Dear Amy: We have three sons. They are grown, successful, and professional, with equally successful wives.
They come to stay with us, use our cars to see their friends, eat what we prepare, and never offer to reciprocate.
Should we say something?
I think they should offer to take their father and me out for a meal or otherwise reciprocate, but this feels like it would be an awkward conversation!
– Susan in Oregon
Dear Susan: You are the parents of these adults. You’ve given and given and continue to give.
Yes, this might be awkward, but please don’t run from awkward. Many powerful insights have been delivered by people brave enough to initiate an awkward conversation.
Because your sons don’t seem to have quite completed their childhoods, I suggest that you take this next step as a vital parenting lesson you have yet to impart.
Here’s the message: “Guys, it’s time to step up. Now that you’re all adults, we really do expect you to reciprocate when we host you. We are happy to have you come home, but it's time for you to take some of the burden off of us and assume it for yourselves. We would appreciate it if you’d at the very least treat us to a lunch or dinner out while you’re home. It would also be great if you offered to lend a hand while you’re visiting. There might be little house or yard chores you could help with, and we would be grateful if you offered.”
Dear Amy: My wife and I bought a condo in downtown Chicago a couple of years ago. We are often not there and have offered its use to friends and family. Our only request is that guests leave the condo tidy when they depart. This includes washing the sheets for the beds they’ve used and remaking the beds.
We have a washer/dryer in the unit, but my sister does not like doing this, so she brings a single twin sized flat sheet and a pillowcase with her when she visits.
She puts the sheet on top of the flat sheet on the king-sized bed.
She then uses the blanket and the cover that we have on the bed.
She believes this is sufficient and that she does not need to wash the sheets on the bed she has slept on.
My wife and I don’t think my sister’s solution is appropriate and are considering telling her that if she is not willing to follow our rules, she is not welcome to use our condo.
What do you think?
– House Proud
Dear House Proud: I once had a well-traveled (invited) houseguest bring two sheets and a pillowcase, which she simply slipped over the linens that were on the bed. She then removed her sheets and remade the bed at the end of her stay. I think that’s a great hack.
But your sister doesn’t bring two sheets. Furthermore, she’s your sister, staying presumably at her own convenience (not as the result of an invitation), and you and your wife have made your house rules extremely clear and easy to follow.
And so – your reaction to her behavior should also be very clear and easy to follow: “You can’t seem to follow what we’ve asked you to do at the end of your visits, so you’re going to have to find somewhere else to perch during your trips to Chicago.”
Dear Amy: I wonder if you’d consider a different viewpoint regarding your advice to “Concerned Grandma,” the woman worried because her 17-year-old grandson’s parents allowed him to drink at home in an effort to normalize drinking before college.
I grew up in a country where it was common for older teens to drink at home. Wine with a meal or a small cocktail before dinner was all considered normal. When I arrived in the states in 1974 to attend college, I was horrified to see how my classmates drank themselves into a stupor.
I remember one winter how distressed I was to see some of them passed out on top of snowbanks.
My brothers also attended college in the US, and we all agreed it was a very “American” thing.
If Concerned Grandma is otherwise confident that these are sensible parents, perhaps she would feel better knowing that other cultures deal with youth drinking in a different way. Not better or worse, just different.
– Long-Time Lectora
Dear Lectora: I agree that this is a distressing “American thing.” Thank you for offering a sensible perspective.
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