Dear Carolyn: My spouse and I are at a complete impasse about my son starting kindergarten this fall. He has a late August birthday, so he can go this year at 5 or wait until next year.
My son is smart and well-behaved and academically will probably be fine. I want to wait a year so that he will be more mature, spouse is adamant that we do not. At the heart of the issue: Spouse thinks we should make the decision based on our son right now. I think we should base the decision on what will likely be best for him in middle school, high school etc. We really truly do not care about sports. That’s a non-issue.
But we are completely out of ideas on how to have this conversation and reach an agreement. There is no compromise. Help please!?
There are a few ways you can approach this. You can choose a mutually acceptable arbitrator – the school’s principal or counselor, for example, or the kindergarten teacher, or other child-development expert – and agree beforehand to do what this person recommends; you can find out the average ages of the boys in the current kindergarten and choose the class that puts your son nearest that average.
You can agree to research the question to the point of silliness to ensure your biases aren’t wagging the dog.
You can treat the hold-back as a card you get to play only once, and opt to keep it in your pocket till you actually need it. Fair warning, though: This is tough to do – and tough on your kid socially – unless you’re switching school systems entirely, like jumping from public to private.
You can agree to defer to the parent who feels more strongly, with the understanding that the other parent gets the tiebreaking vote in some future standoff.
You also can both accept that the fact of two loving, thoughtful, invested parents means your son will be fine either way, and decide by flipping a coin.
There are times when a disagreement involves the possibility of harm if one of you is allowed to prevail. In a case like this, though, where there’s no major foreseeable disadvantage to either path, he needs you two to figure this out more than he needs whatever each of you is advocating. Go out to dinner, just you two, and listen to each other. Then, make whatever choice your marriage needs.
Dear Carolyn: My husband and I are going on vacation with a friend who went through a bad breakup a few years ago. Without her boyfriend she hasn’t been able to travel much, so we invited her to go on our vacation with us.
We’re planning right now and I’m already sick of her. We had to switch airports from our favored one because the one closer to her is about $100 cheaper. We have to book other things her preferred way because it’s also a little cheaper. She’s picking really “basic” accommodations (ugh) because it’s cheaper. You get the picture.
We work stressful, demanding jobs and we go on vacation to treat ourselves, not be nickel-and-dimed to death.
I’m trying to be nice since she can’t afford and doesn’t want to vacation alone, but I feel like she’s taking over OUR vacation with her demands. If we object she says she can’t afford to come! I wish I had said, “OK then you can’t,” the first time, but now we’re in too deep. How on earth do I get through this experience without resenting the heck out of her??
Bending Over Backward
Pay for her upgrades, the ones that matter to you. “It’s worth it to us to stay at Hotel Y instead – we’ll pay however much more it costs than Hotel X.” If she objects, then you insist by spelling out your motives: “Truly, this is selfish on our part. We take vacations to treat ourselves, and in this case that means Hotel Y.”
If you don’t want to dollar-up each nickel-and-dime, either, then float the idea of taking over the planning. Explain that the trip is deviating too far from what you and your husband had intended, and if she’d like to give you a budget to work within, you promise you won’t commit a dime more of her money than that. Then bring it back to what you intended, your trip but with a friend along, by being the one to decide where (and where not) to cut corners.
Once you get past the awkwardness of drawing this line, doing this is a kindness as much as it is an indulgence: Agreeing to the “basic” vacation already has your resentment mounting (ugh) to the point where none of you is likely to have much fun.
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