DEAR AMY: I was raised by two wonderful parents. My sister and I are independent and strong women. My parents allowed me, my husband and our two infant children, to move in with them for a year to save for a deposit on our next home and pay off debt. Things have been going well. My father is near retirement and getting meaner in his tone and comments. Most of it is directed at my mother. She has never, and claims she never will, confront my father when he acts this way. At times, it is too much, and she confides in me how she feels. Last night, Dad snapped at her when she made a suggestion on an important topic that affects them both. Dad made a sharp statement, and ended the discussion. He could not see with his back turned how tears were welling up and she swallowed it and went on with the evening, but you could tell she was upset. I know she does not want me to say anything to my father, but I have always been able to push back when his tone is inappropriate, especially when he does it right in front of me. I would never allow my husband to say something to me in that manner. Can I break in a conversation with, “Dad, no need to escalate with your tone of voice”? A sarcastic comment? Other suggestions?
DEAR DAUGHTER: Sarcasm is seldom the answer, but especially in this situation. My suggestion falls under the “Other” category.
First, I think you need to imagine the stress your father (and mother) might be under having you, your husband and two infants living in the household. Not only is the rhythm of their lives altered, but now they have an audience. Even if they welcome you and love having you and your family around (I assume they do), it is still a situation guaranteed to create challenges.
Many people misdirect their stress reaction toward people who they know won’t call them on it. Your father knows you will react proportionally to a blow-up; your mother will not.
You should speak to him privately. Ask him if things are OK with him, and tell him, honestly, how upsetting you found it when he snapped angrily at your mother. Tell him, “Dad, you raised me to always expect respect from other people. It is disappointing to see you be so hard on Mom.” If his behavior gets worse, then definitely speak up in the moment.
I hope you will also urge your mother to stand up for herself.
DEAR AMY: A few months ago an international college student started staying in my home. She was placed with me through a “homestay” program. Last month I had a business trip so I arranged for a married couple I know to stay with her. The first night I was gone someone left the bathroom sink on. It overflowed and flooded the house. No one claimed they remembered leaving the sink on. I thought it was probably one of the married couple since it happened the very first night they stayed, and the student had never done that before, but since that is speculative, I decided to pay for the repairs myself. The repairs will be less than my insurance deductible. Then this morning, I went into the bathroom right after the student had been there and found that she had left the sink on! Now it seems 99 percent likely that she is the culprit. Should I ask her to pay for the damage? The program didn’t require her to put down a deposit, since it’s not a landlord/lessee agreement.
DEAR WONDERING: Check with the program to see what they advise.
You still can’t prove that she was the culprit for the previous flooding.
You should tell her what the repairs cost you, tell her that you noticed she left the faucet on today, and let her know that if this ever happens again, she will have to pay the full cost for any repair. And check that faucet. Is it malfunctioning?
DEAR AMY: “Lost in Time” described himself as a man whose wife continued to bring up long-ago mistakes and character flaws, throwing these things in his face whenever he “repeated a mistake.” You lectured her about fighting old battles, but you should have told him to stop “repeating his mistakes!”
DEAR DISAPPOINTED: “Lost” said he had apologized (and been forgiven) for past mistakes. But yes, your point is well taken.