I see the 10th Street connector is nearing completion. Another three years to paint the lines and we will be on our way,...

Grandmother strives to fairly distribute gifts to grandkids from blended family

Carolyn Hax

Carolyn Hax


Carolyn Hax

Friday, June 29, 2018

Q My son-in-law has a 10-year-old daughter, “M,” from a previous relationship. He and my daughter also have a 5-year-old daughter, “L,” together. I have always been careful to treat both girls the same in terms of gifts, activities, special occasions, etc. I had a step-grandmother who made an obvious show of preferring her “real” grandchildren to us. I know how it feels.

Last year I offered to pay for both girls to participate in one extracurricular activity of their choice — dance, music, sports, etc. They both chose gymnastics lessons and have been enthusiastically participating ever since.

M also has a younger stepsister, “B,” in her mother’s family. M’s mother has decided that unless I can also provide this other sister, whom I’ve never met, with lessons, M can no longer participate because it isn’t fair to B.

I understand Mom’s point of view, I really do, which is why I found gymnastics lessons for M that were on the days she was living with her dad. Neither of these families can afford any special treats. I can, but I am retired and there are limits.

M’s father says he doesn’t care what her mother says, M will continue with the lessons as long as she wants to. I want to do the right thing for both L and M and, honestly, M has additional step- and half-siblings in her mother’s household and this obligation could be never-ending.

What is your advice? Not only for this situation but in the future? Summer camp, vacations, etc. — Limited

A I appreciate the mother’s concern for fairness, if not her grasp of it.

It’s also thoughtful of you to take such care not to repeat your step-grandmother’s mistakes.

And your son-in-law was right to take the responsibility for the decision on himself instead of letting you carry it, though “doesn’t care what her mother says” is a path that tends not to lead anywhere good.

You can legitimately change nothing in response to this new development. You are at arm’s length and managing your part with compassion and fairness, not to mention the autonomy that spending your own money affords you.

Given the complexities, costs, and the impressionable ages of these children, though, it might help for you to shift your approach to such gifts — ever so slightly. Instead of arranging the lessons yourself, figure out the cost in advance and make a gift of that money to your daughter and son-in-law. This takes you out of this family’s decisions entirely.

Assuming they’d want that, of course. Your involvement might provide your son-in-law cover for sibling M to have things sibling B doesn’t; if the gift comes from a third party who is related legally to M but utterly unrelated to B, then any expectation that B receive the same strains logic, no matter what B’s mother says.

B herself will be able to see this someday, and that’s the key to all of this — how B feels about herself and her opportunities. She’s likely too young now, but when she’s old enough to understand all the connections, there will be no direct familial connection between her and the source of a gift she did not receive. If the adults involved have compassion and boundaries — big “if,” alas — then the whole alphabet will be fine.

Email Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.


Humans of Greenville


Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.


July 18, 2018

I am the queen of rustic desserts, which is a nice way to label desserts that are rather imperfect. The good news is that there is plenty of room for rustic and, yes, imperfect desserts in anyone's repertoire. In fact, most cuisines tout their own homey version of bubbling, squidgy desserts cobbled…


July 18, 2018

If you are looking for an unpretentious gathering place with tasty American and Irish pub food, plus karaoke, trivia and live music, then head over to A.J. McMurphy’s Irish Pub at 1914 Turnbury Drive. A.J. McMurphy’s is known for great domestic and imported beer, as well as an expansive…


July 18, 2018

Q: I like to try new foods and heard that nut butters are better for you than peanut butter. Is that true? — J.K., Greenville

A: There are of choices of nut butters, and many are being marketed with what I would call exaggerated claims. Many of the butters will tout their micronutrient…


July 18, 2018

Q My husband’s daughter just announced she and her boyfriend are getting married, and we are very happy for them. They are planning a wedding that is not out of line with the kinds of weddings their friends have been having, but that we consider over the top. The cost will likely exceed her…

Carolyn Hax

July 15, 2018


A TV viewer who I’ll call “Joe” recently commented on Facebook about my review of The Prime Smokehouse in Rocky Mount.

“Thanks for the review, Bob, but while I live in Raleigh, I'm a native of Rocky Mount,” Joe said with pride. “It once called itself the…

Bob Garner

July 14, 2018


■ Browns Chapel Holiness Church, 2260 N.C. 33 West, will host a youth service at 6 p.m. today. Evangelist Talitha Stallings will speak.

■ Burney’s Chapel Free Will Baptist Church, 2628 VOA Site B Road, will host its annual men’s day service at 11 a.m. July 22.

■ Burning Bush…

July 14, 2018

Mint, sage, rosemary, thyme, horehound, catnip, bee-balm, marjoram, pennyroyal, lemon-balm, hyssop, lavender, dittany and basil (is it BAY-zil or BAAA-zil?): what an aromatic bunch of plants these are! All of these are fragrant members of the widely distributed “mint” family, one of the…


July 11, 2018

The Leroy James Farmers Market vendor of the week is Yates and Bailey Bee Farm.

Yates and Bailey Bee Farm has been a vendor at the Leroy James Farmers Market for almost six years.

“I am a lifelong farmer,” said Bobby Yates, a Virginia native who got his first hive of bees at age 14.…


July 11, 2018

The smell and taste of food can catapult us back to our childhood, to a time when trips to family restaurants were weekly affairs, everyone knew our name, what our favorite drink was and how we liked our steak. The best part was the gleaming, rotating dessert wheel that was filled with every flavor…


July 11, 2018

Q I am trying to get more vegetables into my meals but still am struggling to make my goal. Got any suggestions? W.L., Winterville

A Congratulations on your efforts to improve your vegetable intake. As it happens, Kara Massotti, a new Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with ECU Family Medicine, just…

292 stories in Look. Viewing 1 through 10.
«First Page   «Previous Page        
Page 1 of 30
        Next Page»   Last Page»