Sorry, but Those Kids Are Terrible

A reader wonders whether her attitude toward her nieces and nephews really needs to be adjusted.

Comments: 249

  1. Re ‘This is How it Ends’: It would have been informative to learn more about the contents of the letter, but it sounds like maybe the offended party felt like their friendship was a one way street, an impression that probably was solidified in the absence of an immediate response. But still, I would not give up on resuming contact. It sounds like the friend wanted more input, not the end of a relationship. And maybe time has healed some of her soreness. I would reach out to the old friend, by writing or maybe even calling, and say that I miss her and had been thinking about her. I would not even mention the letter. Just a fresh reintroduction. Good luck!

  2. @NM That's probably best. Each person could have been having a moment right then. Let some time pass and just turn the page.

  3. @NM I don't know - if there was a specific issue, why not include it in the letter. Or, god forbid, have a face to face (or at least phone) conversation about it. Writing such a vague, demanding letter seems childish. Making a friend chase after you to find out why you're upset is not an appropriate way to raise an issue. Depending on the closeness of the friendship, I might have ignored it too.

  4. @Cathy We know nothing about the letter's contents, only the eleven-word synopsis of what may have been pages. Long friendships are rarely ended over one incident unless it's truly a terrible incident like sleeping with the friend's partner. They're usually ended over many non-friend-like incidents, repeated through the years. And they're usually ended just this way. The woman had probably reached her tolerance limit and it was "change your ways if you want to remain friends". In writing it she already accepted that the recipient would not respond and that it was ended.

  5. Re Friendship Tax: “How will she learn the truth if you don’t say something?” By thinking about others and their situations. The onus is not on this adult to teach another adult empathy and consideration of others.

  6. @Din I read it differently: the "truth" that the ever-intelligent Mr. Galanes referred to was the financial circumstances of a not particularly close friend (the letter writer). We've no idea about the friend's empathy or consideration of others, but we can be pretty sure that she can't possibly be aware of every invitee's budget for high-end sushi.

  7. @Din Yeah the fact that she did not point out why she was upset or talk about it in person suggests a very passive aggressive person.

  8. @Din Not everyone is aware of their financial situation compared to others- I can spend $50 on a concert no problem but some of my friends can't because of debt and their salaries

  9. Ooo...so many good letters to comment on! LW1: I was turned off in the first sentence-- these aren't just your husband's nieces and nephews, they're also YOUR nieces and nephews. The fact that she doesn't take ownership of her relationship with them is not surprising given her cold outlook on these poor children. Did she really call a 2-year old unintelligent?? LW2: Instead of saying you can't "afford" to come, I suggest saying, "Thanks for inviting me! Unfortunately, this restaurant is a little out of my budget but I hope you have a wonderful celebration." LW3: So she expressly left the next steps to you --doesn't that mean that she expected something in return? To me, this very clearly speak to the fact that she wasn't putting an end to your friendship? Weren't you at all curious what she was referring to when she said you were not doing your part as a good friend? I feel like you're avoiding hearing something painful from her. LW4: I'm galled that the pathologist came back to ask you if you saw his shirt hanging out of his fly. Honestly, what if he did it on purpose to draw inappropriate attention? That's the only reason someone would go back to specifically ask if you saw something sticking out of their crotch.

  10. @Savannah LW4: It's possible he was trying gauge how noticeable it was and whether he needed to apologize to others he had encountered.

  11. @Savannah I had the exact same thought about LW1 - saying "my husband has four nieces and nephews" was a clear message to me that she does not consider them to be her nieces and nephews. They no doubt pick up on this - children are more intuitive than most adults give them credit for...even the "unintelligent" ones!

  12. @Savannah They're not her nieces and nephews. They're her husband's.

  13. Methinks we all need to be very careful how we word our letters to Philip. As much as I enjoy reading this column (and I look forward to it every week!), most of the time it is the letter-writer who ends up getting his/her hand slapped and a lecture.

  14. @Cathy Sometimes it is deserved. I thought the letter writer's expectations were not realistic. Calling children unintelligent and uninteresting is appalling. Make an effort to get to know them. The kids are probably picking up on the cold shoulder.

  15. @Cathy Agree! Where is the empathy and compassion for the letter writers, who have gone to the effort of asking for help with their situation? I won't be reading this column again.

  16. @Aileen Bowers You're right. Kids are not dumb, and they can pick up on an "I'm not into children" vibe. But it is also quite probable that Auntie wasn't screaming at her nieces and nephews going, "You guys are so stupid and boring! I cannot stand you! Go away!"

  17. The wild kids: I’d be very relieved to NOT be included in these events. So, what’s the problem ?

  18. To Annoyed Aunt: Let’s set aside how a two year old can be considered unruly, unintelligent and uninteresting. Considering the older children, is it possible that they have any underlying issues contributing to how they come across? One of my own nephews is struggling with ADHD and Autism spectrum conditions which cause him behavioral and academic difficulties. He is not always easy to be around, admittedly, but it helps to understand that he is not willfully difficult and that he is struggling, too. Could these kids need help and acceptance? Maybe spend time with them, even with frazzled nerves, and see if you can distinguish good parts of them apart from objectionable behavior. Rejection and disapproval won’t help anyone.

  19. @NM I was recently at a (not that close) family event, and a 20-something relative was there. He is autistic, and very high energy. I'm sure LW would have had some choice words for and about him. I'm sure she would have lectured his parents. Had she done any of those things rather than engaging with this young man, she would have missed out on a truly lovely evening. He was high energy - and he was lovely and kind and curious and welcoming. 100% the best part of the evening (and I enjoyed everyone there). It's sad when people (an Aunt!) choose to dismiss others as unacceptable, when just a tiny bit of effort to meet others where they are pays such huge and joyful dividends.

  20. @Cathy Thanks so much for replying and for describing your family. It helps so much to look at people with fresh eyes and consider what they have to offer as individuals and what they have to contend with. It’s just a matter of relinquishing these rigid notions of how people ought to be, as exemplified by the letter writer. And also, each of us (self included), has had to get through life with our own gifts and obstacles. We should understand that the next person, child or adult, is doing the same. I appreciate what you wrote. Best wishes for you and your family.

  21. I love the advice for the auntie. Be kind. Helpful idea: When my kids were in preschool I had some water based face painting crayons and I learned that when doing simple face painting with one child at a time they were quiet and still while I asked them a little about what they liked (a natural topic since we talked about what they wanted on their face or arm). It became my favorite way to connect with the kids. You don’t need to be an artist. It’s a fairly brief interaction. Plus, in the close space of face or arm painting voices get lower. Have a page with a few drawings they can pick from or freestyle it. You will soon become the favorite aunt at family events and in the process share some quiet magical time with each kiddo. Enjoy!

  22. "They are unruly, unintelligent and uninteresting compared to other children we know." - I appreciated this sentence immensely.

  23. @Matthew I have known kids who were kind of dumb, kind of boring and way too rambunctious. Not my cup of tea, either. I don't do well with little kids, most of whom seem to fit into this category. I'm nice, but they're not my "group." That's why I don't teach elementary school, because in this day and age, there are options. When kids can hold decent conversations and have opinions, and/or if they are gifted or in middle school or high school, that's when I find them fascinating.

  24. @Matthew Me too. I also think it was the letter writer's way to convey that they aren't kid-haters per se, but they've been around better behaved, more interesting children (maybe the offspring of friends) so they know that rudeness and chaos is not a natural, given state for children--it's just a result of what their nieces and nephews have (not) been taught. Though I thought the "unintelligent" part was a bit cruel--how do they know?

  25. @Todd I'm sure I annoyed most adults outside of parents & grandparents when I was under the age of 10. I appreciated the stark honesty and humor the writer had added. There isn't a need to be snide.

  26. As an auntie with no children of my own, I can say that in the past, I have been disappointed in the verbal and conversational skills of two of my nephews. I personally felt that they were allowed to spend too much time watching TV and playing video games. On the other hand - they were being raised to be polite and well behaved, with boundaries in place. They did well enough in school, and they willingly did chores to contribute to family life. So - my personal opinion went unvoiced. Not my business. If they had been running wild, well...I live 1200 miles away, so I would have been able to endure for the length of my visit. I loved them and their parents, so best to keep it to myself. Now one is grown, with his own child that he is doing a good job raising. The other died by suicide in spite of his good upbringing, so always love them while you can.

  27. My siblings and I were a pack of wild animals. We're still all, pretty much, a pack of wild animals. I was the only one to try for anything else... I rebelled and moved to a sophisticated city and flourished there. The reason why I turned out differently? A couple of aunts, one on either side of the family, who took me under their wings and fed me information and culture and offered me some stimulus. Be that aunt.

  28. @Robert Triptow Your aunts remind me of Grandma Sylvia in "Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret".

  29. @Robert Triptow Well put.

  30. @Robert Triptow yours is the best answer. Understanding, compassionate and helpful.

  31. On a guided tour in Vienna my husband noticed that our guide's pants were unzipped. (I didn't. No bright pink protuberances.) He pecked out "your pants are unzipped" on his phone memo app, walked to the front, and showed it to the guide. The guide nodded, kept talking to us while turning away briefly, and later walked over to my husband to thank him. Inadvertent wardrobe malfunctions are easier to point out in people of your own sex, I guess. But I realized one day at work that my pullover knit shirt was backwards and corrected the problem, and later my female coworker glanced at me and said, "oh, somebody told you." That ticked me off.

  32. I once was explaining a project to my teenage students when a girl raised her hand. After I called on her, she asked (politely) if my knit shirt was on backwards— in front of the whole wide-eyed and strangely silent class. I reprimanded her for interrupting my explanation and went on. At home that evening, after removing that shirt, I saw the tag — in the front. Never wore that shirt again.

  33. @Jen Maria ...did you apologize to your student?

  34. I wondered why that Q was even required. What would make someone hesitate to do a small act of kindness and point out a waldrobe malfunction (open fly) which is seriously embarrassing, building up every moment it remains, when we lose nothing in doing so? I point it out to strangers let alone friends or acquaintances. While the student doing it in the middle of class was not the most appropriate timing, neither does it merit a reprimand, in my opinion. If this was an open fly rather than a misdirected shirt, I would have welcomed it, even midclass and corrected it asap. Since it wasn't, I would have thanked this person and carried on and corrected it after class, joking the observation was correct and (if I was quick enough) it was deliberate to ascertain they weren't sleeping in class, but thankfully atleast one was awake!

  35. Rambunctious children tend to dominate events, so if you don't enjoy theur antics, you are the troublemaker, apparently,

  36. RE Annoyed Aunt: Why look a gift horse in the mouth? You've been given an out for future family events you plainly don't enjoy. Thank your in-laws for noticing and book a cruise next time. Toast each of little scallywags, twice if necessary. Have a good time!

  37. @Sam I Am, hahaha! Not that I agree with you, but I love it! Cheers!

  38. L1: without specific examples, we don't have a way to gauge the actual behavior. They could be horrible or they could be fine. The divide and conquer method may work. Like others said, maybe more one on one. L2: there is nothing wrong with out of my budget. L3: That was a cheap shot by the ex-friend. I would review the relationship history and see if there are things you missed. And I mean: was there a power dynamic that you kind of ignored and went along with and then as time passed it faded? L4: Goes both ways.

  39. Regarding the "Friendship Tax," I always seemed to be more broke than many of my friends, or maybe just not willing to go into debt. I usually solved this issue by saying, "I have to be [somewhere else] during the dinner and I'm crushed to miss it! Can I join you for dessert?" Then when you pitch in $15 or $20 for your dish of ice cream you look generous and you're not in the poor house. Alternatively, meet everyone for a drink before or after. If they will be there from 5-7p, meet them at 6:15p. Bring a cupcake and a candle and and get one glass of wine! Then scram when they move on to the next place.

  40. @Cat I admire your face-saving inventiveness and grace in this potentially uncomfortable situation. You must enjoy many friendships.

  41. Dear Annoyed Aunt -- Once I realized that what I was annoyed by was the non-chalant attitude of my siblings and their spouses toward their children's craziness and bad behavior, I found dealing with the kids a lot easier. I particularly found that if I removed them from their parents' "supervision," they were a LOT better behaved. I cherish memories of weekends spent with my nieces and nephews were then were little. Now that they are adults, they are not only lovely, charming and interesting to be around, but they still enjoy spending time with their auntie. In fact, my mom and I are going on a trip with my oldest niece (who's in her early 20s now) this summer. Think about what really is the issue -- the kids or the adults. You may find that the grown-ups are the problem.

  42. I sympathize with the author of the first letter and think the author and commenters’ holier than thou attitude offers no helpful advice. Some kids are more difficult than others. Some parents aren’t as good as others. For an aunt who wants to connect, simply saying just step back or just tolerate it isn’t a solution. Unfortunately I don’t have an answer either.

  43. Some children, like some parents, like some people, are obnoxious. You cannot deny this. Ask any middle school teacher. Children are conditioned to behave as they do. The standards a family adopts and commits to are easily observed in the behavior of a child who isn’t suffering from a mental health issue or disability. As with all human beings, the first step should always be grounded in compassion, even for the difficult child. Bullies are more often than not, the result of being bullied. Bad behavior may be acting out from an number of reasons, poor parental guidance being one of a number. Maintain boundaries. Your life does not belong to them. They do not belong to you. Live by your own code. Find ways to express your boundaries, adjusted for the individual audience. Some people can’t take blunt discussions. They need to get the hint when they look around and see that nobody wants to hang out with them, anymore. That’s their karma.You don’t have to own it. If you can fix it, find the path. If you can’t, protect yourself. Do no harm.

  44. Thank you for mentioning "... who isn't suffering from a mental health issue or disability." Not everyone is capable of controlling their own behavior or emotions, and you can't always tell by looking whether someone is just being a jerk or dealing with an underlying issue. In any case, the LW's dislike for these kids must be pretty obvious if she got talked to about it. She might not like them, but that's no excuse for being rude. Nobody's forcing her to be there. Be nice, or stay home.

  45. Regarding the Doc's zipper: a beloved and respected leader in an office where I worked had such a wardrobe malfunction one day, and no one wanted to be the one to embarrass him, so the 2nd in command called his wife, who was a dear lady, and she phoned him to let him know what his staff had observed. That way he could do his blushing in private.

  46. @R. Bartlett You have got to be kidding.

  47. @JGW Nope; small town ways!

  48. Re. the 1st letter, it's okay not to enjoy being with children, but it's not okay, if you choose to spend time with children, to expect them to be "intelligent" and "interesting" to you. (I don't even think those are fair or realistic expectations to have toward other adults.) As others have commented, the relative's suggestion that the letter writer not attend future family events that include the children seems like an easy solution. I'm very doubtful that the letter writer has the motivation or patience to get to know or bond with the children individually, and not doing so is a perfectly valid choice. I just hope she never chooses to have children of her own.

  49. @law student I agree with all except the last sentence, because people can change as they mature. Until I was in my early 30s, I had no interest in children and did not enjoy being around most of them. But I became pregnant at 32 and discovered that my own child was fascinating, brilliant, talented, etc. (as, of course, is true of every new parent). I was far from a perfect mother, but overall I was a good mother. Yet I still was not crazy about spending time with other people's children. The same is true since I became a grandmother almost 4 years ago--I could spend hours every day with my granddaughter, but am not particularly interested in spending a lot of time with other children. I don't think that makes me a bad person or someone who was unsuitable to be a mother or grandmother, though it definitely makes me unsuitable to be a babysitter for anyone other than my granddaughter.

  50. @Pat I appreciate your honesty regarding your feelings toward your own children (and their children) versus other children. I think that preference for "our own" may be common. And I agree that people mature and become more patient as we age. If the letter writer's views toward children change, I agree, she might be an ok parent. But why risk it? I think that the letter-writer's surprising honesty regarding her view of her nieces and nephews is an indication of her own disinterest in being a parent. I did not say, and I do not think, that the letter writer is a "bad person." I'm just saying that people who don't want children who are real children (i.e., people who need to be cared for even when they are "unintelligent" and "uninteresting"), shouldn't have children.

  51. If you can call small children “unintelligent” and “uninteresting” I’d say the problem lies with you and not the children. They’re not adults, nor are they supposed to be.

  52. @Allison couldn’t disagree more. Children may not be adults, but like adults, there are uninteresting and unintelligent ones. Like adults, it’s probably most of them.

  53. @Allison Agree 100 percent. What exactly would children ten and under have to do to be judged "interesting" to the letter writer?? They're kids. And calling them unintelligent also seems a bit unkind; the kids might be on the spectrum, or otherwise learning disabled, or perhaps just not as smart as other children the letter writer might have met. Some of us are not as smart as others, and that goes for children, too. Why be judgmental and cruel?

  54. @Allison The writer said "They are unruly, unintelligent and uninteresting compared to other children we know. " -- not compared to other adults we know.

  55. L2 should have told the friend that the last time she ate at that restaurant she got violently ill from food poisoning, so will be taking a pass. Then wish her a wonderful time.

  56. @Jeff But that would be a lie. I think honesty is the best policy. "That's out of my budget, so I'll have to pass. But have a great time!"

  57. You are evil...come sit by me.

  58. Telltale: “my husband has...”they are actually yours too. But this sounds like the writer is also jealous of sibling relationships.

  59. As a parent of two grown and lovely children, I always get quite a kick when adults without children believe they know children and how to raise them. There is no real indication of what exactly the kids are doing that constitutes unruly. Talking loudly or setting the cat on fire? What constitutes unintelligent? The two year old is too busy being unruly to cogently discuss current events? The ten year old's French grammar is atrocious? Having and raising children is one of the things in life that you actually have TO DO to really know what you're talking about.

  60. @Mark haha haha I don’t think childless people have to raise children to know the difference between insufferable ones and normal ones. And this may come as surprise to you, but dealing with children is not terraforming Mars. It’s a no-skill job. Sorry.

  61. @Mark What gives you the impression the couple is childless? It wasn't mentioned. Aside from that, you discount people who may not be parents but are extensively involved in the lives of other people's children (relatives, nannies, childcare workers, family therapists, teachers etc. etc.)

  62. @BBB To say raising humans to be kind, curious, well adjusted, healthy (assuming they were also born healthy), and successful adults is a no-skill job leads me to believe you have never raised kids. While there are certainly kids who can becomes all those things regardless of how they are raised, they most certainly are the exception not the norm.

  63. Birthday party - Who invited you? Is the friend giving herself a birthday party? In that case, she pays for the whole thing. If someone else giving her the party? In that case, the someone else chooses the place - and I hope with costs in mind.

  64. @B Lundgren, No one "invited" her in the sense that you clearly mean. There is no host per se. There is nothing wrong with that. I gathered from the letter that the writer and the birthday girl are part of a group of friends whose custom is to celebrate each others' birthdays with a restaurant meal together. The celebration is held at a place chosen by the birthday girl. Each of them pays for her own meal and a share of the birthday girl's meal. This sort of arrangement is not uncommon amongst groups of friends in big cities where many people live in small apartments that cannot accommodate dinner parties.

  65. @B Lundgren Depends on the customs of the group. My friends invite people to birthday parties and everyone pays for them. OP is free to say sorry she's busy that day if she doesn't agree.

  66. @carol goldstein It's tacky. If you can't afford to pick up the tab for a party you organized in your own honor (!), don't have one!

  67. Regarding the "unruly, unintelligent and uninteresting" children. A friend has a child that was diagnosed early with autism (not severe), and he always, to me, fit this description. Luckily his parents had depths of compassion and patience that I apparently don't have. The child graduated from UC Berkeley not long ago and got married to a lovely (and patient) woman. I still find him difficult, but I am so thankful that there are people (his parents, his wife, probably some of his aunts and uncles) who can see better beyond the surface than I can. I recommend that if Annoyed Aunt can't do this, she *sincerely* praise those around her who can.

  68. About the unruly kids - Maybe the scolding grandparent is the one out of line? About the pink shirt - I always appreciate it when someone discreetly informs me about an embarrassing defect in my personal presentation, e.g. spinach stuck to tooth.

  69. @Bello -- yes, there are definitely a lot of badly-behaving adults in that family. It's a shame it has to spoil LW1's relationship with those kids.

  70. The modern trend of adults genuflecting to children is grotesque. Unruly children should be corrected. Beyond that, like adults, some kids are good people and some are not.

  71. @David Christ, listen to yourself. "Some kids are not good people"? Never have kids.

  72. @Todd Two words: Adam Lanza

  73. awesome! I have missed dear Abby and agreed with and enjoyed all your answers - this was my first reading of your column but I plan to make it a regular thing!

  74. LW2: I don't believe you need to be as specific in justifying not attending the dinner party as you think you do, especially with someone you are only friends with "in group settings". It is okay to simply say "I'm sorry I won't be able to make it, I have other plans. I hope you have a great time and Happy Birthday!" - even if your plans are to just sit on your couch and watch Netflix. Unless the dinner is for a close friend who would be very disappointed by your absence, just a generic "sorry, can't make it" should be enough.

  75. @ABC The awful part of explaining that you can't afford it is that someone else will take it upon him/herself to pay for your dinner. That's worse.

  76. A thought about Zip It: it is really mean to let people walk around with something the will embarrass them when its easily fixed. Just tell the guy, for heaven's sake.

  77. @sjs Rather being embarrassed she could have made a light joke about his new "fashion statement"....

  78. RE: Zip It. I just say "XYZ" and keep eye contact, If they look at me like I'm from Mars, I repeat it and glance down at their fly and back up, quickly. It's always worked. If it didn't, then I'd just keep on as if everything's okay. Sooner or later they'll figure it out.

  79. @Anne Nah. Then you have to say more words about it. Say “Check your fly”, just smile a little and break eye contact in case he’s embarrassed. Yeah, I’ve known a guy who said something like “oh, you were looking?” And I said “ don’t be silly”. Just laugh it off. No biggie.

  80. My sympathies to the aunt in letter 1. I have a niece who at the age of 3 was "unruly, unintelligent and uninteresting compared to other children" (I don't know what she was like at the age of 2, we lived far apart). She never got better. She now lives much closer and has a large and growing pack of children of her own who also strike me as "unruly, unintelligent and uninteresting compared to other children". I could be wrong and there might be a hidden gem in the pack, but I don't have the desire or patience to try to find out. I spent many years being nice and helpful to this niece. But I have pretty much given up. I am appalled by the lies she tells (and the fundamentalist megachurch she attends). These days I mostly try to avoid much contact. Her brother, on the other hand is great (and has always been). His kids are also great. I wish it were he and his family that lived near. As I said, I sympathise with the aunt but I am dismayed about how unsupporting Philip Galanes is. Yes, perhaps she should try a bit harder with the kids but the rest of the family also has to help.

  81. Regarding the birthday, decline the invitation politely and do not raise the issue of affordability.

  82. Yes. A firm "I regret that I will be unable to attend" should be sufficient. No need to discuss the specifics.

  83. Totally disagree. Be honest. State it’s too expensive. People are embarrassed to say this. The more people who own up to this the more acceptable it will become. Don’t give it a thought. It’s not insulting. You could even give her a small gift instead.

  84. ZIP IT! Friends have a code for the open fly problem: XYZ - (e)Xamine Your Zipper Reply: ABC - All Been Checked Very useful in potentially embarrassing situations!

  85. @Prof XYZ P(retty) D(a*ned) Q(uick) was the standard acronym in my childhood.

  86. For Zip It: I ask my colleagues to inform me of food in my teeth, an open zipper, etc. A few seconds of embarrassment in front of a trusted friend is preferable to learning after the fact that I've been displaying the remnants of my spinach salad for hours.

  87. @Camper I've always had teeth that attract greens. A friend took me and my very young kids out out dinner many years ago. Fool that I was for assuming he'd signal me with a wink or whisper, I told my five year old to please tell me if anything disgusting got stuck in my teeth, so I wouldn't be embarrassed in public. Halfway through the said he very clearly articulated, "Mom, you have something disgusting in your teeth." He still has perfect diction today, and I don't know where he got it.

  88. Never have understood why grown ups can't act like grown ups. "Fly's open." All it takes. No cute takes about pocket squares and such. Always wonder where advice columnists get their advice. Cant be from real life experiences. (No matter what they say.)

  89. @lloyd I always ask "What do airplanes do?" The answer of course is fly.

  90. This Is How It Ends?: Not saying that the letter writer presented their concerns in the most positive, healthy manner, but instantly shredding the letter when discovering that someone perceives a misstep in an important relationship might indicate that there is some truth to the recipient of the letter not doing their portion of the legwork in the relationship. Just an observation that may be worth looking at.

  91. @K Exactly. That was very telling.

  92. Re: "This Is How It Ends?" - many years ago I had a best friend from childhood. We went off to college, but remained friends. She found Jesus, and wrote me many letters (this was in the days before email), trying to help me, and sometimes insisting that I find Jesus too. I am a Jewish atheist, and she knew it. Finally, I wrote her a letter saying that I was hurt that she continued to ignore who I was, and if she couldn't stop, I couldn't be her friend. It was a very hard letter to write. It was a potentially friendship-ending letter, but I was very specific about what the problem was. And she responded with a sincere apology, and our friendship was saved. We are still very close friends. I'm sorry your friend didn't name the issue she had, and I'm sorry you didn't ask. A good friendship is a tragic thing to lose. It may not be too late to reach out, as Philip Galanes suggests. I hope you do.

  93. Yes, your readers believe you have magical powers! You always offer a good perspective & offer a kind solution. LW3 has waited 3 years after receiving the letter to seek advice. Her friend probably got the message that no effort was forthcoming about 2 years, 11 months ago. I've noticed recently that friendships of 45-65 years have ended abruptly for seemingly no reason - no argument, incident, or slight. Just "I'm done." It's different from naturally drifting apart; someone officially calls it quits. I've seen people reach an age when their own life circumstances (health, money, family demands, loss of a spouse) cause them to make changes in relationships. It doesn't diminish the value of what was once mutually valuable or even treasured. It merely indicates that the friendship has run its course & signals that relying on that person is no longer an option.

  94. I will never forget this little boy in my son’s kindergarten class back in 1995. He came from a very troubled home(father in jail, mother in and out of his life) so he was a handful to all at school. Being a parent volunteer for my son’s class, I would always made it a point to get to know each child, always paid attention to what they were saying to me and upmost, always treated each one with respect regardless if the child is having a bad day. One day coming into to volunteer, this child comes up to me, gives me a big hug and smile, I guess he was happy to see me, turns to my son as he was approaching and says “see David, your mother is the only one who likes me”. How sad is that, through no fault of his own, born into terrible circumstances and he says this. Broke my heart and my son’s response, “well Michael, my mother likes everyone” and off they went to play. Children know when they are not liked and of course they will act out but it’s up to us, the adults to adjust our negative attitudes and help them. A little kindness goes a long way.

  95. @Martha White - This is a beautiful reminder to us all. Kindness costs nothing and it can mean a lot to people who may be struggling with burdens we don't know about. You never know what's going on behind closed doors, it can't hurt to extend a hand or a smile.

  96. Thank you, Martha. There is always room for kindness.

  97. @Martha White I was a twenty something college student and ended up seated next to the 4 year old daughter of one of my sibs in laws at Xmas. (Mom was a teen herself and not much of a parent.) I had ZERO interest in kids at this time in my life and really didn't like them but I paid attention to her and was silly with her and at the end of dinner she asked me if I would take her home with me. I wanted to cry then and now. Kid had a rough life and is now in an institution but once upon a time she was shiny bright and new and just wanted love and attention. Yes, a little kindness goes a long way with little people.

  98. Re the Aunt: Instead of wishing for a global behavior transplant, create an alternate activity, preferably in a quieter room. If no adult can envision a plausible, alternative behavior within the limits of the setting, it's unrealistic to expect the kids to figure it out. Consider asking the parents to bring a favorite book that the child likes to repeatedly hear, and read it to them. Or buy them the next book in a loved series, or by favorite author/illustrator. Buy an audiobook that the parents OK Or: I totally agree with facepaint suggestion (but check w parents before the event). Or: take them outside or to a large hallway or basement & either let them run around. Or announce the Silly Walk Event and create different challenges for each turn (Silliest Backwards Walk, /Slowest / Sneakiest) Finally: I totally believe children, like all humans, need to respect others' needs. Adults often commented on the civil behavior of our now-adult kids. BUT that was because we knew what was developmentally reasonable to ask of that child in that setting,& made sure their legitimate needs were met. You may have unreasonable expectations of these children. As an empathy exercise, recall a time when you'd missed your connecting flight and were stuck in the airport without your usual food and comforts.I assume you were not at your most be at your most patient. Or being in a group speaking a language you don't understand. Large family gatherings can feel like that for kids.

  99. @Diana So the folks attending the event end up entertaining the children ? ..... and the parents are, where...?

  100. @Paul The letter writer said she found being with children uninteresting. My suggestions were for ways to creatively engage with them that are quite reliably able to make being together more interesting for both aunt and children. I speak as an educator, a mother and an aunt. However, if you see reading to a niece or nephew for 20 minutes as an imposition that unjustly lets parents out of their duty-- by all means, please spare children your company.

  101. @Paul -- personally, I always preferred hanging with the kids at family events. A lot less drinking and arguing at the kids' table.

  102. Sounds like the kids are all walking disasters.People are under no obligation to act nice towards rotten kids.People also have a right to not like kids or their company and to ignore them at family events.As for the grandparent who tried to upbraid them,said grandparent should have been told where to shove it and to mind his/her own business.

  103. @RJM Kids being kids are "walking disasters"? Lord hopes you never have any.

  104. @RJM Sounds more likely that the letter writer expects a 2 year old to act like they're having tea with the Queen. Having realistic expectations for behavior can go a long way.

  105. Sorry but indulging bad behavior in mixed company leads to the types of adults who do the same. It is up to the parents not the relatives to teach the children to behave.

  106. I would be glad to get a letter or now even a text from a friend who was dissatisfied with how the friendship was going with such an "in" for sorting things out to keep the friendship going. Nowadays, there is a tendency instead to ghost friends with the discarded friend never knowing or having a chance to see what is going or went wrong.

  107. @Maggie Articulation that was expressed well, selfishness about another's feelings and being exhausting to put up with also are in the eye of the beholder.

  108. RE: This Is How It Ends? I understand the shredding. Communicating a serious and upsetting message by email disregards the wellbeing of the recipient. You never know the struggles someone is facing, and especially not if you don't pick up the phone and begin by asking: "How are you?" We should be able to count on our oldest friends for this basic level of concern.

  109. I love reading this column and love Galanes, responses. Spot on, I’m with you on all of them :-)). Pompous aunt and uncle, we had one of those couples. Boy were they mean and never ever got all of us kids anything, not even a piece of cheap candy. Kids respond to kindness and good cheer, these two adults are probably enveloping their wet blankets over the whole family. Sushi friend may be earning a huge pay check and hence cannot visualize everyone’s situation. I totally agree on being honest. Ego maintenance can become quite expensive. Plus if friend wants to maintain this relationship, then she might become more considerate and life will be fun. Or she might jettison you and that would be a relief in the long run. And really speaking of ego, the wonderful friends, friend is either dense or trying to make it sound like they have more wonderfulness than said friend. Rather silly to even consider it a question of ethics. Either you want to remain friends or move on, why should you take the pain to ask others their opinion?

  110. @Meena This isn't "The Ethicist." It's Social Q's, at heart an etiquette column.

  111. Do any of you adults remember what it felt like as a kid to know that some of your adult relatives don't like you? The kids know. And it will make them act worse, not better. And if you think there are children you prefer, let me tell you, there are adults they prefer to you. Try really, really hard to be a kind, benign, nonjudgmental presence. It can make a profound difference. Keep your comparisons and opinions about what constitutes high-quality parenting and children to yourself. And for a quick reminder, read the first few chapters of Jane Eyre.

  112. @Talbot At least she got the guy! And it was her choice! But yes, she was abused by her aunt, who didn't want her.

  113. I lost my best friend of over 50 years several years ago to out-of- the- blue lung cancer. We lived far apart but spoke weekly and visited when we could. I would give anything for one more conversation. It’s unlikely that at age 72 I will be starting any new 50 year friendships and certainly none that began as freshman and continued through retirement. Forget those petty annoyances. Don’t take those critical emails to heart. Pick up your phone and call your friend!

  114. I was raised in a highly dysfunctional family. I didn't know how to act in polite society until I roomed with a delightful young woman in college. Watching her and adopting her manners, changed my life although it took years and distance from my family to become who I am. You could be the example that changes their lives just by being civilized yourself. However it would be unrealistic to expect anyone under the age of 5 to act like an adult. As far as the birthday party, just no, you have other plans, are on a tight budget, or in my case, I loath sushi. Be as honest or obtuse as you feel comfortable being. After all, the worst case is that you may take yourself out of the running to be a bridesmaid someday and thereby save yourself thousands of dollars you don't have. For zip it, please discretely as possible tell the poor man to check his zipper. Then look away and go about your business giving him time and distance to make a discrete exit to adjust his clothing. I certainly would like to be advised if I had something similar going on so that I didn't parade around for an hour like that.

  115. Incredibly smart and observant on Mr Galanes' part to notice the references to the pack of children, rather than to individual ones. That detail totally flew past my radar when I read the letter. But of course, he's right: a two year old behaves quite differently from a 10-year-old! Choose the least objectionable one and give it a go.

  116. We were invited to friends home for many a holiday meal. An "annoyed aunt" situation was a result with siblings children. On one occasion the oldest child sat next to me and he shared that he was embarrassed by his younger siblings behavior. Yes treat the children on an individual basis and you might be surprised how interesting they can be when not in a gaggle!!

  117. Another foolproof solution for letter #1 would be for the writer to have children herself. Raising children tends to dramatically alter even those most judgmental of parents and children.

  118. @Brian Having had children myself, I don't see how your solution holds water. We as parents teach our children how to behave. I have had friends over the years with the most obnoxious children and the reason they were obnoxious is that their parents didn't take the time to instill good manners, empathy, courtesy, consideration, etc., because, well . . . you know, it's hard!! My son is now in his 40s, married and a father. His daughter has been raised like he was -- she has manners, consideration and respect for others. BTW, she didn't lick those traits up off of the street and neither did her father.

  119. @Brian Terrible idea. Raising children is a profound responsibility. It should never be undertaken as punishment or to "teach someone a lesson."

  120. While I would not say that I find most children unruly, unintelligent and uninteresting, I do find many loud, disrespectful, and with a sense of entitlement. I think the grandparent had good advice. We don't go to many events that 'welcome children'. That way we don't get annoyed and the parents/grandparents don't think we are standoffish. Win win.

  121. For LW1, if you are so turned off by them and can't force yourself to be truly engaged, then do them & yourself the favor of staying away. Children are more perceptive than you give them credit for. They will sense your low opinion of them and that's detrimental to little kids just starting to grow up. Case in point. I was a shy, quiet, sweet kid who had a more outgoing older sister. Of course- being so much older, it was naturally easier for the grandparents to have longer convos with her. Around 9 yrs old, I overheard them talking about how much smarter my sister was and how they thought I wasn't bright. It was very hurtful. We saw them only at family functions or other limited times. How they could judge a child like that I'll never understand. Well, I never forgot it and it permanently affected by relationship with them. BTW, I'm a PhD scientist and a professor at an ivy league.

  122. @local I had my first grade teacher say that to me to my face, that I was not as smart as my brother who she liked so much better than me. I wasn’t a behavioral problem at all, I was an extremely, painfully shy child. Words matter and that stuck with me till this day.

  123. @Martha White Your teacher bullied you. Fact. She took advantage of a power differential to humiliate you. That's bullying. Whether she chose her career consciously or unconsciously for its victim pool, how woefully insecure of her to target a six-year-old. How strong of you to realize and state the truth.

  124. @local I worry about the judgement with my 2 boys. Older one is smart but so shy that people don’t realize it. Younger one is more open and outgoing. Btw they are only 3.5 and 1.5 year olds and had these personalities before they were able to talk.

  125. Kids? I thought it was just me, but I asked many friends and they generally said, "It isn't the kids, it's the parents." Turns out kids take very large cues from what their parents say and do - first, foremost, and maybe always from their parents. Take 'em off to the side and you may next hear you've insulted/groped/molested some kid that you only had a few well intentioned words with... Don't do it. Treat the kids and their parents just like you would anyone else and chose what works for your happy life. Don't be too surprised if in twenty years one of those kids comes to you to say, "You know... I always admired how you just smiled and waved and went on with your life. My parents always said the worst things about you and they always made sure you got the worst seats next to the old deaf relatives... Then one day I thought, "Why did my parents let me ruin what might have been a good relationship that could have lead to learning piano, weekends at the beach, and getting a boast when I picked a college?" That happens too.

  126. Re: Annoyed Aunt - I'll bet that the writer and her husband are child-free. Being child-free among family members with children is difficult as you are out-of-step with everyone else. My wife and I are also child-free and often quite uncomfortable at events where there are parents and young children. Between the sometimes unacceptable behavior of the children and the constant (and sometimes openly asked) question about why we don't have children yet. It gets really uncomfortable. Worst is that when we tell people the absolute truth: "We don't have children because we don't want children" others act like we are insulting them. My suspicion is that the grandparents are being more judgmental about their decision to be child-free than simply ignoring the children at a family gathering. To expect everyone to like/love your children is over the top. To expect everyone to want children is unrealistic and the constant harassment is downright rude. Social rules don't go in a single direction. Acceptance has to come from both sides and understand that child-free people really don't want to interact a lot with your children - particularly when they are acting out.

  127. @George N. Wells Some of this seems reasonable, but my ultimate reaction is "must be nice." With some exceptions, I believe most people would enjoy life more if they were "child-free." But if most people did that the human race would die off very quickly. So as a "child-free" person you might do well to be more supportive to your family and friends who are raising the next generation.

  128. @Carl H, et al., "Must be nice" actually it is. However, I, like most child-free people do not proselytize. Everyone has the right of choice and the majority chose to procreate. The difficulty is that the procreators feel it is their duty and right to badger the child-free, expect us to join them by making children that will, by definition, be unwanted. I don't understand how our making the choice to not procreate becomes "not supporting" family and friends who have chosen to have children. Do I have a responsibility to provide playmates, cousins, et cetera for their children? We aren't the ones being dictatorial. Like the Aunt in the article we don't condemn the practice we just don't participate. Frankly, there are more than enough people on this planet already - there is no crying need for our DNA to be part of the future gene pool. FWIW: We do assist a lot of children but we don't have any of our own. That is the way we chose to live our lives.

  129. @Carl H Most people chose to have children and and delighted to have them. So there is no risk of the human race dying off -- on the contrary, there are far too many of us for the available resources. Many who do not have children are among the most supportive of children and others -- looke at Leila Janah, for example.

  130. No one should be forced to discipline other people's kids, even if they are kin. Be honest, tell them why you aren't coming next time - they need to know. If you feel like this and are family think how the non-relatives must feel around these kids. Life is too short....

  131. @Honeybee It's like bringing a "cold dish" to a pot luck in Minnesota. And what do you mean by stealing my wife's nickname? ;~)

  132. Children learn what they're taught. Children can be taught manners appropriate to their age. I think children should be taught manners by their parents. We did it with ours. This doesn't eliminate behavior issues but it makes things smoother. With no young children in my life, I prefer to avoid gatherings with young children.

  133. Once upon a time I thought my brothers kids were just the most ill behaved kids possible (as did my Mom). Objectively, they might have been. Low and behold they have turned out to be kind caring and together adults who I really like. (I'm only 10 years older than the oldest) And just saying, 4 under the age of 10 is a lot of kid by today's standards.

  134. RE: Zip It When we were kids in grade school and someone's fly was open, we'd say, "Kennywood Park is open." (Kennywood Park was and is a well known amusement park in Pittsburgh.) It was commonly understood that that meant your fly was open. In any setting, if I know the person well enough to be able to say directly your fly is open, I've found that's the best way to handle it. Short and direct and clinical. However, if I need a preamble with someone I don't know, I'll say something along the lines of: I know I'm telling you this out of the blue, but when we were kids, and if your fly was open, we'd say "Kennywood Park is open. Then I'll pause and say, "Kennywood Park is open." Helps every time, dignity is maintained, and sometimes it also get a laugh. If anyone knows the origins of that phrase, please write in.

  135. @Native Pittsburgher - thank you for this. I’m not a native Pittsburgher - I grew up in CT. But, I’ve lived here for 30 years and I’m well acquainted with the phrase, “Kennywood’s open.” It’s something that’s universally known in these parts.

  136. All of these nonsensical questions demonstrate the need to teach basic sentential logic in high school. The excluded middle: P v ~ P You can lie or you can not lie - you can't take the middle route through an excluded middle.

  137. No sympathy for the aunt. None. She gives her self away when she says she doesn't like any of the children. Not one? People tolerated her when she was a kid. Every kid has issues. Every single one. Just like adults. Quite frankly I would find the Aunt boring, unimaginative and quite uneducated and unintelligent just based on this letter. But I'll bet you my bottom dollar she would be offended by that comment. Yet she dares throw it at children who can only follow the lead that they are given. This woman is an arrogant small minded word that will get this comment banned. This hateful attitude against children gets a lot of play in the NYTimes. It's shortsighted, selfish and tiring. And honestly, as someone in a swing state, I can say that this dismissal of family overall by educated liberals is part of why Trump and the republicans keep winning.

  138. @Cary Mom Wow, does Trump have to come into EVERYTHING??? Can't you give that a break? Lots of people who are very conservative gripe and complain all the time about the lack of proper control and education of children today. Good grief!

  139. @Cary Mom I’m sorry, where does this LW declare her political persuasion? There are curmudgeons of all political stripes, as well as those who delight in unruly children.

  140. What?? I live in an educated liberal city and we do not dismiss families: support education, family leave, affordable childcare etc etc. I’m not sure what you are talking about.

  141. Unruly, uninteresting and unintelligent children? All four of them? Perhaps you just don't connect with children? I could understand the unruly comment, but to write them all off as uninteresting and unintelligent seems harsh. There are some events that are not appropriate for children, but this sounds like a family gathering. Certainly a place where children should be welcome. Children eventually grow up. Maybe take a little time to get to know them as individuals.

  142. My ex's family never read newspapers, had only a few books in the house - never anything to read, didn't organize a lot of activities for their kids except for school and ice hockey, they had no board games even, or cards. It was very hard to think of things to chat about with them. For some people it would be no big deal, but for me it was hard. And when they were in a group it was very hard for me. However, it's family. Easiest to try to split one off from the pack and try to get to know them that way - it pays off over time.

  143. Just here to enjoy the comments about the “Annoyed Aunt”

  144. If I avoided unruly, unintelligent, and uninteresting relatives I'd never see my family at all. And they could say the same thing about me.

  145. italians have it right: choose the restaurant; invite the celebrants and the birthday person picks up the tab .... presto!

  146. In regards to the birthday party, why not just say, “I am unable to make it on that day but let’s go for drinks another time”. And propose a date. Most cities have great happy hour specials. It’s nobody’s business why you don’t want to go if you don’t want to share- if this were a close friend you might/should want to explain. But not everyone in the world is entitled to know your reasons and saying you are “on a budget” isn’t true, it’s just a way of getting out of what you want to say, which is “I think your birthday plans are way over the top and I don’t want to participate.”

  147. I think the doctor might have let his pink shirt tail hang out of his fly intentionally, a cry for attention or perhaps a sign of a latent obsession or disorder or maybe just a way to play tricks on his staff and peers.

  148. @doug mclaren Is that why you do it , Doug?

  149. When people invite you to their birthday, THEY pay. Inviting people to celebrate you at their own expense is unseemly.

  150. @S North I was thinking the same thing. The only time a friend of mine planned her own birthday celebration in a restaurant, she paid for everyone. Seriously. It's really bad manners to invite a lot of people to go to a high-dollar restaurant so that you can have an expensive free meal.

  151. @VPM Agreed unless a group of friends always take each other out to celebrate birthdays and allow the guest of honor to choose the venue. In which case the assumption is that the choice will be within reason.

  152. @S North "THEY PAY" is old school. It is now very common for folk to invite others to an expensive (or even a mid tier) restaurant and expect them to pay for their own meal to celebrate YOU. Now, some celebrants might generously provide the invitees with a slice of cake at their expense. However, the meal, tax and tip is graciously on you. In some cases the host may even expect those she's invited to cover her meal as the celebrant. At one time this custom was done just amongst work associates. Now, no longer. These type of invites are increasingly frequent and issued unabashedly. Truly I can understand one though limited in funds, might wish to gather friends and family to celebrate a milestone. If so, why not just provide the best refreshments you can afford, even if that's just pizza and pop? But that is not the mindset amongst many. They want to enjoy what they cannot afford; a party at a nice restaurant. At one time I thought it was generational, but have discovered a few "Boombers" who have adopted the practice. Why as someone else asked, should I be a "paying invitee/guest"? I've decided to remain old school and not be. I decline these type invitations

  153. RE the long term friend. Sounds like you never got over seeing her as your mentor. Probably she was always there for you and helped you but the relationship was never equal and she just got tired of it. Time for some introspection. There might still be time to repair it but be prepared to listen and not get defensive.

  154. "Unruly, unintelligent, and uninteresting." Pretty harsh things to say about people who haven't formed yet. You might consider that they view you as unyielding, unfriendly, and uninspiring. Change your approach to them and maybe they'll change their behavior around you. Start by recognizing they're still forming. Show a real interest in the things in which they have an interest. Listen when they talk to you. Treat them with the same dignity and respect you expect from them. Children learn by example. From the sounds of it, you might be a powerful one if you chose to be one. It's a simple choice. Be a part of their lives or be apart from their lives. Your call. And should you choose to be apart from their lives, realize you have no credibility to criticize. You've contributed nothing. By what right should you expect what you want in return?

  155. Dear Annoyed Aunt, You may be correct about those nieces & nephews, because they will one day become your adult children's adult cousins. I have an adult cousin whose adolescent/young adult passive-aggressive behavior went unchecked for many years. Now, we are all older adults & this cousin continues this behavior . . . so much so, that now I will not attend any family event where she may attend.

  156. Some kids are kind of awful. Their parents didn't teach them good manners, they were spoiled rotten, they were bone-lazy, they were not read to as children, and nobody around them was allowed to correct them or their parents' bad parenting skills. They may have been raised, or raised themselves, completely on cartoons and an excess of sugary or salty foods and carbonated drinks. Kids will also rise to your lowest level of expectation. If all they hear is how awful they are as kids, and how awful kids are in general, and nobody around them expects them to be better, how can they help but live up or down to that? But up to a point, this is not their fault- it is the fault of their rude, unsocialized, neglectful or possibly overworked parents who didn't take parenting seriously enough to socialize them to become civilized human beings.

  157. Mr Galanes writes as if he is one of the kids’ parents! To really think that ALL children are multi-layered, fascinating individuals...sorry Phil. They ain’t. Family members would know best if the kids are unintelligent messes or not. Most one has to do is meet the parents. Tell the grandparents that good, you don’t wanna be there anyway!

  158. About the expensive birthday dinner: I believe that being able to say, "I can't afford that" (appropriately phrased) is a rite of passage into adulthood. The first time I could say that to someone outside my family, I felt sick to my stomach and then hugely liberated. Friends' expensive celebrations, car dealers, pushy realtors, whiny children -- don't be embarrassed to, after careful consideration, communicate that overly-dreaded message.

  159. @Ratna "It's not in my budget" is a graceful way to say it too...

  160. Call her after 3 years of no communication? Really? I think the letter sender should be the one to reach out. Her letter was demanding, harsh and out of the blue. There’s nothing wrong with dropping a friend of 45 years. At some point you may realize you should have done it years earlier. I work at Whole Foods. Was on the floor stocking when I noticed a man with his zipper down. I decided to tell him. He was so grateful that I realized I had made the right decision.

  161. Zip It: why’s this guy returning to specifically ask Rita whether she noticed his zipper was open? Sounds creepy to me.

  162. @Codger Anyone in medicine knows that pathologists are a little weird to begin with. Cut him some slack. He was embarrassed and found an awkward way to try to relieve the embarrassment. She did him a favor by saying No.

  163. I can't believe the zipper advice coming from a man. Wouldn't you rather know? A quick, your zipper is down or XYZ usually fixes the problem. I have very occasionally heard a "why were you looking?"I chalk that up to embarrassment. It is best to say it and move on right away.

  164. What's the chief doc's point in returning to ask the staffer if she noticed his fly was open? Does he mean to ask her to advise him if the situation recurs? Does he intend to apologize for arriving at her desk unzipped? Doc, if she noticed she chose not to remark. If she didn't, well, then nothing happened. By going back to check, what do you accomplish besides causing her one more uncomfortable encounter than she either did or didn't already have to deal with? The guy needs to stay in his lane and not make his temporarily flapping zipper someone else's problem.

  165. @Pam I think it was purposeful and he was trying to gauge her reaction or elicit a reaction. If he is the chief pathologist and can't even zip his pants, the blood bank may have more problems than his zipper. Frankly I would have told him it wasn't in my job description to monitor his wardrobe malfunctions.

  166. @Eli, great reply to have on standby for next time! Amen and ew on all points.

  167. One benign possibility is that he was embarrassed and felt the need to say something in order to clear the air. To be sure, an awkward solution, but I can see someone feeling like it’s even more awkward to not acknowledge!

  168. On Zip it "But later, he returned to ask if I’d noticed that his zipper was down." I find this bizarre. If LW said yes, what would one expect would transpire ? Would the unzipped criticize the LW ? Could the unzipped be deliberately unzipped ?

  169. @Matt The answer is yes. He deliberately had his fly down. The stories I could tell.

  170. On the friendship tax, you could say you don't eat raw fish.

  171. Aunts and uncles are not obligated to interact with nephews/nieces at all. They're not our kids. Some of us don't have our own kids and don't enjoy interacting with other people's children (especially if they're as unpleasant as the ones described here). Yes, there are consequence (the loss of a potential close familial relationship), but an adult has a right to make that decision for themselves.

  172. Yes, but elders admonished her and her husband that if they could not be hospitable to the children, they were no longer welcome. It must have been somewhat more rude than merely ignoring the little buggers.

  173. The annoyed Aunt should take a try at finding a connection with one the four kids. Start with the oldest and work your way down. Who knows, you find find the experience useful and educational if you ever find yourself in the position of have young ones in tow yourself. Learning how to connect with kids and helping them along their way is part of the job for adults. If not, move to the wilderness.

  174. @richard wiesner Try connecting with a screaming kid who thinks nothing of punching whoever is in his way. Or destroys flower arrangements at weddings. Or whose parents let him scream during a ceremony instead of taking him outside. It is not unusual for kids to cuss and swear these days because they are "going through a phase". Talking to parents of these kids is a waste of time. They think their kids are perfect and that you are the sociopath. I hope this stupid fad of child centered child rearing goes away soon. Parents should remember they are not raising children but they are raising adults.

  175. I suspect the aunt doesn’t really get kids. That’s fine. Just don’t blame it on the kids. However it’s simply polite to be nice. You don’t have to make friends. We are all here for a short time, make the best of it especially at family events. Friend wondering if this is how it ends: you ended it. You say she left next steps to you and your next step was to shred the letter. That may be indicative of how you’ve behaved in this friendship: you say she was a mentor (at only one year older!) so was it all give on her part all take on yours? If you want to renew the friendship: YOU do the work. Renew it. Its weird the pathologist came back to ask if you noticed. You were right.

  176. Sure is a lot of hate for Aunt--without much evidence to go on. She could be talking about some real monsters with oblivious parents; I've met and taught some. Parenting includes teaching. For me, disciplining my son from a young age to act appropriately for his age in family gatherings was my job. Still is: he's now old enough to give Christmas gifts to others, at least to his one grandparent; i had to tel him at 27 (late bloomer). He is welcome everywhere.

  177. About friendships: Years ago, when I was young and foolish, I got annoyed with a friend over a very small thing which felt monumental at the time. I was smarting over my perception that I was no longer a priority to her and decided we were no longer friends. I stopped returning any of her calls or emails, no birthday or Christmas cards to her. Months later, she wrote to me saying that she didn’t understand why things had fallen apart but that she missed me and wanted to reopen the lines of communication. I was so touched by the gesture and so mortified by how I had acted. That move allowed us to reconcile and we are friends to this day. Old friends are a great, and rare, gift in life. I hope the writer will try reaching out to the hurt friend and seeing if there is a future there. At the least, one will never know without trying.

  178. 1. Annoyed Aunt. Poorly behaved children are not enjoyable to be around, and in a family gathering setting, it is appropriate for adults to correct badly behaved children, regardless of whose children they might be. Expecting adults to tolerate poorly behaved children is unreasonable and unfair - to the children who need to learn proper behavior. 2. This is How it Ends? The recipient of the letter has the power to decide what she wants to do - she can contact the letter writer to ask what's going on, or, ignore the letter. If the letter writer were a true friend, one would think that instead of writing such a letter, they would have just called to talk. It seems to me if the letter writer were a true friend, s/he would have not written the letter, and instead would have called their friend to talk about issues.

  179. @Think: Think, this Thinker disagrees. If a parent is present, it is NEVER appropriate to correct their badly behaved children. 30 years ago, my friend would bring her toddler daughter on visits. The daughter would climb my bookshelves and throw books on the floor while her well-educated and otherwise organized mother TITTERED. If my friend was embarrassed or oblivious to the danger of climbing shelves, or genuinely thought this behavior was humorous, I just gritted my teeth; but did tell my tiny guest before she left that the time had come to put the books away. The mother and I are still close friends and I am treated like an appreciated aunt by the daughter.

  180. Why does the aunt who dislikes these children expect a two-year old to have the manners and intelligence of, say, a college student? See this week's Ethicist column. Some people just do not like kids, and will disparage them rather than examining their own personalities.

  181. @PrairieFlax - Or some people simply don’t like kids. That doesn’t mean they’re bad people who need to examine their personalities the way a person is expected to examine his or her conscience after confession, for goodness’ sake. Some kids are jerks. It’s not socially acceptable to say this, but there it is. All adults were kids once, and we all grew up with a kid or two who was just the epitome of hideousness: impolite, obnoxious, incapable of playing fairly or at all, a raging brat, a liar, a tattletale, the constant screamer, etc. At the end of the day, no one wants to be around those kids, not adults and not other children. Some kids are decent little people, but are so poorly raised that people mistake them for the jerk kids: they don’t have manners and can’t behave in public because they were never taught, but if these behaviors are properly modeled by a functional adult - an aunt or uncle, say - then they tend to respond in kind. Parents, don’t be “friends” with your kids. This is what happens and it makes their lives harder in the end. Don’t worry, their spirits will still “unfurl” if you set limits. While it is unreasonable to expect a two-year-old to be as good as gold, because your average two-year-old is like Old Faithful - ready to explode any minute - we don’t know enough about LW 1’s nieces/nephews to know if LW 1 has a valid complaint or not. If the kids run the show in that family, then LW 1’s feelings might be justified. We don’t have all the details.

  182. @Lindsay K I am not sure if "some kids are jerks" is a fair comment. I think that our expectations of how children should behave have a lot to do with us (not the children). However, the fact remains that skillful and willing adults can engage children. Equally, resentful or critical adults can make kids behave even worse. Ask yourself (and you are an experienced adult) would you go out of your way to change your behavior to please someone who does not like you? When it comes to kids it is not an equal relationship. Adults are responsible for the relationship they have with children and not visa versa. Most of us have had decades to prepare us to be there for kids in a capacity that is helpful to them. That is what they mean by "that it takes a village".

  183. @Rita Finta AND yes sometimes a kid is a jerk kid, sometimes a jerky kid in the moment, that day. Just because you may not have experienced it, doesn't mean they don't exist.

  184. I’m sure all the adults commenting on the awfulness of children still developing were exemplary children and continue to be into adulthood.

  185. L3: Perhaps this friend, whom the author describes as a mentor, did not think of herself as a mentor. She was after all only one year older. How much wiser could she have been? It could be that she actually thought of herself as a friend, and did not enjoy always playing the role of guidance counselor and listening ear when a true friendship should go both ways in these matters. It’s tough to tell from the author’s description of the letter, but what if the mentor was going through a difficult time and was in need of friendly counsel and advice herself, for once. Instead of finding out, the author ignored and shredded the letter. The letter may have seemed abrupt and hurtful to the author, who was used to a one-way dynamic. It’d be truly sad if the mentor merely wanted to be on the receiving end of friendly care, which she had been kind enough to give to the author for decades. I hope the author will give the relationship another chance, and this time as an equal friendship not a mentor/mentee.

  186. The friendship one is disturbing but would need to know more about the relation around the time of the comment, frequecy of contact, proximity, commonalities. From mentor to "maintained a friendship for 45 years..." doesn't say a whole lot. If I had to guess it's obvious the ex-mentor she doesn't feel needed.or valued or compelling enough or misses the power of being needed for advice. The letter was meant to provoke a "What'd I do? I don't understand...?" It's a little odd the writer shredded the letter 3 years ago and that it has been eating at her ever since. What's that about? Doesn't sound like an especially close friendship to begin with; rather, the mentor is a anchor to a pleasant past and and the contacts as-is were a satisfying enough reminder.

  187. @Gypsy Mandelbaum What "that" is about may be having felt completely hurt and shaken by the letter and unable to shake the feeling of being disliked by someone counted as a friend. at the heart of many of us is a little kid who may not have felt that secure - - - this is a regression to those earlier times, when we felt - and were usually -powerless. Logic doesn't always rule.

  188. If after 45 years and being a mentee, the reaction is to simply shred the letter, sounds like the person didn't care much about the friendship to begin with and the person who wrote the letter was probably somewhat justified in feeling that the other person was not doing their part as a friend. The fact that it still gnaws at her 3 years later is probably guilt because she knows it's true that she hadn't been a good friend. Nobody likes to think of themselves as not having been the best they could have been to everyone. But that ship has sailed, one shouldn't play with other's people's emotions to assuage their own guilt. Were she to reach out now, I would think the letter-writer friend would be doubly upset that it took so long.

  189. @cheryl I think we agree.

  190. Although I think its asking a lot for two year olds to be interesting, I understand what LW1 is suggesting. The older children, at least, should know how to engage with them, but in the Age of the Child this kind of mannerly interaction seems almost vanished. I remember having to greet my parents' guests when they entertained -- ask a few polite questions, as well as answer a few. That horror endured, I was free to retreat to the family room. I required the same of my daughter, but we turned it into improv. Pretend you're a delightful kid! Pretend you like their company! It was a game, until the day came when she actually enjoyed chatting with my friends. She believes her sense of manners has landed her many of her best opportunities, from winning significant Ivy League grants to landing plummy jobs. Knowing how to shake hands and write thank you notes shouldn't be such a big deal, but it is. Being nice to your aunt and uncle shouldn't be such a big deal, either.

  191. @CC Your letter reminds me of Bringing Up Bebe -- the American ex-pat author learned that French children are taught to use four "magic words/phrases": not only please and thank you, but also hello and goodbye... to adults who enter the family home, as well as relatives and people they encounter. It's regarded as part of acknowledging other people's humanity, and parents can be strict about compliance.

  192. @Pdianek I live in France - some of them are taught that, some of them are not. Just like everywhere else.

  193. @Pdianek -- your response made me laugh at the memory of meeting a relative who hadn't seen me since I was a toddler. His memory of me was a lisping 2-ish year old greeting guests with "wanna jink?" as they walked through the door. It was the 60s, so I suppose asking visitors if they "wanted a drink" was a perfectly natural thing to learn from one's parents, even if not the thing you most expect to hear from a 2 year old.

  194. #3 The pathologist never should have asked Rita if she noticed his fly was down. It was pretty obvious that she would have noticed and chose not to say something most likely because it would make her nervous/uncomfortable. He should have recognized the situational dynamics, and either ignored it all together or apologized to her and maybe mentioned that next time he would n't mind a discreet heads-up on a dressing malfunction.

  195. @TedO Yes, thank you TedO. It was out of line to corner her after the fact - especially if there was a power imbalance at work.

  196. @MelanieSQ You are *so* right! It was a big red flag to me that the doctor came back to ask her after the fact. Worst case, it could be the start of sexual harassment grooming behavior on his part.

  197. I (working in the public eye) was always grateful when someone, any one, alerted me to a zipper or nose violation. I worked with (charming, cute, young) women whose code terms were useful: "Mark, XYZ PDQ ... , (Check Your Zipper Pretty Dern Quick) and once or twice I had to return the favor. Once a co-worker with whom I was chatting kept brushing at her nose, and I finally, when the light bulb went off, asked her is I had a boogie - she nodded happily, big grin, and I thanked her.

  198. The aunt is under no obligation to like the children in the family, just as the children are under no obligation to behave for her like dancing monkeys. Family gatherings bring out the worst in some otherwise nice kids: lack of a nap, sugary foods, distracted adults and someone else’s house can mean kids go a little nuts. this aunt doesn’t have to like her kin, yet, I’m sure if she put in the effort to maybe take a niece or nephew out to a movie or ice cream sometime, she might discover kids are people, too.

  199. @ASnell Maybe or maybe they’re out of control brats.

  200. I find the whole idea of throwing a birthday party for yourself in an expensive (or, really, any) restaurant, and then expecting the "friends" you invited to foot the bill and also treat you, to be presumptive and obnoxious. Some people are better at having kids than they are at educating them about interacting with adults. Even if the aunt and the uncle are humorless stiffs, the kids should be taught to acknowledge everyone--certainly their own aunt and uncle. But keeping to yourselves until you can leave? Really, who needs you there with that attitude?

  201. @Allen It's probably that some of her friends told her they were taking her to dinner, and to pick a place. Politeness would then oblige her to pick a place somewhere between the expensive sushi restaurant and McDonald's.

  202. Several years ago a friend of ours threw a birthday party for himself and a few friends at a nice mid-town restaurant. In contrast to the friend of LW2, our birthday boy paid for the dinner. Being the kind of person he was, it would never have occurred to him to throw a party for himself and expect guests to pay. He passed away a short while later and that’s one reason why we miss him so.

  203. The expensive birthday meal reminds me of friends long ago who would have their weddings in Fiji or the Bahamas and invite us all to spend a pile of money on airfare, hotels, meals, etc, just to spend a couple of days with them. This sort of self-absorbed behavior has died down in recent years but, it was not that long ago when feelings were hurt because friends or relatives were not able, or unwilling to spend thousands of dollars on an ego binge. I always politely declined those invitations but there was usually a dull thud in the relationship, if only temporary. As for "rambunctious children, I don't agree with your assessment. As parents who socialize with other parents and kids, we have seen wonderful children and we have seen children with serious behavioral problems, even bordering on sociopathy. They seem devoid of any empathy or compassion with those around them; they can be verbally and physically cruel to other children while ignoring their parents' requests for better behavior. Case in point: My daughter and I were at a backyard BBQ (25 years ago) when she was about 6 years old. She noticed, without coaching from me, that the other children were totally out of control and constantly in trouble with their parents, so, she stayed close to me rather than accept their invitations to play and misbehave. Clearly she was smarter than the parents.

  204. All interesting situations and good answers. I’ve had too many friendships end. Too complicated and private for this forum, so I’ll comment on the birthday party. The writer says she was invited. Invitations are accepted or declined. It is unmannerly to ask outright why one declines, but also unnecessary to explain. But the thing I object to is the question how else is she (birthday girl) to learn? Learn what exactly?

  205. @Richard B That if you want to hang out with people you can't make it too painful for them. If the BD girl doesn't want to hang out with LW, though, she achieved her goal.

  206. @Richard B That not all of your friends are rich and that they should not be asked to take out a second mortgage just to make you feel good on your "special day".

  207. @Laura I don’t believe the invitation was malicious, as you suggest. Your take on this surprises me. I am not that cynical. My point is more that LW has something to learn. It’s a matter of simple autonomy. She can do what she likes (wants to, needs to) and so can everyone else, including the birthday girl. One hopes that we conduct ourselves properly and that those we have chosen to associate with (friends) do the same, without malice towards one another.

  208. Mr. Galanes, Thanks for the always entertaining and well reasoned advice. I always enjoy reading it and I hope to be reading it for years to come.

  209. It is fine to just not be available for the expensive birthday party. As a single mom, I could never afford a lot of the parties of friends so I did not go. There were parties I could go to and dinner parties I made for my friends. Friendships should not bankrupt people. Ditto on bratty kids. I love all my nieces and nephews and most of my friends, but the ones with entitled, loud, selfish and mean kids are not on my list. Life is really wonderful when grating conflict is removed. One cannot be all things to everyone.

  210. Children, unlike pantyhose, do not come in one size; nor do they appeal to all adults. I think it is completely fine to not want to be around your nieces or nephews. Ultimately, it is your loss. I adore children - even the unappealing ones. Actually - especially those. They are like a surprise gift with hard to open wrapping. Once you make the effort to get inside, you don’t know where your journey will lead. A very exciting prospect to me.

  211. I think the advice to the auntie of the 4 uninteresting kids missed its mark. If you go to the trouble of having kids, you need to make the effort to raise them to be people you would want to know as adults. Similarly, the reference to The Dutch House is a fail since the point of the book is that some people obsess about houses and history and that obsession is often destructive/hard to overcome. I played tough love in my family and one of the parents woke up and set about not letting their children become life’s losers. One child became personable, interesting, successful and self supporting-secure. The other parent continued on the same path and the other child while now able to be personable, when in the mood, still lives at home and can’t decide what to do/be...at 25-insecure.

  212. @SW And how are your kids turning out?

  213. I don't have children because it was my choice not to have them. I had other plans for my life that would make that permanent of a commitment difficultand unfair to children. I didn't have children not because I don't like them, generally I enjoy children and interacting with them. I am an aunt, luckily my nieces are special but they are far from perfect. I have friends with small childern. I love reading to children and telling them stories in gatherings. Often I will sit and color with the kids, and I have found crayons to be an excellent tool for communication and inspiration. There is nothing wrong with children wanting attention. That's what they do. I would suggest to the aunt to bring a coloring book or two and lots of crayons to family events. You can be part of a new experience for them and have a postive impact on their behavior by taking a creative approach to the issue. Just imagine how their parents will feel on the ride home when the kids ask questions about books you've shared with them and how important it is to be nice to each other.

  214. You sound pleasant and understanding! I agree with your suggestions. I deal with in-laws who are very critical of small kids. Their expectations are unreasonable (ie having a 2 yr old sit through a 5 course meal....huh?). Let kids be kids and when you accept that, they can be tolerable and gasp! even enjoyable.

  215. I can't imagine not telling someone something that important. The barn door is open is sufficient.

  216. @Whateva Or XYZ. /examine your zipper

  217. @Whateva I can. I guess I'm the only one who wonders if this was a young woman and her older supervisor she really hardly talks to or maybe even feels that she would be overstepping for both of them to be looking at his fly.

  218. I used to be an expert in how to raise children. Then I became a mother.

  219. @DRP you are so funny and so right! It’s always easy to criticize other people’s kids; I do it all the time. What’s worse, I think, is the family member scolding YOU for your attitude. You must be making them defensive and uncomfortable. Why do they care, I wonder? In any case, you have a right to ignore this wild bunch. They ignore you. But here’s a wild thought: next family get-together, bring a small gift for each child. Don’t make a big deal, just say something like, this is for you. And watch what happens. With the adults as well as the kids. You may be pleasantly surprised.

  220. I think "peeling off" the kids one at a time to get to know them better was good advice, rather than viewing the pack of them as wild, crazy, unpleasant children. Children may act differently in a group, especially where the kids set each other off in an upward spiral of excitement and what kids think is fun. But one-on-one, some children really are interesting and approachable. Yet unless you meet and get to know each child as an individual, you may be missing out on a gem of an experience with one child or perhaps some children in particular. On the other hand, a few children really may be obnoxious, but look what you missed if you don't find out which children are creative, bright, and fun individuals to know. However, if you don't truly enjoy talking to children and finding out what they think and how they feel, they won't enjoy talking to you either.

  221. @PB It would be nice if the letter writer was interested in actually getting to know the children, but a hug and a how are you and then letting it go to spend the rest of the time with the adults wouldn't have gotten them "slapped" and/or disinvited - I think some open hostility came out to cause them to be called out. Maybe everyone else tired of some unsolicited "parenting advice" from the couple.

  222. Sometimes a person's children are awful and a chore to be around. This may be the case here. Minimize your exposure and be polite.

  223. rambunctious children !? I've volunteered at afterschool childcare for over 4 years now - it gives me joy. a few things I've learned - 90% of kids are not interested to talk to me - so I just leave them to go crazy and I avoid the minority that look interested - who make eye contact with me - I'll smile and linger near, and later sit next to them at their eye level. Here's a thing with small kids - if you stand towering over them as an adult, that's terrifying - imagine how you'd feel as a 6 footer if you were suddenly approached by a 12 foot tall person !? You'd want to escape. Get on their eye level and they immediately see you as a peer - I might sit next to a new kid for 30 seconds and say nothing - after which they'll simply turn to me and start talking - about what they'd doing, show me what they've made, and tell me their thoughts. I tend to stay silent - just let them talk - and I am frequently amazed at the maturity of these tiny humans. Get below their eye level and the power dynamic changes - suddenly they feel powerful (you must have seen tiny kids running after small birds - that's a power game!) - they will feel good, come to you, and may start to order you around as a game so maybe next time you're in their presence, try sitting on the floor in the middle of the room - say nothing - and just watch what happens - I'm guessing very soon you'll be the centrepiece of a whole new game - fun for all !

  224. Re both LWs 1 & 2: When you are invited to a party or family gathering, you have two simple choices: accept or decline. If the event is one you will not enjoy, for whatever reason -- be it cost or the presence of unruly young guests -- you need only say "Thank you, but I won't be able to make it. I have a previous engagement." It is not necessary to go into any further detail, nor to use your declining as way to instruct the person issuing the invitation in your ideas of how a birthday celebration should be conducted. Likewise, it is not your business to attend a gathering so you can inform other guests of their parenting or behavioral deficiencies. Go and enjoy graciously what is offered; otherwise stay home.

  225. I love kids, little and big, and all the goofy things they do and say! That being said, I think a lot of parents are not doing anyone a favor (including their kids), by not teaching them some fundamental social skills from very early on--like not shouting indoors, or not interrupting other people in mid-sentence, or running/pushing with no regard for anyone else in a room. Kids are neither more important, nor less important in a room. It takes a little mutual consideration on all sides for enjoyable interactions, no?

  226. @Louise I agree completely with this sentiment. Children are delightful and add so much fun to family events. HOWEVER, it is a parent's responsibility to ensure their children are taught social skills, and also how to be around adults. As a child, all I wanted was to be allowed to hang out with the adults, not sit at the children's table, etc. at family events. That required me to stop and see what behaviors allowed me to get there. The world is upside down now, and the entire party is the children's table. Children are children for 18 years, they will spend the rest of their lives as adults. Teach them how to be successful in any environment.

  227. @Louise Yes. This is especially annoying at nice restaurants. I went with a friend to one of the nicest places for Sunday brunch in Dallas and a family was already there with two children about six and five and they were rolling around on the floor, bumping into tables and chairs, shouting, etc. The parents didn't once try to get them to calm down. We moved to another table, but it was a piano brunch and it was ruined for everyone. We joked that the parents would be getting a second mortgage to pay a criminal lawyer in about 10 years.

  228. Thank god for friends!

  229. Re the fly: it is only polite to tell people - wouldn't you want to know? I might have said something vague at the end of the conversation like 'check your pants' just before you walk away

  230. “X Y Z” was code, in the ‘70s, for “Your fly is open” (i.e., Examine Your Zipper). Still works.

  231. @Jane My zipper was open one time while out with a woman I was dating. I eventually discovered it was open on my own. I asked why she didn't tell me. She said it was too embarrassing to say anything. I dumped her. We're supposed to look out for each other. She didn't.

  232. #1 If your attitude to the horrible children is so blatant as to incur a scolding from others lighten up for the sake of family harmony if nothing else. Not asking you to be their guardian just endure their presence for awhile. #2 Sorry I would love to attend but can't swing it right now why don't we meet for dessert? #3 If neither party has communicated in 3 years let it go #4 Don't let the poor man run around with his barn door open. Be a friend.

  233. I had 4 cousins growing up that were wild at family gatherings. Now, one of them is a doctor, two are lawyers and one is a middle school teacher, and they are all lovely, interesting, responsible adults. Some kids seize the opportunity to let loose at family parties and have no interest in talking to cranky aunts giving them dirty looks. Please don't peel any of these kids off the pack to get to know them, it would be torture for the child.

  234. @Margaret I disagree. I have a large extended family. My eldest aunt was married, remained childless and lived further away. We all really enjoyed her making an extra effort to check in on us individually during her visits. We were/are a loud swarming bunch, but this extra (sincere) attention made all the difference in our relationships with her, especially as we grew older.

  235. Same thing; from misguided youth to Physician, (it's good to have an intelligence help make end-of-life outcomes). Although in general, I think kids should be dealt with in more draconian ways, being the curmudgeon I is!

  236. I agree with making an effort to get to know child family members and showing an interest in their lives. As you pointed out, they won’t be children forever, and those efforts to get to know them and bond with them early on may pay off in the future in ways the OP isn’t now considering. The future may hold the promise of strong relationships with younger family members who have grown to love and respect the older family member, and whose company the older family member really enjoys and values. On a more serious subject, as a person who witnessed her mother, grandmother, and mother-in-law endure lengthy stays in nursing homes, I witnessed first hand what the expression “what goes around, comes around” really means. If a person has not put in the time, attention and loving care into a lifelong familial relationship, that person should not expect that if they need time, attention, help and support at the end of their life, that they will receive it.

  237. In many cities, especially among young people, it's a workable and accepted custom for a group of friends to go out to a restaurant together to celebrate each other's birthdays, with each person paying his or her own tab. Everyone gets a turn being treated, and it's mutually understood. This works best if it's an established and clearly demarcated group. And of course it's considerate to choose a place that's within everyone's budget. It would work equally well, though, and take care of the expense problem, if the birthday boy/girl chose the restaurant each time and paid for all. They could then get treated as guests in turn.

  238. "In my life" (Lennon and McCartney) many friends have come and gone - but not forgotten. Only one decades-long friend remains. My contemporary friendships are the ones I support and nurture as my long life evolves. With none more cherished than with my current 5 year long companion.

  239. To Annoyed Aunt: I think your attitude towards the children says more about you than it says about them. I am wondering if you have children of your own and why you feel so judgmental of your husband's family.

  240. @L I wondered that too. If they just said hello to the children and then just talked to the adults, I doubt anyone would have even noticed. I'm thinking it was a combo of eyerolling and commenting that resulted in this smackdown.

  241. Decades ago, in undergraduate school, a favorite professor conducted the entire class with his fly open. We were all so young. No one said a word. But a class that was usually lively and energized was that day very flat as no one could look at him. The next week he came in and said : " Why didn't someone tell me ? I could not imagine what was wrong with everyone !" Some of the girls said : " Well, we thought the boys should say something ." I said : " Professor B. Your fiancé is in this class. I thought she would tell you. " He replied : " Well she did -afterwards ." Anyway he was sincere in wanting to apologize and clear the air. So I think there could be other instances when someone would ask later.

  242. My advice: Never accept advice that begins "let me get this straight," or "Ladies and gentlemen, I present Exhibit A..." The advice will inevitably be coming from a person who is more interested in the sound of his own voice than your problem—and also one whose mind is confined by glib cliches. Also, never accept advice that deliberately misrepresents your statement of the problem, such as "Are you seriously asking for the right to behave as a 2-year-old child?" The first letter said nothing of the kind. It's important for an advice-giver to be perceptive and, again, not indulge in glib misrepresentations just to be, um...funny? (I guess?)

  243. @Jim If anyone here sounds like he likes the sound of his own glib horn tooting, I'm afraid it's you, Jim. Chill.

  244. Am I the only one who read the last letter hurriedly and thought it said it was the pathologist’s bright pink skin showing from his open fly? Ewwww! I thought. Glad the answer cleared up my reading error!

  245. I think the phrase “it’s out of my price range” is better than “I can’t afford it.” It covers choosing not to spend money foolishly as well as lack of funds per se. I am tired of brides and birthday boys who pick expensive venues specifically because they won’t be paying the tab. If you like this friend, buy happy hour or lunch for two at a place that strikes you as a good use of your money.

  246. If the doctor was in Pittsburgh, you could have simply said that Kennywood was open.

  247. My rule of thumb concerning an open fly, food in teeth, etc. is that if the person, upon noticing the problem themselves, can convincingly tell themselves that no one noticed, then don't tell them. Alternately, if there is no doubt that people will have noticed (ie. skirt tucked into underwear in the back type thing), then it's best to tell them quickly and politely.

  248. Annoyed Aunt: So thankful I didn’t have you as my aunt growing up. Years ago being the young married couple whose were on a shoestring budget we decided not to go to a friends birthday dinner at a swanky restaurant. Today we are in a more financially established position and still talk about that decision. We never regretted it. Sigh it’s hard to let friendships go and it’s hard to make friends as well. Do to others what you want others to do unto you.

  249. My policy is always tell the person. Friend or stranger, it's the humane thing to do.