DEAR AMY: My wife and I have a baby daughter. This year for Christmas we gave a photo book of our daughter to all of her grandparents and great-grandparents, chronicling our child’s first nine months.
We collected candid and impromptu photographs with everybody in the immediate family — except for my stepmother. The reason we don’t have a photo with her is because she is super-picky about pictures. She will frequently ask for photos of her to be deleted, due to her unhappiness with her appearance.
Now that the book has been received, my father and stepmother are angry and “feeling slighted” that a photo of her was not included. They have accused us of not trying hard enough to obtain a picture of my stepmother with her grandchild. They claim that we should have informed my stepmother as to our intentions in order to get a good photo.
My wife and I feel this is unfair. We didn’t plan to do this project when we were taking the photos originally. Did we do the wrong thing? Can we correct it? -- Trying to Do Right
DEAR TRYING: I love your idea and intentions, but ask yourself: How would you feel if you received a family’s chronicle of a child’s first months, only to see that you were the only family member left out? This is an especially tender issue with stepparents. I can understand how being left out of this photo book would hurt your stepmother’s feelings, certainly if everybody else was included.
Acknowledge this to your stepmother. Tell her you were trying to surprise everyone and were too rushed to be inclusive. Tell her you’ll make sure to include her in the next photo book, and ask her to forgive this oversight.
DEAR AMY: My husband and I recently purchased our first house. We’re excited to share our happiness with family and friends at our housewarming party. One thing I’m not excited about is the prospect of inviting my cousins.
I’m very close to my aunt and uncle; they are like grandparents to me. My husband and I moved to our home state last year and frequently get together with family members. I love spending time with my aunt and uncle, but I cannot abide their children, my two (much-older) cousins. They always find ways to make snide remarks about our lives, and the male cousin loves making off-color, sexual remarks that make me incredibly uncomfortable (and yes, I tell him that it bothers me).
I do not want them in my new home, but I fear I would offend their parents by pointedly leaving them off the list. Should I avoid the drama and grudgingly extend an invite? Or is it all right to put my foot down, and invite only those people we truly want to be there? -- Family
DEAR FAMILY: Most families have at least one family member who is barely tolerable. These people serve as a reminder that we cannot choose our family; at best we can use these relationships to learn more about tolerance and forgiveness.
In healthy, balanced families, however, each adult bears the natural consequences for his/her behavior. You should not have to invite people to your home who you don’t like and who don’t like you, but you might want to use this as an opportunity to see if these cousins can behave themselves. If they don’t, you have every reason not to ask them back.
DEAR AMY: “Joan” wondered if she could justify spending a cash gift from her parents on her dream of taking a trip to India.
Look at the problem this way. Making lots of assumptions, Joan, 50, earning $40,000 per year, will make and spend another $600,000 by age 65. She will come home from her retirement luncheon with one of two thoughts: I have $10,000 in the bank, a long-ago gift from my parents; or, I remember the golden face of Krishna, with serpents around his neck, lighted by 100 candles, dancing on one foot, and smiling at me.
Go, girl, go! -- Perry
DEAR PERRY: Now I want to go, too! Thank you for the encouragement.
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