DEAR CAROLYN: I have a favorite song I sing to my 9-month-old daughter.
I want to discourage other family members from singing this special song to her. Is that realistic? If so, how is the best way to handle it?
DEAR MOM: Controlling, yes; realistic, no. The best way is to resolve not to try so hard to handle things.
A song you sing to your child will become special because it is, not because you've decided it will be.
There will never be a shortage of special moments between a parent and a well-loved child. As an involved parent you are the principal figure in your child's life – or at least tied for it.
So you don't need to force the issue. In doing so you risk looking past the meaningful moments and mementos your lives together will produce organically – and, in this case, you also risk interfering with connections between other family members and your daughter. Hold the reins too firmly and your daughter will chafe as well.
This might seem like a big answer to a small question, but I believe the most important gift you can give a child is openness to whatever gifts your child gives you. A special song is a chance to practice the subtle art of letting your stories write themselves.
DEAR CAROLYN: My best friend lives six hours away, and we get together a couple times a year. There is one weekend in particular I visit and we participate in a road race together.
Last year, a mutual friend found out about my upcoming trip and said, "Sounds like fun! I think I'll join you!"
The trip was OK, but I missed being able to truly catch up with my friend and the fifth wheel started to get on both our nerves.
The annual trip is approaching, and the mutual friend keeps bringing it up, assuming she is invited. I have been noncommittal. My inclination is to tell a white lie and say I'm not going, but I fear she would find out (we work together) and that would be so hurtful.
I have a feeling you'll advise me to be direct, but how can I tell someone I don't want them to intrude?
– Running From Fifth Wheel
DEAR RUNNING: Offer them something you would like to share instead. Explain that, dorky as it sounds, this trip is a special tradition you and the other friend share, "but let's (blank) instead." Think carefully about that blank; the whole thing hinges on its sincerity.
Will it be a blissfully non-awkward conversation? I wish. All you can hope for is a forthright exchange between adults who can handle a little awkwardness. If that sounds more awful than it's worth, keep in mind that the "white lie" alternative – whopper is more like it – is not a legitimate one.