Dear Carolyn: One of my daughter's new middle school friends is from a family that is clearly struggling. The girl is loved, but parents are divorced and juggling a recent death of a relative, another relative with a severe substance abuse issue, and some financial setbacks. The girl has grown up quickly and has considerable freedom, coming and going at will, taking city buses by herself, Ubers, etc. She also frequently has friends over for sleepovers that take place in the basement with no adult supervision.
I recently drove the girl home and she invited me in to meet her dog. There were beer cans and cigarettes scattered about the house and yard, dishes and laundry piled high, and a few unintroduced adults wandering about.
My daughter and her friend have begun to press for a sleepover at her friend's house. I'm not comfortable with my daughter spending the night there, but not sure how to tell her. I do not want her to look down on them because of their circumstances. I also do not want the restriction to impact her friendship with a sweet girl.
Carolyn says: Your reasons for hesitating are kind and thoughtful.
They're also just clutter.
If you had to choose, protecting your daughter's safety or her high opinion of this family, then you'd choose safety. If you had to choose between her safety and this friendship, then you'd choose safety.
Your mom-dar told you, loudly and clearly, there's no one controlling who has access to your sleeping, minor child. That fact alone says no sleepovers.
So, say that. Say her parents are (understandably!) too distracted for overnight guests to be safe. "I'm sorry. This isn't negotiable till they're back on their feet." Say, "Your friend is always welcome here." She can blame your strictness when her friend asks why you said no.
Dear Carolyn: A couple with four kids live in the house facing my backyard. This time of year, I sleep with my bedroom window open. I rarely use air conditioning. I sleep with earplugs in.
On Saturday nights or before holidays, they sit out on their backyard deck till midnight, talking loudly. I can't sleep till they go inside. I brought this up with the husband last summer and he told me they like to enjoy their deck and entertain.
I thought there was a law about quiet time from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. in residential settings.
How do you suggest I deal with this now that the weather has turned warmer?
Carolyn says: I suggest that on Saturday nights and before holidays, you use your air conditioning.
At this writing, yes, there is a local ordinance in your favor. But do you really want to be the fun police? To try (and likely fail) to stop all of 90 minutes of irritation weekly for half the year? When you already have a much easier and friendlier remedy available to you? Literally within your reach?
If it were 3 a.m. and/or nightly and/or a deliberate provocation, then we'd have a different conversation. But population density requires compromise, and this one gives you seven nights of sleep, six on your terms. If you really want to live in peace, then grab easy fixes whenever you possibly can.
E-mail Carolyn Hax at firstname.lastname@example.org, or chat with her at 11 a.m. Friday at washingtonpost.com.