DEAR HARRIETTE: My friend from work invited my family and me to come to a picnic at her house last weekend. She has a beautiful house, and it was a lovely party. The problem was that her house is so pristine. I have two young boys, and every time they were in the house my friend was watching them like a hawk to make sure they didn't touch or break anything. I understand that, but it was awkward and uncomfortable. After a while, I just kept them outside. When the party moved indoors, I packed up and left. I did not want to have to monitor their behavior so intensely. It seemed like it was better all around to just go home. The next day at work, my friend told me that she was disappointed that we had left early. I apologized and left it at that. Do you think I should have told her that I left so that she and my kids would be more comfortable? I didn't want to make waves, so I didn't go into detail. -- Tightrope, Cincinnati
DEAR TIGHTROPE: What you did was likely the wisest choice you could make. If the host did not offer a game room or other safe zone where the children could play comfortably, it was smart for you to leave when the house was the only option. Nobody wants to listen to a mother constantly scolding or corralling her children, nor would the host appreciate anything being damaged in her home.
There is also nothing wrong with telling the host the truth. You could have said that you had a wonderful time except for when the children were in the house. You did not feel comfortable having your young boys in a home that was not childproof -- for their benefit and hers. If it comes up again, it would be fine to let her know.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I am the one in my family who always needs help. As hard as I work, I have had plenty of times when I've needed a loan or some kind of support from them. I am not proud of it at all. I hate being that one that people probably talk about after I leave, calling me pathetic or a waste or something like that. I want to make it up to them, but I am not even working now. I can't pay back anything. I feel like such a failure. I have begun to avoid going to family events, but I think that makes the backlash worse. What can I do to let my family know that I do not mean to be a leech and that I want to make it up to them? I want them to believe me. -- Doubted, Detroit
DEAR DOUBTED: Stop avoiding your family. As uncomfortable as it may be to face them, do it. Go to them and thank them for all of their support over the years. Admit how bad it feels to be in need so frequently. Promise that you will pay them back when you get on your feet. Then, whenever you get a few extra dollars send them their way. A small effort will go a long way.