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by Abigail Van Buren

Dinner Hour Drop-Ins From Son Cause Rift Between Elderly Parents

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I are well into a relaxed retirement. His successful, middle-aged son "Rory" has developed the habit of stopping by unannounced occasionally on his way home from work. This would be fine except that it falls in the middle of the dinner hour. Although we ask Rory to join us, he prefers to just stand over us and talk about his day while we eat. This wasn't his childhood home, so it's not a matter of an extended familiarity with this residence.

I have asked his father to speak to him about it, and while he agrees that his son's actions are rude, he refused to say anything. My husband is mild-mannered and seems to be happy that Rory takes the time to see him. To me, it looks like this is the most convenient time for Rory to get the occasional parent visit out of the way while not considering our feelings.

Because I have had a good long-term relationship with my stepson, I took him aside and politely explained that these dinner interruptions are discourteous. Rory blew up at me! I was astonished to see a mature man I respected act in such a childish manner. Now I'm the culprit in a family rift, while my husband remains mute. Should I have focused on digestion and held my tongue? -- DISAPPOINTED STEPMOM

DEAR STEPMOM: Because your husband refused to say anything and won't back you up, it appears the answer is yes. While some people consider the dinner hour to be sacred, not everyone does, and your stepson's visits were only occasional. Your request might have been better received had you told Rory that his hovering makes you nervous, and if he didn't care to share the food you had prepared, you'd appreciate it if he would at least sit at the table with you for everyone's comfort.

Read more in: Etiquette & Ethics | Family & Parenting