DEAR ABBY: My brother is 53. He has one child, my 12-year-old nephew, “Conner.” Our father was difficult, and neither of us has many happy memories of times we shared with him. Perhaps in response to this, my brother seems incapable of socializing without his son.
Many times, he suggests outings to my husband or his friends and then throws in that he’s planning on bringing Conner. We do not want the boy included in what should be adult outings, but we can’t find a way of saying it.
If I’m planning a dinner out or something else where I think he might invite his son, I preface it with a grownups-only clause. I can’t discuss it with my sister-in-law because even though I know she would understand, she wouldn’t be tactful in mentioning it to my brother.
My husband is not the type to say anything; it would mean more coming from him, but he doesn’t want to cause upset. By the way, my brother is very outgoing and socially adept, so it’s not like he needs this 12-year-old crutch. Any suggestions would be most appreciated. — FRUSTRATED IN NEVADA
DEAR FRUSTRATED: Your brother may not need a social crutch, but from what you have described, the same may not be true of your nephew. Most 12-year-old boys have friends they can socialize with other than Dad. Is that true of Conner, or would he be sitting alone in his room if his father didn’t insert him into so many adult gatherings? Rather than tell your brother or his wife that the boy is unwelcome, it might be more helpful to ask whether Conner has difficulty socializing with his peers. If that’s the case, he may need professional help.
DEAR ABBY: I have a sister-in-law who constantly one-ups me. Anything I mention, she has to chime in and let everyone present know how much better her trip was, or that she got a better shopping deal, etc.
It has now turned to my grandchildren. For example, at a family dinner, if I correct their table manners, she comes back with a smart comment like, “You can leave your elbows on the table” or “It’s OK to eat that with your fingers.” She’s trying to be the “fun aunt.”
Recently I barked right back, asking her not to undermine my comments about my grandkids’ behavior. She did not reply. I do not want to harm our otherwise decent relationship. She has no grandkids of her own yet and occasionally babysits my grandkids. Is there something better I can do? — HAD IT UP TO HERE IN IOWA
DEAR HAD IT: Talk to your sister-in-law and lay down some ground rules. Tell her that as much as you care about her, there are certain parameters it is important that she understand in her interactions with the grandkids. Explain what they are. If “Fun Auntie” cannot respect the boundaries, she should see them less often. Not enough young people these days are fortunate enough to have parents (and grandparents) who teach them appropriate manners. Kudos to you.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at http://www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.