Hello friends, I hope that you’re enjoying what appears to be the real return of warm weather. I promised you last column that I would give you my best advice for keeping your summer from filling up with weddings and other blue-sky commitments that tend to infest our calendars once the clouds clear. (Please note to all of my lovely friends and relatives who invited me to weddings this summer, I am excited about all of them and am going to pick out the perfect shoes once I finish this column. Don’t throw away my RSVP! This is not about you!) The best thing about the months of May through October is that we finally get to go enjoy our favorite swimming spots, hiking trails and shady backyards. The worst thing about the months of May through October is that absolutely every weekend has another can’t-miss festival or fundraiser, friend’s wedding or third cousin’s niece’s baby shower and the river/trails/backyards go sadly under-enjoyed. You have a couple of choices here. You can become a hermit, which I wholeheartedly recommend, or you can start carving out that time now. Now. Pull out your wall calendar and pick a weekend for every month and draw a big X through it. (Actually, I recommend this for the whole year, not just summer.) Don’t let anyone steal your X weekends. Those are the weekends when you’re going to do whatever you want, especially if what you want to do is nothing but sit by the river with a bad novel and a cooler of beer. If something you can’t miss comes up, like your parents’ golden wedding anniversary, bump something less important and move that X to a different spot. Be decisive. Be bold. Be unapologetic. There are only so many summers in a person’s life, and you don’t want to spend all of yours being someone else’s guest. Got it? Good. Now on to this week’s question.
Dear Queen of Bad Ideas,
Every time I talk to my dad he likes to put me on speaker phone so I can have a group conversation with him and my stepmother. It’s really annoying and I feel like we don’t have our own relationship anymore. How should I handle it? Do I tell him I don’t want her involved in our conversations or do I accept it in order to keep the peace?
Bummed in SoHum
Yikes, talk about a no win! If you don’t get along with your stepmother now, announcing via speaker phone that you’d rather not talk to her is not going to help. I’m going to assume that your dad is a well-meaning guy who is just trying to keep the peace and is doing it a bit ineptly. I think he would be touched to know that you want to strengthen your bond. Maybe the way to address this is to write him a letter. You could start with all of the feelings you have about this situation — pour it all out! Take that letter and put it in a drawer. Now write a more restrained version and send that one to your dad. Ask him if he would be willing to alternate sharing phone calls with your stepmother with conversations that are just between the two of you. Consider framing it as a communication issue – it is genuinely hard to have a good conversation on speakerphone. Good luck!
OK, Humboldt, I’m sending extra love to all the stepmothers out there, because fairytales didn’t give you that great of a narrative to work with. I’ll be back to answer more questions in two weeks. Make sure and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m also on Twitter at @LCStansberry. Next time I’ll share the best advice I ever got from a correctional officer.