DEAR HARRIETTE: We recently went on a family vacation, and our overall time was great. However, there were some uncomfortable moments. My father invited some of his family from Florida and South Carolina, and instead of exhibiting Southern charm, they were pretty rude. Our family welcomed them with open arms and tried to show them a good time, but they seemed ungrateful.
One 15-year-old kept making rude comments about my sisters and me, and when we had had enough, we confronted him about it. My dad was upset with us because he believed that since he is a minor, his mother should have been made aware of his behavior. My sisters and I are in our early 20s. What would you have done if you were in our situation? -- Family Reunion Blues
DEAR FAMILY REUNION BLUES: Your father wanted to be a gracious host. Despite whatever squabbles occurred, he wanted to stay above the fray. That is a noble philosophy, but it doesn’t take into account what happens in the moment.
As young adults, I understand why you felt you should have the agency to speak up for yourselves when your teenage cousin had gone too far with his rude comments. You haven’t detailed exactly what transpired to provoke your reaction nor specifically what you said to your cousin, but in general I can say that it can be helpful for people to work out their differences face to face if it can be done civilly. It is also true that the parent of a minor can and should be informed if that child is behaving inappropriately. In that case, the protocol would have been for you to report the behavior to your father and have him speak to the parent.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My brother is a single parent. This summer he unexpectedly dropped off his 4-year-old at our mom's house. He said he feels overwhelmed by being a single parent and needs some time to himself to recalibrate. I live close to our mom, so I’ve been helping her out, but it's quite an imposition on both of us to care for our niece for the whole summer. I love my niece, but she’s not our responsibility. How can I find the balance between helping out my brother and maintaining my own life balance? -- Drawing the Line
DEAR DRAWING THE LINE: Clear lines of communication are needed here. Being a single parent can feel overwhelming at times, and as the saying goes, it does take a village to raise a child. But the village needs to be aware and willing. Dropping off a child without warning is irresponsible, even if the drop-off is to Mom’s house.
A plan should have been designed that everyone signed off on regarding time for taking the child, shared responsibilities, along with any quirks or peculiarities about the child that the family should know. It is not too late to call your brother and come to a meeting of the minds about what’s happening now. He may need to pick up his daughter early if the visit is too much of an imposition.
(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.)