Dear Carolyn: My family is very lucky to live in a big house with a big front porch, backyard, and a second-floor back porch. My preteen daughter especially loves that back porch. In the summer she spends whole days out there listening to the radio and yakking on her cell phone. This is great for the rest of the family – she is not bothering her brothers and sisters, or nagging me to drive her to the movies. And my daughter is happy!
My neighbors (behind us) tell me that the way the porch is built, it acts as a huge megaphone or band shell. They say that even normal conversation or music played at a reasonable volume is broadcast loud and clear to their backyards, through their open windows, and even to their front porches!
My neighbors want me to make this second floor porch a quiet zone; my daughter’s conversations and music are intruding into their homes and backyards, and interfering with their right to listen to their own music or just enjoy peace and quiet.
I say that this is my daughter’s home and she has a right to do what makes her happy.
Who is right and what should I do?
Frustrated and Annoyed in Baltimore
You want what you want and to hell with everyone else, as long as it bothers someone other than you. This is the lesson you’re OK with teaching your kid?
With neighbor-noise issues, you can usually go one of three ways: (1) Dig in because it’s your house; (2) Give in because you don’t want to start a war with people you see every day; (3) Try to find a compromise – it’s your house, yes, but you’d hate it if they crashed your peace and quiet every day with their music and refused to turn it down.
Again: You have kids, so think a little bit. What path do you want to train them to follow when they’re adults?
You have two obvious points of compromise. You can buy your daughter high-quality headphones, and you can research sound-absorbing strategies to make your porch less of an amphitheater; presumably she’ll be eager to help when she realizes her preteen musings are public. These are so much cheaper and easier in the long run than thinking – and modeling the ethos of thinking – only of yourself.
Dear Carolyn: Do you have tips for how to launch honest conversations with parents about their finances? My mother has been “joking” about how she and my stepdad don’t have nearly enough for retirement, and so she hopes we’ll have a nice in-law suite.
Husband and I live in a two-bedroom apartment and will probably never live anywhere bigger. If I’m going to be looked to for financial support, I’d like that spelled out. And I probably need to get a much higher-paying job.
Parents and Money and Dread
Your mother is launching the conversation for you. Next time she opens the door with one of her “jokes,” walk through it: “You’ve been making that joke a lot lately, Mom. Is there some truth to your running out of money?”
Next steps: Stay calm, listen, tell your truth. “We’re not in a great position to help. Can we work on a plan together?” Good luck.
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