DEAR AMY: Our seventh-grade son, "Wally," rides his bicycle each day about a mile to a local train station, where he catches a train to his middle school. He enjoys the independence, freedom, and responsibility of his commute. Last year, the mother of a classmate who lives nearby asked if her son, "Eddie," could join Wally on the commute. My wife and I agreed. We think Eddie is an exceedingly polite and affable young man and would seem to be an ideal commuting partner. Our son, however, complains daily about having to share his commute with this boy, whom he describes as behaving differently when away from adults. Eddie doesn't seem aggressive or unsafe, but he seems to annoy our son, who is now threatening to quit his daily commute via public transportation. We would consider making up an excuse to have Wally bow out of the arrangement, but Eddie's mother is a bit of a "helicopter parent" and probably wouldn't allow her son to ride alone. We'd hate to spoil the other boy's use of public transportation, and we'd also feel bad backing out of the deal with his mother, whom we both like. Do you see a solution?
In a Commuting Quandary
DEAR QUANDARY: Let's recap: Last year, you agreed to let "Wally" commute by himself to school. He felt free, capable, and responsible. He rose to the occasion.
Then you cooked up a deal with "Eddie's" mom to share this commute.
Let's say that safety is not a concerning factor here (you seem to feel it is a safe solo commute). Without asking your son first, the message you sent was, "You're not in charge of your commute anymore. Eddie Haskell's mother is."
Now Wally is pushing back.
You think it might be a good idea to invent a lie in order to get your son out of the arrangement that you cooked up in the first place. Talk about helicoptering!
Stop. Back away. Tell your son, "If you don't want to ride with Eddie, then don't ride with him. It's up to you." Then tell Eddie's mom, "We shouldn't have interfered. Wally wants to ride by himself in the morning."
I think there is some likelihood that these two boys, after a period of adjustment, will probably end up parallel commuting very peacefully.
Then all of you parents should congratulate yourselves. You've given your sons some common ground: Now they can quite appropriately complain about you.
DEAR AMY: I have been married to my husband for 30 years. We have maintained a relationship with one of his brothers and his wife, but rarely see them, because they have always lived far away. The wife has never been nice to me. She says rude things. She talks about how fat everyone is — she's very thin, and never eats other than a few vegetables now and then (she does, however, like to drink plenty of wine). I'm not a small person, and some of her remarks are hurtful. She seems to think she is better than everyone. In reality, she's pushy and difficult to be around. Now they have bought a home nearby. I need to set boundaries with this person as soon as possible. Even though they will be in the same city as us, I'd rather not spend time with them. My husband knows how I feel. He agrees that she's over the top. I don't mind if he goes to visit them, but I'd rather have a root canal than spend time with her. What should I do?
DEAR DREADING: Congratulations! You are an adult, and you have the right and responsibility to make choices regarding your own well-being. Yes, if you don't want to be fat-shamed and put down by this in-law, then definitely avoid her.
If your husband spends time with this couple and your sister-in-law asks where you are, he can always respond, "She's sorry she can't see you, but she's getting a root canal."
DEAR AMY: In a recent letter regarding destination weddings, both the letter writer and you used the term PSA. I looked it up and there are many different definitions. I'm sure I'm not alone among older readers who are very frustrated by all of the new acronyms in use these days.
DEAR GEEZER: I was surprised by the number of queries I received, asking what in tarnation a "PSA" is. I apologize for not spelling it out.
PSA in this context refers to "public service announcement," NOT "prostate-specific antigen."