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Saturday, October 24, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Carolyn Hax: Place concern where needed

Carolyn Hax Washington Post

Dear Carolyn: Annually, my in-laws generously rent a vacation house for a week for their offspring and their families. They asked us months ago about dates and booked the house.

One family has since realized their child’s kindergarten starts that week. (I don’t know why they didn’t check on that before.) They decided their child will skip the first week of school.

All families involved live near each other, so this is not a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The school’s attendance policy prohibits missing more than three days if they are not for illness.

This is driving me crazy. I worry the parents will make a very bad first impression and the child will have trouble making friends, etc. This couple has made several decisions they regretted after the fact. I am dreading the vacation and having to ask the child if he/she is “excited about school.” Should I just let it go, or can I ask: “Have you really thought this through?” – Hates Watching Train Wrecks

“Train wreck”? Is that what you call it when a Brio topples off its little track?

I do not advocate treating children, or their schools, as variables that bend to parental will. However, I do advocate letting parents decide what’s best for their children, except in the rare cases when they veer into abuse or neglect.

Which means I have a much bigger problem with your impulse to inject yourself into the Great Kindergarten Non-Kerfuffle of 2009. Your letter’s tone suggests significant distress over a decision of negligible cosmic consequence. This is a child with a loving extended family, sufficient means to swing weeklong family vacations, and access to schooling. Surely there are other children who stand to benefit more from your activist impulses?

I ask that rhetorically, but I could make a case for suggesting it practically. If other decisions by other families routinely affect you this powerfully, then that suggests you have a difficult time recognizing and respecting emotional boundaries. That, in turn, could be still a bigger problem; preoccupation with minor things can indicate anything from misplaced priorities to a diagnosable condition.

But one way to start addressing it would be to direct your efforts to people who are asking for your help and concern.

Please consider seeking such an outlet, both to expand the sliver of the world that you can safely describe as your business, and to make productive use of time you would have otherwise spent getting into the business of others.

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