Best Behavior: Family Blunder

Put 'Em Up

My ex-wife and I are taking our daughters on a vacation this month. We’re going together because that’s what her parents want. We’ll be staying at their summerhouse in Canada. She and I get along pretty well, and we figure it will be the easiest way for the grandparents and the girls to spend time together. The problem is that I’ve learned that my ex-brother-in-law and his wife will be there with their boys. Their 5-year-old is a terror. When I saw him trying to hit our younger daughter with one of his toy trucks, I stepped in. His father took me aside and told me that the kid will grow out of it. I came close to punching him out. The whole situation is a mess. This has got to stop. How?  —Anonymous, The Nations

This trip to Canada doesn’t look much like a vacation, but it’s never too late to steer clear of danger when you see it on the road ahead. You can keep watch over the kids while they’re together, but it will only take seconds for horror to happen. The 5-year-old fury may grow out of his toy-tossing years, but your daughters don’t have to be around him while he does.

You may be the outsider in this ill-collected group, but you can make the decision, like an adult, in a family that seems to be full of children of all ages. Say no; and say it to your ex, too, in case she’s not paying attention.

The grandparents may not like what they hear, but that shouldn’t make any difference to you. Your former in-laws might offer to pick up the bill at the emergency room — for the kids and for the dad’s broken jaw after you’ve finished with him. Don’t let it go that far.

Little boys grow up, but sometimes they grow into big bullies. Your daughters don’t need them in their lives, at least not until they, or their parents, learn how to behave.

Meanwhile, take them to the beach.

Portion Control

This past Christmas my children gave me a cook-it-yourself meal service. I live alone, so I guess they thought it was a good gift, so I put off ordering it until last month. The meals are huge. I took one to a friend’s house, thinking that we’d have fun cooking it together. It didn’t work. After I’d put the plates down on the table, she got up and made herself a bowl of cereal. I guess I shouldn’t be expecting a thank-you note. Right? —Anonymous, Belle Meade

Perhaps, next year, your children can give you a gift certificate to the grocery store so you can shop and cook for yourself, just like normal. You can say how grateful you are for their thoughtfulness, but you can't stop it from happening again.

Your friend, however, might have swallowed her pride. She may have thought she was being insulting to the food put before her, but she was insulting to you.But what sort of manners does she have? She doesn’t seem to have shared her cereal.

Have a question for John? Email him at jbridges@nfocusmagazine.com.