washingtonpost.com
Carolyn Hax Live: Advice columnist tackles your problems (Sept. 24, 2010)

Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 24, 2010; 12:00 PM

Carolyn was online Friday, September 24, taking your questions and comments about her current advice column and any other questions you might have about the strange train we call life. Her answers may appear online or in an upcoming column.

E-mail Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com.

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Carolyn Hax: Hi everybody. Sorry for the delay.

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Mothers: Carolyn, I worry my mother is hiding a health problem: it would be exactly like her to not want to bother me (I just started a new job)... But when I press her on it, she tells me to stop nagging her and that everything's fine. Anything I can do or say to be sure?

Carolyn Hax: If it's a big deal, you will find out eventually. If you can project to when you do find out, you can probably imagine a few reasons you'll wish you had known--specifically, things you would have done or could have been doing all those days/weeks/months that she kept you in the dark.

Some of those things would depend on having all the information--say, researching her illness, helping her find a specialist, etc. There isn't much you can do about those except wait till she's ready to tell you.

Some, though, you can start doing now, without any information beyond your hunch: You can spend more time with her, you can ask her things about her childhood that you've always wanted to know, you can do all those things that people look back on when they've lost somebody: "I wish I'd had time to X before s/he died."

Now, this may all be a major overreaction; your mom could be fine, or she could have some other big news that has nothing to do with her health, or she could have a chronic condition that's not going to take her life any time soon, or any number of possibilities. However, we've all seen people throw around advice along the "live as though you'll die tomorrow" lines, and, while that's not exactly practical, there's a reason that's in the rainbow poster hall of fame: There's no down side to the idea of stopping for a moment to figure out what you value most, and then shifting your priorities in that direction. Take this speculation about your mom and put it to good use toward shifting your priorities as needed--again, knowing it may be a false non-alarm.

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Knoxville, Tenn.: Regarding the bride in today's column, I was just thinking about how the internet age, e-mail and social networking combined with the rise of the wedding industrial complex may have collided to make "Bridezillas" out of otherwise well-meaning women. Marrying in 1992, I remember fretting over every little detail of my wedding, but thankfully didn't have the tools to send mass e-mails or post status updates to the point of annoying friends and family. I suspect that had they been available to me, I might have misused them and done exactly as this bride has done. As it was I stewed alone and let a lot of the nit-picky details resolve themselves.

Carolyn Hax: Interesting idea. The one thing that stops me is that, even back on 1992, you had the ability to speak and a telephone to speak through. These two capabilities proved more than adequate as instruments of torture for self-obsessed brides to use against their friends and families. That you chose to stew alone (and to let details actually resolve themselves) says something about you; it's not just a story of technology.

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Today's Bridezilla: I'm surprised that you didn't suggest that today's Bridezilla should use this as an epiphany to realize that she needs to apologize to her wedding party about how overbearing she's been. I like the way you started your response with understanding how unrealistic her expectations are, but she owes them either an apology or a sign that she'll go easier on them from here on before she has a mutiny or a desertion on her hands.

Carolyn Hax: From the column, verbatim:

"You may decide to confront your friends or not. You may admit what you saw, apologize for your excesses, thank them for the wake-up face-slap they never intended to give -- and promise a new, relaxed, perspective-based approach to your wedding. (If you, ahem, want them to feel awful, take this tack.)"

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Mother's health problems: Mom needs to speak up for her child's sake. My mother kept us kids in the dark about her cancer surgery recently, and she was adamant that dad keep us in the dark too. He did, until she had a bad reaction to chemo, then it all came out.(She's doing much better now.)

Fast forward a few months later. I'm at my doctor's office for my annual physical. I'm at the age where I should start maybe thinking about cancer screenings. Last year, my doc said I could wait another year or 2 or 3, but now that my doc and I know that I have a family history of cancer on BOTH sides of my family, I'm not waiting anymore.

Mom, tell your child! The life you save may be your own and your child's!

Carolyn Hax: When it comes to the health of a loved one, I'm with you--I don't believe in "protecting" people from the truth, because you deny others the chance to deal with the situation in the way they see fit.

I also think it's ultimately the sick person's prerogative to handle his or her illness the way s/he sees fit.

When these two are in conflict--as they often are--I believe the sick person's needs trump the loved ones'. There's a practical reason for that, since the sick person is the one who has the information, and so automatically gets the last word--but there's also a philosophical reason. Being seriously ill is arguably the worst case scenario of being out of control. You can't make yourself well, and often you can't even make yourself feel better. One of the few things that's entirely in your power is your own message.

So, if a sick person wants her message to be, "Everything's fine!" then, darn it, everything's fine.

Is there a price to be paid by loved ones for this kind of choice? Yes, a big one--including the health cost you mention. A serious illness leaves the sufferer's loved ones feeling powerless, too, and withholding information leaves them little to no recourse for that. It denies them a chance to make peace, to share memories, sometimes even a chance to say goodbye.

But, when everyone gets a bad deal anyway, I think loved ones have to grant the best of the bad deals to the one who's actually sick.

So I'll post your PSA in hopes that people keep it in mind if they're ever facing an awful decision about what to tell people an when--but I also hope that any friends and family who are kept in the dark will find it in their hearts not to be too angry at being kept in the dark.

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Today's bride: Another option is to appologize for going overboard and promise to change, without mentioning that she saw the email. Just say she realized it herself or appreciated that someone told her to chill out, without mentioning who. Win for everyone.

Carolyn Hax: That works, too, if she can really get past any resentment arising from the e-mail. But if it's going to gnaw at her, then I think it's best for her to be open about seeing it.

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Re: Mothers: Several years ago I suspected that my parents were withholding a health concern. I didn't voice my suspicions, but I did say to my parents that if/when there is a concern, it would be appreciated if they give us kids a heads-up sooner so we could process it rather than waiting until the health issue became dire and blindsiding us with dreadful news.

That worked for us.

Carolyn Hax: It's an excellent approach, and I especially like the integrity of it: If you're going to want people to be open with you about their fears and concerns and needs, then it can't hurt to start that process by being open yourself about your fears, concerns and needs. Thanks muchly.

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Spouse not close to family: Carolyn, my husband is not close to his family, who live about 30 minutes away. In the 14 years I have known him they were never that close; we would see/talk to them periodically, but we usually had to initiate things. A few months ago my MIL declined an invitation to one of our kids' milestone events because she was "tired." I think that was the straw that broke my husband's back, and he hasn't contacted her since, nor has she contacted us. I've encouraged my husband to call her because she is his mother, but he has procrastinated. She is older, won't live forever, and I don't want him to have any regrets. On the other hand, she hasn't reached out to us, either, and hasn't seen our kids in nearly a year. Should I keep encouraging him to call her, or give up?

Carolyn Hax: Have you specifically addressed it as a matter of regrets? You're very clear here, but if you're just saying, "You really should call your mother, it has been months, and she's the woman who raised you," or something along those lines, then you're not making a very forceful argument for his calling.

Maybe you have had the full-on discussion, in which case, I'd suggest you keep in touch with his mom to maintain a connection just in case your husband changes his mind, or your kids have any kind of relationship with her. But if there's any chance he's just putting his mom out of his mind because that's easier than dealing with her indifference, then I think a good spouse will at least try to wake him up to the possibility of regrets. It's all part of having someone's back--and it would be especially apt here since his family apparently didn't have that skill mastered.

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Yesterday's LW2 with an update: Wow, imagine my shock when I saw LW2 was me yesterday! I don't know if you remember, but I think that you asked me in the original chat if something else was bothering my mom (because that's not a normal reaction from her) and the answer I have just recently found out is yes. She was diagnosed last week with the big C, and apparently had found the lump and was going through the testing around the time of our conversation (except she didn't tell anyone until last week.) It definitely puts the intensity of her reaction in a different light, (I was worried about a ring giving me a rash, and she's worried about her health, makes me feel sheepish now) and one of the next times we talked, I think she realized the tone of what she said was not so nice after she had time to think about what she said. She is absolutely NOT emotionally, verbally or any kind of abusive. She is an amazing mother who occasionally loses her patience and doesn't think about what she says. It happens to us all. She's human, she's still amazing, and I love her. Our relationship is definitely healthy, and I am just so grateful that she has a really great prognosis for what she's going through right now. Thanks again!

Carolyn Hax: Thank you, too, for the (strangely apropos) update, and best of luck to your mom.

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Gaithersburg, MD: Do you have any advice on how to get over a crush? I've tried focusing on his faults, but honestly when I do that, I find myself thinking that those are things I could live with. So any other ideas? We work together and I'd really rather not be feeling this way!

Carolyn Hax: There's no magic answer, it just takes time---time spent doing exactly what you're doing, looking for faults. There's something dorky, stunted or disgusting about everyone, and he's no exception; eventually, whatever it is about him that you will find off-putting is going to come out to play. In the meantime, use work as your distraction; if nothing else, it'll be good for your career.

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Washington DC: Dear Carolyn,

Speaking of weddings and the influence of the inter-net. What about e-invitations for weddings? Is that becoming typical? What about if the people marrying have made no effort to keep in touch for more than a year? And what if the invitation is followed by another email containing three very expensive registries with an added note that gift certificates and cash are good too? Normally, I'm thrilled about weddings but I'm less than thrilled about this one. Sign me, Ebenezer the Bridesmaid

Carolyn Hax: I'm not going to slam e-invitations because 1. trees love them, and 2. I can't run a forum that's anti-wedding-expense bloat while also turning up my nose at a legitimate place to cut costs. If invitations and postage expenses mean you can't invite Auntie Lou, then paper becomes tough to defend.

The part about not keeping in touch for a year doesn't excite me that much, either, unless they used to call once a week and suddenly stopped, or they live down the street from you. Friendships aren't linear, and it's possible both to care and to fall in and out of touch.

The follow-up e-mail soliciting gifts is gross.

And finally: If you don't want to go, then don't.

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Nowheresville: Hi Carolyn,

If you are a mother of young children and find yourself very mentally taxed by the everyday stresses of raising children to the point that you sometimes think of killing yourself, should you talk to a counselor? I haven't made any actual plans to kill myself, and if I really think about it, I realize that doing something like that would be horribly cruel to my husband and children, likely scarring them for life. The chances that I would actually kill myself are about zero. All the same, it is not uncommon for these thoughts of suicide to cross my mind. Then I sometimes feel that I'm just being dramatic in my own head and I should just relax about stuff. The kids are healthy and on track developmentally, but raising little kids is hard. I am very tired.

Thanks for your input.

Carolyn Hax: Please get help, immediately: You can get treatment to improve your mental health as well as get some relief from your care-giving responsibilities--but only if you let people know that you need it.

Hinting isn't enough. You need to form the words, "I'm scared, and I need help." If you're afraid to say it to someone close to you, that's okay; you need to say it no matter what to your regular doctor and/or OB-GYN, tell your children's pediatrician--say exactly what you did here.

If you feel you may actually hurt yourself, call 911; if you need to talk to someone immediately, 1-800-SUICIDE. But I can't urge you strongly enough to place a call to one of your primary health-care providers -today-, and don't take no for an answer from the receptionist. If your doctor is with a patient, ask to speak to a nurse, and be specific about the thoughts you've been having. You can worry about telling your husband after you've made the initial contact with a professional. Take care of yourself, please, and know that things can and will get better.

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Bridezilla :( : Hi Carolyn, thanks for taking my question in today's column. I've got good news and bad news. The good news is that the bridesmaid who sent the original email did realize her mistake, and apologized pretty profusely. It turns out she was the main one who felt that way, and the others had kind of been telling her to can it all along. She's got some issues of her own but I've forgiven her for it.

The bad news is my fiance called off the engagement shortly after I wrote that letter, for reasons probably having something to do with my anxiety over the wedding. Oh well. I do still have my friends, who are pretty wonderful in spite of everything.

Carolyn Hax: I'm really sorry--you've been buffeted by a few forces lately, painfully and publicly, when you were expecting the happiest of times.

I don't know how to say this without sounding insensitive, so I'll just say it: I suspect you'll eventually be glad the wedding didn't happen. There are couples who get swept up in their weddings, and couples who get swept up in each other, and it's rare when the twain do meet. You sounded like the former. It's worth holding out for the latter.

And, yes, it does sound as if you have wonderful friends.

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Washington, DC: Hi Carolyn,

Is it just me, or do weddings (and their planning) just bring out the worst in people? I hate being engaged. Everyone has an opinion and have no problem sharing it and telling me what I should and shouldn't, can and can't do in ways that are horrifyingly rude. It's like open season on brides everywhere. I feel paralyzed with every decision, thinking that whatever decision I make someone close to me will hate it, say so, judge me for it. Don't even get me started on how people throw around the B-zilla word. I'm surrounded by vitriol about what is supposed to be a happy thing. How do I get through this?

Carolyn Hax: Project to if/when you're pregnant, and realize that brides have it good! Nothing like being told that you're part of an entire generation of parents who spoil their kids/don't know what they're doing/park kids in front of TV and video games because they're too career-absorbed to do the hard work at home/micromanage everything/[your "get off my lawn!" rant here].

Sorry. This is just my way of saying that, if you let yourself take public discourse as the way of all people right now, you're going to start believing that ax-grinding has become everyone's favorite hobby. Thing is, though, the sane and/or boundary conscious people do outnumber the judgmental doinks, it's just that they're (obviously) quieter. Seek out the quiet ones and enjoy your wedding. Congrats.

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Parental indifference: But sometimes you are better having no contact at all. My father excoriated me all my life, and I finally cut off all contact with him. These years have been wonderful - free of hateful attacks, accusations, and demeaning comments. I even talked this over with my priest, trying to decide if I should get back in touch. I won't. And I will have no regrets at all when he dies.

Carolyn Hax: No argument here. All I was saying is that it's best made as a thoughtful, careful, thorough decision, not as a pain-avoidance default. And I was saying that a partner who sees a decision being made by default has a loving responsibility to encourage a more thoughtful decision.

What that decision may be is entirely up to the person making it, and I have no agenda there.

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E-vites to weddings are just the beginning: I just sent a young relative a gift card for her wedding (that she took the time to snail mail me an invitation for) and guess how she thanked me? She posted it to my Facebook wall. Classy.

Carolyn Hax: She thanked you. Please don't complain about that.

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Getting over a crush: The last time this happened, I found it comforting to think about how I was better off not dating someone who didn't care for me as much as I cared for her. I didn't want to go through life as the one that she "settled" for when she didn't get what she wanted...and I later ended up with someone who thinks I'm exactly what she wanted. And that's a comfort each and every day.

Carolyn Hax: Standing O, thanks.

Needed a little happy around here.

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Breaking up with a friend: I have a friend, she's very sweet with a heart of gold I've known here for two years now, both in our early 30s. I have come to the realization that she is not what I'd consider a peer. I feel like I am having a conversation with myself from years ago. She has a husband and a child (I have neither) and she seems to not be able to put on her big girl panties and take care of business the way a grown woman should. Its my problem for having no patience but I have been avoiding her for weeks and our last meeting it came to head and I decided I must step away from this friendship. But how? Years later she's still smarting that a friend nearly missed her wedding (they'd made a pact as teenagers! and the friend had drifted away). Her child's first birthday is coming up, she may get this job and want to celebrate it all and just the thought of hanging out with her sours my mood. Do I call her up? write her a letter, leave a voicemail? what do I say?

Carolyn Hax: Since you're already planning to end the friendship, why don't you just throw friendship-preservation to the wind and start telling her a compassionately phrased version of the truth? See how she handles it.

You describe her as being the way you were years ago--so, think in terms of saying to her something that would have been useful to that version of you. Whether it's something general, a la, "You know, sometimes you just need to put on your big girl pants and deal with it," or specific, like, "I find it hard to believe that with so many important responsibilities--a child to raise, for one--you'd still be upset about a girlhood pact that -didn't- go wrong"--she'd at least be getting an honest look at the person she calls her friend.

She doesn't really know you, after all; your recent friendship, at least, has been an act. When she meets the real version of you, maybe she'll decide to end the friendship herself--or, who knows, take your honest opinion to heart and start thinking twice before she indulges in self-pity.

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Holidays: I live 300 miles away from my parents and do not want to travel to see them at the holidays this year. It's going to be very busy for me at work in December and January and I just don't want to take any time off, and it's just so much easier and more enjoyable to stay home and spend holidays with my husband's family, who live 10 miles away. Do you think I owe my parents any explanation or can I simply say, "Sorry, we won't be seeing you at the holidays this year"?

Carolyn Hax: Sounds like you're asking permission to brush them off.

This is your family; if you don't know how to talk to them, then that's the much bigger issue than where you spend New Year's.

If they're guilt trippers, then you state your situation simply and plainly, say you're sorry and politely decline to engage in the guilt transaction.

If they're not guilt-trippers, then I hope you'll treat them warmly and let them know that this wouldn't be your first choice, but given your schedule it just makes the most sense and/or drains the least from your rapidly emptying tank.

One more thing: If you have no particular beef with your family, and his close-by family is just easier, I do get that--but I urge you not to make a habit of defaulting to what's easier. While your family may understand, they probably still miss you, and so it's important to rally on a consistent basis, even when you don't want to. I'm not saying you shouldn't skip this year's holidays, but you might want to schedule something now for February or March, or at least plan to make up the trip some other time. Again, if all is otherwise well with your fam, and you're just tired right now.

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Breaking up with a friend: Yeah, leave her a voicemail. That seems about right. Talk about not putting on your big girl pants and dealing with things. Geeze.

Carolyn Hax: Yes, there's that.

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St. Louis, MO: My husband tends to assume the worst about people and have harsh reactions to them. Recent example: We sent a gift to his cousin when she had a baby and did not receive a thank-you note. His reaction was, "That's it, we're never sending her any more gifts." My reaction was, "She probably sent a thank-you note and it got lost in the mail."

I don't know who is actually correct about whether a thank-you note was mailed, but I do think my attitude is a healthier and happier way to go through life. Is there anything I can do to make my husband see the positive in people instead of the negative?

Carolyn Hax: No, but you can be a consistent, temperate presence in these discussions, just as you were with the non-thank-you.

You can also ask him about his reflexive pessimism, if it's dragging you down: "That assumes the worst about your cousin. Do you think that's fair to her?"

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Uh, guys?: The discussion disappeared! I was able to read it about 15 minutes ago, now there's no content!

Carolyn Hax: I didn't disappear ... at least, I don't think I did. Trippy.

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To Nowheresville: Thoughts about suicide, abandoning or hurting your children/loved ones are thoughts you should share with your doctor. Pronto. And once you're sitting with your doctor, be scrupulously honest. (E.g., Are these feelings constant? Come and go?) And follow up with your doctor (or referral). This is not something you can work through yourself, nor should you. And there is absolutely no embarrassment about your situation. Many have walked this road.

Carolyn Hax: All true. And I'm going to underscore the part about being scrupulously honest. Just like on the cop shows, it's not for us to decide what is and isn't relevant, and to filter what we say. Proceed on the assumption that everything true is relevant, and that your doctor is trained to spot the stuff that matters. It's not a perfect system, but it;s the best we've got.

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put on her big girl panties and take care of business the way a grown woman should.: Let's retire this expression now.

Carolyn Hax: Sold.

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It disappeared: The discussion did disappear. It was weird. I closed out of my browser and reopened. It worked. Not that this person can read my solution, but wanted to let you know the reader was not enjoying happy hour already!

washingtonpost.com: There was a small issue and republishing seemed to do the trick. Sorry guys! Thanks for alerting us!

Carolyn Hax: Okay then.

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Re: Holidays: The biggest dealing-with-family breakthrough I ever made was when I realized I got a very different reaction when I said "Sorry I can't make it this weekend, but I'm excited to come next month!" than I did back when I said "I'm not coming, I really just don't want to, I'll see you next month anyway."

Magic!

Carolyn Hax: Next, we make the whole chat DISAPPEAR ...

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Washington DC: Hi Carolyn! My 12 year old nephew has a lot of signs of having mild autism. It's pretty well acknowledged in our family, but he has never been formally diagnosed. Currently he lives with his grandparents (my parents) and spends weekends with his mother (my sister). Every time I see them I beg them to get him diagnosed and helped and my parents default to it being the school's responsibilty to let them know if he needs outside assistance. It is leading to a huge estrangement between me and my family, and while I know it is easy for me to "Sit on the sidelines" and express my point of view of what is best for the child, I truly feel that he is not being given an opportunity for a future without some outside assistance.

What's the best way for me to make this happen? I can't seem to break through to his mother or my parents on this...

Carolyn Hax: Call the school.

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Tokyo, Japan: Carolyn, On last question last week concerning the 15 year old dating the 21 year old - I read through the Hax-Philes and there really didn't seem to be a consensus. Not that you are the tie breaker but it is your column, so what's your take? For what it's worth, when I was in college I was studying to be a high school teacher. I spent a semester when I was 21 student teaching 9th graders (15 year olds) and there was a HUGE maturity difference between us. I never would have considered dating one though a couple of girls gave me notes indicating I could have so I tend to lean towards the police. On the other hand, some of those same kids would somehow find their way into the college bars on the weekends and I was paranoid I'd end up going home with someone on a Saturday night and realizing on Monday they were a student in the school where I was teaching so I can see both sides.

Carolyn Hax: I think going to the police first would be a mistake. The dad's best move was/is to talk to his daughter first, find out what really happened. He could choose go to the police at any time during the process, but he can't UN-go to the police.

Just the possibility that she lied about her age means that he should talk to his daughter before hanging the guy out to dry, but the more compelling reason is that she's a capable -person,- who has opinions and ideas and feelings. Daddy risks alienating her completely if he mistakes "child" (which she is) for "infant" by completely bypassing her in his charge to make things right. She isn't just part of that process, she's central to it, and he needs to acknowledge that--and I don't think he'll regret doing that even if he ultimately calls the cops.

I also think he should get a family therapist involved before he starts in on his multi-step plan of groundings and doctors and community service. All of that will backfire if he doesn't calm down, talk to his daughter and base his actions on the specifics of what happened. A therapist would provide a disinterested viewpoint that could help him keep his bearings, while also teasing out the roots of what motivated the daughter to make such a reckless choice.

Thank you for reminding me. When I saw that question, I didn't have time to type out a full answer, much less think one through.

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Aunt with good intentions.: The school will not speak to the aunt. If she's not a parent, the school will be violating any number of privacy laws if they have a discussion about possibly-autistic nephew.

Carolyn Hax: They don't have to talk, they only need to listen.

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re: thank-you notes: Hello, the cousin just had a baby. Do you really think thank-you notes are the most important thing in her life right now? Not that it absolves her from thanking you, but really. And honestly, how do you know your gift didn't get lost in the mail?

Carolyn Hax: I agree with you, but, remember, this was one example of the husband's behavior. The issue is his sprint to the worst possible conclusion about people, which is what she needs to address with him. I.e., the fact of alternate explanations is more important than the merits of each one. If that makes any sense.

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Autism: Call the school? And tell them what? that a person who is NOT the legal guardian of a child is requesting a special education evaluation to determine if the child has autism? Sorry, not gonna happen. They will not even speak to LW about this. They will probably not even tell you he is enrolled there. And, if he is doing fine in school, it's NOT the school's job to decide he has a disability. He would likely not be able to get special education if he's functioning fine in school. It's the LEGAL GUARDIANS of a child who need to accept and deal with this kid as he is now.

Carolyn Hax: I'm not talking about bringing this evaluation about. I'm talking about tipping off the school. This is doable by letter, if no one will take her call. All the aunt (right?) needs to accomplish is to flag the issue for the teacher, which the teacher--if s/he concurs that there's an issue--can call to the attention of the legal guardians in a call or letter home. "I'm noticing Billy is doing X when the rest of the kids are doing Y, and in those cases we recommend to the parents/guardians that they get an evaluation for Z."

If the teacher doesn't concur, or if there is some administrative barrier to the teacher's even noting to the grandparents that Billy does X--or even a district pressure not to flag problems/career barrier, which would be appalling but I'm sure does happen--then that's the end of that, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth trying.

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Annapolis, Maryland: Is it absolutely awful, or (I'm hoping) kind of relatable and funny that, now that I'm a stay-at-home mom, I prefer not having my husband around most of the time to screw up everything I've accomplished with the kids? I only ask because I worry I'm giving off "Good thing Daddy's not here, he can't do anything right" vibes.

Carolyn Hax: I'm going to go with awful and relatable.

It's really, really (really really really) important that you keep in mind that the best outcome for your kids isn't that everything go smoothly and according to plan. The best outcome is for them to have good, stable, individual relationships with each of their parents--and if their lives are enriching, their schedules manageable and their rooms clean, well, that's the icing.

And with that in mind, please open your mind to a little stylistic chaos here and there, and let your husband ... remain? get? fully invested as Daddy. If there's something you've set up with them that's really working and you're loath to let it slide, like a stress free bedtime routine, or if your differing styles have the unintended effect of undermining your authority (e.g., you say no to something that he freely permits) then talk to him about it privately and explain why you need him to hold the same lines you do. But, again, on the little stuff, let go and don't minimize their daddy into obsolescence. They need him.

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Charlotte, NC: A few weeks ago, a young man submitted a late question about being in his 20s and wanting to find a relationship but not having any prior dating experience. You were going to put it to Hax-Philes, but I don't think it ever came up. I was particularly interested because I'm in a similar situation, albeit a bit older. There isn't a lot of useful advice online, as most men in my situation give up and turn very misogynistic, so I was looking forward to some varied suggestions. To me, it feels like I've spent so much of my life being serious, professional, and casual with everyone I meet that it's too late to learn to be romantic or flirty. I just don't know how. Thanks.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks for the reminder. Will track it down.

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Autism, third opinion: There was a boy in my sons daycare that was "not right". Autism or not, I didn't know. But I knew from the 15 minutes twice a day I spent in the room that the boy was not right. I spoke to his caregivers, who told me that he had not been evaluated, they had mentioned to his parents that they thought he needed to be evaluated, but the parents didn't think anything was wrong with him. Myself and other parents called and emailed the daycare administrator. We weren't doing it to be mean or get him kicked out, but to get the appropriate trained personnel to deal with him. They did not discuss him with me, just listened to my concerns. They did intervene and asked for the parents to have him evaluated. So yes, she needs to address her concerns with the school. They will most likely listen, request for the teachers to make notes, and then make recommendations to the parents for the boy to be evaluated.

Carolyn Hax: This is what I was after, thanks.

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Vancouver, B.C.: For the aunt worried about autism:

You may also consider speaking to the child's pediatrician. I know from personal experience that a pediatrician will speak to a non-parent family member and bring up the concerns with the parent.

My guess is that most teachers/school systems would too.

Carolyn Hax: Thanks. The reason I opted for the school is that a teacher is in a position to watch the child for hours, and in several different environments--group activities, solitary ones, loud ones, quiet ones ... but the pediatrician is a viable alternative. Again, one who can't violate privacy laws, but who can read or listen to an argument in favor of intervention.

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Awkward Dinner Moments: I'm sure you've heard that the Decency Police have protested Katy Perry's outfit on her Sesame Street appearance, thereby guaranteeing it huge exposure not only on YouTube but on all the TV news programs as well. We sometimes watch evening news while eating dinner, and my eight year old and four year old saw excerpts of the video. I personally have no problem with my kids seeing Perry's outfit, but that wasn't the issue... my eight year old was full of questions about WHY it was not going to be shown on Sesame Street. Believing the reasons to be silly, I said so and that some people didn't like her outfit. That, of course, brought another question... and my wife wanted to go on a long monologue about why cleavage etc. shouldn't be shown because some people object to it... blah. I felt this was only calling attention to something that kids don't really need to pay any mind to (kids on the onset of puberty are a different story). Just answer her question with "some parents just didn't like her dress." What do you think?

Carolyn Hax: I think it depends on the maturity of your 8-year-old. I don't think a monologue helps any child (tho I'm guilty of them myself, esp. when an issue is complicated and my reduce-to-to-2-sentences filter is acting a little sluggish), and questions often are a more useful way to steer a discussion when you're not sure how comprehending your child is of certain subtleties. But "some parents just didn't like her dress" seems to swing to far on the dismissive side.

Then again, a child will also tell you that, just by following up with, "Why?"

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Carolyn Hax: That question and many others have hit a bit too close to home today; I have to tell my kids this weekend that their beloved (and twentysomething) hockey coach died suddenly yesterday. A really wonderful person. I debated saying anything here, but I do want to honor him--Brian St. Louis, thank you for taking such good care of my kids. You will be sorely missed.

I've done this whole session with a heavy heart, and I apologize if things moved slowly today (even by my standards).

Bye to all, have a great weekend, and don't forget to hug, thank or just be grateful for the people you love.

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In her daily column in The Washington Post Style section, Carolyn Hax offers readers advice based on the experiences of someone who's been there. Hax is an ex-repatriated New Englander with a liberal arts degree and a lot of opinions and that's about it, really, when you get right down to it. Oh, and the shoes. A lot of shoes.

Got more to say? Check out Carolyn's discussion group, Hax-Philes. Comments submitted to the chat may be used in the discussion group.

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