

How do I deal with my mother-in-law's childish behavior when it comes to our son? 

Dear Jay,
I have been married for ten years and never had a negative encounter with my mother-in-law until my son was born three years ago. Since that time, she and I have had multiple confrontations. The latest (and recurring) crisis is that she wants to buy our son a motorized miniature ATV that she would keep at her house for his visits. 

This request has come up before, and we kindly declined the offer saying that we don't approve of such extravagant toys for children. We prefer simplicity and nature. We suggested that she get him a bicycle and training wheels instead. Now she's furious. She told my husband (her son) that we are taking away her joy and that she does so much for us that we are being selfish by not letting her have the joy of buying big presents for him.  

I'm at a loss. Even as we suggested other gifts that would be appropriate and that he would love, she refused entirely. Now there is tension between us--in addition to the new knowledge that apparently all of the generous things she's done for us and given us are now being held over our heads as a point of guilt.

How can I find a resolution here?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Your mother in law is a bully. Your husband needs to explain to her that your children will be raised as you see fit, and that if she cannot accept this, her visits with your children will be limited. Placing her ability to be happy on your shoulders is completely inappropriate. There is clearly a void in her life, which is not your responsibility. This may also be her way of holding power over you. Do not allow this. If you do not put an end to this, things will only get worse. You, too, are well within your rights to lay down the law. By showing that you have respect for yourself, she should come to regain respect for you as well. This is akin to "your home is your castle". If she doesn’t like the rules, she is not welcome. This may sound harsh, but your family unit will be far stronger if you stick to your guns. Your husband and you must act as a unified force here. She will do everything she can to have things her way. How your son is raised is your responsibility, not hers. 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.

Mother-In-Law's Intrusions

How do I get my mother-in-law to understand that sometimes we just need family time without her? 

Dear Jay,
Should I tell my mother-in-law that her unannounced visits when she was expressly told not to come or wasn't invited are rude?  Or am I being too sensitive?

She is a wonderful grandmother and I enjoy our time with her, but she can be sneaky and manipulative when she wants her way and you don't give it to her.

For example, when we had our now 4 month old daughter we asked that everyone please give us two weeks with no company so we could adjust to life with a newborn. I didn't want to have to worry about entertaining guests while dealing with breastfeeding problems and sleep deprivation. Yet she showed up unannounced and uninvited half way through the second week. And I couldn't just turn her away because she drove an hour and 45 minutes. She didn't like that we told her she had to stay away so rather than respect our wishes she pulled a childish stunt to get her way. She showed up just before our daughter's first check up hoping to tag along but we went without her and left her at the apartment. She ignored our wishes so I paid her in kind hoping she would get the message.

She always gets weepy and says she just misses us so much and she's missing out on the girls growing up, but this didn't start until the birth of our second daughter. Our first daughter is mine from my first marriage and though my mother-in-law always says she couldn't love her more if she were her own it feels like maybe that's not entirely true.  She has been foaming at the mouth since my third trimester: hounding us for pics and texting constantly.

She uses that missing us as an excuse for rude behavior (like crashing our family weekends by showing up at the restaurant where we plan to go unannounced and uninvited), but she was supposed to be visiting us and the girls the following two weekends so I don't buy it.  She just doesn’t like being excluded.  She takes our family time as a personal challenge to crash.  My husband and I are rather reclusive to begin with, but we host them and go see them constantly. It wears us out, but we do it because family is so important to us. I don't think wanting some alone time once every 3 months is too much to ask.

How can I tell her how I feel without hurting her or our relationship? I love her very much and she is so wonderful except for this very rude and selfish behavior she has been exhibiting lately. I can't understand it because we are so generous with our girls, our home and our time. It really hurts that she is doing this.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  My instincts tell me that your MIL is reaching out to make connections. Perhaps she is lonely, or perhaps she is simply being human. You and your husband need to come up with some house rules, especially around unannounced visits, etc. People will not respect you unless you show them you have respect for yourselves. Be firm but not emotional. Perhaps your husband could speak with his mother and uncover what these intrusions are all about. Being honest with someone should not jeopardize a friendship or a relationship if there is a true bond. What we often forget is that we must take responsibility for our own upset. Taking responsibility relieves others of blame and feelings of guilt and places you in a position of power to maintain calm. 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 Daughter's and Mother's Birthday Celebrations

Whose birthday should I put more energy into - my deserving teenage daughter or my mother who always gets her way? 

Dear Jay,
Is it ok for a grandmother's birthday to repeatedly take precedent over a grandchild's birthday?

My mother, a widow living in another state, has managed to orchestrate many birthday parties for herself, yet she has never baked a cake in her life or helped plan any other birthday parties for anyone but my late father. On her 80th, my sister and I planned an enormous bash for her at her suggestion. It was wonderful for all. And I wouldn't begrudge her if it didn't have a very bad effect on my own daughter. My daughter's birthday is four days later. We travel to my mother's state, gather all the relatives in one place for my mother's birthday and completely leave my daughter's birthday out of the equation. By the time my mother's birthday is over nobody has the energy or time to travel to celebrate my daughter's birthday. She is an only child without any relatives in the state where we live. We celebrated my mother's 84th at her home on a smaller scale. My daughter turned 18 and was in between friend groups, so we had a 3 person birthday for her. 

I resolved that it would be my daughter's turn next year, despite my mother's upcoming 85th. I thought to invite all the relatives to our state and home for our daughter's 19th. When I suggested this to my mother she announced that our state was not suitable for birthday parties. To complicate things further, my uncle has since proposed that we put on a joint birthday party for my mother and for himself at my mother's, as he will be 80 and my mother will be 85. At this point, although she will be an amazing 85, I just don't feel like putting energy into her birthday, yet again. I’m torn between being a dutiful daughter to an undeserving Mother and being a good mother to a deserving teenager.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  I understand your dilemma. Your mother has everyone very well trained, and frankly there’s not a whole lot you’re going to accomplish at this stage of the game by trying to buck her system. Only children also develop techniques of survival in their unique world, so you have some challenges. I think a joint birthday party for the three celebrants is a good idea. If your daughter has a couple of special friends who can’t make the trip, plan to take them out to her favorite restaurant at a later date. You have limited time left with your mother and uncle. They thrive on the connections celebrations such as these provide. I do not recommend denying this to them. 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.

Gift Giving Guidelines for Grandparents

Am I right to ask my in-laws to back off on giving our kids so many gifts for Christmas? 

Dear Jay,
How do I nicely tell my in-laws that I don't want them to buy a bunch of gifts for my kids for Christmas? There are many reasons that I feel this way. One: we live in a small house and we honestly don't have room for tons of toys and things. Two: we travel to their houses (they are divorced) during the holidays and don't have room in our car to bring back all the things that they buy. Three: There tends to be so much stuff that my kids don't even care about a lot of it and it just gets thrown away or not used. Four: Because my husband’s parents are divorced it feels like they are trying to compete for my kids’ affections by seeing who can spend more on them. Five: my parents can't afford to buy a bunch of gifts for my kids (although I know they want to), and it seems unfair to them. Six: I don't want my kids to think that getting gifts is what Christmas is all about.

We've tried to talk to them about putting money aside in a college fund and that lasted one year. I don't want to take away their joy of giving, but I would really like to make some guidelines so that it's not so out of control this year. I would love to be able to say 1 toy, 1 book, 1 outfit and if you want to give more each child has a savings account set up for college. Help!

Jay's ANSWER...
A: You make excellent points. Communication is key here, as is gratitude and responsibility. You do not want to appear ungrateful. You mention "stuff your kids don’t even care about, etc.” Perhaps they do have too much and are not grateful for what they do have. Raising your children is your responsibility. You have every right to have boundaries and guidelines around Christmas gifts. I suggest that your husband speak with his parents and lay out the “new” guidelines. If they are unwilling to accept them, you do not have to accept the gifts. Contributing to a college fund, although a nice idea, is not very warm and fuzzy, and will likely be lost on your children. It will also take away from the joy of giving. So, I would suggest that your husband tell them exactly what you have outlined here. Be sure to be reading from the same page with your husband. He must buy into this arrangement wholeheartedly. 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.

Invitations for Weddings

Who is allowed to invite people to a wedding? 

Dear Jay,
Is it proper for grandparents to be able to invite their friends to their granddaughter's wedding?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  No one can invite guests to any party without the host’s OK. For a wedding, the invitation should be issued by the host. Unless the grandparents are hosting the wedding, they must follow this protocol. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Gatherings with the In-Laws = Awkward

How can I get my kids to understand that we don't enjoy celebrating special occasions with their in-laws? 

Dear Jay,
I find it very awkward when our kids expect us to celebrate theirs or their kids' birthdays with their in-laws. How can my husband and I help them understand this?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  I wonder why it’s awkward? They are part of the family now - maybe not your family, but your childrens’ family. How can you not understand this? I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Family Allowed to Destry Grandparents' Home

Is it okay for guests to leave huge messes around and refuse to clean up after themselves? 

Dear Jay,
My brother, his wife and two children visit a couple times a year for 2-3 weeks. They stay with my parents when they are in town so they can enjoy their company. However, it ends up being more stressful for my parents than enjoyable. My parents provide everything during their stay, but my brother and his wife never clean up after themselves or their children. I am talking about everything from leaving a food covered highchair/floor behind once they are done eating to toys strung across the house all the time. My parents have a nice home and enjoy keeping it at least picked up when the grandkids are over.

It was awful last Christmas (which is also my mom's birthday). My brother's children broke one of my dad's decorations that he brought back with him from Germany when he served in the Army. They also were permitted to deconstruct the tree.

When my parents confronted them about picking up after themselves and watching their children closer they were told "We are guests in your home. Guests don't clean." and "Maybe you shouldn't have so many decorations out for the boys to get into."

So who is right? Should my parents accept that they are guests not children with chores or should my brother and his family help out and watch their children more closely?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Your brother’s family are way off base. Of course they should help, and be responsible. I wonder who taught him this unacceptable behavior? It’s time for it to stop, but that directive should really come from your parents. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Mother-in-law's Toxic Behavior

How do I handle my mother-in-law's toxic behavior and should I keep her from seeing her grandchild because of it? 

Dear Jay,
A few months ago my mother-in-law and I got into an argument that was long coming. This was after a year and a half of excessive stabs, passive aggressive behavior towards me, and practically destroying my marriage with her son. The day we argued, in a moment of anger, I asked her to leave my house. What she heard was "you are forbidden from seeing your granddaughter.” 

Neither my husband nor I ever said such words. For the past 3 months she's not once reached out to us asking to see her granddaughter; in fact, she's talked about in an untruthful way. She's mentioned to some family members that she's not allowed to see her granddaughter and that she's silently suffering. She has never made an attempt to reach out to us.

My husband and I have received very nasty emails from those family members she's talked to, telling us we are cruel and that I am evil. Now my instinct tells me to shelter my daughter from these people including my mother-in-law.

So here’s my question: Am I obligated to let my mother-in-law see her grand-baby after all of this mess? Or should I shelter my daughter? When going to my husband’s family events (they happen once in blue moon with my husband’s family) is it okay to not let my daughter interact with them? If so how can this be done with grace?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  It always amazes me how quickly we tend to take on the role of the victim. I have no idea what the cause of your initial disagreement is, but I will say that your home is your castle. Gossip by those people who were not present for her exiting your house is inappropriate and toxic. I suggest a couple of things. First of all, you need to have your husband speak to his mother and let her know that her actions are no longer welcome in your house. It is not a rare thing for mothers to have a strong resistance to accepting their son's wife into the family. And this follows on to how the grandchildren should be raised. It is very disrespectful of you and of her. This needs to stop. Your husband may have different leverage than you, if he is willing to challenge his mother. But you must not be victims to her entrenched ways.

No, you are not obligated to engage with her at any time with or without your daughter. However, if you allow this toxic behavior to continue, your daughter will bear the brunt of this and sadly will carry this behavior on into adulthood as acceptable. 

I also recommend that either you or your MIL speak directly with all the people who are espousing this inappropriate behavior. Be sure they understand the real facts. I know there will be awkward moments during this process, but you cannot bring up your daughter in a hostile family environment.

I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Money for Wedding Gifts

Am I expected to give monetary gifts at my grandchild's wedding? 

Dear Jay,
Is it expected for a Grandparent to give a monetary gift at a grandchild’s wedding?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  No gift should ever be expected. There is no rule of etiquette describing who should give what sort of gift. I recommend that if a cash gift is an option to ask the bride and groom, if you are wondering what they’d like. Grandparents are not treated any differently than other guests in the gift department. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Grandparents Never Invited to Grandkids' Birthday Parties

Should grandparents be invited to attend their grandchildren's birthday parties? 

Dear Jay,
I wanted to know if it is acceptable to never have been invited to a grand daughter or grandsons’ birthday party?  I am asking on behalf of my folks who have a daughter who has never ONCE invited them to her daughter’s birthday party (she is turning 13) or her sons’ birthday parties (they are turning 10 and 8). Is this what people do? I do not have children, but it would have been nice to have gone to at least one party.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:My grandparents were never invited to any of my birthday parties. It is absolutely acceptable. Others include all of their relatives - that’s also acceptable. Whatever the host of the party wants is what they may have. Each to his own, as the saying goes. Questioning a guest list is not something I encourage. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Grandmother Wants to Help Without Being Questioned

How do I help with my grandchild without feeling like I am mistreated and corrected all the time? 

Dear Jay,
I have a 22 month old granddaughter. I visit my daughter and her husband every week. I stay overnight and then the following day I watch my granddaughter while my daughter works from home and her husband works out of the house. My daughter is four months pregnant and has a lot of stress in her life with working from home while taking care of her daughter and is also a writer. I enjoy watching my granddaughter while giving my daughter an uninterrupted work day. At times I feel uncomfortable when I'm being  corrected on what I say or questions I ask my daughter and her husband because of their reaction. When I told my daughter my feelings she got upset and said I don't have to come if I feel this way. I really like going and know I'm a big help to my daughter. I believe she just said this because she is so stressed. What should I do? I want to have good visits. How do I create a good relationship with them but not feel like I'm being mistreated and corrected?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  If your daughter is under so much stress that she is disrespectful to you, ask her how you can help. I am not privy to the sorts of questions you ask that are so annoying, but if you can figure that out, stop asking them. Maybe taking a week off every once in a while will help her to understand gratitude. It was her choice to have two children. Being snarky is not acceptable just because she has children and works. Have respect for yourself. If she barks, you are under no obligation to stick around. But if you allow this behavior to continue without doing something, it won’t change. Let her see how much fun it is without you around. Perhaps she’ll be less stressed and can actually manage things on her own, which is how it should be. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Gift for Step-Grand-Daughter

Do I send my step-grand-daughter a present even if I've recently gone through a divorce with her grandmother? 

Dear Jay,
My wife and I are going through a divorce. We have had our confrontations during our divorce but now we seem to be at a point where we are amicable. We have known each other for less than four years and her children were married adults when I first met them.. I am on very good terms with my step-son and family. My step-grandaughter will be celebrating her 10th birthday in two weeks. Although I do not expect to be invited to her birthday party, what would be proper etiquette to acknowledge her birthday? Regardless of what I do, I want to be sensitive to my wife's and step-grandaughter's feelings.  Thank you for your response.


Jay's ANSWER...
A: Your relationship with your ex-wife should not influence your relationship with your granddaughter, although this often does happen. My advice is that you send her a beautiful birthday card and some cash for her to buy herself a nice gift. Write a nice note on the card. I hope this helps.


-Jay

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Grandfather's Rules Overruled

Am I right or is my wife when dealing with our daughter's and grand-daughters' boyfriends staying with us? 

Dear Jay,
We have three daughters. The eldest is my stepdaughter (47) whom I helped raise since she was three years old. To the best of my ability, I have always treated her as my own daughter. I believe we have a close loving relationship. My other two daughters (42 and 41 produced by my wife and myself) live in the same area where my wife and I live. We seen them quite often.

The eldest daughter moved away from home, against my advice, at 18 to live with the man she finally married five years later. Within the next two years, they had two girls and then divorced. He was not living up to his vows and he is now divorced a second time (a real bum).

The eldest daughter, her live-in boyfriend, my eldest grand-daughter and her boyfriend and my second eldest grand-daughter and her boyfriend visited us a couple of years ago and they all stayed at our home for a full week. I was very uncomfortable as I disagree with my daughter having a live-in boyfriend, and I disagree with my my second eldest grand-daughter dating a Muslim.  I also thought the visit was way too long. I have never mentioned these feelings to my daughter or grand-daughters.

I told my wife of 44 years that they could visit us anytime again but without the men!  It is my opinion that when grand-children visit their grandparents they should not impose on them to entertain their boyfriends. If they want to visit with their men then they should make their own accommodations and not expect their grandparents to put them up.

You guessed it, my wife disagrees with me, but then this isn't the first time she has disagreed with me when it comes to her eldest daughter.

I told her I would compromise by taking them out for Thanksgiving dinner, but they need to stay at a hotel/motel during the visit and the visit shouldn't be more than a 2 - 4 day visit.

Any comments or advice?

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  My sense is that you are a man of principle. Sometimes our principles can get in our way. Adults should be treated as adults, not as children. I appreciate you not feeling comfortable housing these gentlemen under your roof, but your bigotry and disdain will shine through even if they stay elsewhere. As difficult as it is to change the spots on a leopard, try to understand that we all are following our own path. Allow this to happen for your daughter and her daughter much as it did for you. Release all judgment and have compassion for everyone including yourself. You may want to release control and let your wise wife handle this situation. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Mother-in-law Can't Face Reality of Unruly Grandchild

How do I deal with my mother-in-law's issues with me not wanting her to bring her other grandchild on our family vacation? 

Dear Jay,
For the last three years I have expressed concern to my husband regarding my mother-in-law and sister-in-law’s lack of disciplining their grandchild/child (who is now 5.5 years). His sister lives at home with her parents. Only a few times I have expressed my concerns regarding her behavior and that is when she is doing something to hurt herself or others. (For example, punching her grandmother because she didn't get her way or pushing my infant daughter out of her grandmother’s lap because she wanted attention.) 

Recently my husband and I went on a vacation. My husband wanted to invite his parents with us to stay at the beach for a week. I was excited for my child to get some bonding time with her grandparents. We asked his mother to only bring his father. We asked his mother to please not bring her other grandchild. She asked why and so we were honest with her and stated that we did not want to have to deal with disciplining her while we were on vacation. Now his sisters are upset because we didn't invite the innocent child and that we are rude. I am not sure what to do. I feel we had every right on who to invite on our holiday and that his mother shouldn't have started this drama. 

Jay's ANSWER...
A:I agree with you. The rule is that the host controls the guest list. Your mother-in-law has been allowed to get away with this behavior long enough so that it has now developed into a pattern/habit. You need not make any apologies for whom you invite and whom you do not invite. Your husband has been manipulated by the women in his life since childhood (most likely), and he’s comfortable going with the flow. You are not. He needs to remember that you are his wife, and therefore take priority over anyone else. He must support you. If this cannot happen, you need to explain to him how this lopsidedness makes you feel. If you want to take a firm stand, you could even go so far as to state that if the other grandchild has to come along, the trip is off. As host you must take charge of the situation. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Mother-in-law Invites Grandson on Family Trip

Is it out of line for my mother-in-law to invite my nephew on our annual family vacation when it isn't okay with me? 

Dear Jay,
Is it rude of my parents to invite themselves every year to my family vacation? (I'm 38 years old with 5 children. My husband and I bring our family to the ocean camping once a year). Now my parents are inviting my 10 year old nephew to come with them. My 5 children will now fight over him (for example who gets to sit next to him, who gets to play with him). Am I wrong to be upset that my parents don't get, or don't care, that inviting my children's cousin on MY family camping trip changes the dynamic of my family? My mother insists that she wants to see her 6 grandchildren play together, and my brother never goes anywhere, so this is my nephew’s only chance to go camping.

Jay's ANSWER...
A:  You need to speak to your husband about this. Your mother-in-law is acting totally inappropriately. Perhaps she’d like to host a vacation getaway for her grandchildren if she needs to see them all together so badly. You and your husband should be able to plan your own vacation without her input. You are not responsible for your nephews, but if you’d like to include them, that is your prerogative, not the grandmother’s. I hope this helps.
-Jay

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Naming the Grandmother

How is the grandmother's name chosen? 

Dear Jay,
Is there a protocol /hierarchy in what the grandchildren call their granny? I am led to believe that fraternal grandmother is called grandma, and maternal grandparent is called granny. Is that correct?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: There is no rule on this. How one addresses one’s grandmother often is worked out either from a traditional point of view, i.e., what has been going on for generations in your family, or by accident - how a very young child pronounces the word. But in the end, the grandmother decides; after all, it’s she who is being addressed. I hope this helps.

-Jay

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Bridal Shower Guest List

Is it okay if I don't want my mother to be invited to my daughter's bridal shower if I am hosting? 

Dear Jay,
My daughter is getting married soon and I am hosting one of her bridal showers. I have decided, in order to keep the peace and have the focus remain on her and not feel uncomfortable, not to invite my mother. We split the showers between families. The one I'm hosting is mostly for my father's side and my sister's in laws. My father recently remarried and my mom is still in love with him. Every birthday party and get together is now extremely uncomfortable, because my mother makes it uncomfortable. I don't know how to tell her and she's extremely offended and says she's going to come to the shower because it's proper etiquette. But what is proper etiquette with extended family and lots of ex wives and half siblings and step siblings?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: Showers are traditionally attended by women only. You cannot be responsible for controlling people’s behavior. In any event, if you are hosting a party, you control the guest list - period. Omitting certain people may cause trouble, for which you must be prepared. I advise, as uncomfortable as it may be, that honesty is the best policy. Your relationship with your mother is not something new. There are patterns entrenched in your lives that are unlikely to change much. Blended families can be challenging and complicated. As a general rule, be as inclusive as possible. In the end, this is a very generous gesture on your behalf to host such a shower. You should not be the sacrificial lamb. By removing yourself from the role of peacemaker, you will have a much less stressful and more enjoyable time. I hope this helps

-Jay

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Visiting Hours and Rules

Should I be offended with the way our children have so many visitation rules for our first grandchild? 

Dear Jay,
My husband and I are in our 50s, work 40+ hours a week Monday thru Saturday while still maintaining our home.  We have our first grandchild who is five months old.

The parents of our grandchild will call us and tell us we need to come out for a visit.  If we don't show up on their time schedule, they won't allow us to enter the house.  They tell us at the door that the child is sleeping and that we need to go back home.  Or, if we don't make it out there, then the parents shame us for not taking time to visit with our only grandchild.  I find this very disturbing.

I raised children myself and NEVER EVER turned down any opportunity the grandparents came to the house for a visit.  Granted, if my child was sleeping, I would ask that the grandparents not disturb the sleeping child, but they still got a chance to enter the house and view their grandchild and visit with parents.

Are there rules of etiquette on both sides (parents and working grandparents)?

Thank you for your response.

Jay's ANSWER...
A: There are two rules of etiquette that apply here, and it is not unusual for them to be ignored from time to time. One, your children’s home is their castle. Their house rules, no matter how inconvenient or different they may be, should be respected. On the other hand, being turned away at the door is rude. Hosts should always welcome guests and never make them feel unwelcome or embarrass them in any way. Bear in mind that bringing a new child into the fold is a stressful and emotional time. Compassion on all sides is important, not only for others but for yourselves. After all, you’re not the one raising this infant. I recommend that you take the high road, and be more understanding. The intention of your children is not to insult you or to even annoy you. A good rule of thumb for almost every situation in life is not to take things personally. I hope this helps.

 Jay

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Grandparents Day Dilemma

Even if I don't get along with my in-laws, should I invite them to Grandparents Day at my son's school? 

Dear Jay,
Do I invite my in-laws to my child’s Grandparents’ Day? We don't get on, and she has never invited us to her home for any occasion since I had my 5 year old. She invites herself to our home every now and again. She speaks to my husband daily during his work hours, but never phones our home. There is a Grandparents’ Day celebration at my son's school, and I don't know whether to invite her. She has never made any effort, but suddenly she is invited to be part of something rather personal. On the other side, I don't want my son to be one of the few who would have no one to show his work to. What do I do?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: Remember that Grandparents Day is just that - a day for grandchildren and their grandparents to enjoy a day together. Your relationship with your in-laws should not enter the picture. Your son would likely be very upset (and justifiably so) and unable to comprehend the reason for the absence. Remove yourself from the equation and do the right thing - invite her. I hope this helps.

 Jay

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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

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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

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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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Sending Gifts to Grandchild's Spouse

Is it rude to not send a birthday card or money to the spouse of my grandchild? 

Dear Jay,
Is it poor etiquette not to send a birthday card or a monetary gift to the spouse of a grandchild? 


Jay's ANSWER...
A:  Yes, unless you dislike the person. Why would you not send at least a card? 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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Upset and Used Grandmother

Should I even go to my granddaughter's wedding when she and her mom just use me but don't include me? 

Dear Jay,
Hi Jay, I am so confused.  I have always been there for my daughter and her six children, paying her bills and helping out.  My daughter keeps my grandchildren away from me when she doesn't get what she wants. I put my foot down 2 years ago. I was not kissing her butt to see my grandchildren. It has been two years with many nasty letters and phone calls. Now, my oldest grand-daughter is getting married. Every time she wanted or needed something over these 2 years, she called me. For this wedding, however, she has not included me whatsoever.  Should I still go to the wedding when I feel I do not want to go?

Jay's ANSWER...
A: If you receive an invitation to the wedding, then you have a choice to make, but not before that time. If you do not receive an invitation, you cannot attend. You have created a bit of a monster in your daughter. I have seen this happen too many times. My advice is to stop supporting her financially unless she is destitute. She has six children. These six children were all choices she made. She has responsibilities. If you keep bailing her out, she won’t learn how to manage on her own, nor will she be able to pass this important skill onto her children. As much as you think you may have been helping, you have been enabling inappropriate dependency. Stop the nasty communications. You need to “do the right thing”. Lead by example. Part of being a good mother is letting go of responsibilities that are no longer yours. If you don’t, you are doing everyone a gross injustice. 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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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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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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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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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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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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Awkward baby situation with estranged boyfriend's parents

How do I include my baby's paternal grandparents who really want to be involved when I am not with the father anymore? 

Dear Jay,

I've just had a child and am no longer with her father. The child's paternal grandparents live far away and are extremely excited to have a new grandchild. They threw a big baby shower and plan to send the gifts along with pre-addressed thank you cards. While this is kind and thoughtful, I have only met his father a couple of times. His mother contacted me via Facebook after my daughter was born. What is the proper way to sign and send the cards? I've never met any of these people. In addition, my ex is rarely ever around and has provided no support, so signing them together seems like it implies we are together.

Any additional advice on dealing with his parents would be most welcome.

Jay's ANSWER...

A: Send the cards from the single Mom that you are. I will admit that this is awkward, and they clearly wish to be a part of their grandchild’s life. There is no reason to include the father’s name on any communication. I will also admit that I have never heard of pre-addressed thank you cards. I assume you don’t have the addresses of the people who gave you the gifts, but how bizarre that they would supply thank you cards. Do let me know if I have this wrong, but I hope this helps. Have a wonderful holiday.
 
My best,

Jay

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Mother in Law meddling with new baby plans

How do I tell my mother-in-law that I've reconsidered having her stay with us after the birth of our first baby? 

Dear Jay,

My husband and I are expecting our first child in March (11th) and my mother in law asked a few months ago if I was okay with her coming and staying after the baby is born. I was taken by surprise and in the excitement of being newly pregnant said yes. Fast forward five months and there is no way I want my mother in law staying overnight the first few nights as new parents. The thing is, she only lives an hour away. I don't see why she would need to literally stay with us anyway. I think I started getting uncomfortable with the idea when she asked what day she should begin her two week vacation. I wasn't sure how to answer, so I asked for clarification and she asked when would the baby be born. I am having the baby naturally and had no idea how to answer that since she knows the "due date". She had three children herself... surely she knows that these things are a little bit of an estimate. She said she really needs to know by the end of January, so she can request the time off. I thought this was a good time to ensure I had the first few weeks of the babies life to ourselves, so I suggested that she take the last week of March and the first week of April to ensure the baby has arrived. She replied that she really wanted to be there at the hospital and come home with us. I had no idea what to say! I’m horribly shy when it comes to confrontation, so I just let the conversation end there. 

How do I bring it up again nicely that I've changed my mind and would like a few nights (up to 2 weeks) with just my husband and the baby before I host a guest? I know the obvious answer is to just say it, but how do I bring it up and what are some things I can say to smooth it over?

Jay's ANSWER...

A: I strongly advise you to get your husband involved in this whole affair. You do not need this sort of stress, nor should you. This is a great time to set clear boundaries for your mother in law. She must respect your privacy despite her excitement about a new grandchild. If you don’t nip this one quickly, you are in for a lot of abuse from her. This is also a great opportunity for you and your husband to come to a clear understanding about this situation, but he should be the one to have this important discussion with his mother. I hope this helps.
 
My best,

Jay

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Rude Behavior from Grandchildren

How do I get my grandchildren to respect my rules about entering our home and eating our food? 

Dear Jay,

I'm about to be 66 and the grandparent to 8 young people whose ages range from 16 down to 4.  I was raised to always knock to be invited into anyone's home other than my own.  This also held true for relatives’ homes.  I was also raised not to expect food or beverages until asked by the host.  My sons are grown with their own families and even today I knock and wait to be invited in before entering any of their homes.  

My sons feel free to enter our home without knocking and this habit has progressed to all of the grand children.  To me this is annoying, but I have found myself getting increasingly aggravated by my oldest son's 16 year old son and his 14 year old daughter.  Both are great kids, but they come to the house uninvited and just walk in.  While this tends to rub my fur the wrong way what really gets me is both of them start going through our refrigerator and pantry looking for things to eat and drink taking what they want without asking.  I have let both of them know that such actions are improper and shows little respect for me, my wife and our home.  

Some improvements have been made, but my wife climbs my case for trying to teach these kids some manners.  Am I out of touch with today's social skills, or lack of them?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: What a great question! I am totally on your side in this case. Your wife obviously did not teach these manners to your children, which is precisely why their children are clueless. I would encourage you to speak in a “louder” voice to explain to these youngsters the importance of respect. No one will take them seriously in the outside world if they don’t understand and respect boundaries - their own and others’. Your wife is most likely a peacekeeper and does like confrontation. She is not alone. However, this dynamic sets a very poor example to children and needs to be reconsidered. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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Disrespectful Children and Parents Who Don't Care

What do I do about my son's fiancé's children who make messes and don't clean them up when they visit? 

Dear Jay,

My son’s fiance has two daughters, 10 and 11 yrs. old . When they came to our home for the first time they played on the beds that were made, left them in a big mess and the worst for me was that my son’s fiance did not seem to see anything wrong. They left the mess for me to clean up. What should I do next time? How do I handle the situation?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: I recommend having a private chat with your son and remind him that there are house rules. If there haven’t been any rules to date, this is a good time to implement a few. By not showing that you respect your own house, you are setting a very poor example. Respect for others is very aligned with self respect. Your son, his fiancée, and her children will benefit from your example. Your home is your castle. Treat it with the respect it deserves. Others will follow your lead. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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Etiquette's Purpose

Do we really need etiquette in our modern world? 

Dear Jay,

I am very curious to know, as you answer so many of these questions, do you believe that social etiquette is necessary? I personally do not. I believe it is a part of a stupid never ending game in which people lie, cheat, and loot. As an example I have seen that many people do not appreciate directness, preferring what, I don't know. I believe that if you wish to communicate it should be directly, without paying attention to how the person may feel.


Jay's ANSWER...

A: I do believe that social etiquette is necessary. What I hear in your question is a great deal of anger. I do believe in being direct, but not rude. Learning to communicate in a respectful way has helped me to form deeper and more meaningful relationships with my friends, family, and business associates. Developing such skills can require professional help. I hope you can find a way to release your anger. Perhaps then you may begin to shift your perspective.

 My best,

Jay

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Visits Only When Invited

Is it archaic to think that I shouldn't visit someone unless I am invited there? 

Dear Jay,

Somewhere along the line, I was taught that I had to be invited to someone's house to go there, even extending to family and close friends.  I still go by that rule now even with my own parents and especially my in-laws.  My husband has told me that thinking is rather archaic and completely false.  However, I do it our of respect.  Although, there is an additional problem - my in-laws seem incapable of asking us to come by or visit so we are now the eternal hosts of family get-togethers.  I guess there could be worse things but it does get tiresome.  What do you suggest?  Am I being ridiculous?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: I was raised in exactly the same way. It is not archaic. It is respectful. If you need to connect with your inlays, who follow a different agenda, my advice is to call them and ask them if you can come over. That’s what I do even today with my family. Just showing up is actually disrespectful because it assumes the other person has nothing better to do than accommodate you. I know the word bullying may sound strong, but that’s what it is. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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Mother-in-law in Disney Nightmares

How much say should I have in my mother-in-law's request to not only come with us to Disney World, but for us to pay for everything? 

Dear Jay,

My mother-in-law has expressed that she wants to go to Disney World with the our kids when we go.  The problem is she wants us to pay for everything (flight, hotel, food, park pass).  She is in decent health and capable of working a 40 hour a week job, but chooses not to work and has little money. She is also obese and out of shape and will have significant difficulty walking around the parks.
  
My husband sees it as his duty as a son to fulfill his mom's request.  I do not know how much is acceptable for me to push back on paying for everything. I also want to know how much I can put limits on changing our plans to accommodate her fatigue.  Is it acceptable to ask that she use a motorized scooter so she can keep up with us?


Jay's ANSWER...

A: This is a classic illustration of The Drama Triangle - read attached carefully. (http://www.angriesout.com/grown20.htm). In the meantime, you and your husband need to have a discussion about how this makes you feel. Your feelings are just as valid as his, but don’t play the victim role. Be as accommodating as possible. His relationship with his mother is not something you have much, if any influence over. Yes, be sure to get a scooter, and be sure to lay down ground rules before the trip that all parties are aware of and agree to. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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Dad Mad About Special Food

Is it okay for my brother to bring organic food and drink for his children when he visits my parents? 

Dear Jay,

My Father, Mother and I were having dinner and this came up. My father feels that when my brother comes for a holiday that he should not bring his foods and put them on the table for his children. His children drink organic products. My brother knows that my Mom and Dad do not have this and do not purchase it before he comes with his children. My father gets extremely mad. I told my father that the correct thing for him to do would be to have this at his home for them beforehand. Can you please advise.
Thank you!


Jay's ANSWER...

A: In brief, you are correct. In an ideal world, your father and mother should have on hand whatever organic drinks/foods are required by your brother and his budding family. However, your brother does need to let them know about these. If this is a problem, then your brother is well within his rights to bring whatever foods are necessary. It’s akin to someone who has food allergies. If the host knows ahead of time that there is an issue, he or she can make provisions, or advise the guest to bring their own special foods. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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Meddling Mother-in-Law

How do I tell my mother-in-law that her parenting "advice" and judgements bother me? 

Dear Jay,

My in-laws and I had a wonderful relationship until a few years ago, when my mother-in-law nestled herself in my husband's and my communication regarding having children.  It has been tense ever since and then once we had our son, it's been increasingly difficult for me to have a genuine/natural-feeling relationship with her.

Based on many of her comments, it is my perception that she believes I am an inadequate parent.  She passive-agressively questions or outright disagrees with nearly everything I do with our son, so I'm finding it difficult to remain confident in my parenting and I am constantly anticipating my next interaction with her.  I have been trying to be very mindful of my own reactions to her comments, since I am steaming inside, but avoiding addressing it is not an effective long-term strategy or solution.  I think the tension is sometimes palpable for us both.

I'm not sure if there is a new mind-set or behavior for me to embrace, or if I should have a conversation with her directly. Do you have any tips on this?  My husband has been very kind to me and we even joke at home that we should probably just 'call social services'. (Luckily he has a good sense of humor!) :)  I hesitate to talk with him as often about it as it strikes me, because I don't want to put him in an awkward position in any of these relationships.

Thanks in advance for any assistance you can provide!


Jay's ANSWER...

A: Although this is not really an etiquette question, it does very definitely revolve around civility. I'm glad your husband is on your side, because you need to have a conversation with your mother-in-law, and he needs to know about it. Set a date and time and let her know you need to have a heart to heart discussion with her. Invite her to your house. You will need to explain how her behavior is making you feel. Let her know you appreciate her concern, but you need to set some ground rules, especially in your own house. I doubt and certainly hope she is unaware of the impact she has on you. Hopefully learning this will give her some food for thought. Remember that the house rules in your house are not negotiable. Be sure your husband is 100% on your side. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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Home Ground Rules

How do I deal with my disapproval of the sleeping arrangements in my home? 

Dear Jay,

Am I wrong for not letting my granddaughter and her boyfriend sleep together in my home? I lost my husband of 23 years 3 months ago, and my son was already living here with us when my husband passed. Then my son's daughter moved in as well. She has a job, so I've been taking her back and forth to work. Tonight I picked her up! She got sideways with me and threw a fit because I won't allow her and her boyfriend to sleep together in my home. My son also has a girlfriend and she tries to spend the night all the time. She doesn't speak to me, and I don't speak to her.  I wanted your advice to figure out what to do.


Jay's ANSWER...

A: You have a couple of choices. The first is to lay down some ground rules in your house. If anyone has a problem with the rules, they move out. Another choice would be to allow them to sleep together. These are connecting adults; you want to welcome guests into your home with any rules clearly understood (next time hopefully before they move in!). Frankly, I don't think you need the stress. What you do need is the contact with these people. You can remove the stress by bending the rules as necessary. They are after all your rules to bend. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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Slapped in the Face

How do I handle not being invited to my step-granddaughter's Thanksgiving celebration?  

Dear Jay,

My step-granddaughter is starting her own tradition for Thanksgiving which is great, but she has left my husband, me, and our other two sons out of the tradition for some reason. I have had her and her boyfriend, mom, brothers, and my son who is her step-father for Thanksgiving and Christmas for years now, and now that she's having Thanksgiving we are not included. I know she can have whoever she wants, but isn't that disrespectful? Her mother and my son accepted my invitation, but now my son's wife told my son they are going to his step-daughter's, and I found out by chance this was happening. My son is not really happy about it, but what choice does he have? Should I be upset about the whole situation? I feel like I've been slapped in the face.


Jay's ANSWER...

A: I wouldn't be too upset about this situation. You might consider taking the high road and allow this young family to establish their own traditions. Score cards are not of benefit to anyone when it comes to real hospitality. Perhaps she has great memories of the Thanksgiving dinners you hosted and wouldn't expect you to stop having family Thanksgivings just because she was starting her own. Perhaps she didn't want to extend an invitation where she was anticipating a regret. Maybe she doesn't have room. Whatever her reason, allow her to have it without justification. Maybe you'll be on next year's list!

 My best,

Jay

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I Hate When My Mother-in-law Visits

How do I deal with the demands of my unwelcome Mother-in-law during Thanksgiving? 

Dear Jay,

My mother-in-law is coming to visit during Thanksgiving.  As much as I wish she would stay at a hotel or rent her own vehicle, she won't.  I have asked my husband to advise her to rent a car, but he feels that since she is family flying in from Costa Rica, that she should use one of our cars.  I work from home and my kids are very busy. However, during Thanksgiving, I don't have any obligations.  My son has a truck, but doesn't have his driver's license yet.  So we have decided to solve this by allowing my mother-in-law to use my husband's vehicle, while my husband uses my son's truck. However, in the near future, there will likely only be one car sitting in the driveway during the day and that is my car. I don't like to loan out my car!  Am I wrong for not wanting to share??

I also don't know what to do about her visit. She's coming for 6 days. I don't feel like I should have to wait on her hand and foot; however, my husband will be working. How do I encourage her to leave my house and get out and explore? (Her husband will be with her)  

I just feel like every time she visits, she expects so much from me. She is nice for awhile, then she turns on me when my husband isn't around and makes rude comments or observations.  I understand that my nice things I do for a guest are not appreciated. She made that clear when we visited that she didn't really want us there. She had no food, we had to make our own beds, had absolutely nothing planned, and we had to cook for ourselves the entire time. 

My husband will not stand up to her and say anything about her rude comments, because he thinks I'm being sensitive. But yet, I have to entertain and cater to someone who is disrespectful? How many days should I plan excursions without her and how many with her? I also hate spending all the time and money on meals for her. HELP!



Jay's ANSWER...

A: The answer to your first question is no. You are not wrong for not wanting to share your car. Blame it on insurance and uninsured drivers if you need an excuse. The second part of the question is a bit more complicated. Basically you and your husband must be a united front. If you need to discuss this until you can reach that point, then so be it. It sounds to me like you really don't like these folks. If that's the case, your husband needs to take time off work and deal with them, or perhaps even your son. Family dynamics can be complicated and difficult. You are well within your rights to want your home respected and your house rules followed. If you must take the lead because your husband is unwilling or unable to confront his parents, then lay the rules out clearly and without emotion. Rules are rules. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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My Mom Stays Too Long

How do I tell my mother that we want to spend Christmas without her? 

Dear Jay,

My mother lives out of state, and every Christmas she invites herself over for a week at Christmas time (Going on 8 years in a row now). My sister and I are both married and have our own families, and we would like one Christmas without her here. She is just 2 states away and visits multiple times a year. She basically doesn't wait for an invitation and just books a flight. We had to tell her multiple times that a week visit is too long. She never rents a car or gets a hotel, so she stays at our houses and we drive her around. Her visits are now down to 5 days. She admitted to me on a few occasions that this hurts her feelings that she can only stay 5 days. It frustrates me that she doesn't respect our own lives and boundaries and that we need to keep having these awkward conversations, after which I feel really guilty about. Help!!


Jay's ANSWER...

A: Christmas is a time for families to connect and celebrate many blessings. It is a time when people must put the feelings of others ahead of their own. If your mother's feelings are hurt by not being included, my advice is to include her. If she has specific annoying habits that somehow are worthy of excluding her from this holiday time of year, you need to let your own feelings be known. If she knew perhaps what made the visits seem too long, she might understand your position more clearly. I suggest that you and your sister make crystal clear what the ground rules are for your respective houses. These conversations need not be awkward. They should be compassionate. All parties must first listen to the others with an ear to understanding. Release the need to take a defensive stance. Once everyone is reading from the same page, you may even want to restore her visits to a full week! I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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Meddling, Freeloading In-Laws

How do I set limits with my freeloading in-laws? 

Dear Jay,

My in-laws plan to leave the states to another country next year for 2 or 3 years.They are going with my sister-in-law and her family for her husband's work. Before they go they must get their citizenship. My in-laws, earlier this year, left us their house to live in with our 3 kids.
They could no longer afford it after my father-in-law retired. They moved to my sister-in-law's house in Virginia.

The problem is they keep coming back to our home for months at a time. My 15 year old son is forced to sleep on the couch for months at a time to accommodate them. They leave for a couple weeks and come back and stay for a couple months or half a year or so. They do not contribute to the bills and won't even buy a gallon of milk for their grandkids without making us seem like bad parents for running out. They go through my stuff, and after I cook dinner after working all day they help themselves first (not the kids) .They do nothing all day and say they are so tired. So, I get stuck doing all the cleaning, cooking, food buying and paying all bills.

They think because the house is under their name (even though they don't pay a red cent) they can come back and stay whenever they want. I have no say. My mother-in-law gets mad and tells all the family that we kick them out. GUILT TRIP after GUILT TRIP!

What can I do to get her out and only visit twice a year for a week or two like normal people?



Jay's ANSWER...

A: You haven't mentioned your husband. Some ground rules need to be established and they need to be successfully communicated to your in-laws by him and you as a united team. Change the name on the title to the house. Don't run out of milk. Start setting a better example for your son. You need to honour your boundaries and that of your immediate family. If you don't, I'm afraid there is little likely to change. I hope this helps.

 My best,

Jay

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Utterly Frustrated

How do I gracefully get my in-laws out of my house and into their own?

Dear Jay,

I have a question for Jay. My husband purchased a house in late 2011 with the foresight that his parents were in financial straits and would probably have to move in with us. In late April my MIL and grand-MIL, who is in the probable end stages of Alzheimers,  moved in and then after our "spiritual" ceremony for our wedding my FIL moved in also. There was no time limit set on their stay however it was understood that this would not be a permanent home for them. 

My husband and I are newlyweds with a 10 month old daughter now and I want my house back to just my family. My MIL stays home and takes care of her mother and our daughter. Since I work full time she does a lot of the house work also, which I did not ask her to do. My FIL does the yard work to help around the house. In the year and a half that they have lived here my MIL has not found work in her field, and I have given her suggestions on broadening her search. 

I have made suggestions on how they could save, even suggesting they pay a modest rent per person per month with the understanding that we would save the money for them of $50 per person. They currently live off my FIL's retirement money from the Navy which is not enough to live on well. Instead I see her not making progress towards finding employment and not making strides to save up to get a place of their own.  I hear excuses all the time from her. Her mother has in home care, paid for by Medicaid that I had to badger her into applying for so that my MIL could get some help with grandma for a few hours a day. She hovers over the nursing aids all the time instead of using the time constructively to find a job. And she refuses although quite passively to find a facility for grandma that would be able to take care of all her needs since she is regressing more and more. My FIL is disabled due to an accident so he refuses to look for work, I have suggested jobs that I thought might interest him, but he's in the bottom of a beer can most days. 

My mind would be put to some ease if I saw her or him get even a low-mid range wage part time job so that they could save up. I am at my wits end. I do not know what to do. I have been toying with the idea of giving them an ultimatum, which I know in a way is uncouth. I have made arrangements for my daughter to start day care by the end of the month so that it will free up more time for my MIL and FIL to seek employ. How do I tell them that I want them out of my house and reclaim my home so that when I come home I can relax instead of being a on-edge-b**** that I feel I am turning into??

~Alecia


Jay's ANSWER...

My advice to you is to take first things first. Your in-laws have their own paths to follow and so have you. You need to discus this situation with your husband and form a united front. He needs to explain your concern as a couple to his parents and explain that you can no longer accommodate them on a full time basis. I would suggest giving them a couple of weeks  or a month to find a rental unit or make other arrangements. You are not responsible for them, but they are family. Enabling them into not taking responsibility for their lives is not appropriate. Suggesting how they might solve their problem is kind, but not if you don't detach. Just stick to the facts and keep your emotions out of it.

Your house is your castle. You are well within your rights to lay down the house rules. If they are not welcome, you must explain how this current arrangement makes you feel and that it is no longer going to work. Be sure you and your husband agree on this before you present this to them. There may be some fallout, primarily because you allowed this to go on too long. I know this may sound severe, but this problem is not going to simply solve itself. Lack of communication is often the root of the problem. I would hope that your in-laws do not want to be a burden to you. 

I hope this helps,

Kind regards,
Jay
 

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Getting to Know Us

Honest is the Best Policy

Dear Jay,

My siblings (4) and I have an aunt that comes to visit from another state for six to eight weeks, two times a year. The first time is June-July and November-January. These dates have changed through the years because of vacation plans (mom, sister, aunt and me went on a couple of two week trips, etc.). She started coming to visit after my grandmother passed away (ten years ago). She is planning on moving here within the next couple of years (she says). She started visiting to "get to know us". She stays two weeks or longer in three homes.  Most of us work and she stays at the house all day watching television, playing games by herself, etc. She does entertain herself. When we come home, there she sits. We have to make dinner arrangements then go to bed and start all over again the next day! One sister lives with me, one sister is married and another recently became a widow. Another sister out of state is married, but my aunt has only visited with them one time and they said they weren't "keeping her". Three of us agree that "she has gotten to know us!" We fret over each visit, and she has made the comment that she's on "vacation" when she visits and that when grandma was alive (aunt has never been married and lived with her mom), they provided meals for visitors. A couple of times, she has taken us out to dinner and last year helped buy groceries at my house. She doesn't ask to visit (she leaves it up to us where and when she makes her visits to each home) and another sister has said that she doesn't have to be entertained. We feel like she does!  Aunt demands that we provide transportation to church, she doesn't ask! She never calls us between visits. We call her when we have a question about a game rule or concern for her during a storm, etc. We don't want to hurt her feelings and just want to know how to remedy this situation. A few days at each home would be nice!


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Mrs. Honeras,

Honesty is the best policy. Unfortunately you and your siblings have been first class enablers in this family dynamic, which has now grown out of control, as such situations are want to do. I recommend that you have a siblings-only family meeting - in personal preferably, but the phone could work too. Come up with a plan that you can all agree to. One of you meets with the aunt - again face-to-face is ideal, and simply explain how you all feel. She is not psychic and probably does not want to be the colossal inconvenience she has become. This discussion should not be confrontational or stressful. State the facts and leave the emotions alone. This situation is not going to fix itself or go away, so it is time for you to take the bull by the horns and make that plan come to light! I hope this helps.

Kindest regards,

Jay


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Head of the Household

Who is the head of the family?

Dear Jay,

My mom just recently came to live with us, and I gave her my seat at the head of the table.  My mom and husband got into a little spat and spilled a little emotion over it.  They made up, but my husband has not forgotten it. My husband feels that my mom is taking our authority over the kids. I agree she sees us as her children and does feel she is the head of the family. My husband said he wants me to sit at the head because I am his wife. I have been giving that seat away when an older guest comes, so I've started this problem. I think my mom is feeling some power sitting in that seat, and it is causing her to feel at a higher rank because of it. Is she the head of the family because of her age and status? How can I get the seat back without hard feelings? I think no matter how I take it back she may be hurt, and I don't want to hurt her.  But my husband is clearly upset, too.  I really don't know how to handle this.

--Mrs. Honeras



Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Mrs. Honeras,

Thanks for asking this question, which fortunately is solvable. Yes, you made the mistake of giving up your seat, as you are the head of household. Your mother should rightly sit to the right hand of your husband. Because she is your mother, it is your responsibility to sort out boundaries with her. You have every right to state house rules, but being fully in step with your husband is critical. Plan these sorts of decisions and arrangements with him before hand - not after you make another mistake! I hope this helps.

Kindest regards,

Jay


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Just Droppin' By...Again

Can we tell our guests to get a hotel?

Dear Jay,

My husband and I live in a tourist destination, and family members and friends frequently ask to visit us (we usually have visitors at least two weekends per month). Our siblings (we have five of them) are extremely needy and are usually not the greatest house guests.  They each come multiple times throughout the year, stay in our guest room, don't rent a car (we only have one), and always want to go out to eat.  Not only do these visits require our time (entertaining and cleaning before and after their arrival), but they also affect our wallets.  Frequently, these visits extend into the work week as well.  We don't want to hurt their feelings, but we would much rather they get a hotel and their own car so our normal routines are not constantly uprooted.  What is the best way to handle the situation when we get a call saying "We're coming to visit you in July!"?

--Sauna



Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Sauna,

Please forgive the tardiness of this response. You are stuck in somewhat of a habit herea rut, if you will. This will more than likely continue and even worsen until such time as you lay down the lawexplain your house rules! One's house is one's castle, and as master of one's own castle, one is well within one's right to be crystal clear about house rules so that no one embarrasses the others through no fault of their own.

It's best to handle delivering this information face-to-face and as a couple if appropriate. If spoken over the phone or written in a letter, do not be defensive or feel the need to give an explanation for the rules.

There appears to be a combined lack of gratitude and a resultant feeling of entitlement; as well there is no respect for your boundarieseither time or space! This information can and should be delivered calmly and clearly. You cannot control their feelings - if their feelings are hurt, they need to take responsibility and grow up - age having nothing to do with it.

Learning to say no in a friendly way is possible. Speak from your heart and trust your inner voice. I hope this helps.

Kindest regards,

Jay

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Just Droppin' By

Is it rude to drop by unannounced?

Dear Jay,

Is it rude for someone to just drop by unannounced if you've only met them once or twice, and they are not a close relative?

--Ms. Johnson



Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Ms. Johnson,

Frankly, I think it's rude for anyone, close relative or the traveling salesman, to drop by unannounced. I wouldn't have daren't do so with my own mother!

I hope this helps.

Kindest regards,

Jay


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Disrespectful Visitors

What is the polite way to tell adult married children they are rude and disrespectful?

Dear Jay,

We have an adult daughter and her husband who request overnight visits with either parents or a grandfather.  Yet the there is no social visit.  These children merely want a free bed and no interaction. They make separate plans or stay locked up in a guest room all hours.

And do not thank their hosts.  Ever.


What is the polite way to tell adult married children they are rude and disrespectful to their parents and grandparents?

--Edgar


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Edgar,

Good manners are learned at home.  Somewhere along the line some of these seem to have slipped through the cracks. My advice at this stage of the game is to have a chat with your daughter and explain your feelings.  Lay down a few rules of respect, as you thought they had been already understood.

You are fully within your rights to have house rules.  Lack of gratitude is another basic principle gone missing. It's never too late to teach these important life skills either to your children or to theirs as they come along.

I hope this helps.

Kindest regards,

Jay


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Live-In Grandma Has Question

I'm a live-in grandmother with a question...

Dear Stage of Life,

I have been living with my daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter for 2 years and we just moved to a new house. I have a bedroom in the lower level of the house and the two upper levels are their bedrooms and the family area (living, dining, kitchen).

Frequently after dinner I will go downstairs to watch TV and give them family time. Recently, I have heard them visiting with the new neighbors who have come by to visit. I have refrained from going upstairs (even to get something to snack on or drink) because I'm not sure if it would be considered intruding.

Should I stay out of the out or continue my normal routine when the family has house guests?

--Karen



Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Karen,

If you have been living with your family for two years, the house is considered your home too, even if you don't contribute financially, which I imagine you do in some fashion.  If you feel uneasy, simply broach the subject with your daughter. This lack of communication is not healthy, so nip it in the bud.

I hope this is of some help.

Kindest regards,


Jay

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Who Gets the Guest Bed?

What is the proper etiquette for deciding which family member gets to stay in our spare room (when multiple members from both sides are visiting at the same time)?

Dear Stage of Life,

My husband and I are having a first birthday party for our son and our entire family must travel for this event.  We have decided to rotate which family members stay at our house in our one spare room.  My mother said that this decision is incorrect and rude, that she should stay here each time since she is the "mother of the bride" and "helps more".

What is the proper etiquette for which family members stay?

--Stephanie



Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Rachel,

Thanks for asking this great question. My advice is to offer the room first (always) to the senior member of the invited group. If it is your mother, then she should have first dibs on the room. If there is someone else of equal or greater seniority, they should be asked on a rotating basis, as you suggest, or in the event of greater seniority, always asked first.

Your mother is right on this one; however, it is your house, you are an adult, and the final decision rests with you.  At some point it might be necessary to establish that in your house, your rules apply.

I hope this is of some help.

Kindest regards,


Jay

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Guest Bedroom Issues with the Grandparents

Do my husband's parents have the right to claim our bedroom bed when visiting instead of staying in the guest bed?

Dear Stage of Life,

My husband and I purchased our first home together - a townhouse. Currently we have a toddler and infant and the townhouse has three bedrooms.  The toddler currently has his own room and the infant currently sleep in our bedroom.  That leaves one of the other bedrooms free.

My husband and I would like to provide a bed in the room for visiting guests.  The room cannot fit a bed larger than a full size mattress, but it can accommodate a trundle bed (if the trundle is only pulled out for the night, we can arrange furniture). We found a very nice daybed with a trundle in our budget.  Our only concern is my husband's dad and step mom will not sleep on the trundle and requests our bedroom and bed, which is a king size.  I co-sleep with my infant and require a larger bed to do so safely. Eventually that room will be set up for my infant to move into, so we can fit a crib and a twin sized bed (daybed) in it.

We are debating what to do.  I thought there was no obligation of the host family to give up their bed to visiting family? Is our best bed to go with a trundle bed to sleep two? Or go with a full size bed? How far out of our way should we accommodate family?

--Rachel



Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Rachel,

Your house is your home and castle.  It deserves the respect that honor accords including yours and your guests'.

Your in-laws are overstepping their bounds and obviously have been for some time. You allowed this and it is now a pattern.  Now, suddenly you basically have no guest rooms and you're feeling guilty. As this picture comes into focus you and your husband will need to decide how to handle this new reality. Once you agree, sit down with his parents or pick up the phone and let them know how excited you are about being able to redecorate the kids' new rooms. You can remark about how quickly they grow up. That will plant the obvious seed which will sprout the next time a visit is imminent. It will be easier than you think.

I hope this is of some help.

Kindest regards,


Jay

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Lots of Leftovers

Is it rude to cancel your anticipated visit 2-3 hours before the family dinner...repeatedly?

Dear Stage of Life,

Our family has a weekly extended family dinner where the grandparents, parents, grandchildren and now great-grandchildren attend with full family and often a friend or two. 

People have many things to do, church events, dinner with the other side of the family, etc., so there is no expectation that everyone will make it every week.  All we have ever asked is that you contact the hostess by the day before if you have some other event to attend and give a call if you are bringing a friend so the amount of food matches the number of people. 

The problem is one family of six in the grandchild generation continues to cancel 2-3 hours before we are suppose to sit down to the meal - well after meat and frozen vegetables are thawed and preparation has started for many dishes. 

On a practical level, this creates a lot of left overs that are often thrown away and sometimes even makes the meal prep harder than it needed to be that particular week.  On a personal level, I feel this is very rude, inconsiderate, and generally disrespectful behavior to have this repeatedly occur.


What are your thoughts?

--Lots of Leftovers...again


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Lots of Leftovers,

Sunday family dinners are a wonderful tradition. As families grow, these gatherings can become unmanageable, and I take my hat off to you for maintaining this healthy family custom!  The host absolutely should be informed of anyone not attending. Not providing such basic courtesy is rude and unacceptable.

I do not encourage editing the guest list of these culprits, but a senior member of the family needs to have a clear and private chat with the offender(s), explaining why this disrespect cannot continue.

Frankly, this behaviour was either learned or at the very least enabled within the family, so let the responsibility fall where it may. Perhaps it's time for the offenders to host a few of these dinners. Trial by fire sometimes works like a charm!

I hope this helps.  Kindest regards,


Jay

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To call or not call?

Should you walk into a friend's or family member's home without first announcing your visit?

Dear StageofLife.com,

I was brought up to always call family or friends if I wished to visit, to see if it would be convenient for them.  I have, in fact, taught this practice to my own children.

However, I seem to be in the minority here and my friends think I am super strange.  Many times I have been at the home of a friend or neighbor (either having coffee or watching a movie), only to have their family or friends just walk into the house unannounced.  Often I find this extremely uncomfortable and cannot wait to leave.  I find it super rude.  My friends do not.

The mother of my son-in-law walks into their house any time as well.  My daughter hates it.  Locking the door doesn't work with her either, because she has a key, and uses it.  The key was given to her to use in case of emergency.

To me, my home is my haven, where I can kick back and relax with no worries about anyone walking in.  Am I wrong??

--Jan


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Jan,

You and I were brought up identically.  You are absolutely 100% correct, no question about it.  Now...how each of us chooses to run our households is personal obviously, but I can assure you that if someone were to arrive at my doorstep unannounced, they would likely not do it a second time. It is the height of rudeness.

Stick by your guns!

Kind regards,
Jay

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Daugther-in-law verses Mother-in-law

Daughter-in-law is uncomfortable with actions of Mother-in-Law

Dear StageofLife.com,

I am writing on behalf of my sister who is a grandmum.  She does not enjoy an easy relationship with her daughter-in-law but very much respects parental boundaries and very much understands the demands on parents.

She is distraught following a recent visit when she was told that soothing her grandaughter's back which was sore with eczema and sorting a little curl on her forehead was inappropriate behavior. My sister did not how to deal with this or indeed how to respond as she was so shocked by the comment and therefore did not question why this was deemed inappropriate by the parents.

She said she was physically sick following the incident at what she understood to be the suggestion. As I was not present I am trying to support her through this while offering some practical advice. Views very welcome.

Any advice??

-A Concerned Sister


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Concerned,

Clearly an avenue of communication needs to be opened between your sister and her daughter-in-law.  Using shock as an excuse for not discussing awkward situations is obviously ineffective.  The only position you should take is to encourage your sister and her daughter-in-law to have a chat about this incident.  Technically the mother of the child is responsible for her own child.  There is more than meets the eye here.  I would take a step back and let them work this out, encouraging open yet private communication.

Kind regards, Jay.

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Do visitors get to pick where they sleep in my home?

Etiquette involving grown children visits

Dear StageofLife.com,

When grown children with grandchildren come to visit, do I, the hostess (Mom/Grandma), get to choose which bedrooms the visitors will use?

JG



Jay's ANSWER...

In answer to your query about choosing bedrooms for guests, YES, unquestionably you choose.

It's your house for heaven's sake! 

Remember that all of your actions are being watched by your younger generation visitors. Like it or not, you are always leading by example. Make sure the example is a good one. Your home is your castle, and your rules are the final word.

I hope this helps!

--Jay

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Compassion in Three Great Men

Compassion

Our Etiquette Man, Jay, had the chance to hear three wonderful men speak about "Crash, Learn, and Conquer". Former Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador Danny Williams; former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani; and the one and only Donald Trump each spoke at a conference two weeks ago. Here he shares some observations with you...

I had the distinct pleasure of attending the Spark NB event last week where Donald Trump headlined an all star line up of speakers including former New York City Mayor Rudi Giuliani and the former Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, Danny Williams. The theme of the day was Crash, Learn and Conquer and was delivered to an audience of seasoned business people, young entrepreneurs and students. I attended because I wanted to hear how these men incorporate civility and compassion into their working lives. Strangely enough I was not surprised that those two words were not uttered a single time throughout the presentation. I found this fascinating, however, because to me without civility and compassion, business cannot truly succeed.

Mr. Williams was the first to speak and he explained how he pulled his province up by the bootstraps and with his tenacity and scrappiness persuaded the federal government to treat his constituency fairly. He has been a hugely successful businessman and attorney as well. Despite the reputation he garnered over his years at bat for the province, he showed a side of compassion and understanding of the really basic needs of his fellow Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans and a genuine caring for people.

Mr. Giuliani spoke of his time as mayor of New York City during the events surrounding the tragic day of September 11, 2001. In addition to his words of wisdom for entrepreneurs of having a goal, being optimistic, being a problem solver, having courage tempered with fear, the importance of practice, anticipation, and teamwork, his most important pearl, in my opinion, was to love people. He emphasized how friends are our best safety net and that we need to help people whenever we can. Without his enormous compassion and sense of civility towards all people, he would not have had what it took to manage one of worst moments in human history, as we know it.

Mr. Trump spoke of his colossal ups and downs both in business and in his personal life. I lived in New York for many years, so “The Donald’s” track record was old news to me. I remember when he was struggling with what seemed like an insurmountable amount of debt, when his real estate empire was collapsing around him, and when almost any other person would have given up. And I remember watching him climb back building strength upon strength to regain his prominence as a great entrepreneur. He deservedly has the reputation of being a bully in the boardroom and he espoused the position of getting even, having ironclad agreements, and never giving up. His philosophy of loving what you do, staying focused, and making your own luck is one which has been enormously helpful to his career. Although he has great bravado and an arrogance that a scant few would dare to get away with, I came away feeling that here is a man who flourished because of the team of people he maintains around him. My guess is that behind closed doors was a man who demanded respect and who equally showed respect to everyone in his life. He would not have been able to form a good team without compassion for himself and for others and certainly not without sincere civility.

One only need look at his children to see what a great father he has been and continues to be. That is where the evidence really lies. Despite never mentioning the importance of compassion and civility in his life, it is tucked away inside, hiding sometimes behind a tough protective exterior.

I hope the audience appreciated the kindness and common sense values that these men have. We all love to hear the incredible stories of crashing and recovering. Many of us can clearly relate as we have such stories in our own lives. We love to hear about the renegade side of people who go against the tide and handle pressures we hope to never be faced with. Some of us can handle life on a roller coaster and can face serious challenges with great strength and a sense of purpose. Others of us need a more secure, even sedate, life where intense pressures are avoided.

In the end, whichever path we choose or find ourselves on unexpectedly, we can be happier and move more gracefully through the day if we practice compassion and show civility to everyone whom we meet. It is the lubrication that oils the wheels of life and which gives is the strength to put the feelings of other people ahead of our own. In business and in our private lives, we may at times be scrappy, be focused on emergencies, or even be in a position of being arrogant. If tempered with compassion and respect for those around us, those who truly love us will surround us.

--Jay
Civility Begins at Home

Bullying

Life for many of us is not always a bed of roses. In this column, "Civility Begins at Home", Jay takes a glimpse at this unpleasant subject and what we might do to change things...

We are, after all, human beings. It is our very nature, especially in western society, to get ahead either at school, in our jobs, or in our efforts to get reelected as government officials.

None of us are immune to overstepping our bounds from time to time in this desire to achieve our goals. Unfortunately, in striving for our goals, too often these efforts turn into acts of bullying. Sometimes we purposefully act in ways which can be very hurtful and cruel to those around us. Other times we behave this way quite unaware and are clueless as to how our actions affect those people with whom we interact.

What better time than the present is there to stop and assess our actions, our motives, and our goals? I have observed, as have many others, that civility at school, in the work place, in social and activity clubs and in the legislature has fallen to a very low point. If we want to build any kind of a sustainable and healthy future for our children and grandchildren, now is the time to begin anew to lead by example so that those who hold us in high regard have good reason to do so.

Where we need to begin this sort of renovation is at home. Bullying begins at home. This is learned because one or both parents, caregivers, and siblings teach this behavior initially.  There is no point to laying blame elsewhere. If there are constant tears at home from a child; if there is a constant or even occasional outburst which instills fear in a household; if there is confusion and lethargy surrounding a household, it is time to take a look at what is going on. We need to become more aware of and take responsibility for our actions. We must make a bigger effort to think about how we affect other people's feelings and self-esteem.

Bullying  comes in many forms – physical, emotional, verbal, and mental. Unfortunately, the effects of this abuse can last a lifetime. We all deserve respect. Whether the newborn freshly home from the hospital, the elder statesman who is the patriarch of the family, or the grandmother whose firm guidance has solved many a family argument, we all deserve to be treated with kindness, compassion and respect. This is best accomplished if practiced everyday. I think it is so important that I suggest scheduling some family time if necessary, where all family members can get together to discuss what is going on in their lives. How else will we find out if someone is being bullied and is afraid. None of us are skilled enough psychics to guess how our loved ones are feeling, what their troubles may be, and how we may help them to feel better about themselves.

Bullying is akin to negative reinforcement. The only thing worse is abandonment. Coming home to an empty house, for example, is a very unhealthy way for any of us to end our day of work or schooling. Even something as simple as a short note indicating that there is food in the fridge or what time dinner will be gives some assurance that a much needed connection will be made soon. We cannot thrive or even exist in isolation. We mustn't do this to our loved ones.

Bullying is the behavior of weak individuals. This weakness needs to be addressed. It is the responsibility of parents to see to it that their children are raised to know the difference between behavior which is acceptable and that which is not. This is a simple process really because everything that our parents do, we as children assume is alright. It does not take a lot of experience to recognize actions which are wrong. Abuse of any kind is uncalled for. Physical abuse is in fact against the law, a fact of which many people are unaware. Physical abuse must be reported to authorities at once and can be done anonymously if needs be.

When we return to our schools and offices this autumn, let's try to make it our own personal policy to behave civilly with one another. This kind of natural behavior cannot be successfully legislated, nor should it be. A healthy society should be able to nurture this behavior very comfortably. Discussing this at home brings it to the forefront of our minds and helps make it easier to happen. If the home is a secure place to live physically, mentally and emotionally, our schools and places of work will be too.

--Jay
Lack of Awareness

Look Around You and Be Polite

This may sound like an exercise akin to patting your head and rubbing your tummy, but I am quite serious about this seemingly simple concept. A reader recently sent me this note illustrating the lack of awareness and kindness towards others. Perhaps we can all learn from this reader’s questions.

“I really enjoy your column. Thanks for the great suggestions for the New Year, which I intend to use. One thing that maybe you could consider writing about is the following: It really bothers me that many people today seem to just live in their own world and have little consideration for others who are around them. Often I have walked into a building right after someone who does not appear to know that I am there and drops the door on me.

“Another beef that I have is people shopping in grocery store aisles, often with a number of family members, who run into someone that they know and proceed to block the aisle as they carry on a conversation.

“I think the one that bothers me the most is when you get behind someone at the local drugstore or convenience store who insists on making their purchase, get their air mile points, pay all their utilities, and both check all their lotto tickets and buy new ones while others are waiting behind them! There just seems to be a general inconsideration for others demonstrated here. I used to buy my gas at a convenience store in the Fredericton area where the owner had a policy that customers could not do prolonged lotto ticket transactions if others were waiting. More than once I have just put my purchases down and walked out!

“I know that I sound like the complainer here but it really does bother me! Happy New Year and looking forward to reading you in 2012.”

The scenarios outlined above are ones to which we can all relate. No one likes having a door surprisingly slammed in his or her face. But it does happen frequently! People just do not look behind them to see if someone is coming and politely hold the door open for that next person. What we need to practice is  being polite by taking just seconds to be aware of those around us. I find that when I experience these annoying situations, a bit of self-reflection often reveals a need to slow down and be more aware of what I am doing.

In grocery stores or any store with narrow aisles and shopping carts, it is helpful to look around and try not to inconvenience others. I am not suggesting that a good ‘gossip’ isn’t appropriate quietly in the store, but most customers are not there for social purposes. They need to get in and get out. The lesson here is to consider putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. The Golden Rule comes in handy frequently. This is another call to slow down and be aware of those around you, even putting them and their feelings before yours upon occasion.
 
The multi-tasker at the super market or at the bank or even at the ticket counter can really be annoying. We have become accustomed to one-stop shopping and find accomplishing a number of chores at one place very satisfying. However, if there is a line of people behind you watching you wind through your list of lottery tickets or other time-consuming tasks, I recommend coming back at a time when the lines may be shorter. This is akin to going through a busy grocery line with a full cart of purchases without helping to bag them. We all know how annoying it is when it happens to us. This is a two-way street. It is inconsiderate and disrespectful.

Let the New Year allow you to start off with a clean slate in one important way. Slow down and pay more attention to exactly what is going on around us. As we interact with other people, whether they are fellow shoppers, clerks, or friends and family, becoming more aware of how our actions affect other people will make for a more civil society. And don’t forget to smile often. We never know how our smile can brighten someone else’s day. It happens often!

--Jay
Rules are Rules

Grandparents take a back seat when it comes to parenting grandchildren

Jay,

My grandson is being named after his father and grandfather.  I took both the first and the middle name and added the "ey" to it exp: Thomas Tommy.  My daughter in law told me I wasn't allowed to call him that because she hated it. 

Am I wrong for being offenced that I can't call my grandson what I want?  My son said he understood how I felt and that he was deeply sorry and if it were left up to him it would be perfectly fine, but his wife hates it. 

Of course I would never want to cause my son pain so I will not call my grandson the names.  I will never bring it up to her again.  I have never heard of a grandparent being told you can't call a child what you want.  I could totally understand if it was a name other than the one they are given but it is not.

Please help?

-Chris


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Chris,

Thanks for asking this great question. I must side with the mother in this argument. As foolish as you may feel she is being, it's her call. She has her reasons and it does not matter what they are. She calls the shots ahead of you in any matters dealing with her children.

Interfering will actually be a form of bullying and may well serve to drive a wedge between her and her husband as you look to him to support your cause. They must be united in how they raise their children and you will just have to get use to whatever name they decide upon together. I know this may be a bit harsh, but it should be clear.

I hope this helps, Jay

It's a Respect Thing

Rising to welcome others 

Jay,

The other day my mother was hospitalized overnight.  I went to visit her and sat by her bed.  The room was small as hospital rooms usually are.  During the course of my visit the doctor and a priest stopped in on separate occasions.  The doctor was a women between 35-40 years old and the priest was elderly.

 When each entered the room, my mother introduced me to them.  I shook both of their hands without rising from my chair.My mother thinks I should have stood up but I don't agree with her.  I'm 35 years old.

Any thoughts?

-Anonymous


Jay's ANSWER...

Dear Anonymous,

Thanks for asking this good question. I would have to side with your mother on this one. Standing is a sign of respect, something both of these people deserve, as frankly does anyone else. Age and gender really have nothing to do with rising when someone enters your "space". It makes people feel welcome and respected.

I hope this helps, Jay

Etiquette I Learned from My Grandmother

An Introduction to Tea

Taking tea with my grandmother was a special treat for me and a tradition that I remember as far back as any in my childhood.

To me it was a simple pleasure and one where I always felt safe. Doing something the same way everyday does tend to have that effect, especially on a young child.  Every summer my sister and I would visit our grandparents in Connecticut for two weeks, providing a nice break from home life. At five o’clock each afternoon the tea tray was arranged and the tea table was carefully set. We would all sit down and drink a cup of tea with a nice freshly baked Scottish oat and ginger cookie centered with a blanched almond slice. We would talk about the fun we’d had during the day and see if we could earn another nickel for another wagon full of apples we’d collect.

There was a certain ritual to taking tea and when done correctly turns this afternoon snack into an open-eyed guided meditation. I always remember how quiet the pouring of the tea was. My grandmother taught English to a wealthy Chinese lady and we had access to some rare Chinese teas. Frankly at a young age, I wouldn’t have known the difference and today I have several favorites, none of which come from China. The tea was always steeped in a porcelain teapot with a lovely thick tea cozy hand knitted by my grandmother. There was a silver hot water pot used to dilute the tea to a desired potency, a sugar bowl with small white sugar cubes and a pitcher with cold milk. There was a glass plate with slices (not wedges) of lemon. I quickly learned how to use sugar tongs and a lemon fork. I remember one day when I was in Sea Island Georgia, I decided to go to the Cloisters Hotel for a cup of tea and some of their delicious cookies. I was about 11. The hostess asked me if I’d like milk or lemon. I confidently stated that I’d like both. I soon realized that “less is more” and that the acid from the lemon causes the milk to curdle. The hostess very politely asked if I would like a new cup. I looked at her, having turned beet red, and with an embarrassed tear in my eye, said yes thank-you. Thank goodness for those delicious cookies.

Tea rituals in any household or hotel will vary. But there are a set of principles which stay very much in play in almost every case. These principles ensure a pleasant experience. The Japanese tea ceremony has the strictest of rules and many years of study and practice are required to master this – many years. But in the Western world, tea service is quite different. And there are different kinds of tea service. One of the most misused names of services is that of “high tea”. Many people think that this is the be-all-to-end-all of teas. In fact high tea is a very hearty meal usually including meat and is served family style, at the end of a long hard day of work. It was developed during the Industrial Revolution. It includes tea as well as alcoholic beverages.

Tea served in the afternoon with scones, tea sandwiches and sweets is properly referred to as ‘afternoon tea’. It was correctly named ‘low tea’ as well as it served on a low table. If you add a glass of champagne to the mix you are now serving “royal tea”.

I was recently in Washington D.C. where I was fortunate enough to take a workshop from one of world’s leading tea experts. My eyes were open to a whole new world thanks to Bruce Richardson of the Elmwood Inn in Perryville, KY and a mentor of mine, Dorothea Johnson, founder of the Protocol School of Washington. I learned about the different types of teas: Black, Oolong, Green, White, Scented and Flavored, Herbal, and Chai. Most interesting to me was the fact that all teas (other than herbal and Chai) come from a single plant – Camellia sinensis. The difference in the tea types comes from the specific leaves that are picked and how they are grown and processed.

Another thing to which I was introduced was the concept of honoring the ladies that actually pick the tea leaves. Without their tender loving care, we would not be lucky enough to imbibe in this most refreshing and at the same time relaxing of beverages. This is done silently and privately but is a fine way to honor those women. After tea, discard the tea leaves in your garden. This completes the whole cycle.

I will cover the faux pas, dos and don’ts of tea service in both social and business settings in an upcoming column. In the meantime, enjoy this most delightful time of day. And for heaven’s sake, don’t hold out your pinkie!

--Jay

Don't Ignore an RSVP Request

RSVP Etiquette

I have noticed that the RSVP on invitations in certain instances is ignored. Most invitations ask that the recipient RSVP. This is a simple but very important request. The translation of RSVP, the French expression ‘Respondez s'il vous plais’, is simply ‘please respond’ or ‘please reply’.  The RSVP is the means for the host to gather essential information to complete the party or function arrangements. The RSVP clearly indicates how many people will or will not attend the event. It lets the host/hostess proceed with ordering food and beverages, creating a seating plan, hiring the correct number of wait staff and other obvious considerations in planning a successful occasion.

I have noticed that most people do in fact reply to private party invitations. Once you decide to accept an invitation, it really is important to show up, especially if a sit down meal is being prepared and served. Last minutes cancellations with a very legitimate excuse are acceptable. But ‘no-shows’ are inappropriate and extremely rude. Likewise, last minute replies are thoroughly disrespectful. If you are so late in replying that the host/hostess phones you to see if you are planning to attend a function, you ought to realize your gaff immediately, and apologize for your faux pas and any inconvenience which may have resulted. Apply the adage of walking in someone else's shoes and imagine yourself in the position of hosting a party without a clue to the number of people who will be attending.

For public or institutional affairs it is equally important to reply to invitations. These events require a lot of planning and a head count is crucial. Many times, people think RSVP means ‘regrets only’. It does not. If I am invited to an opening at a museum and there is an RSVP, I call immediately to let them know one way or the other. And, I might add, that no one is exempt from replying. Many times public figures are invited to special events as a sign of respect and courtesy. They must reply to such invitations for exactly the same reasons everyone else must.

At these large public gatherings, if you have not replied to the invitation, do not just show up thinking your host will be thrilled to see you. I have been to many such events where there is a list of who has replied. If you’re not on that list, you may well not be admitted. You are less likely to be turned away at the door for a non-profit group. Because these organizations cannot afford to offend anyone, protocol is broken or stretched. But keep in mind that you are still a guest and ought to return the courtesy of the invitation and hospitality that has been extended to you. Be prepared for a solicitation for a donation or request for volunteer help with various projects. These are some of the ways non-profits remain in existence doing good for the community.

There are various schedules one follows when mailing invitations depending on the kind of event or party. However, one should reply within 48 hours of receiving any invitation if possible. Unless otherwise stated on the invitation, replies should be in writing. In today’s fast paced society, most invitations have telephone numbers or emails for quick reply. Some contain a reply card to indicate the number of people attending and perhaps a card for choosing an entrée. Whatever the method of reply, do it promptly. Always put yourself in the position of the host or hostess.

Invitations are very clearly addressed. If the invitation is addressed to Mr. John Doe and Guest, then he is invited to bring along a guest – any guest of his choice. I heard recently of a wedding invitation where a gentleman was invited to bring a guest. The bride found out who the guest was and announced that the guest in question wouldn't be welcome. The bride did not want to be upstaged by the extraordinary beauty of the lady who was to accompany the invited guest.  Once you have sent an invitation there is no taking it back-that just does not happen in polite society. Once a person RSVPs, the host/hostess accepts whatever decision the guest has made without further stipulation or regulation.  How ludicrous! What a peculiar and cruel way for a bride to behave. That was a first for me.

If the invitation is addressed to Mr. and Mrs. John Doe and Family, that refers to immediate family, i.e. children. If the invitation does not state “and family”, do not ask if you may bring the children or others. Your asking this of a host/hostess puts him/her in an awkward position and makes you look foolish. However, in the case of an informal party, such as a pool party, as it’s a family kind of affair, it is acceptable to call and explain that you have house guests and ask if they might be included. More often than not extra guests are welcome.

RSVPs are one of the most essential parts of an invitation. Please respect them and respond as quickly as possible. This is one way that you as the guest can contribute to the success of the party and help ensure less stress for the host or hostess. This small gesture is always a winner.

Meet Stage of Life's Etiquette Coach

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.

Ask Jay a Question

You can read more about Jay on his website, EtiquetteGuy.com

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