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Carolyn Hax: The question is, is there room in your heart for your stepdaughter?



We are trying to plan our vacation for this summer. I would like my kids to be able to come and stay in the home, but I don’t think it makes sense for Lily & co. to come. Nor do I want to have to forgo a fun vacation with my kids for fear of making Lily feel excluded — which is often a thing with her.

I need help with this. We spent the money, and now I want to enjoy the house without constant feelings of guilt. Any ideas?

Anonymous: I’m with you, a pox on Lily and her too-many children for making “my” child sleep on a couch!

[Forehead to keyboard: “Fancy meeting you here.”]

You assigned five (of “his”) people to one bedroom so one (of “yours”) could have a bedroom to herself, and now imply it’s Lily’s fault that didn’t work? This is the type of reasoning that enriches the emotional soil from which one eventually harvests “a thing.”

Lily “& co.” wouldn’t feel excluded, they would be excluded. And to feel excluded when excluded is not “a thing” but instead a normal emotional response.

Guilt is also a normal emotional response, to doing something you know is self-interested and unkind.

Your Lily disdain is obvious. Rein it in.

Especially, stop angling for some magic way to exclude her that won’t reflect poorly on you. Accept there aren’t any and focus on inclusion instead.

Here’s the entirety of your problem: Your house is too small to fit everyone comfortably.

Again — not a Lily problem, but instead a problem for all families with now-adult children who are adding partners and grandchildren to the head count.

So, with inclusion in mind, invite your whole family to weigh in on this common square-footage problem. “Hi, everybody, looking forward to another all-family vacation. Obviously we don’t fit in the house comfortably; any ideas for this year?”

Some families ultimately agree to pile in uncomfortably, deciding togetherness is worth it; some book another home or hotel rooms nearby for spillover guests; some stagger their stays; some pitch tents in the yard. You and your husband can even be the ones to sleep off-site. Creativity counts.

That’s because where you fit everyone is less important than your intention, eagerness, determination to welcome everyone who can come. Send that message; see what the universe says in response.

Dear Carolyn: My in-laws have three sons and (so far) four grandsons, and have been very, very clear they hope the baby I’m expecting is a girl. If so, she would be the first for the family going back two generations.

When my husband’s brother was expecting and found out it was the second boy for them, the in-laws were so visibly deflated. They immediately lost interest; it was as if the baby’s whole life cycle had already played out and was over, and it was time to start hoping the next pregnancy resulted in a girl.

Now it’s my turn, and I’m nervous. I had intended to keep the baby’s sex a surprise — partly because of this pressure — but my husband and I want to find out for our own reasons.

What do I say to my in-laws before or after we get the news, to hopefully preempt their feelings, whatever happens?

Expecting: That’s just hideous.

Preemptive-banishment-worthy behavior. Treating innocent children as worthless is about as red a line as grandparents can cross.

Does your husband agree? Because whatever message for your in-laws you and he ultimately choose to deliver, he’s the right messenger. His parents, their creepiness, his line to draw with them.

I hope for everyone’s sake he has the backbone for it. If he doesn’t, then you’ll have to, which puts your marriage in play.

Whatever your husband’s willing to say, on all these kids’ behalf, please know it’s not going to “preempt their feelings.” Even if they weren’t monstrous on this topic — “so visibly deflated . . . they immediately lost interest”?!! a mind re-blows with each reading — your job wouldn’t be to dictate their feelings, but instead your limits. That’s it.

Such as: “We won’t stand for any favoritism based on sex or anything else.” A hard line unflinchingly enforced. Again, on behalf of all these kids, not just the one you’re expecting. Your mantra, should you need one: The [mind] buck stops here.

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