Carolyn Hax: A mom’s special bond; three’s a crowd

Carolyn Hax
Columnist February 7, 2013

Dear Carolyn:

I have a favorite song that I sing to my 9-month-old daughter. I would like to discourage other family members from singing this special song to her. Is that a realistic thought? If so, how is the best way to handle it?

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

Mom

Controlling, yes; realistic, no. The best way to handle it is to resolve not to try so hard to handle things.

A song you sing to your child will become special because it is, not because you’ve decided it will be.


There will never be a shortage of totems, symbols or special moments between a parent and a well-loved child. As an involved parent you are the principal figure in your child’s life — or at least tied for it.

So you don’t need to force the issue of your special place. In fact, in doing so you risk looking past the meaningful moments and mementos that your lives together will produce organically — and, in this case, you also risk interfering with the crucial connections between these other family members and your daughter. Hold those reins too firmly and, in time, your daughter will chafe, as well.

This might seem like a big answer to a small question, but I believe the most important gift you can give a child is openness to whatever gifts your child brings to you. A small matter like a “special” song is a chance to practice the subtle art of letting your stories write themselves.

Dear Carolyn:

My best friend lives about six hours away, and we get together a couple of times a year, either with kids or without. There is one weekend in particular that I visit and we participate in a road race together.

Last year, a mutual friend found out about my upcoming trip and said: “That sounds like fun! I think I’ll join you!” The trip was okay, but I missed being able to truly catch up with my friend and the third wheel started to get on both our nerves.

The annual trip is now fast approaching, and the mutual friend keeps bringing it up, assuming she is invited. I have been noncommittal about going. My inclination is to tell a white lie and say I’m not going, but I fear she would find out (we work together) and that would be so hurtful.

I have a feeling you are going to advise me to be direct, but how do you tell someone you don’t want them to intrude on your weekend getaway?

Running From Third Wheel

You offer them something you would like to share instead, that’s how. You explain to her that, dorky as it sounds, this trip is a special and long-standing tradition that you and the other friend share, “but let’s _____ instead.” Think carefully before you fill in that blank, because the whole thing hinges on the sincerity of that offer.

Will it be a blissfully non-awkward conversation? I wish. All you can hope for is a forthright exchange between adults who can handle a little awkwardness. If that sounds more awful than it’s worth, then keep in mind that the “white lie” alternative — whopper is more like it — is not a legitimate one. You either own your preference or make room for three.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Subscribe at www.facebook.com/carolynhax.

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