DEAR ABBY: We visit my in-laws two or three times a year. During our most recent visit, my kids (ages 12 and 14) were roughhousing with their cousins and accidentally slammed a door, which resulted in a broken frame. Their grandpa had asked them to stop, which they apparently didn't do.
Now, three months later, my in-laws are visiting us, and my mother-in-law is having the kids pay for the frame. When I spoke up and let her know I thought this was inappropriate, she became very upset and said, "Kids these days don't have any consequences," and this is what she and the kids had agreed should happen. I emphasized in front of the kids how important it is to listen, to be accountable for your actions and to see what they could've done to make it up to her.
I'm just not comfortable with her still holding onto this and expecting them to pay for the frame. It seems to me that a conversation about respect and listening is plenty appropriate but, after that, shouldn't my mother-in-law have gracefully let it go? These kids, by the way, get excellent school reports, play instruments and sports, and are considered by most people to be great kids.
Was I wrong to express my opinion that having the kids pay her is inappropriate? If it wasn't, then maybe we shouldn't visit at her home, since it's filled with breakable valuables. I am very frustrated by my controlling mother-in-law. -- UPSET IN MORRO BAY
DEAR UPSET: Your "great kids" ignored their grandfather when he asked them to quit roughhousing, and the result was significant property damage. If they had agreed with their grandmother that there would be restitution -- I assume the same was true of their cousins -- you were wrong to interfere. That you would do this in the presence of your kids was a mistake.
I agree with your mother-in-law that one of the problems in our society today is the lack of accountability or consequences when people do something wrong. I applaud her for sticking to her guns, and you owe her an apology.
DEAR ABBY: I am going to my girlfriend's mother's 60th birthday party. I just found out that her younger sister is pregnant -- unbeknownst to her parents -- and she plans to surprise them the next day on their mom's actual birthdate. The little sister has asked that we not drink at the dinner because she doesn't want to feel left out. This caused an argument between me and my girlfriend because I think her request is silly and kind of selfish.
Is there a rule of etiquette about this? Isn't it weird that someone would ask that you not drink a couple of beers or a glass of wine at a birthday dinner? If I'm on a diet, I don't ask people to eat only salad or to order less around me. I think she should make a "headache/not feeling well" excuse rather than try to limit/control the fun of others. -- SOCIAL DRINKER
DEAR SOCIAL DRINKER: No rule of etiquette covers this. I agree that you shouldn't have to abstain at the celebration if you prefer to indulge. However, the decision should be voluntary and not imposed upon you. Your girlfriend may prefer not to have alcohol that night to support her sister, but that doesn't mean you must.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
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