My 9-year-old son plays baseball in a league for children 8 to 12. There are two divisions, both based on age. A few years ago, girls were allowed to play. (Some people objected.) This brings me to my problem: There is a girl on my son’s team who is bigger and taller than most of the boys. She’s an excellent athlete. She also happens to play the same position as my son — which means he doesn’t get to play a lot. As a feminist, I have no issue with this girl playing. But can I suggest she be promoted to the older division because of her size advantage?
Listen, I get trying to boost your son. But you’re on the wrong track here. You keep mentioning the girl’s gender, which is totally irrelevant. Girls are allowed to play! And promoting her to the older division because of her size ignores the bigger boys. Shouldn’t they be promoted too? It seems as if your real motive is eliminating your son’s direct competition.
Here’s the problem: Children are typically enrolled in school and activities based on their ages. It doesn’t have to be this way. We could use skill tests or other markers. But your son’s league sorts players by age. So, if this girl falls within the team’s age bracket, she is entitled to be its star.
Turn this into a learning experience for your son. We can’t be the best at everything, but we can still take pleasure in participation. (Visit me on any tennis court for proof!) As long as the coach is giving your young son a chance to play in every game, shift your focus from his competitors to the joy of playing.
My mother-in-law has been dating her girlfriend for seven years. During this time, I have witnessed the girlfriend being mean to my mother-in-law, my mother, my wife and me. I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt. But that changed two years ago when she made a disparaging “joke” at my wife’s expense. Now I try to avoid her. My wife and I are expecting our first child this year. Given the girlfriend’s nasty behavior, we don’t want her anywhere near our baby. How do we set this boundary?
Your mother-in-law’s girlfriend sounds thoroughly unpleasant. Still, there are complexities here: The way you handle this issue may profoundly affect your wife’s relationship with her mother. (This is her partner we’re talking about!) Fortunately, your child is not born yet — so there’s no rush. Take care to ensure that you and your wife are in agreement before you do anything.
She may want to talk to her mother alone, for instance, about the difficulties with the girlfriend, or she may prefer to speak to the girlfriend directly. As of now, it seems as if no one has called out the girlfriend on her bad behavior. Is there a reason for this?
Giving someone the “the benefit of the doubt,” as you say, does not mean taking abuse in silence. Here, it would mean pointing out unacceptable behavior and trusting the girlfriend to try to do better. I am not asking you to tolerate disrespect — only to speak up before cutting an extended family member from your lives.
People often ask me for recommendations — restaurants, service providers, etc. — then, after I make them, ask: “How much does it cost?” I tell them, and they frequently exclaim: “I could never pay that much!” This leaves me at a loss. I didn’t volunteer the information; they asked for it. Then they make me feel bad that my recommendation doesn’t fit their budget. Any advice?
I doubt that anyone means to hurt your feelings. (It sounds as if they’re blurting their sticker shock!) Still, if this happens frequently and bothers you, why not flip the script? Before making a recommendation, short circuit the conversation by asking: “Do you have a budget in mind?” This way, you can make suggestions that fit the bill or apologize for being unable to help.
I Thought This Was a Nice Building!
My boyfriend and I are subletting an apartment (in a fancy co-op) that we could never afford to buy. We thought we had it made until our next-door neighbor’s son took up the drums. He makes an awful racket at all hours! When we spoke to the boy’s mother about the noise, she looked at us as if we were crazy. Help!
She may be shell shocked! You can try to speak to an adult in the house again. But the mother’s initial response doesn’t bode well. The great thing about co-ops, though, is the same as the worst thing about them: Boards of directors and managing agents tend to get involved in issues at the drop of a hat.
Contact the board president or managing agent about this young Ringo Starr. Request that his practice sessions take place on a schedule that’s less disruptive for you. Or, if it’s a really fancy building, request an upgrade to an electronic drum set (with headphones!) for the ultimate in peace and quiet.
For help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.
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