While I’m away, readers give the advice.
On being fair with monetary gifts to family: Give the kids or grandkids equal amounts of money.
Why? Because you don’t know what will happen in the future.
Sure, some of your descendants are rich, some are poor … right now. Today. At this one brief moment in time.
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My maternal grandparents gave all their money to my aunt. They said my mom didn’t need it because she “married well.” Well, soon after my grandparents passed away, my dad did too. My mom was a struggling widow. And then, my aunt passed away. All that grandparental dough went to her sons, my cousins, who squandered it.
It is now 30 years later, and my mom has always struggled. She really could have used any portion of that money. And she never recovered from the hurt feelings, either.
On traveling with others when you fare better alone: I found I could enjoy traveling with another person as long as we had some ground rules: (1) Separate hotel rooms. Always. We introverts need our space and alone time. (2) Make it clear from the start there will be days we don’t do the same activities (but can try to always meet for dinner to share our days). (3) Be clear with yourself about what you want to do, and make your own plans. If person No. 2 wants to come along and your plans don’t include being alone, fine. If they have their own ideas about what to do, then let them do it and don’t allow yourself to be wheedled or guilted into changing your mind.
I’ve found that sharing an experience with another person makes that experience richer; however, you have to pick those times. Too much time with other people can make me crazy and miserable.
On managing complex (read: Scandalous) extended-family situations: One uncle kept having affairs, fathered several children out of wedlock with different women, and then finally divorced his wife and married his latest mistress. How did the family respond? They chose to love and include everyone. The uncle’s ex-wife raised her husband’s children by other women as her own, both while they were still married and after they divorced. The ex-wife and the mistress who became the current wife are all welcome at family events, and no one treats them as different from anyone else.
I married into this family long after these events had transpired. They are all wonderful people and I am very happy that I know them. There’s no talk about what a heroic effort it was to deal with the mistress or the children — it’s just regarded as Of Course That’s What You Do. There’s some talk about how awful the uncle was to his wife, who is rightly regarded as a hero, but nothing beyond that. It has been wonderful to marry into this family, because I know they’ll love me and have my back no matter what. Ultimately, justice doesn’t matter. Love is more important.
Email Carolyn at email@example.com.