Ask Amy: Sulky son sends family on ‘staycation’

July 24, 2012

DEAR AMY: I am attaching some importance to having one last family vacation before our oldest son, a high school senior, goes off to college and work.

Our younger kids, ages 15 and 11, want to go, but the 17-year-old says that no matter what, he will not go.

We’ve suggested a variety of vacations, but he says no to everything. He wants us to go without him, but we do not trust him to stay home alone for a week.

We don’t have family or friends nearby to “baby-sit” him while we are gone. Also, going without him would defeat the purpose of a family vacation.

We don’t want him to have the power to quash vacation plans for the whole family, yet spending good money on a kid who is likely to sulk and be grumpy the whole time isn’t appealing either.

Surely we’re not the first family to face this problem. What do you think we should do? -- No Vacation?

DEAR NO: I agree with you that leaving your son home alone is out of the question. Because of his attitude, you should assume that your last fun family vacation happened last summer. Enjoy those memories.

Tell him, “Okay, son. We are boxed in by your brattiness. And so we’re going to stay home and enjoy a week of family togetherness on our ‘staycation.’”

Maybe your porch needs painting or the hedge needs trimming. If so, he’s the guy for the job.

Cheerfully plan to take the younger kids on day trips to amusement parks or ballgames. Invite your oldest son to come along, and if he does, enjoy his presence.

Alternatively, you send him to me. I will teach him to crochet. We’ll can peaches and watch “Steel Magnolias.”

Having been through this in my own childhood and with my own children, I have some residual affection for sulky 17-year-olds; this is a phase which (thankfully) does not last.

DEAR AMY: I have an inconsiderate sister-in-law. In the last few months, she has been bringing one of her young daughter’s friends along with the family to every family function. This child has come along when we have gathered for holidays, birthday parties and even a funeral!

Our family is very close. There are a dozen children all within the same ages. This little girl will not allow any of the cousins to play with the cousin she came with. She is bossy and rude, and the other girls do not want to be around her.

There is no reason for her to be around all of the time. I think my sister-in-law needs to get a clue and realize that family time is for family, and that this uninvited little girl needs to stay home. -- Irritated Aunt

DEAR IRRITATED: There are many families where a friend hangs around so much that they literally become de facto family members. However, if you are hosting a family event at your home, you get to weigh in on who should be permitted to attend it. Family events hosted by other people are their business.

If this girl is bullying children or disrupting your own child’s good time by being exclusionary, then you can say directly to this child, “We don’t allow that here. All of the kids need to be included.”

Demonstrating and insisting upon pro-social behavior will influence this interloper to be a better friend.

Otherwise, if your sister-in-law is doing something that bothers you, then you will have to be brave enough to discuss it with her. That’s how she will get a clue.

DEAR AMY: You suggested that “Peeved Paralegal” could get a raise by receiving a competing offer.

After 45 years of experience in HR and compensation management, I have learned that employers who respond to competing offers rarely ever end up with a satisfactory working relationship with that employee. Caving to that form of negotiation most often snowballs into other areas of friction in the relationship. Our clients are counseled to suggest the employee take the other offer. -- HR Pro

DEAR PRO: “Peeved Paralegal” had a very healthy opinion of his or her worth. I suggested testing it in the marketplace.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

2012 by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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