Adapted from a recent online discussion.
DEAR CAROLYN: I’m at a stage of life when many of my friends are having kids, and I am very accommodating. I’ve always liked kids, and my friends’ kids enjoy spending time with Auntie Kate.
My problem is that I feel like a couple of these friends are really taking advantage. One has brought her kids along on every single get-together we’ve had since she had her first child five years ago. Another moved an hour away when she had kids, and about 95 percent of the time our social activities involve my going to her house for the day to hang out with her kids.
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I understand their kids come first, but both of them are married and have access to affordable child care and nearby relatives. When I ask to meet up, it’s with plenty of advanced notice. Am I asking too much here?
– Socializing With Parents
DEAR SOCIALIZING WITH PARENTS: Question is, are you actually asking? Have you spelled out what you would like from these two friends?: “I’d love some one-on-one time. Maybe a nice dinner?”
If each says no, then you have your (unfortunate) answer — but I suspect just from what you’ve written that your being so amenable to having the kids around is part of the equation here, that your friends are taking advantage more by default than on purpose. Worth a shot to try to change the assumptions.
DEAR CAROLYN: My wife is an introvert. I get that, and we long ago shifted to a system where I only ask her to attend outside-the-home events that are important to me. We do our best to keep those outside events to two or three a month. After previously declining seven invitations from a couple who are my friends, we have been invited to spend a weekend at a friend’s mountain cabin. My wife has agreed to go, but she’s sighing and moping, and making me feel horrible for asking.
I’ve given her the out of my going without her, but she insists we go together. I feel like I’m torturing a kitten. What now?
DEAR EXTROVERT: No, she’s acting like a child. “When you say yes, please own it. Don’t mope around the house like I gave your kitten away.”
Just be sure you’re ready to take that strong a position.
DEAR CAROLYN: A neighbor gets in her van and then honks her horn (sometimes more than once) to alert the kids that it’s time to go “now!” This has been going on for years, and the quiet of the street is broken up by this noise. Is there any way to approach this, or should I just suck it up until the kids finally learn time-management?
DEAR NEIGHBOR: Full disclosure, I’ve lived either in a big city or near a fire station for my entire life, and a day punctuated by only three brief episodes of loud noise doesn’t even show up on my nuisance radar.
If I knew and disliked this neighbor, however, then it might — which I suspect is the nub of it. You dislike her, and therefore resent the noise?
The answer’s the same regardless — let it go as a minor cost of living — but that might be easier if you know why she bugs you so.