DEAR AMY: My brother and his teenage children come to visit for the holidays and stay for three to five days at our house. They are highly educated and generally thoughtful people, but they forget their manners when they enter our house.
They do make their own breakfast but leave all the pots and dishes in the sink every day! They forget to put glassware in the dishwasher (which is right next to where they’ve left it). I cannot just leave the stuff in the sink because it drives my wife and me crazy and we also need the sink area for other chores.
In every room they enter, the lights are turned on and stay on. When they leave the house, they sometimes pile up their dirty laundry for the “maid.” This last time it took us hours to vacuum, do the laundry and tidy up after them — all of this besides the daily stuff.
I love them, and my wife does too. I’ve surveyed others, and responses range from “suck it up, he is your brother” to having me suggest a convenient hotel and offer to pay for it. I do not like either response. I am not sure what to say and how to say it without being offensive. — Bothered Brother
DEAR BROTHER: I ponder your letter while still recovering from the Thanksgiving holiday, when my brother and sister-in-law brought their seven children to stay at my house.
That’s right. I said seven children.
And the house? 1,000 square feet.
After they left, I realized that I miss this family of nine, not only for their company but because they left the house cleaner than they found it.
This particular family knows that when you stay in someone else’s house, the primary goal is to behave in a way that guarantees you’ll be asked back. A good guest behaves better than he does at home. He’s more helpful, more energy-efficient and more cheerful in the morning.
You don’t have to stew in your juice or offer to pay for a hotel. Simply ask your family members to do the very reasonable things you’d like for them to do. You say to the teenage kids, “Hey guys — do me a favor and load those breakfast dishes into the dishwasher each morning.” You remind them to turn off the lights when they leave the room. You show your brother how to use the washing machine and suggest he throw in a load whenever he needs to.
Your family members may never run themselves as efficiently as you’d like, but they may get close, and in families close should be good enough.
DEAR AMY: My mother just turned 80, and for Christmas I am making her a photo book of her life. She divorced my father 30 years ago, but I would like to include one photograph of him and my mother together on the same page that I have placed baby pictures of my brother and me.
My mother was the one who asked for the divorce, and although it wasn’t hostile, their relationship now is distant and cold and she seems to dislike any mention of him.
Should I include this one photograph of the man she was married to for 20 years? -- Wondering Daughter
DEAR DAUGHTER: This album is for your mother, not for you. You should include photos you think she would enjoy looking at, not photos you think she should enjoy looking at.
You could enclose the photo in question in an envelope and tuck it into the album. If she wants to affix it to a page, she will.
DEAR AMY: I am responding to the amazing letter from “Lost in Lauderdale.” In retaliation for a personal slight, the woman ratted out her sister to her sister’s employer for taking Post-it notes. “Lost” is truly priceless in her pettiness.
She also, I must point out, misquoted George Costanza. He did not say, “Was I wrong?” He, quite famously, said, “Was that wrong?”
I hate petty, vindictive, self-righteous people who misquote their classic sitcoms. -- Mike
DEAR MIKE: The petty vindictiveness can be forgiven. Getting a “Seinfeld” reference wrong? Never!
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