While I'm away, readers give the advice.
On having a critical mother-in-law:
My mother-in-law was used to being the most important woman in her son's life. And I had taken that position from her. And her only defense was to find fault in an effort to strengthen her position. My best defense has been to pay attention to what is important to her, and focus on that — and find ways to include her that she is comfortable with. The barbs still come, but have become less frequent over the years. Our now-grown children have a great relationship with her, having learned that sometimes the most challenging personalities you learn to deal with in life are found in the people closest to you.
Still Dealing With It in Texas
On raising difficult children:
Years ago I was an elementary school principal. Each year, at an October staff meeting, I would say (to groans from my longtime staff), "Here's what I want you to do this week. Take some extra time and work with the one or two children in your class who irritate or put you off. Figure out how you can best 'reach' them."
I suggest that parents ask themselves what they could do to "reach" their fussy children. Some (not all) of my staff would tell me, "You know, once you try, it isn't so hard to like those kids."
Difficult kids, continued:
Many years ago, our wonderful pediatrician told us that children go through periods of equilibrium and disequilibrium, lasting anywhere from hours to several months or more.
As we have raised our three children, these words have rung true over and over again. My wife and I would often remark that "Child X is really in a good way at the moment." A period of equilibrium. Or "Child X has been totally out of sorts over the past couple of weeks" — a period of disequilibrium. Viewed through this lens, we came to appreciate the maturing process with greater patience and understanding.
On the overlooked and resentful "nice guys":
Many people confuse "nice" and "overly agreeable." A person who always defers to his/her date's wishes, who hastens to agree with every opinion, who is always available for every proposed outing, who never vetoes an outing proposal or expresses dislike for a proposed activity, who sends cards or remembrances of minor relationship milestones, who bestows compliments like confetti, is . . . well, boring. That's not a nice person, that's a desperate person who has suppressed his or her own personality; either that, or s/he is totally bland. It's all about balance. Too much drama is unhealthy, but no drama at all is soporific. Just my opinion.
An Old Bat Who Knows a Thing or Three
Resentful "nice guys," continued:
Lots of people are shallow, and put money and beauty ahead of more important things. Many good people who really do deserve to be loved aren't. Then we make life even more unfair by pretending this isn't true, and laying all the blame on the bitter person, as if they were born bitter.
How about acknowledging both truths? The very real pain and unfairness, and the need to let go of the bitterness despite everything?