DEAR AMY: I have two sons, and my sister-in-law has three children: two girls and a boy. Neither of my boys is interested in sports, but one niece and my nephew are involved in several sports. As a result, their grandparents go to many games and spend a great deal of time with that side of the family. Recently, the grandparents bought a new RV and invited my nieces/nephew to go camping with them. My children had no such offer. When my husband confronted his mother on this matter, she said he was just being jealous. But she still hasn’t invited our children camping, nor have their grandparents had any contact with them in a month. My husband feels that we are left out a lot. My in-laws’ response is typically that it’s just that they go to the games. Is that a valid reason to spend more time with part of the family over the other part of the family? Wouldn’t taking the nonathletes camping be a great way to get that quality time, since they pursue less popular activities?
DEAR FEELING: On the one hand, sports are very time consuming and can interfere with relationships. On the other, they give grandparents (and others) a fairly easy way to connect with the children in their lives by attending games.
Assuming that your children are as accessible to these grandparents as the other set of grandchildren, your in-laws are, in fact, being patently unfair when excluding your children.
If these grandparents feel they simply don’t know your sons well enough, camping with them would be a great way to get to know them.
Your husband has pointed out this imbalance, and his parents have thrown it in his face.
You two should do your best to promote a relationship between your children and these grandparents by inviting the older couple to spend time with your family.
Also — I hope these cousins are close. One unfortunate consequence of obvious favoritism is that it interferes with other relationships.
Many reader responses on this topic point out that children are very aware of favoritism, and the effects can permanently damage relationships, as well as create bitter memories.
You can acknowledge this favoritism to your boys, but you should not dwell on it.
DEAR AMY: I have been with my boyfriend, “Tom,” for more than four years. Tom and I have different faiths. We are very secure in our interfaith relationship. My brother “Gary” has made it abundantly clear that he does not support us. He cornered Tom at a family event to express his utter disdain for him and our relationship. This encounter was extremely upsetting. Gary apologized to me (but never to Tom), and with Tom’s support I’ve managed to keep Gary in my life. We are not as close as we once were. Tom and I want to get married, but Gary has been a roadblock for me. Although Gary is in my life, I do not want him to attend our wedding. I am very nervous about how he would treat Tom and his family. Tom and I want to have a small ceremony where our families will be present. I just know Gary will be crushed to learn that he’s not invited. How can I tell my brother that I love him but do not want him to be a part of this life event? If I could, I would prevent Gary from ever attending any family events where Tom and his family will be present.
Ready to Move Forward
DEAR READY: If you definitely want to exclude your brother, you will have to be brave enough to tell him. Describe your decision as a consequence of his behavior.
However, you could be frank, give him a chance to behave differently, and leave the final choice up to him.
Tell him, “Tom and I are getting married. We would like to include you, but you have made it clear that you don’t support our union. If you can’t be supportive and respectful toward us and his family, then you should definitely stay home.”
DEAR AMY: I was appalled by your response to “Confused by a Cheapskate,” whose boyfriend never shared expenses. You suggested she slide the restaurant check toward him quietly to see what he would do. That is passive-aggressive.
DEAR UPSET: I was working on the theory that “Confused” might be leaping in to pick up the check to avoid forcing the issue. Waiting would reveal her boyfriend’s choice.