DEAR AMY: I feel like I should know the answer to my question, but I don’t. My sister and I have always been close. We’ve never had any issues between us, and our parents raised us well (polite, well mannered, etc.). Now that we’re approaching middle-age, she has three boys and I have three girls (all six are school age 6 to 12). Our families are close. Our father is a great cook! He makes the most wonderful food for family gatherings. Neighbors will invite themselves over, just for a taste! We gather for every major holiday, birthdays and special occasions, and spend a lot of time together. My nephews are very sweet, but it seems that manners were not high on the list of parenting-dos for my sister and her husband. The boys are not good at sharing and eat as if it is their last meal. Their table manners are basically atrocious. I understand boys may eat more than girls, but does that mean girls should have nothing? The problem happens most with appetizers and desserts. They gobble them up and don’t leave enough for others. I’ve tried to avoid mentioning it to my sister; she doesn’t believe in rules for kids (I think) and I want to respect that. But I find the gatherings to be very stressful, and I’m surprised because we weren’t raised that way. I try to gently remind the boys to be mindful of sharing with the girls, but I don’t get through. What should I do?
DEAR MOM: We dealt with a similar dynamic in our family. It wasn’t gender-based, but generally in a large group buffet-style meal, the kids crowded to the front and heaped their plates high, leaving the adults with slim(mer) pickings. We then simply told all of the children that they would have to serve themselves last.
If these gatherings are at your father’s home, you could ask him to serve (or have an adult serve) the children, and to reinforce the polite rule that no one should serve themselves “seconds” before everyone else had enjoyed their first portion. You could also say to your nephews, “Guys, I know this is delicious, but we need to make sure that there is enough for everyone.” As their aunt, you should feel comfortable gently policing this without stepping over the line with their parents.
No, it is not your place to correct their table manners in someone else’s home and if their parents are present.
You needn’t lecture them or their parents, or frame this as a matter of politeness, necessarily, but one of quantity, portions, and fairness.
DEAR AMY: I have a young daughter with my ex. He is currently with one of my old friends (whom he met through me). At first it was rough and I was not happy. He didn’t care about my feelings at the time. It’s now two years later and we are all on a better path. Recently, however, I have started dating one of his close friends. I have also been friends with him for several years. We are very happy, but our whole mutual friend group is mad at us, saying we are being disloyal to my ex. My ex has only said he doesn’t want my “boyfriend” around our daughter, but gives no other clues as to why he is so angry. He has sent snide texts such as, “Have a romantic weekend” when we are going out of town. Our daughter has been around my boyfriend at her dad’s house, so I am feeling like that’s not really the reason he objects to us. Please tell me what I can say without ruining my co-parenting relationship, but not risking all our friends as well.
DEAR BEWILDERED: You can assume that your ex is cycling through the same emotions you experienced when he started dating your friend. Don’t react to his negative comments, and let this die down. Listen to his objections concerning having this man around your daughter, and use your best judgment.
Unfortunately, both of you have chosen to date within your mutual friend circle and divided loyalties are the inevitable result.
DEAR AMY: I was very concerned by the letter from “Hurting,” who described her abusive boyfriend’s treatment. She needs to get this guy out of her house!
DEAR CONCERNED: Many readers (and I) share this concern about “Hurting.” She — and anyone in a frightening, abusive and/or violent relationship — should contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline for immediate help: thehotline.org 800-799-7233.