Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: I have two children, ages 15 and 8. Recently, at a family gathering, I overheard my father-in-law ask my oldest to grab him a “beer” from an ice chest. My father-in-law is not in the best of health. He is overweight, drinks a lot and to add to it many in my husband’s family are heavy alcohol drinkers.
I tend to avoid these parties with my children when alcohol is involved. Growing up, I was never asked to grab a beer for my father or for any other adult. My children, or any child younger than 21, should not be touching alcoholic beverages. I’ve expressed my concerns to my husband, but he just brushes it off and says I’m overreacting, He also says that as a child he too would grab a beer from the fridge for his father and it didn’t bother him. Am I overreacting, because this does not feel normal to me. Since my husband has no intention of letting his father know how I feel, I need your advice on how I should approach this the next time it happens.
DEAR MAMA: You are overreacting. For some of us, having a younger person around to fetch beers from the ice chest is pretty much why we have children in the first place.
I’m joking, of course. But by the time I was 8, my father was giving me money and a “permission slip” and sending me to the store on my bike to buy smokes (those were the days when a store clerk would sell a child a pack of unfiltered Camels).
I’m not saying this sort of choice demonstrates good parenting (or grandparenting), but it is typical behavior of a certain type of person. For your grandson, the experience of handing the beer to his grandfather might be counted as some of the most positive contact the two have (Grandpas who ask kids to fetch beers tend not to be touchy-feely types). You should not take this overly seriously, but you can use it as a reason to talk to your son about healthy choices.
You can ask your son if he felt comfortable being asked to do this. You can also tell him, “I don’t like the idea of an underage person fetching alcohol, so the next time this happens I’d appreciate it if you just came to me or your dad and let us handle this chore.” You can also ask your father-in-law (respectfully) not to ask the children to bring him beer.
DEAR AMY: My husband and I recently received a co-ed baby shower invitation from his stepgrandson and girlfriend who live on the East Coast. We have never met the mother-to-be and have had very little contact with the father-to-be. We live on the West Coast, and it hardly seems likely they would think we would be attending this shower. I have attended (and hosted) a few showers, and inviting out-of-town guests was not given any thought, unless it was perhaps a close relative who lived within easy driving distance. Is it standard procedure these days to shower every living relative with invitations?
Lost in LA
DEAR LOST IN LA: Showers have become bigger and bolder events than they used to be — and co-ed showers are increasingly common — but what strikes me is your unkind reaction to this invitation. Any invitation should be received with gratitude, even if it is to an event you won’t be attending.
Your husband’s “stepgrandson” (maybe you could start to think of him as a grandson) is about to add a family member to the mix. The least you should do is thank the couple for the invitation and express your excitement about their news. Sending them a copy of “Pat the Bunny” as a gift for the baby would also be thoughtful, but is not required.
DEAR AMY: I loved your response to “LA Confused,” the man who found himself paying for expensive meals and drinks for first dates he was meeting through a dating app. Your suggestions of alternatives to expensive dates were great, until you got to this one: “Invite her for a hike in the hills.” Wow! That’s dangerous! All first dates should be in a public place.
DEAR LA SAVVY: Yikes. You’re right! Many readers have contacted me to say I have suggested something that could be quite dangerous. I completely agree and thank you all.