While I’m away, readers give the advice.
On mixing faiths in marriage: My wife and I of 40 years of marriage, she a Presbyterian and I a Buddhist, simply live with each other’s religion in place. No qualms about this, didn’t care what relatives thought and they were all OK with it, we raised our kids exposed to all religions and let them choose whatever faith they wanted to believe in and have no problems. We celebrate each other' religious holidays and then some (Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, etc.) and learned a lot and enjoyed the foods served. In the end, religion is mankind’s creation and so its beliefs must be taken in that context. Just enjoying life and its miracles.
On making sure you’re not the parent of a least favorite child: I’m the least favorite child of four (blended family, the other three are biological siblings, parents got married when we were all young-ish children). Dad and his wife are not at all subtle about their blatant preference for any of the other three over me and my family.
Never miss a local story.
As I approach my own two children, who are very different from each other, I feel reasonably confident that the best way I can be sure to keep from indulging in favoritism is to be mindful of appreciating each kid for who they are as a person, and to the extent they are different from me, to be mindful about appreciating and honoring the parts of their personality that I don’t understand.
Least Favorite Child
On using kindness to help at-risk kids (and their parents): My husband was rarely home and, when he was, he paid no attention to me or the kids. I often lost my temper at my younger son.
An across-the-street neighbor heard me shrieking. She phoned me and, oh so quietly, asked if I’d like to send my boys over for a bit to play with her kids. I was extremely relieved and told her so. She often served as my only escape. Bless her humanity and her soul.
Mentioning a fine aspect of a child to a 1 / 8stressed 3 / 8 parent would make a difference to parents who seem afraid that their parenting is inadequate. It will strengthen their self-regard and lessen their anxious acting-out. For the child to hear it would be a bonus.
On being less parochial about “family”: When my husband’s aunt died, I was devastated. Over the years we had become very close. She was kind to me and I admired and loved her.
When she died, my husband’s family closed ranks. I was not allowed to participate in planning the memorial service and no one seemed to understand how deeply I was grieving. It was especially hard because it was a few months after my mother died. In one summer I had lost a mother and a mentor.
At my husband’s aunt funeral, I broke down, and people were looking at me strangely and bypassing me to comfort the “real” family. The only one who understood was the minister who had officiated at the service. She pulled me aside and said, “The second one is always harder.” Those words meant a lot to me.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.