Where Was This Money When I Made My Down Payment?

I am in my late 30s and have a good relationship with my parents. We speak on the phone weekly. Last Sunday, my mother informed me that they gave my sister a chunk of money to help with a down payment on a house. She told me I wouldn’t receive a matching sum because my husband and I already own a house and his parents gave us a generous gift when we were buying it. My parents aren’t wealthy, so I understand their decision. Still, it stings! I think my parents are making assumptions about my financial position. I also believe their choice to give money to my younger sister is a declaration of greater love for her. Should I bring this up again?

SARAH

You should definitely bring it up if this gift is going to interfere with your relationship with your parents or your sister. (I can’t tell if this is a passing sting or one that may lead to lasting resentment.) Before you do, though, consider a few points to make the conversation more productive.

Our parents’ money is theirs. Whether they are fabulously rich or just squeaking by, they can spend it however they like. And adult children have no entitlement to it. Here, for instance, your parents decided they wanted both daughters to enjoy the economic advantages of homeownership. This meant giving money to one child but not to another (who already owns a home). Broadly speaking, they put you in the same position.

Still, I am sympathetic with your feelings. Sibling rivalry for parental love can be painful. So, while I recommend talking to your parents, it’s not to air a grievance. It’s to let them know that your feelings are hurt by your (likely false!) perception that their gift to your sister signals greater love for her.

Add quickly that you understand their decision and aren’t trying to wheedle a gift out of them. You simply want to be open with them. I hope the ensuing conversation reassures you. (And for parents: If you intend to make unequal gifts, it can be helpful to discuss the issue in advance. Feelings about parental gifts can run strong!)

About Your Son’s Mask …

My daughter started second grade in a school with a mask requirement and a classroom where children are seated alphabetically. She sits next to a boy whose mask, she says, is often pulled down or not fitted properly over his nose and mouth. She told her teacher, but the problem continues. Would it be OK for me to call the boy’s parents (whom I don’t know) directly?

MOM

Let me first apologize to your daughter’s overworked and underpaid teachers before I add “mask monitor” to their job description. But you should really speak to them instead. This may spark a useful classroom exercise about the importance of masks and the proper way to wear them. (If the boy’s mask doesn’t fit properly, the teacher can address that too.) Contact the principal if the problem persists.

Ensuring the safety of your child is important. The problem you describe, though, is probably more widespread than a single boy. Issues that arise in school (and involve young children) are often best mediated there by an adult who has witnessed the events.

But I Brought a Generous Gift!

I have hosted and attended many bridal showers. Lately, I’ve noticed that hosts frequently ask attendees to pay a flat fee to cover the costs of food, drink, décor, party favors, etc. I’d like to think I’m generous. I have no issue covering my food, drinks or special activities, but it irks me to be asked to pay for things like party favors. Am I cheap, or should hosts incur some costs?

K.

Traditionally, the maid of honor or all bridesmaids host (and pay!) for the bridal shower. But I, too, have noticed the trend toward pay-to-play bridal showers, birthday parties and other occasions, where hosts ask attendees to pay their share of the total costs. I can’t tell you why this has happened. Perhaps parties have grown more lavish, hosts have grown poorer or online payments have become extremely easy.

I don’t think you’re cheap — and I’m certain I will receive several (very angry) letters about hosts asking guests to chip in. Maybe the best way to think about this, though, is that our culture is always changing, and so are its parties. No one is forcing hosts to spread costs among guests, and invitees can always refuse invitations they don’t like. But for many this particular ship has already sailed.

Where’s My Sandwich?

At least once a week, someone steals my sandwich from the communal fridge in our office break room. I bring lunch to save money, so it’s doubly annoying that I have to pay for two! How do you feel about notes on refrigerator doors asking thieves to cease and desist?

HUNGRY

It can’t hurt, right? If the person taking your sandwich is a hardened thief, a note will probably have little effect. But if this person is doing the wrong thing without thinking about it, maybe clouded by laziness or hunger, your note may help: “I’m hungry too! Please don’t steal my sandwich.”

For help with your awkward situation, send a question to [email protected], to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.

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