Seeing children as the victims
While I'm away, readers give the advice.
On seeing children as the victims when their parents have affairs:
Because of social stigma, social conditioning and financial dependence, my mother's best option was to stick it out in a crazy marriage with my angry and childish and self-absorbed father, who is incapable of forming a relationship with any human being.
Since my early teens, it has been obvious to me how miserable my father had made my mother, and also himself. Both of them have spent the entirety of their youth without an emotional and physical connection with another human being. Even as a teen, out of empathy, I would hope that they would find someone to connect with, to share with, to love and to be loved by, if only in passing. More for my mother than my father, but I did wish he'd been less lonely and miserable and made the rest of us less miserable too.
My mother never had the option of finding comfort in another relationship, but I would definitely not have resented her for it just so I can maintain some fictional idea of living a perfect life. Kids are smart and resilient and they can handle a reality check that things are more complicated than a Hollywood yarn.
I think it's too much of a sacrifice to wait until you're 50 to live your life. Children deal with the disruption of their parents divorcing or with the stress of living with parents who hate each other, and they can also deal with the concept that infidelity is not always a black-and-white breach of contract.
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On celebrating personal milestones at the office:
Birthdays, anniversaries, wedding showers, baby showers and other personal achievements should NOT BE CELEBRATED AT WORK! Either everyone gets a party (which, depending on your office, could mean something every week and co-workers/departments tired of shelling out) or no one does so that no one feels left out.
Besides, parties thrown for these sorts of events obligate people to do something they wouldn't otherwise do. Your co-workers are not your friends and family. Do you really want people like me standing around grumbling for the fourth time that month about shelling out $5 for a person who just started there and will probably quit next year, especially when that person makes five times what I do? It's annoying.
I like giving to my friends for the sake of giving. I do NOT enjoy shelling out $20 for a wedding shower gift for a co-worker I don't like and who has stabbed me in the back and has NOT invited me to her wedding unlike the dozen other people she did invite out of our 15-person office.
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On judging others based on appearances:
There was a time when I would chuckle at seeing something like a Christmas tree in a picture window in April. After a few crises, and some very dark times, I can easily understand how that can happen, that on some days it's hard to find the energy to even brush your teeth. Instead of commenting on others' "odd" behavior, I try to ask myself if I would be doing any better if I had lived their life experiences.
-- Humbler in Pittsburgh
Email Carolyn at tellme(at)washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.
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