Dear Emuna,

My parents are a little weird. They’re older than most of my friends’ parents and they don’t dress the same way as everyone else. They are nice and kind but I’m embarrassed to bring my friends over to play. I feel badly about this but I can’t seem to stop myself from cringing. What should I do?

Guilt-Ridden Child

Dear Guilt-Ridden,

I don’t know how old you are (you’re very mature to have written this letter) but if you are an adolescent I promise you that someday you will do or say at least one thing (and probably more!) that will embarrass your parents. Yet if they are as nice and kind as you describe they probably won’t say anything. They will allow you to pass through this adolescent phase feeling only secure and loved.

They won’t care what their friends think and certainly not what mere acquaintances think because their relationship with you and your emotional well-being are so much more important to them than the ill-informed judgment of strangers.

You should treat your parents the same way. Long after most of these friendships have gone by the wayside, your parents will still be there for you. They have given you everything – and will likely continue to do so. This relationship is so much more important than fleeting teenage ones and they deserve so much more.

I know that right now the opinion of your peers is everything. It’s hard to move beyond that. But this is a real growth opportunity. It’s a chance to recognize that the opinion of most people is irrelevant to you, especially when they are critical of your family. It’s an opportunity to assert the primacy of the parent-child relationship and to decide whose opinion matters to you – and whose really doesn’t. Decisions like this will aid you throughout your life.

Other children may be cruel. They may make fun of your parents. But who cares? Do you really value the thoughts and approbation of someone who would behave like that? Stick with your parents. It’s the relationship that truly counts.

TV at Grandparents

Dear Emuna,

I am blessed to live near my parents and I have a great relationship with them. They are close with my husband as well and wonderful grandparents to our three young children – most of the time. We just have one issue that is interfering with our ability to fully enjoy the relationship. My husband and I made a choice not to have a television in our home. Although we are more religious than our parents, that wasn’t the deciding factor. We just don’t like the values being promoted on most shows today and we don’t like the passivity of the experience. We’d rather our children were more active and engaged in more creative play. And of course we don’t want them to pick up on the values or some of the language of prime time TV.

My parents hear our concerns but they think it’s harmless and like to let the kids watch TV as a treat. It’s starting to cause conflict. How do you suggest I handle it?

Daughter and Mother

Dear Daughter, Mother and Wife,

It is a complicated situation that you are describing and there is no ‘one size fits all’ answer. You certainly don’t want to damage your relationship with your parents but you also have a responsibility to your children. I think that rather than make a big philosophical fight and ban all television at all times – and cause anger and resentment- I would try and look for a compromise.

You say you have a great relationship with them and I assume they want what’s best for you and the kids. It might work out easier if you just set some boundaries.

“The kids love coming over to see you and I know they like to sit in front of the television. I like them to be more active (don’t play the religion card) so could we limit the TV viewing to one cartoon per visit? That would really be great. And if there’s any way you could TiVo it ahead of time so they miss the commercials I would be really appreciative.”

I can’t imagine any parents with whom you have a “great relationship” saying no to such a request. If this compromise still doesn’t work for you then you can be more assertive.

Again, ask very nicely. Suggest that it will be better for them academically if they read or play or bake cookies with their grandmother. Explain that they are coming over to spend time with their grandparents and not to engage in another activity. Perhaps TV watching occurs when the grandparents run out of activities or energy. Maybe making the visits a little shorter will help.

The most important thing is to approach your parents with love and respect and without judgment. When approached like that, no parent can ever say no to their child!

Bad Party, Sad Wife

Dear Emuna,

I recently made my husband a birthday party. Although it wasn’t a “special” year (he turned 56; I am 40) I just wanted to express my appreciation and love. I invited a lot of his friends and mine. I hired a DJ and a bartender and we had a great night. It lasted until about 2 in the morning (when the neighbors complained) and I thought it was a lot of fun. The next morning he told me that he hated it. I couldn’t stop crying. I went to all that trouble and he admitted that he didn’t really enjoy himself. He would have preferred something quieter and more intimate. My feelings are really hurt and I don’t know what to do.

Sad Wife

Dear Sad Wife,

I understand both sides – your hurt and your husband’s response. In an ideal world, your husband wouldn’t have revealed that he didn’t enjoy it. He would have spared you the pain. But, also in an ideal world, you would have made a different party. You made a classic human mistake. You made him the party that you wanted and not the one he wanted. Whether it’s because of age difference or personality difference, you should have recognized that his preferences run to small and sedate.

When we give to people, we want to give them what they would enjoy. Perhaps the age difference comes into play and he is no longer a “party animal” while you still are; but it could just be personality. This was a painful lesson but not the worst pain and not such a bad way to learn it. If you can take from this situation and be a more empathic wife, friend, mother, and human being, then it will have been worth the expense and the tears.