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Carolyn Hax: Dad weighs giving adult son makeup cash for lean childhood

(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)

Dear Carolyn: I was a single father for several years before I married my second wife, with whom I have two daughters. My son is now grown and on his own and my daughters are still in school and live at home.

My wife and I can now afford to provide opportunities for our daughters that I was, as a single father, unable to provide for my son. For example, we took them on a vacation abroad and have funded savings accounts for both of them. In general, they live a more affluent lifestyle than my son did growing up.

This seems unfair to my son. He works a blue-collar job and makes a decent wage, but I know he can’t afford much beyond his living expenses. I was thinking of giving him a gift of cash to “make up” for the fact that he didn’t have as much growing up as my daughters do. Does this seem reasonable, or am I making much ado about nothing.

— Wondering Dad

Wondering Dad: It’s not nothing. A well-funded childhood drives upward mobility, a phenomenon amply studied and documented.

But that’s also a generalized take on one very specific outcome. It says nothing of your son’s quality of life or his sense of purpose, and it certainly doesn’t prove he’d be someplace different if you’d been wealthier sooner. He could look at people who enjoyed cushier childhoods and believe he’s the one who lucked out.

So tread carefully.

But tread realistically, too. It sounds as if he’s like most people in getting by just fine … as long as nothing unusually bad happens. You may have noticed that most of us in the GoFundMe era are either passing a hat or dropping a little something into one for a medical crisis or natural disaster or other costly fate.

The kind of money you’re talking about — handed down from a parent who can afford it — is not only a mobility driver, but also an unwritten insurance policy. (And aid to a good night’s sleep.) You’re providing that to your daughters, too, so, yes — please offer it to your son and say you wish you could have sooner.

Present it just like that: as a kind of insurance, which you’re honored to provide in an amount you decide but in a form he chooses. Lump sum now, a bit of cash annually, a trust? There are lots of ways to do this, and if your son accepts the gift, then an attorney and/or financial planner can help you put it to the specific use he has in mind.

Hello Carolyn: My only child had a baby this year with her partner, who has a Filipino mother and American father of European heritage. My daughter’s partner is very connected to his Filipino heritage, including his grandmother who helped raise him. He called her Lola, the Filipino term for grandmother.

Our family tradition is to call grandparents Grandma and Grandpa. I rather prefer the Filipino terms Lola and Lolo. My thought is to be conscious about the baby’s Filipino heritage and let him know he has many identities, all of which are a part of him.

My daughter is accusing me of cultural appropriation. There isn’t really any other grandparent term that I like as well as Lola and Lolo and truly dislike other terms like G-ma, Grannie, Grandmother, Memaw, Nana, etc. I am not interested in fighting about it and want to enjoy the grandparent role. It is a huge and unexpected gift as our daughter is 35 years old. I also don’t want to culturally appropriate anything. Who gets to decide?

— Wants to be Called Lola

Wants to be Called Lola: Your daughter has already decided, and so have you. She — possibly speaking for her partner, too — is uncomfortable with it on principle. And you “don’t want to culturally appropriate anything.” So why does it matter whose “no” wins? Pick another name and move on. Recognize that stubbornness is not a prized trait in supporting roles.

It would be different if this were your actual name. That’s your call. If you’re Rosie, then we all call you Rosie and like it. Epithets, though, are collaborative — which is appropriate because they’re part name, part role, part feeling.

If you truly dislike every single other nonethnic grandmother variation on earth, then go by your first name. Or Wheezie. Or Chuck. It won’t matter because, your grandson will call you whatever he wants to anyway when he lovably botches your name as he’s learning to talk — that is, assuming you haven’t forced this issue past the point of good sense and out of your daughter’s good graces.

Stubborn persistence is a wonderful thing when you’re trying to cure cancer or run a marathon. It’s not wonderful in the delicate renegotiation of a parent-child relationship upon the launch of a new generation. Drop it and snuggle your gift.

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