Dear John: My Wife Is Trying To Save Her Childhood Home
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
My wife recently learned that the home she grew up in is going to be torn down. It was purchased a few months ago by a couple who apparently had plans all along to demolish it and build a new house more to their liking on the land. (Nice to know some people are still in a position to do that, I guess!) My wife and her three siblings are devastated at the thought of this. They shared what sounds like an idyllic childhood there, and both of their parents have passed away within the past five years, so I think they see this as the unnecessary destruction of a link to them. The four of them have decided that they are going to do everything they can to try and stop this.
I am an attorney myself, although real estate law is not something I have any expertise in. However, I have done a little digging, and from a legal standpoint, there’s really nothing they can do to compel the new owners to abandon their plans. I’ve told them this, and they don’t want to hear it. Their anguish over this has caused them to lose perspective, and they don’t intend to give up until they have “exhausted all avenues,” as my brother-in-law has said repeatedly. I can see how this will play out: they are going to spend a lot of money to learn what I already know, and I hate to stand by and see it happen. What should I do? Try to talk my wife out of it? Her sister seems like the one most willing to listen to reason—talk to her? I’m afraid I’m losing a little perspective here myself and would like your opinion.
Sympathetic But Skeptical
Dear Sympathetic But Skeptical,
This is one of those times when even though you know how it will play out, you have to let things run their course. If they want to exhaust all avenues, let them exhaust them. It’s the only way they will convince themselves that they have no choice but to swallow this bitter pill.
That’s not to say there’s nothing constructive you can do, though. Perhaps you could contact the owners, explain the situation, and arrange for a time for your wife and her siblings to walk through the house, take some pictures, and reminisce one last time. Maybe the owners would even be wiling to let them take things from the house like light fixtures, sinks, or woodwork that could be installed in their current homes. (If you pursue this idea, though, don’t propose it to them until they’ve accepted the fact that this house will be razed.) As for what you should do now, though, just be supportive and stay on the sidelines. When this is all over, they have to be able to tell themselves there was nothing they could have done to prevent it. Your telling them that will only make them think you don’t care.
My son is a freshman in high school and he’s just started playing football this year. This is the first time he’s been on a team like this—up to this point, his only athletic pursuit was swimming. He’s always liked to watch football, though, and he is a good athlete, so this year he had a chance to try out for the team and he made it. And he loves it—he’s quite good, actually.
The problem is me. I am a nervous wreck watching him play. Every time he’s at the bottom of a pile of boys, I’m afraid he’s not going to get up. Watching his games is an ordeal for me because I’m so concerned about his safety. His father is completely unfazed and dismisses my concerns with, “Aah, he’ll be fine.” I feel caught—of course I want to support my son, but these games are agonizing to the point where I’ve thought about not going. Any ideas how I might stop worrying so much?
Not Having Fun Yet
Dear Not Having Fun Yet,
This is all new to you, so perhaps it will just take time for you to stop wondering if your son will get up after he’s brought down. Until you get to that point, though, I think he’ll understand if you tell him you worry about him so much you don’t enjoy his games. That doesn’t necessarily preclude the possibility of using your son’s games to have some family time, though. It sounds like his father likes to go, right? Maybe he could record the games (or at least the times when your son’s on the field), then you could watch it together afterwards. Your son could narrate the action and explain why he’s doing whatever he’s doing, and you can revel in his exploits without fearing for his safety. The point is to have some time together. It doesn’t necessarily have to be at the game.
My daughter is in second grade. One of her classmates’ mothers is the subject of a lot of sarcastic comments (behind her back, of course) because of the way she dresses. While she has the body to pull it off, what she wears is way too revealing—the kind of thing you can’t NOT notice and comment on. Now, speculation about what she’s going to show up in at drop-off or pick-up is pretty much a daily topic.
As it turns out, my daughter has befriended this woman’s daughter and has already had a couple of play dates with her. I’ve gotten to know her a bit and really like her. Her personality doesn’t really jibe with her exotic dancer wardrobe. She’s nice, funny, and warm. I have thought about talking to her to let her know she wouldn’t be the object of so much derision if she dressed in a way that was more age appropriate, but is that out of line? I would put it more diplomatically, of course. It’s just that now that I’ve gotten to know her, I feel bad thinking of the snarky things people are saying.
That’s Underwear, Not Outerwear
Dear That’s Underwear,
It sounds like some of those parents are right at home in a second-grade schoolyard. Instead of talking to her, maybe you should pass this mom a note.
For whatever reason, this woman wants the attention her provocative style of dress gets her. As you get to know her, you may learn more about what motivates her style choices, but have no doubt that she’s aware of the effect she has. So talking to her will only, a: tell her something she already knows; and b: suggest that what these busybodies think is relevant and should be taken seriously. It’s human nature to notice someone like your friend. But to make the way she dresses a daily object of ridicule is slightly pathetic and very immature. I’m not dismissing the possibility that a woman who dresses in such an overtly sexual way may have emotional and self-esteem issues she needs help with. But you’ll have a better chance of finding out if you talk to her about her, not about what she needs to wear if she ever hopes to get invited into the book club.
John is a middle-aged family man from Providence, Rhode Island. If you learn from your mistakes, he’s brilliant. Write to him at email@example.com. He's away from the advice desk this week, so he's chosen some of his favorite letters from previous columns to share.
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