Dear Amy: My daughter has a friend who lives down the street. They get along well, and the girl is very nice and well-mannered. The girls frequently have “late overs” on the weekends that involve pizza and movies/games.
These sometimes involve other friends of my daughter’s. The girls are all 8 years old.
Often when it’s time for the movie, the neighbor girl says she’s not allowed to watch it.
Most of the time we find something else to watch. Other times, when my daughter has invited another friend, I can tell they are disappointed.
Should I send the neighborhood girl home when this happens?
We have not exchanged phone numbers with the parents. Usually the girl comes and knocks on the door. I have told her to go ask her parents if it’s OK to watch the movie, and she replies that they are not home. I think she is being watched by her older siblings.
Amy says: I find it surprising that you would have an 8-year-old girl in your home for hours at a time without communicating with her parents. The very first thing you should do is to make sure they are aware that she is with you. If an older sibling is in charge, then you should contact that sibling.
Once you make the parents’ acquaintance and establish that they know where their child is, you can feel them out about media choices. It is a contradiction to exert such strict control over media while at the same time leaving an 8-year-old to fend for herself. I suspect this child isn’t really conveying all of the information you need (she’s only 8).
I think it is kindest to dial movie choices to the most sensitive child, but you shouldn’t always have to do this. The next time this happens, you can say, “I understand you can’t watch this, but I think tonight we’re going to watch this one, so let me walk you home.”
Dear Amy: My nephew recently announced his marriage on Facebook. We are not a close family — we get together on holidays — but this was still a shock for us all, including his dad (my brother). They just got married at the courthouse.
It feels like a slap in the face, as if he were saying, “We’re a messed up family, so you probably don’t care anyway — so whatever.”
I haven’t congratulated him/them. I still feel hurt and I don’t know how to respond to what seems the underlying negative message. Can you suggest a good way to respond? I certainly don’t want to make this worse.
Amy says: I challenge your assumption that announcing an important life event on Facebook is the equivalent of “whatever.” Maybe your nephew is saying, “Whoopee! We did it!”
In the old days, an impromptu courthouse marriage would be followed by a series of phone calls or letters. Congratulations would be offered through the same medium by which the announcement was delivered. So in this case, you can comment on Facebook or message your nephew: “I’m so excited for you both. We look forward to seeing you sometime soon.”
Your brother has a different challenge, and he should share his honest feelings with his son (privately, not through Facebook).
Dear Amy: While the advice you gave to the despairing relative of an alcoholic was good, an even better approach is to take this family member to the hospital and let him watch somebody go through delirium tremens. As a nurse in an intensive care unit, I’ve seen many alcoholics die horrible deaths. Watching this helped me realize that I was an alcoholic, and I’ve been dry for a year and a half.
Amy says: I give you a ton of credit for letting your experiences influence you in this positive way. Although I appreciate the spirit of your response, a person can’t just bring a stranger into the ICU to watch someone suffer.
Send questions via e-mail to Amy Dickinson at firstname.lastname@example.org.