DEAR HARRIETTE: My sister is very indecisive. She does not understand that her behavior influences others’ lives. For example, she bailed on a family vacation after we had already paid for it, citing that she just doesn’t feel like it is the right decision anymore. How can I balance her indecisiveness without going insane? I can’t just exclude my sister from family gatherings. -- Choose One, Minneapolis
DEAR CHOOSE ONE: You can work on making your sister more accountable. If she didn’t pay for her share of the family vacation, tell her she will have to pay for it because the family was all in it together, and she will be creating a hardship on the rest of you by not taking care of her part.
In the future, continue to invite her to participate in activities, but give parameters. Require her to pay for her part. More important than her wallet is her heart. Appeal to her love of family. Remind her how much your family loves and wants to be with her. Explain that when she flakes, it hurts everyone’s feelings. Ask her to think about the rest of you before she bails on family activities.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a divorced parent who does not have full custody of my children. My ex-wife and I get along well, but she has recently been harping on me for missing my son’s basketball games. I work long hours to be able to have my son play sports and have all the newest clothes, so I can’t leave work early to go to these games. My ex says it affects my son, and I’m being a bad father. Should I just ignore what my ex-wife says? My son seems happy with the gifts I can give him, and those come from my long hours at work. -- Not Always Around, Silver Spring, Maryland
DEAR NOT ALWAYS AROUND: Your intentions are honorable and understandable. It takes a lot of money to support a child and yourself, even more sometimes when you are not living with your child. Even for parents who live together, often one of them is working many hours and largely unavailable to be present to support extracurricular activities.
Here’s what I know: While children love “stuff,” they typically prefer their parents' loving presence, cheerleading and engagement a whole lot more. Your ex-wife is not wrong in pointing out to you that your son needs you -- literally your butt in a seat -- at least sometimes. I recommend that you review the sports calendar and figure out a way to attend at least one or two games per season. Similarly, during the summer, find time to participate in activities with him. Those bonding moments are priceless and will be remembered for years to come, even as the clothes will become too small and out of style.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)