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Our Children Won’t Stop Bickering Over Our Vacation Condo. Help!

My husband and I own a vacation condominium (with two bedrooms and two bathrooms) that we like to make available to our five adult children. We don’t use it over the holidays, but the kids’ use of it during this period has become contentious. Four are married, one is divorced and they all have children. It used to work out when three of the families wanted to spend a few nights there, but now all five of them want to use the condo over the 10-day Christmas break. We suggested shared usage or a rotation system, but this has resulted in sibling quarrels that are reported back to us for resolution. I know it’s early for holiday questions, but can you help?

MOM

I sympathize with your desire to make all your children happy, but I urge you to step aside as the family’s informal travel agent. Nothing reinvigorates old sibling rivalries quite like dividing parental resources unevenly. In the blink of an eye, your intervention becomes powerful evidence of whom Mommy and Daddy love best.

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Throw the problem back to your children to resolve among themselves. You have already made two sensible suggestions: sharing and a rotation system. (Another possibility: lottery.) Frankly, the prolonged refusal by adults to accept that space may be limited at their free accommodations over the holidays makes them seem bratty and entitled. I hope they are at least grateful to you and your husband for your generosity.

Suggest (in one email to all the children) that they select a method for resolving use of the condo by majority vote and come back to you with a detailed plan. If they are still unable to reach agreement, tell them the condo will be vacant for the holidays. If it works with your schedule, you can also remind them that spring break is just around the corner for the unlucky few.

My sister-in-law (my brother’s wife) is having a baby. My first niece or nephew! My sister-in-law’s aunt has invited me to a baby shower. My mother is also invited, but my husband and father are not. I think this is sexist. Not inviting men to baby showers suggests that they have nothing to do with babies or no good advice for welcoming them into the world. May I bring this up with my brother or sister-in-law?

LISA

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Bless your heart! Where did you get the idea that baby showers are convocations of good parents or for giving advice to new ones? In my experience, they are more like prison sentences, in which loving friends and relatives are forced to watch parents-to-be unwrap dull gifts in exchange for light refreshment. (I wish I were kidding.)

If you object to women-only baby showers, don’t go. When it’s your turn to host one, make it coed. (I would!) But that’s not what this host has chosen to do. And complaining to your brother or sister-in-law (neither of whom are hosts) seems unproductive. Not every opinion needs to be registered.

My wife died young, at 46, after a long illness, in September. Since then, I have felt low and stayed close to home. The problem: Several of our closest friends keep inviting me to parties and dinners. I have no desire to socialize. When I try to beg off, though, they won’t take no for an answer. I don’t want to be bullied, but I don’t want to lose longtime friends either. How should I handle this?

NEW WIDOWER

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I am sorry for your loss! I know your friends mean well. (I hope you know that, too.) But your most important job now is to take care of yourself. You are grieving a major blow. Parties can wait, and your friends will be there when you are ready. A script may help. When someone presses you, say: “I’ll let you know when I feel up to it.”

Now, as much as I respect your desire for solitude, let’s make sure you have someone to talk to when you are ready for that. I have found incredible comfort in support groups: No one gets how you’re feeling quite like someone who has also suffered a big loss. Find a bereavement group through your local hospital, faith community or therapist. I suspect that every person reading this column wishes you well! Write again if you feel like it.

Our neighbors across the street built an addition onto their house this summer. A portable toilet and construction dumpster were brought to the site. The project is finished, but the toilet and dumpster remain. They are unsightly and disturb our picturesque view. We rarely interact with these neighbors. How can we get them to remove the eyesores?

NEIGHBOR

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Why not be friendly? Just because you rarely interact with neighbors doesn’t mean you can’t. Walk across the street one evening, congratulate them on their new addition and ask when they plan to remove the portable toilet and dumpster. It’s probably on the to-do list of someone who needs a gentle reminder. (And no notes slipped under the door, please! They usually come off testier than we imagine.)


For help with your awkward situation, send a question to [email protected], to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.

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