My grandson has been married three times and has two children: a baby boy with his third wife and an 8-year-old daughter from his first marriage. He refuses to have any contact with his daughter or pay any child support to his first wife. I am hurt and angry by his abandonment of his child! I have not seen his new baby yet, nor do I want to. This marriage may fail, too, and I may never see my new great-grandson. Meanwhile, my heart breaks for my great-granddaughter, who just wants to see her daddy. My grandson and his new wife are avoiding my family, so I’m not sure what to do. Should I speak to him or have nothing to do with him?
I understand your focus on your grandson. He is probably the person you know best in this story, and he seems to be the worst behaved. Call him and urge him to help support his daughter financially and emotionally. (Why not?) I have another idea, though, that may prove more beneficial to your great-granddaughter, and its results are more within your control.
According to a report by the U.S. Census Bureau, about 30 percent of noncustodial parents who were required to make child support payments failed to pay anything. It’s worth a try to call your grandson, but your request may not have much effect on a deadbeat dad. I hope your grandson’s ex-wife hires a killer lawyer and collects every penny to which she is entitled — with interest.
Your energy is probably better spent on your great-granddaughter. Be as involved with her as possible (without creating extra burdens for her mother). Consider regular visits, outings, Zoom calls — even special greeting cards. Make sure she knows how much you love her. This will not compensate for her father’s abandonment of her, but it may create a tremendous bright spot in her life.
When ‘Thanks’ Leads Straight to ‘I’m Sorry’
I was invited by a friend and his wife to stay at their home during a brief vacation. I had a wonderful time! They treated me royally, chauffeuring me around town and refusing my frequent offers to pay for meals. Afterward, I sent them a thank-you note and a large gift certificate. That’s when things went wrong: My friend asked me to take back the certificate and told me I had offended him by treating his house like a hotel. In hindsight, I wish my gift hadn’t had an obvious cash value, but I can’t fix that now. We haven’t spoken since our uncomfortable exchange. What should I do?
Call your friend to apologize. You inadvertently offended him; that’s what apologies are for. It was hardly a capital offense, though. Loads of people give gift certificates without incident. Your point about their clear cash value is true, I suppose, but I’m not sure that’s what he meant by “treating his house like a hotel.” Are you?
When you get him on the phone, tell him that he and his wife were superb hosts and thank them again for a lovely visit. Then say: “I am so sorry that I upset you. Can you please forgive me?” Then listen. He may elaborate on the cause of his distress.
Good Idea: Split the Check
A friend has an annoying habit of ordering expensive meals and alcohol when we go out to eat. I order modestly and never order alcohol. When it’s time to pay, she suggests splitting the bill in half, or she asks me to contribute more to the tip than I should. I don’t want to look petty or cheap, but this drives me crazy. I also don’t want to burden the waiter by asking for separate checks. What to do?
Burden the waiter! If you are aggravated by paying a few bucks more in tip than you owe, I can’t imagine a solution here for splitting taxes and tips that doesn’t involve complex math. In my experience, waiters don’t mind separate checks for small parties if you ask for them upfront.
Worse than hard math, I suspect the alternatives to this approach will harden your instinct that your friend is ordering lavishly to take advantage of you — which is probably not the case. I respect your desire (or perhaps your need) for frugality when dining out, but you can accomplish that with a simple request: “May we have separate checks, please?”
Bad Idea: Check Out the Split
I am a woman of retirement age, and I started taking yoga classes with a young male teacher. I admire his enthusiasm, but not his low-slung exercise shorts that often leave several inches of his butt crack exposed. Is there a nice way to ask him to invest in higher-waisted shorts?
Your yoga class seems different from mine, where low-cut bra tops and skintight leggings prevail. There aren’t many inches of flesh left to the imagination.
If you can’t tolerate the mildly risqué sight of a man in low-rise shorts, look away from his bottom. If that doesn’t suit you, find another class. Your payment does not give you veto rights over his wardrobe.
For help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.