Dear Annie: I have relatives coming to visit later this month. A week ago, I received a list of necessities for their visit. Some seem reasonable for young children: cribs, high chairs and childproof cabinets. But some seem rude and presumptuous: a grocery list of 20 organic items (including peeled shrimp and smoked salmon) and individual bedrooms for the children.
Of course, I will adhere to requests that keep children safe and comfortable, but I don't feel I need to accommodate their food preferences. There are no allergies here. They just prefer organic everything. I do not plan on purchasing the things they have asked for and would like to give them an earful on their lack of graciousness. They are, after all, guests. But I know that is not a good idea.
Please give me some advice on how to respond when they find their demands are not met. — Anonymous
Dear Anonymous: Notify them in advance that you have childproofed your home but cannot accommodate their more exotic requests. Let them know where they can purchase their organic food and say you'll make room in your fridge and cabinets for them. If you are feeling particularly peevish, you could also send them a list of local hotels and motels, saying you're doing the best you can but will certainly understand if they think they'll be more comfortable elsewhere. Be extremely nice about it, but stick to your guns.
Dear Annie: I read your response to Disgusted with My Sister in Texas, whose mother and sister had an argument that resulted in Sis taking away the car that Mom had been making payments on. I agree with you that legal action should be a last resort in this issue, and I'm glad you suggested that someone impartial mediate.
Mediation is an informal process where a neutral and impartial mediator facilitates two or more disputing parties in coming to a mutually agreed-upon resolution. The beauty of mediation is that the two parties are the decision makers and the trained and certified mediator helps them dig below the surface to identify their true interests: "why" they have taken their opposing positions on an issue. More often than not, the two parties find that their interests are not that far apart and, with the help of the mediator, arrive at a resolution.
There are several routes to mediation, and the laws and procedures are different in each state, but there are attorneys who are mediators or who work with private mediators who can be of assistance. Additionally, the local courthouse staff may be able to assist the parties in procuring mediation for small-claims cases or higher (the dollar amount varies by state).
I highly recommend mediation because it is less expensive and less time consuming, and the individuals make the decision rather than a judge who will rule by statute. Of course, if they cannot resolve the issue through mediation, they still have litigation as the last resort. — W.
Dear W.: Thank you for suggesting professional mediation as a way of working through these disagreements without resorting to a lawsuit. People are too quick to sue when simply talking it out and reaching a compromise often creates a solution without additional ill will.
Dear Annie: I had a similar experience to that of Proud Grandma, whose childless daughter criticizes the way her siblings raise their kids.
After hearing one too many criticisms, I finally came back with, "I hope, when you have children, they are as good as you think mine ought to be!" My sibling was hurt, but it didn't happen so often afterward. — L.
This Classic Annie's Mailbox column was originally published in 2014. To find out more about Classic Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at www.creators.com.