Q. My sister and her family are arriving soon from out of state to spend a week. We don’t see them often and always have fun and lots of laughter. This family will be staying with our elderly mother who does not drink alcohol. Their two oldest children are in their very late teens (one will be turning 20 soon). Our son is 21.
We would like to invite the entire clan to our home for a day of fun (and to give mom a break!) , but I’m concerned my sister and her husband will want us to allow their oldest children to drink, which they sometimes permit at their home. I’m opposed to this for a variety of reasons. While I feel I should not speak up about what goes on at our mother’s home, I don’t want our home to become the alternative “party central.” Neither do I want to start a row with my sister and brother-in-law (who is a strong believer in his own parental rights). Our son was not permitted to drink in our home until he turned 21 last year.
Should I speak to my sister in advance about this? I’m afraid that bringing it up proactively will imply judgment about their parenting choices. And what can I say if they offer to serve their older children beer or drinks while visiting us?
A. You are over-thinking this. It is not your business what these parents allow their kids to do when they’re at home, but if any underage drinkers are offered alcohol in your home, you just have to say — to everyone — “I’m sorry, but we don’t allow underage drinking here.” It should not be a big deal.
If they think you’re a prude or a hypocrite, so what? If alcohol is consumed in your home, you might be held legally responsible for any negative consequences. You don’t need to make proclamations ahead of time. Any parent who believes strongly in “parental rights” would by necessity have to respect your parental right to control what happens in your own home.
And if this family can’t manage a “day of fun” at your house without offering their kids alcohol, they have a problem. If these parents are determined to let their kids drink, they can take them elsewhere and take their chances.
Q. I have been living with my partner for more than two years. I am very fond of his parents, but I find it difficult to visit them as there are photos of my partner with his ex-wife on display. The divorce was less than amicable, and I don’t believe they have any continuing ties to her. They have been very good to me and welcomed me into the family, but I am offended to see reminders of him with someone else.
I wouldn’t dare ask them to remove these photos; it is their home. I have not said anything to my partner, because I know it probably sounds very petty. But it hurts. Do I suffer in silence? Put up and shut up?
A. I don’t think you’re necessarily insecure. Unless there are also children “in the picture,” I think this would bother most people.
You should talk to your partner about this — if only to say, “I realize it is not my house, and I understand I can’t ask your parents to do anything differently, but these photos do make me uncomfortable, and I just wanted to let you know.”
Your boyfriend should listen compassionately and also speak with his parents. At the very least, you and your guy should give them a photo of the two of you, which they can either substitute or add to the collection.