Saturday, November 17, 2018


For years, we have been fending off invitations from a family that asks to take our young children to their weekend home. The kids are all friendly. But one weekend, my whole family went with them. I was alarmed to see the husband drinking heavily all day Saturday and Sunday, even as he prepared to drive home. Since then, we have declined frequent invitations for the kids to join them (with lame excuses). We feel cornered and sick of lying, and worse, hate asking our kids to lie. What should we do?

MOM

Keep your children out of that family’s car! We don’t have enough information to conclude that the husband has a drinking problem (or that his wife is complicit in letting him get behind the wheel, for that matter). But you know more than enough to protect your own kids. If you see things taking the same direction again, ask for the car keys.

As for the invitations: When people persist in issuing them, despite our repeated refusals (and lame excuses), it is a mercy to everyone to let your would-be hosts know, politely, that the get-together is never, ever going to happen. Here, say: “It’s kind of you to invite the kids, but we don’t like other people driving them. Let’s plan something in town instead.”

The weekend invitations will stop. The explanation is close enough to the truth to let you hold your head high (and share it with your children). It avoids unfounded assertions about the husband’s drinking. And best of all, it prevents your kids from careening down the highway with a possibly unfit driver.

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CreditChristoph Niemann

My mother is dying of an aggressive cancer. She was told recently that she probably has less than a year to live. But she told us that she wants us to continue living our lives. My question: Should I take a 10-day international vacation that I’ve been planning all year that is partly nonrefundable? I am close with my mother. Will I always regret taking 10 days away from her when I could be at home? On the other hand, she may live much longer. What do I do?

ANONYMOUS

Sadly, I am as bad at predicting the future as everyone else. I have no idea what you will “always regret” or how long your mother will live. But my mother died a few years ago, and I can tell you definitively that I would choose 10 days with her at her house (which has zero Michelin stars) over the most luxurious international vacation.

If this trip is enticing to you, under the circumstances, consider whether you have time enough to spend with your mother and take the vacation. There’s nothing wrong with traveling now; you can’t spend every minute with her. It’s simply part of a sad balancing act that only you can perform.

My BFF and I go to colleges in different states. For the last two years, she has been dating a guy who comes home with her pretty often. He and I are like oil and water. We bicker and full-on fight, and I know we make it unpleasant for people to be around us. He’s not a bad guy, and my BFF loves him. But we just seem to trigger each other. Any ideas for making this better?

J.T.

First, some family history: Back when my parents were kids, Coca-Cola’s slogan was “The pause that refreshes.” And all through my childhood, my even-tempered father tried to head off snappish attacks by my occasionally trigger-happy mother. He’d whisper: “Coca-Cola.” It worked about 30 percent of the time.

I will not ask you to count to 10 or walk around the block before you snap. But the next time the boyfriend bugs you and you’re about to bristle, take a single, deep breath. In that small pause, you may find many options if you look: You can yell at him, let it go, or even feel sorry for him that he’s so wrongheaded.

But we don’t have to share every conflicting opinion. I respect you for caring enough about your BFF to try to improve your relationship with her boyfriend. That’s a big gesture. Now, try “the pause that refreshes,” and let me know how it goes, O.K.?

My home was under construction, so I asked my neighbor if I could store nine bottles of wine (that cost $35 each) in their large wine cooler. He agreed. But when I went back to pick them up, they were all gone! He said his son-in-law must have drunk them on a recent visit. His wife promised to pay me back. But after much thought, I took the high road and let it drop. Thoughts?

SUSAN

I don’t see the connection between the “high road” and your missing wine, Susan. Buy nine comparable bottles and give your neighbors the receipt. They drank your booze and offered to pay for it.


For help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.





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