Carolyn Hax is away. The following is from 2006.
Dear Carolyn: Recently at a small gathering in my mom's workplace, my mom passed around a picture of my sister's dogs with Santa and introduced them as her grand-dogs. My teenage son (her grandchild) was totally disgusted and, needless to say, I was appalled.
I would not have reacted so negatively, but my mother does not have one picture of my children in her office, not even a Polaroid. Pictures of my sister, her new husband and her dogs are plastered everywhere.
Also, she does not come to visit with my children but will drive hours to pick up and "babysit" those dogs. This bizarre behavior has been brought to my mother's attention, yet it continues.
To worsen the resentment, she helps support my sister and her husband. My husband suggests we just stay away. What do you recommend?
Carolyn says: That you listen to your husband, unless you find some way to make peace with the fact that your mother's attentions will never be fair.
Because: She will not change. She will not change. She will not change.
And even if you do come to see that your mother's favoritism reflects poorly on her, not you — which it does, for what it's worth — you should still take at least part of your husband's advice. Your mother doesn't show your kids any love, and yet you drag them to see her, expecting her to show love — thereby setting them up for slaps in the face. Not fair.
Do what you must for your own relationship with your mom, but consider sparing your kids the dog-and-Santa show.
Tactful or tactless?
Dear Carolyn: Our circle is about 10 people, and we like to take a beach vacation together during the summer. One of my closest friends brought her boyfriend along last year, and subsequently ignored the group most of the time to be with her boyfriend solo. I found this a little hurtful, as I thought we would be spending time together. She has mentioned that while her boyfriend likes us, he feels uncomfortable since he is shy and prefers smaller groups.
I understand but think if that's the case, the two of them would be better off taking a vacation together. Is there a tactful way to express that we want her and only her company if having him along means we don't get it? She's not stupid, so I don't think she's totally clueless about how the rest of us felt, but I also think she'll respond combatively if I bring it up.
Carolyn says: There are times when tact is overrated. "If Clarence doesn't like big groups, why don't you come without him?" is easier to swallow than, "Hey, I found this great beach house but it, um, sleeps only 10."
There can also be times when tactlessness is overrated. Your friend has chosen this boyfriend, and chosen to let him suck her away from the group. And you have chosen this friend. So while you should protest her absence — "I was sad that we barely saw you at the beach last year" has an honest but loving ring to it — you may only alienate her if you try to cruise-direct her vacation. Sometimes it's better to welcome all and be grateful to get what you get.
E-mail Carolyn Hax at firstname.lastname@example.org, or chat with her at 11 a.m. Friday at washingtonpost.com.