Dear Ann Cannon • We have in-laws who aren’t really our immediate in-laws, but kind of are because they’re our kids’ in-laws. We find ourselves having to alter some of our traditions because of the addition of these people into our lives, as well as interacting with them for family events. Some of the changes are beneficial, but I can see that some of them are bothersome to our own kids and some to the whole family. For example, one of the other families doesn’t value education at all and our family does, so I’m worried about the grandchildren’s attitude toward education. Suggestions? We’re trying to be gracious and not cause conflict, but some of the things the in-laws do and how they behave are alien to us.
— Where Do We Take it From Here?
Dear Where • Like my brother always says, marriage is a truce between warring nations.
The reality is that when children marry, they bring all the rest of us into one another’s lives, right? Sometimes the contact between families is limited. Sometimes it’s not. But just as marriage requires partners to accommodate and compromise, in-laws (to a lesser extent, obviously) must do the same. WHICH CAN BE SO CHALLENGING.
Your decision to be gracious will pay dividends in the long run, so good call there. I do think it’s possible, however, to be gracious without surrendering your own values. Because education is more important to you than it is to the other family, for example, think about setting up some sort of educational fund for your grandchildren, adding to it when birthdays or holidays roll around. You don’t have to make a big deal about it in front of everyone. But still. You’ll be able to convey the message that education is a value in your family. I think there are plenty of things you can do to demonstrate to your grandchildren what’s important to you without threatening or undercutting the in-laws.
Remember. Marriage is a truce …
Dear Ann Cannon • I like this guy but I don’t know how to approach him. Everyone tells me I’m odd — he’s the only person who makes me feel normal. Every time I talk to him, though, I say the wrong thing. How do I approach him?
— Shrinking Violet
Dear Violet: Reading your email made me remember how hard it can be to put yourself out there as a single person.
OK. Here are a few questions for you. How do you know you’re saying the wrong thing? After all, you’ve just told us that he makes you feel normal. Has he told you you’re saying the wrong thing? Does he flee from the room when he sees you coming? I’m guessing the answer to both of these questions is “no.” So is it possible you’re being too self-critical, too self-aware? I’m guessing the answer is “yes.”
Let me say this: You won’t get anywhere if you don’t approach him. That’s like being the writer who wants to publish a book but is too afraid to send out a manuscript. Seriously, a publisher is NOT going to come on that writer’s door, begging to see the manuscript hidden in a top drawer. My advice? Keep being friendly, even if you feel awkward. Say hello. Talk. Ask him to join you for lunch. Stay on his radar and see what happens. You never know!
I truly wish you the best of luck.
Dear Ann Cannon • As a mother of young adults, I am concerned they will not vote in the next election because our Legislature seems to hate initiatives by the community. What can I tell them?
— Discouraged Mother
Dear Discouraged • Well, now ,THIS is a timely question. Whether you voted for or against recent propositions, it’s been alarming to watch our Legislature blithely toss aside the will of Utah citizens. The only thing I can say is that as grim as this reality has been, the only thing grimmer is believing voters can never make a difference. Encourage your young adults to keep on fighting the good fight — whatever they believe the good fight to be. They may follow your advice. Or they may not.
Let’s hope they do.