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Carolyn Hax: The price of a relationship

Dear Carolyn: I have a bizarre dilemma that needs a light touch in handling. My wife, my children and I are very close to my grandparents, who live within an easy drive. We still see them often, and never miss birthdays, holidays, etc.

My grandparents are generous with gifts but, in recent years, gifts have been replaced by checks (usually about $100) because it’s harder for them to get around to stores. No problems there, of course.

The issue is that the amount given to me is usually double the amount given to my wife, who spends as much time with my grandparents as I do, if not more. I seriously doubt this is an intentional slight.

My guess is that they don’t think of the implications for my wife, who is in a small way somewhat hurt by the move. It’s just a sense-of-worth thing that unfortunately is manifested in a monetary gift.

Is there an easy way to handle this without hurting someone’s feelings or coming off as ungrateful?

– T.

A: “Light touch”? How ’bout no touch. Wow.

Sure, a stroke of the pen could indeed bring equality to Giftland, but that route is hardly “easy.”

For one, there’s nothing simple about hurting your grandparents with the suggestion that their gifts haven’t been warmly received, and/or insulting them with the implication that they haven’t been generous enough.

It’s also an illusion that Giftland is in any need of equality. Your grandparents have known you, presumably, since your infancy. Even if you don’t agree that this alone justifies a larger gift, surely you – or your wife – can appreciate that others would?

The genuinely easy solution is for your wife to realize she can’t expect her love or validation to come in the form she prefers. Or at all, though she’s apparently close to your grandparents.

I realize this is advice for her more than it is for you, but I hope you’ll encourage her to see that having her children enjoy their great-grandparents is its own validation. It would take shortsightedness of epic proportions to sell this for a hundred bucks.

Set father straight

Dear Carolyn: My daughter, 10, and my husband fight. Oh do they fight. About homework, behavior, hair, you name it. Daddy is correct 95 percent of the time, but his communication style just sets her off.

I have been unsuccessful in mediating, in getting him to adjust his style or in getting her to stop reacting. My involvement seems at best unhelpful and often makes things worse.

I am at the point of either leaving the house or at least putting ear buds in because it is intolerable. Help?

– Parent

A: How can he be “right” about her hair? It’s hers.

This fighting means Father is ruling himself out as a supportive presence in Daughter’s life just as she needs one most – far more than she needs to be “right” about her homework.

And, this exit-or-ear-buds reaction means you’re overmatched.

There’s no shame in that – but it does mean you need to call in reinforcements. I don’t count in this case because your family needs a teacher who can reach your 95-percent-wrong husband as you can’t, and be there weekly as you all learn, from scratch, to talk to each other. Start with the school counselor (or, absent one, your pediatrician) and admit this one has you stumped.

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