Dear Amy: I am a wife (10 years) and mother of a school-age daughter.
A year ago we moved halfway across the country to start a new life and for my husband's career. This year we will finally go back "home" for Christmas to visit family.
My parents are divorced. Although it happened some time ago, the resentment between them is still pretty raw.
I have three other siblings (ages 17-24), and we all feel tugged back and forth and torn between parents. I only have 10 days during the holidays to make up for a year of not seeing everyone, but I am already starting to get anxious and worried that I will upset either parent.
They do not do a good job of making any of us feel flexible to spend time with whomever we please. Their faces say it all; sometimes their words say it too.
I just want to have a nice vacation, especially for my daughter's sake, but I still feel like a kid in a divorced home. How do I let go of those feelings and just be OK with visiting who I want, when I want, without fear of disappointing everyone?
— Already Scrooge
Dear Scrooge: First, wipe from your mind of any notion that this will be a "vacation" for any of you. Taking a child across the country to visit divorced parents over the holidays is the very definition of "work."
Your stress will be diminished if you choose the most neutral, comfortable "home base" where you will all stay. Spending at least part of the time in a hotel might give your family a breather from the family dynamic.
After that, it's all about mental preparation and boundary setting. Be firm, friendly and determined to be oblivious to body language and guilt trips.
Practice responding to your parents a version of this: "I know this is hard on you, but we're doing our very best to spend time with everyone. A great Christmas gift for all of us would be to have a peaceful, guilt-free visit. Can you help us achieve that?"
This will be challenging, but the traditions (and boundaries) you start to establish this year will give all of you ideas to build (and improve) upon in years to come.
Dear Amy: There is a woman I work with who is just amazing. She's smart, funny, gorgeous, sweet and just all-around awesome!
I've told her I liked her, and she responded with, "I'm not looking for a relationship now."
My question is, what do I do now? She isn't looking for a relationship now, but she may in the future, right?
I don't want to seem like I'm trying to force a relationship on her. I don't want to come on too strong.
— Cuddly Colleague
Dear Cuddly: You've been honest. You've been bold and forthright. Let me provide a translation of your co-worker's response. When she says, "I'm not looking for a relationship now," what she means is, "You are sweet to be interested in me, but I am not interested in dating you."
Now that this has been established, you should respond to your lovely co-worker by being a good friend and a good worker, nothing more.
Dear Amy: I frequently see letters in your column outlining how entitled and ungrateful young (post-college) adults are. Our son at that age was ungrateful too. We went back and forth for many years dealing with his immaturity, his thoughtlessness and his bad decisions.
Something changed when he turned 25, and for the next three years you couldn't ask for a better son. Not too long ago he even told his friends that his mom (me) was one of his best friends.
He and his dad couldn't have been closer. Two months ago he was killed in a car accident at the age of 28. There isn't a day that goes by that I am not grateful, truly grateful, that we welcomed him back one more time.
Dear Christie: My heartfelt sympathy to you. Your story is a poignant reminder that young people do mature and change. A smart parent will stay present to witness the transformation.