Dear John: Two Turkeys for Thanksgiving
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
What’s your problem? Write to John at email@example.com.
I am dreading this Thanksgiving because last Thanksgiving, my drunk brother-in-law (husband’s brother) made a pass at me. He and his wife, who I’m pretty friendly with, live on the West Coast, so I only see them at the holidays when they come to visit us for a few days. Last year, when we were alone in the kitchen cleaning up after dinner, he made a very overt (and unwelcome!) proposition which I chalked up to his being quite inebriated. Other than telling him no in no uncertain terms, I never spoke to anyone about it – not to him, not to his wife, and especially not to my husband. He adores his brother and would be crushed if he knew what happened.
I didn’t think about this much since it happened, but with Thanksgiving around the corner, I’m dreading seeing him again – dreading a repeat of this unsavory episode. Should I talk to my husband about it? Talk to my brother-in-law? The holidays are stressful enough without having to deal with this!
Angry Sister-in-Law, Sad Wife
With one ill-considered, alcohol-fueled move, your brother-in-law managed to destroy whatever respect you had for him and show utter contempt for his wife and brother. Some people just should not drink.
But really, what good would telling anyone about it do? Maybe he really is a good guy who had a very bad moment, or maybe alcohol just pulls off his nice-guy mask. Either way, if this is an isolated incident, I would try to forget about it. People do stupid things, and drunk people hardly do anything else. Having said that, though, if he does anything like this again, you should be prepared to tell him that if he doesn’t stop, you will tell your husband and your sister-in-law exactly what he has been proposing. And mean it.
I have two best girlfriends. We all lived in the same community for several years and we have kids the same age. Last year my husband and I decided to move to the suburbs for the schools. We could not afford private schools and our former neighborhood school had been underperforming for years. We consider our move a bit of a sacrifice because we loved where we lived. My girlfriends still live in our old neighborhood and have chosen to send their kids to private schools. They could afford it a lot easier than we could have. When we get together my friends just won't stop talking about how great their kids’ schools are. It gets even worse, when the kids get together their kids brag to my kids about how great things are at their school. It all makes me feel really bad. Should I talk to my friends about it, or does it make me seem petty?
I don’t think you sound petty, but I do get the sense you feel guiltier about this than you should.
Like all parents, you want your kids to receive the best education you can provide for them. In order to achieve that, you’ve even gone so far as to leave a place you loved just so your kids could go to a better school. That’s really admirable. So you can’t afford the private schools your friends send their kids to. That’s life. That’s why I think your question shouldn’t be whether you should ask your friends to stop the incessant bragging, and instead ask yourself why you feel so guilty when you’re doing everything you possibly can to offer your children the opportunity of a great education. Yes, it would be nice if you could send your kids to a pricey private school, and yes, you can certainly say something to your friends if you want to – something like, “It was really hard to move to a place we weren’t exactly thrilled to live just to find a good school, so these conversations make me feel really bad.” (And sorry, I’m not buying that even the kids are piling on – what kids go on and on about how great their school is? I think you’re hearing what you want to hear – or, more precisely, what you DON’T want to hear.) But I don’t think banning all talk of school is going to make you feel any better in the long run. I think you have to ask yourself why the guilt you feel over what you can’t do so far outweighs the pride you feel in what you did do.
My husband and I usually agree about most things and have a pretty solid marriage but there is one issue that we completely disagree on and periodically it comes up. My husband will ask our daughter, who is eleven, to say that she is younger than she is in order to get a discounted child’s price. This happens at movies, restaurants, amusement parks and basically any place that he can get away with it. My daughter is not completely comfortable with this, not because of any morality conflicts but just because she does not want to be perceived as a little kid. I have told the kids that I don’t think this is the right thing to do but I’ve sort of made it into a joke poking fun at my husband’s cheapness. My husband is dismissive of my ethical qualms regarding this. I know some things couples have to agree to disagree on - do you think this qualifies?
Sorry, but basic notions of right and wrong don’t really fall under “agree to disagree” – that’s more for things like the best route to take to the mall. Your husband is 100% wrong and there’s no gray area. It’s bad enough that he is a thief (and this is stealing, pure and simple), but that he is using your daughter to steal for him is truly reprehensible. What if you were in a convenience store and your husband asked your daughter to steal a candy bar for him because she could easily get away with it…would you agree to disagree on whether this was okay? Would the fact that it was only worth a dollar or two make a difference?
Your husband is putting you in an impossible position. You can go along with his atrocious parenting, or you can undermine him to your children. What a lousy choice to have to make. I’m afraid you have to choose the latter option, though, because you simply can’t allow your daughter to think this is okay. I would tell your husband that the next time he attempts to steal from a business by lying about your daughter’s age (or asking her to), you will say, “Don’t you remember, honey? She just had a birthday. She’s too old for the kid’s price now.” And please have a talk with your daughter explaining why this is wrong even though Daddy apparently thinks it’s no big deal.
John is a middle-aged family man from Providence. If you learn from your mistakes, he’s brilliant. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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