DEAR AMY: My family has spent a week at a beach house every summer. My brother, sister and I — along with our families — have converged upon the house every year for a family reunion and vacation. My siblings and I buy groceries, make meals, and clean and fix whatever we can as a kind of payment for staying there. Last summer, my parents offered to sell the house to one of us, and my sister was able to purchase it. She lives only an hour away, whereas my brother and I are only able to visit during the summer. I felt a sense of relief: the place that holds decades of memories would remain in the family. As we made plans for this summer, I asked my sister what we could bring. She gave me a list of groceries and supplies, but then added that things would be “a little different” this year, as my brother and I would be expected to pay for our stay. She is charging about half of what a hotel in the area would cost, but I can’t afford to stay for more than two or three nights. I don’t know what to do. I have always seen the house as our family house. It is legally in my sister’s name and I accept that she will make changes. But to be charged to stay there upsets me, in part because it makes me feel like a guest rather than a family member, and in part because of the financial strain. How do I express this to my sister? I don’t want to make our treasured vacation time awkward or full of resentment.
There’s No Place Like (the Beach) Home
DEAR NO PLACE: Being asked to pay your way doesn’t make you a guest, but a customer. And if your sister is turning you into a customer, then why is she also expecting you to bring supplies?
Some families successfully share vacation houses and each person pays an annual or per/night fee as a way to pay the bills. This is obviously not the case here.
Your sister is announcing that the house is no longer your family home, but her home. If you stayed for one or two nights this summer, I suspect that the magic would have drained out of this house.
If your parents had sold the house to someone outside the family, you would have to adjust to this loss. It is time for you to find another summer retreat.
DEAR AMY: I am 21 years old and am attending college and waitressing. I recently decided to move to another state because they have amazing programs that will really catapult me in my career. There is also a guy there whom I’ve grown to care for. My mother is completely against this. She believes that it’s a stupid idea. She also believes that this guy and I are destined to fail. I understand that my mother is worried about me. I haven’t had the greatest relationships in the past due to my own bad judgment. I had known this guy previously, and we really care about one another. I really believe that we’re both ready to make this work. What should I do? Should I stay to make her happy and give her peace of mind, or should I go and risk everything, but have the opportunity to be the happiest I’ve ever been?
DEAR CAUGHT: One of the beautiful burdens of adulthood is the ability to make big decisions, along with the necessity of taking responsibility for them.
Your job is to grow up and eventually live your own life on your own terms, and your mother’s job is to find a way to let you.
You frame your query as if your choice is primarily about your education, but honestly, it seems to be mainly about a guy. I assume this is the source of your mother’s concern. The wisest course is to do what you need and want to do, but finance your own life and make sure you don’t box yourself in. Leave the door open at home, because you might need to cross the threshold again, and you will want your mother there when you do.
DEAR AMY: “Upset Daughter” wrote about her father, who verbally bullied her regarding his hatred of “fat and bald” people. Here’s a useful phrase for her: “I hear your opinion and I respectfully disagree.” That’s all it is, his opinion.
DEAR KJH: I like it.