Dear Margo: I am married with two almost-teenagers. We aren’t rich, but we’re comfortable. I have a cousin who has two children. One is near my children’s age. This one has spent summers with us for years, and we have taken him on almost every family vacation. He is like a third kid.
My cousin’s other child is only 5, and he visits us sometimes but does not accompany us on vacations and weekend trips like his older brother. I cannot take care of all four, especially since the 5-year-old requires so much attention that it’s like work for me having him around.
Since my cousin works a minimum-wage job and is a single mother, I worry that the younger child will grow up without the experiences of his older brother. We’ve taken trips to the Bahamas, Disney World, you name it. The younger child will not have these memories, and I feel guilty. But if we include the younger child, then my vacation is spent taking care of a very high-maintenance child, and it really takes the fun out of the trip for all of us. That doesn’t seem fair to my kids. Your thoughts? — Wanting To Do the Right Thing
Dear Want: In this situation, let us borrow from the law and go to motive and intent. Your instincts are generous in that you include your nephew, and your intent is that you and your family, plus the cousin, have a good time on vacation. Your motive in excluding the younger child is not petty — i.e., it’s not that you dislike him but that he requires a kind of attention the other kids don’t.
Given all the considerations you mention, I would not beat myself up over the little one not having the same experiences as his brother. Whenever there’s an appreciable disparity in age, all kids in all families have different experiences. Bag the guilt because there really is no cause for it. Party on. — Margo, sensibly
Sometimes There Are No Solutions
Dear Margo: I don’t want to even mention their names, but I have read about hook-up sites online that are quite specific. There are sites for housewives who want to make extra money, for housewives who just want to have a fling, for married men, and there’s even one that offers “older sugar daddies” to young women who need financial help with school or whatever. Aren’t such things against the law? Prostitution is against the law. I understand that there’s nothing I can do about all this, but am I so last century that I find this disgraceful? What is going on here? — No Prude
Dear No: What is going on is what has always been going on … only now the ability to advertise such things is as easy as turning on your phone or a computer. The only way public outcry has proved to be effective is when the ads are on sites where they are incidental, such as Craigslist. After a couple of murders and several crimes were traced to ads they accepted, their policies tightened up. There was also a big kerfuffle about the raunchy personal section in the Village Voice, for example.
One complication is that there are competing interests involved: the First Amendment, for one, freedom of the press, and legal statutes that vary by state. There will always be sex as commerce. It is just unfortunate that the downside of unlimited Internet content is content that many find offensive and destructive. In case you haven’t noticed, it’s impossible to even control porn. So count me as someone who, with you, is “so last century” but is trying to accept — and recognize –the things I cannot change. — Margo, regrettably
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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at www.creators.com/dear-margo.html. Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.
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