Keeping family close

by Grace aka costofcollege

Do you maintain close ties with your parents, siblings, and extended family?

Frank Bruni and his family place great value in having a week-long family reunion every year.

… we’re also dedicated to it, and we’ve determined that Thanksgiving Day isn’t ample, that Christmas Eve passes too quickly, and that if each of us really means to be central in the others’ lives, we must make an investment, the biggest components of which are minutes, hours, days. As soon as our beach week this summer was done, we huddled over our calendars and traded scores of emails to figure out which week next summer we could all set aside. It wasn’t easy. But it was essential.

Marjorie Rosenblatt’s youngest child is in high school, and she wants to be sure to stay close to her kids as they become independent adults.

While I recognize this progression toward independence was our eventuality, even our goal, it felt and still feels somehow unnatural to me; how can we as parents know the comings and goings of and daily events in the lives of our children, only to accept that this degree of involvement would be relatively abruptly replaced by an occasional text or phone call? How can our family, an indivisible unit, disperse, and yet (we hope) continue to be solid? How can we stay close as a family as our lives diverge?

She suggests group travel, text threads, traditions, and care packages.  Gretchen Rubin and her family send frequent email “updates” to each other as a way to maintain close contact.

I like some of these ideas, but they do require a commitment to make them work.  I’ve seen how easy it is to let family ties fray.  One way I maintain contact with some extended family is through a private Facebook group, where we post updates about what is happening in our lives.  We feel we can share more on this private group than on our regular timeline.

Has your extended family kept close ties?  If so, how have you made it happen?  Have you thought about ways to maintain close contact with your children as they become adults?   If your children are grown, are you satisfied with the type of relationship you now have?  On the other hand, do you prefer to keep a friendly distance from some relatives?

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141 thoughts on “Keeping family close

  1. Neither DH or I are close to our siblings (we each have one). They are geographically distant, childless and have fairly different education/professional lives. I did invite BIL to cruise with us in January – he has seemed in the past to actually want a connection with the kids. Surprisingly, he took us up on the offer. I hope it will provide a way for him to spend some fun time with the kids, but not as a caregiver.

  2. I am an only and my dad was an only. My mom had 3 siblings, all who passed before she did, but was really only close to one, who was childless. That aunt was a big part of my life. I was never very involved with my cousins, but through FB I have made contact fairly recently. My partner has one sister who he isn’t close to and his parents, aunts/uncles, grandparents etc. have all passed. He has a neice that I am FB friends with and we faciliate communication between him and his sister – which is rare. So, really this means with our kids.

    My oldest will go off to college in 2 years and it is something I think about. I will miss her, but at the same time want her to be independent and not feel that I helicopter over her. Now that I do not have elder care as a big issue, we are looking at family trips again. I think this will likely be the way we stay connected as they get older.

  3. I’m still recovering from a family dinner last night for break fast. I see my family a lot because we live within 20 minutes of everyone on my side. It can be nice, but it can also be overwhelming around the holidays. I was relieved when I realized that I’m done with family holidays until Thsnksgving.

    My husband does not see his family as much because it’s just not how they do things. We see them a lot when there is a medical crisis, and then we settle back to our pattern of once or twice a month.

    We’ve made a choice to live near both of our families, and it definitely has been nice for our daughter. We wanted her to know her grandparents and cousins. That part has been great. I just don’t like having everyone so involved in certain things. I have mixed feelings about this topic, but I’m still recovering from too much time with my family during the high holy days.

  4. I am close to some members of my extended family. I touch base with the rest at intervals.
    DH’s mother didn’t understand her grown kids at all. She continued to think in terms of her original family unit. She acceptance of new family members was botched from which there is no recovering now. This is the biggest lesson I have learnt. Once my kids are off on their own, I will keep in touch and be there for them but will understand that they have to move on
    With their adult lives. I will also be welcoming of new family members and treat them well.

  5. “My husband does not see his family as much because it’s just not how they do things. We see them a lot when there is a medical crisis, and then we settle back to our pattern of once or twice a month.”

    That’s a lot! It reminds me of that joke about the couple in marriage counseling, and the shrink asks how often they’re having sex, and she says “all the time, like twice a week!” and he says “hardly ever, only about twice a week!”

    For my family, I’ve mostly been the one putting these things together. It’s fun, and it has its complexities. My parents can’t be in one place for more than three or four days, and that causes some mild resentment along the lines of “So we’re going through the effort of getting everyone together, all your grandchildren in one place, and you can only come for 3.5 days?” But that’s how they are, and it’s not going to change.

    We’ve done the big rented house, but most recently I couldn’t get a lot of support for that on my side, because my brother wanted to use a hotel where he had a lot of points, and my parents like to get away from it all, and have a hotel that welcomes their dog. So you end up meeting at various places, but there’s not the same level of hanging out and relaxing and talking. My parents are totally fine with this; my brother later said that it was a mistake.

    On my in-laws’ side, their happy to share, but my MIL often wants places that are more expensive than we’d choose, specifically because they wanted a four-bedroom, I *think* because they were hoping that my BIL and his wife might have a change of plans and they would be able to make it, too. But of course they didn’t, and we end up paying half, anyway, because I’m not going to bring up the fact that *you* wanted the empty fourth bedroom. It’s not a big deal, just a minor annoyance.

    Point is, it’s nice to do, but I can also see how issues arise that curtail it.

  6. “I will also be welcoming of new family members and treat them well.”

    This can get very tricky. If you don’t like them you have to pretend. (Really, some people are just annoying to be around!) If you like them a lot you’re affected if there’s a break-up. You can’t play favorites. etc.

  7. My former MIL was very demanding of what holidays, events, etc. her 3 sons were to attend at her house or her pre-determined location. Being married to him, I was to show up too. However, I wasn’t really included in anything. The boys would hang out and do ‘guy’ stuff with the step-dad or expect to be doing something with their mom. MIL had no interest in doing anything with me. Other 2 sons weren’t married at the time, though one was divorced with kids that the ex had moved out of state with. So, unless we were all hanging out together or unless there was more extended family around, I was on my own. But, if I actually brought something to do, I was labeled anti-social!

  8. “then we settle back to our pattern of once or twice a month.”

    “That’s a lot!”

    Interesting to see different perspectives. If your in-laws live within 20 minutes away, what is too much or too little? Twice a month can seem like a lot, or not enough. I’m thinking of mother/daughters who have close relationships, for example. If you’re working FT, making time every other weekend can seem like a lot. And there’s the whole introversion thing. One family I know expected the adult kids to eat Sunday pasta dinner every week, but that didn’t happen and there were bruised feelings.

  9. I am close to my extended family. I talk to my mom every day, and talk to my dad maybe once a week, but we email frequently. I am the least liberal of his children, so he sends me all of his Republican chain email that he receives so that I can debunk some of the more crazy claims. It’s kind of our thing, and it is a nice connection. We both enjoy politics and are very respectful of our differing opinions.

    I talked to one sibling if you times a week and the other sibling a couple times a month, but we all text and email more frequently than that. I like him very much as people, and I just find things are so much easier with people who know your whole backstory. The siblings got together without our spouses for a long weekend this summer and it was a lot of fun. My cousins’ kids are at the age where there are starting to be weddings, and one of them has invited all of the cousins to their first child’s wedding. So it was very nice seeing everyone who made it, as we are spread out all over the country. I do not talk to most of them other than large family gatherings and Facebook, but I still keep up with their lives because my mom talks to their parents almost daily.

    My in-laws are completely different. It seems to be out of sight, out of mind. Once we move to Houston we very rarely heard from anyone and less we were the ones initiating contact. Even birthdays and Christmas, no one calls. My husband has only one remaining member of his birth family, so we try to get up there a couple times of year to see him. Healthwise and financially my husband has only one remaining member of his birth family, so we try to get up there a couple times of year to see him. Healthwise and financially, it is difficult for him to come visit us so it is entirely on us to make the effort. There is another couple around our age in his family that I’m very fond of and who we have vacationed with, but once DH’s brother is gone I’m not sure how much we will see of his family. It is so foreign to my experience, but I have learned to quit offering helpful suggestions and to just let him manage the relationships the way he wants. My family has already planned out who is visiting who on Thanksgiving and Christmas and when we will see each other. Two days before we leave to visit, DH might bring up the idea of dropping by to see his family while we’re in the same state. There will be no plan at all from his family side, and sometime after the holidays if we don’t make it, someone will say “oh, we thought you’d be here.”

  10. We used to maybe see our parents once a month before we had a kid. It was mainly holidays. We rarely see them all summer when DD is away.

    It is going to change with my parents too because DD is busy every weekend. She has all of those mitzvah parties, her own activities and she just wants to spend more time with friends instead of grandparents.

    Every time that I try to go back to seeing them less, some elder care issue pops up.

  11. A friend of mine just posted on FB that changes in families (adding/losing) is a lot like changes in the office. You might not like the new hire or you will really miss the person leaving, but don’t really have a reason to stay in touch after your common employment is severed. You have to always be respectful and polite and remember that they affect your life in ways that aren’t always apparent at the beginning.

    She went on to say, you might think the current girl/boy friend is annoying, but if that becomes the spouse, and you have a bad relationship with them, it could like to more limited access to grandchildren, etc.

  12. I don’t think even a weeklong reunion is enough to make a family close unless there is constant, frequent interaction the rest of the year. My DH comes from a really close family – they are close in that they are in and out of each others homes several times a week. Dh isn’t as close because of the distance but he calls his mother every single night. We are all linked on Facebook too, and correspond pretty much daily.

    OTOH, I am not close with my sib, but I don’t think anyone is.

  13. “She went on to say, you might think the current girl/boy friend is annoying, but if that becomes the spouse, and you have a bad relationship with them, it could like to more limited access to grandchildren, etc.”

    That’s a lot to put on Facebook.

    “Every time that I try to go back to seeing them less, some elder care issue pops up.”

    I hope something like this doesn’t threaten to derail our plans for the Loop.

  14. My goal for the future is to live close enough that seeing each other every couple of weeks doesn’t seem like very often. :-) I would like to be close enough that my presence in their life can be taken for granted. Having grown up mostly an “only,” with grandparents and cousins and even half- and step-siblings across the country, I envied DH’s family, with the three siblings all within about 20-25 miles of each other + in-laws who fly up all. the. time. For them, the question is always “who” is doing a certain holiday and not “whether” we will all be able to get together — something I never had. That was a big part of the drive to move closer to home, so my kids can take their family for granted and see each other frequently enough to get on each others’ nerves.

    We also do a number of family trips — I think my stepdad’s death and my MIL’s cancer diagnosis shocked everyone enough that we just all have a higher priority on getting together. It’s not always convenient or cheap or what I’d really prefer to do, but you just do it because it matters. E.g., I am going to FL for T-day this year, even though I detest FL, because my mom and step-sis really wanted to. And then my dad called and said Granny was coming to his house for T-day, so that night I got on the phone with Southwest and changed my return to go to NC instead of BWI, because when you’re 50 years old and lucky enough to still have a Granny, you just go, period.

    I do think there is an arc to these things, though. I strongly suspect my kids will go far away for college and grad school and then maybe stay there for jobs and relationships. I think when you are that age, it’s a very natural inclination to want to put some distance between you and your parents and find your independent self — and it is equally the job of the parents to re-find *their* own selves and roles and relationships once the kids are gone. [And since we plan to be newly-retired and gallivanting ourselves, I’m not going to complain. :-)] But I suspect once everyone settles into their new, independent lives — once the kids no longer have to prove anything and the parents no longer have to control anything — and once grandkids start coming, then I think there is in many cases a renewed desire for closeness and contact, and we may move closer to them part of the year, they may come back here if it still feels like “home,” etc.

  15. Family. This year has been tough with my side of the family. My sibs had a major falling out, my mom was caught in the middle, and I ended up “negotiating” with my sibs over my mom’s birthday party to make sure they and their kids would attend. No idea what the plan is for T-day or Christmas and this year we’re supposed to spend it with my side of the family, not DH’s (we alternate). My SIL had the nerve to tell me we should make more of an effort to get the cousins together (when I had just left my kids with my side of the family for two weeks) even though her son didn’t even bother to tell me he was coming to my city. I saw it in FB. Seriously contemplating just having the holidays be with me, DH and the kids.

  16. We are Very close to my side-my parents, my one sibling, his SO, my adult kids, their SO’s,my (2)grandchildren, all pop in and out of my house at least once a week, if not more. We are the hub-and it is great since we have 3 young kids still in the house (youngest is almost 2). We all talk several times a week, even if we see one another-and have frequent group text message updates, pictures shared and to make plans. I always knew I did a some things wrong parenting my first older 2 kids, but I also did more right-as evident that they choose to be around me and not only by sense of obligation. I feel very fortunate and would not change a thing. Holidays are crazy busy, mostly because we host at my place to include extended family-aunts, uncles, cousins, cousins kids, etc. It can be a lot of work, but I think it is important to remain connected, and this is doing my part to that end, so it is worth it.
    Unfortunately DH’s side-we do not see for various reasons-sometimes cutting out toxic relationships is the only option.

  17. OTOH, my kids are still talking about living in the same house together with their wives when they grow up. So sweet. There’ll be a guest room for me and DH.

  18. Hi! I’m checking in from my helicopter cockpit here. My son texts me from school occasionally. More usually means a bad day or that he’s sitting alone at lunch. Today there was an increasingly heavy barrage, so I picked him up at lunch, told him I wanted him to have a good afternoon of classes, and was there to support that. He immediately smiled and said “you care about me!” Uh, yeah kid. Glad you noticed. Anyway, he’s back now, with promises to do well.

    My family of origin, as you know, is like cobwebs. I do want some attachment there, because they are all we’ve got but eachnother, but between all the negative images I got about my body & the rest of me growing up and their completely blaze attitudes and obstructionism when things were really awful for my son, I consider them the opposite of a source of empathy, emotional support and positivity.

    The kiddo and I actively talk about how to have a good relationship and not worry up the way my mom and I are when he’s grown up. It scares him to think we might be like that.

  19. Some of the “where do you spend the holidays” fluxuates with age and location. When my parents lived overseas, I spent Christmas with them, but it was too far and costly for shorter holidays. When they moved back state side and we were in the same city, I spent more holidays with them. Once my oldest was born (his famiy out of state), we still spent most holidays at their house. When my second one came along, we started doing more things at our house to build our families traditions. As my parents aged, we started doing some things at our house and then going to where they were living to celebrate as well. The last few years, we had T-Day at their retirement community, and then had our own feast on that Friday to have the foods the kids all liked. Now that they have passed, we will be celebrating on our own.

  20. If we lived closer to our parents and families, we would be in and out of each other’s houses every other day.
    As a kid, I would not have cared for such close relationship with extended family, but as an adult, nothing is more important than close relationship with family, working on creating and maintaining friendships etc.

    Yes, there are major inconveniences, and people can be really intolerable often, but no one said on their death bed ever “I wish I had spent less time with my family.”

  21. This is just making me teary today. My mom just left and we had such a nice visit with her and I hate how far away we are from family. We seriously looked at moving back to New England last summer but the prospective job was such a severe pay cut that it didn’t go very far. My parents very much have their own lives, but I know they would love to really be a regular part of my kids’ lives. When I got together with some high school friends this summer, those of us who had left were all plotting how to move back, so maybe we’re all just at this point where we’ve lived elsewhere and want to come home.

    My sisters and I are close even though we are geographically far apart – although the middle one often has to be the peacemaker between me and the youngest because we are so so different. My dad is one of nine kids and so I grew up around a slew of cousins/aunts/uncles and I get sad that my kids don’t have that with their cousins.

    DH is close with his parents but has issues with his brother (specifically he doesn’t like his wife and honestly his brother has become a giant PITA). Dh’s brother and his wife have been having marital problems too so that makes it hard to be around them (and we didn’t really like being around my SIL to begin with). We had a falling out with them this summer and so they talk, but not very often, and nothing beyond the superficial most of the time.

  22. It seems that, for the most part, when couples are married with children, they are closer with the wife’s family.

    Why is that? Is it because daughters stay closer to their parents? Because Moms are more likely to plan vacations and control the schedule? Or because grandparents feel like their daughters are more vulnerable and in need of support?

  23. “If your in-laws live within 20 minutes away, what is too much or too little?”

    For me, every 2 weeks often feels like a lot, but also about right. That is about what the reality is here. But others in the family who live in the area are over at the IL’s almost every. single. day. I would find that completely smothering.

    I am not in frequent contact with my parents or siblings who all live in other states. I see them all multiple times a year, but we don’t chit chat a lot outside of social media. I feel okay with the amount, type and frequency of contact though, and I think that they do as no one has ever expressed anything else.

    On one hand, it makes me sad to think that DS may someday think that seeing us every 2 weeks is “too much” or that we may not see him much at all. OTOH, I hope we will be living a snowbird lifestyle in a traditional retirement community & be too busy playing tennis and having happy hours with the neighbors to notice.

  24. “Yes, there are major inconveniences, and people can be really intolerable often, but no one said on their death bed ever “I wish I had spent less time with my family.””

    Oh, I don’t know about that. I think people DO think “I wish I had gotten rid of that toxic relationship sooner.” But in most semi-functional family relationships, you are probably right. That doesn’t mean that they wish that they HAD spent more time with certain family members either though.

    @Milo – why are daughters closer? I don’t know. That’s not so much the case for me/DH or me/my brothers as one of my brothers is still the closest to my parents in both proximity and emotionally. I think that has more to do with him being the youngest than anything else. It IS the case within DH’s family though. The daughters are still closer and still more dependent, frankly. I guess it is cultural in a lot of cases, I don’t know. What do you think?

  25. I am still in far too much into missing my daughter in college and this conversation is just making me sad.

  26. I read this the other day and it made me really think about how many more days I have left to spend with my parents. http://waitbutwhy.com/2015/12/the-tail-end.html.

    Some days I wish I lived a lot closer to my family, but then I think about my brother and how he is always running around helping a family member do this or do that. I do enjoy the freedom I have to pick and choose the days I spend with them. I would enjoy family vacations with my brother and his family, but for the most part they aren’t will to travel unless they can use their points, and our travel budget doesn’t accommodate resorts on private islands or the Ritz. So once a year at Thanksgiving is it.

  27. Milo – I think it’s mostly due to women being better about keeping up relationships and the closeness between mothers and daughters. And then the MIL/DIL relationship is usually more complicated than other relationships. My sisters and I used to joke that one should never marry a guy who only has brothers.

  28. Typing on the way to the airport for my Dad’s wedding. We’re not close to either of our families but we make the most effort to visit. My siblings all live in the Midwest and the married ones have worked out the same alternating holiday schedule. I don’t want to expect my kids to limit their job prospects by trying to stay here but will not say”I hope you move away” the way my mother did. Probably because we both lost parents young to cancer, we both consider that in our life possibilities more than others do.

  29. DH has a fantasy football team with one of his brothers. It’s pretty much the only way they stay in touch, absent a family crisis. We used to take an annual beach “vacation” with his extended family, but it was discontinued about 8 years ago when FIL’s health and the younger family members’ work/college schedules got too complicated to coordinate. A few years ago, my siblings and I began regular “cousin” getaways, primarily because our oldest cousin is an only child and, with her parents gone, started bugging us to plan meet-ups that didn’t involve funerals. That resonated, and those of us who value the connection have enjoyed the visits, especially as we can see our parents in a very different light.

  30. “Dh isn’t as close because of the distance but he calls his mother every single night.”

    Wow. None of my boys does this. I need to speak with them.

  31. “I am still in far too much into missing my daughter in college and this conversation is just making me sad.”

    This will be me next year. I’m kind of sad now just thinking about it.

  32. Too soon to switch to investment questions?
    I contribute funds to a regular 401K and to a Roth 401K. My firm is offering an option to contribute funds above the 401K cap (I’m assuming pre-tax) and then convert to a Roth. (I may have mangled that description.) What is the advantage of this over simply investing elsewhere outside of the 401K (other than the assumed benefit of contributing pre-tax)?

    What is a “back door” IRA? I’ve heard this mentioned as an option for those who normally would not be able to contribute to an IRA due to income thresholds. Can someone explain this?

    I’m re-thinking the decision to the contribute to the Roth 401K. Pros? Cons? I’m at least 15 years away from retirement.

    Last, how the heck do people pay for private school (not college)? Loans? Stop funding retirement? (Grandparents are not an option.)

  33. Lemon, thanks for posting that.

    I am emotionally close with my mom, but only see her ~once/yr. But last year, to the point in Lemon’s link, was a week in Europe with my step-dad and her. Quality time. This year will be a long weekend probably in December. Next year will be for the youngest’s HS grad and maybe another fall weekend. Sometimes we talk ~weekly, but sometimes it goes more like 3 weeks between calls.

    I am not close with my sister. She and my BIL distanced themselves from us a long time ago and that’s the way it is.

    Mom and Sis live within 45 mins of each other so see each other at least weekly.

    The other way, I talk with our oldest a couple of times a week (he’ll usually call me when I’m at work) and DW talks with him about the same…he’ll call her at home. We text and email much more frequently.

  34. I don’t think that 401(k) contributions above the cap would be pre-tax, but I could be mistaken. I think you’d be contributing to a non-deductible IRA, which you might then convert to a Roth. But that’s just a guess.

    “Last, how the heck do people pay for private school”

    Most don’t. We couldn’t afford it.

  35. Kerri – The one thing with with a Roth 401k is that you can withdraw the contributed principal before age 59.5 without penalty. Not the appreciation. So if it turns out you can run the rest of your life on remaining cash flow, you then get all that Roth 401k money tax-free in retirement since you funded it with after tax $$.

    Are you talking about a 457 plan?

    See: http://www.rothira.com/what-is-a-backdoor-roth-ira

  36. “DH has a fantasy football team with one of his brothers. It’s pretty much the only way they stay in touch, absent a family crisis.”

    This has actually been an awesome way to feel in touch with siblings/cousins who don’t live nearby. I’m actually really missing it this year since we got lazy and didn’t bother. Although Facebook has filled a little bit of the gap — at least you can have some of the same meaningless chatter that makes it feel like a relationship (vs. the “so how’s the job going?” talks you get when you catch up every year or two at Christmas).

  37. I just checked the materials and yes, the contributions above the 401K cap are NOT pre-tax. What the heck is the point then?

  38. “The one thing with a Roth 401k is that you can withdraw the contributed principal before age 59.5 without penalty”

    My firm’s plan does not allow in service withdrawals, so I cannot do this unless (I guess) I no longer work here.

  39. If you’re already maxing out on the pre-tax 401k and, make sure you’re fully funding your HSA (if you have a high-deductible health plan) since that’s also a pre-tax item.

  40. “Last, how the heck do people pay for private school (not college)?”

    Honestly? My plan was “move to a neighborhood where I could send my kids to the local public schools.” Because I couldn’t figure out how to do it without really serious cutbacks on everything else — I think we were making around $200-$250K at the time, so the total costs for two kids would have been around 30-40% of our take-home pay. Not a sacrifice I was willing to make with other (free!) options available.

  41. LfB – yep that’s the other option. I feel like I re-hash these same issues on here periodically. Apologies for being boring and indecisive.

  42. Kerri: Many people I know who pay for private school are not able to fully save for their children’s college education.

  43. “What the heck is the point then?” Earnings still grow pre-tax. But agree that it’s probably not worth it, because its treated as ordinary income when you take it out, so you’re paying double taxes on your original contributions.

    If you want to do a back-door Roth, I don’t know why you’d do it through your employer’s retirement plan (Meme?). It’s simple to do: call whatever company you have an account with (Vanguard, etc.). Tell them you want to set up a nondeductible IRA, which they can do by transferring $5K out of your existing account to a new account. Then the next day go in and roll that $ over into a Roth (Price has it set up so there’s even a button online to do it — when I set up the account, the guy walked me through what I’d do the next day to convert it to a Roth). You have to pay taxes on any earnings from the one day it was a regular IRA, but that’s very unlikely to be significant.

    The only caveat is that if you have a lot of other money in IRAs, the rollover to the new Roth is treated as a distribution from each IRA in proportion to their size (so if you have $45K in regular deductible IRAs and $5K in your new nondeductible IRAs, the gov’t assumes you took 90% of your $5K from those deductible IRAs and now need to pay taxes on a $4,500 distribution). But money in 401(k)s doesn’t count in that math, so if all of your money is in non-IRAs, you’re good.

  44. The back door Roth would not be through the 401K. Fidelity threw it out as another option to look into.

    Aren’t there income limits on contributions to IRAs? If you make above X, you can’t contribute. Or am I completely wrong here?

  45. “The only caveat is that if you have a lot of other money in IRAs, the rollover to the new Roth is treated as a distribution from each IRA in proportion to their size (so if you have $45K in regular deductible IRAs and $5K in your new nondeductible IRAs, the gov’t assumes you took 90% of your $5K from those deductible IRAs and now need to pay taxes on a $4,500 distribution). ”

    That sounds like a nightmare to keep track of. What if you have IRAs with separate brokerages?

    Or couldn’t you take that old IRA and put it into your current 401(k)? Somehow, I thought that was possible. I also think that I could, hypothetically, put an existing IRA into my dormant TSP. Would doing so avoid that tax?

  46. Someone expressed suprise that my DH calls his mother every night. To me, that seems normal. First of all, she is in her 90’s, so DH is aware he doesn’t have a lot of time left to talk with her(though she is healthy and sharp, so who knows, maybe she will go into her 100’s). But also, I was close to my mother, and called her every few nights for most of my adulthood – and we emailed every day, sometimes several times (she was an avid email user by the 90’s). I wish she was still around – her emails were always hilarious. She would have totally been into Instagram too – she documented her food and did selfies way back in the 90’s, emailing all that stuff to me. She used to mail me garden produce too!!!! Man do I miss that.

    I hope my DH is setting a good example for our kids.

  47. I realized my post above was less than clear – what I was trying to say is that it seems normal that my DH calls his mother all the time because I had a similar relationship with my mother, and wish that I still did.

  48. I’m really happy to see DD and DS make such an effort to keep in touch with family. They’re in touch with cousins and grandparents frequently via text and phone, they make plans to meet up with cousins in various locations, they make a 4-hour drive to see their grandmother (my former MIL) quite often.

    For several years, DS has made a point to call that particular grandmother once/week. He also calls my parents, but his other grandmother is alone, so he feels he should call her more.

    DS also calls me every day. Often it’s a 90-second call as he’s walking to class, but I’m totally fine with the short check-ins. He also calls his sister often. Recently, he changed his Netflix name to “Hi Family!” so when we log on to watch, we see that note from him. Silly little thing, but not surprising for him to do that, and he may end up being the family “glue” as he and DD get older.

    DS’s father and I both live far from family, but make a lot of effort to stay in touch with everyone. I think DS is even better than we are at it, and he’s turning out to be a good example for us.

  49. @Kerri — I think there are income limits to deductible IRAs (if you are covered by a 401(k) plan) and income limits to opening a straight Roth. But there are no income limits on either opening a nondeductible IRA or rolling existing IRA $ into a Roth. Ergo, the back door, where you put the latter two together.

    “That sounds like a nightmare to keep track of. What if you have IRAs with separate brokerages?
    Or couldn’t you take that old IRA and put it into your current 401(k)?”

    Yeah, nightmare. For me the only reason it made sense was because I did NOT have other IRAs — because, like you said, I specifically rolled my old IRAs into my current 401(k) first. But whether you can do that depends on the rules of your current 401(k) plan — my DH will never have a backdoor Roth, because he has like $100K in rollover IRAs, and his employer will not allow him to roll that into his current plan, and at our marginal tax rates it makes zero sense to pay taxes on distributions now just to do the backdoor Roth.

  50. Interesting to see the variation in what people do and also in what people consider “frequent” and not.
    Milo; your joke sounds like my marriage but in reverse. A warning to all distracted young men–too much solo and you’ll find partnering difficult. Test out the equipment, keep it in running order if you must, but otherwise, put it away!

  51. “I just checked the materials and yes, the contributions above the 401K cap are NOT pre-tax. What the heck is the point then?”

    First, as LfB mentioned, the earning accrue pre-tax. You do give up the benefit of CG rates when you withdraw, but you are also freed of the need to track CG.

    Second, this may be a first step to a back-door Roth contribution.

    Third, money in retirement accounts is not counted by many colleges for need-based financial aid.

    There may (or may not) also be benefits in terms of retirement accounts being protected in cases of bankruptcy or liability judgments.

  52. “Then the next day go in and roll that $ over into a Roth”

    I’m not sure that roll over is the term typically used for that. I’ve heard convert/conversion used to describe moving money from a traditional to Roth IRA.

    Be aware that it’s not so simple, and there are possible tax consequences, if you have other funds already in non-Roth IRA.

  53. “Last, how the heck do people pay for private school (not college)?”

    Bank bill payment service.

  54. If we’re funding private school, I don’t see us taking advantage of the additional contributions to the 401K/Roth conversion, but I appreciate the feedback.

    “Third, money in retirement accounts is not counted by many colleges for need-based financial aid. ”

    Definitely something to keep in mind.

    Will explore the back -door Roth (outside of the 401K) a bit more.

    Thanks everyone!

  55. I’ve become very close to my siblings and my dad using WhatsApp. We’ve always gotten along well and live in the same metro area. It’s weird to say that WhatsApp has brought us so close as I always have a reflexive tendency to roll my eyes about technology making life better.

    I have 3 siblings. One of them made us get WhatsApp on our phone back when none of the rest of us even knew how to install an app on our phones. He put it on our phones when we were out for Father’s Day brunch. We had been trying to do group texts but the texts never came in the right order due to some of us having iPhones and some of us having Android. We text nearly every day about mostly little stuff. I think being in tune with the little things going on a day-to-day basis is what has made us closer. Before when we got together, we’d mostly just spend time trying to catch up on bigger things.

    The little thing that brings us closer together is talking about sports. One of my siblings’ kids is very, very, very good at a sport and will be playing D1 next year. We spend a lot of time chatting about the games and various sports related things. The 4 siblings and my dad made a road trip to watch the kid play in a tournament this last year. That weekend will be a lifelong memory to cherish for me being able to spend that much time with my family. We’re planning on road trips to games next year. My DH and I are really looking forward to it.

    My mom died when I was 25. She used to joke that she had 4 only children, because all of us thought we were our parents favorite. We aren’t very close in age, so in some ways we were like only kids. After my mom died, we definitely got closer and family means even more to us. We all feel very lucky. My DH’s family isn’t very close at all. It’s so different from my family. I worry that it is because my DH only has brothers. I worry that being the mom of boys means I won’t be very close to my kids when they are older. I’m making my list of things that I will/won’t do as a mother-in-law.

  56. “We couldn’t afford it.”

    I’m skeptical. From the hints dropped over the years, my guess is that they could if they prioritized it highly enough, although it might mean, e.g., not buying a boat.

  57. “although it might mean, e.g., not buying a boat.”

    Fair enough. That covers one year for one child. Now what about the other 38?

  58. Finn, I don’t agree that it is so easy for many people (including totebaggers) to find private school money. I am guessing that private school is not cheap where you live, but the cost for Terri would be an average of $38-45K per kid per year unless she finds a cheaper religious affiliated private school. In this area, she would have to earn an additional $140-150K in gross income to earn enough to pay the tuition for two kids. That doesn’t even include the “extras” that are expected around here, and I am not talking about the annual auction. It might include extra money for trips, sports and equipment. Some of these extras are not so optional.

  59. Kerri – we don’t save at the Totebagger rate. (I’m probably going to be kicked out of here.) We do save just not at super high rates. Our financial advisor says we’ll have enough to retire at the amount that we said we’d like to have per year. It is not at the same amount of our current income. My goal is to ramp up our savings more over time, but we will be fine. We really aren’t saving much for college right now. My plan for college does include cash flowing a fair amount, savings, and possibly taking out loans.

    We are very happy with the private school our kids are at. We pay roughly $12K/year per kid. I believe the tuition will go up to around $20K by high school. The tuition for schools on the east coast are so much higher.

  60. Lauren – Yep – most private schools are in that range. One we looked at last year was $60k per kid per year. We were a little relieved when the kids did not get in.

  61. Most of the private school parents we know have well-paying jobs, come from money, own successful businesses, work for the school (and thus have free tuition for one kid as a benefit), some combination of these, or are married to one.

    We know a lot of two-income couples with both spouses being in typically well-compensated professions, e.g., engineer, MD, dentist, lawyer. Interestingly, it seems most such couples share the same profession. We know a couple of cops, and I think they both put in a lot of OT.

    We also know some kids who benefit from financial aid, and some parents who struggle and make many sacrifices to put their kids through private school. Many parents send their kids to public schools through elementary and/or middle school to reduce the overall costs (a lot of parents we know seemed to be most concerned with having their kids avoid public middle schools).

    My perception is also that the typical private school parents tend to be older than the typical public school parents.

  62. “a lot of parents we know seemed to be most concerned with having their kids avoid public middle schools”

    yes, this.

  63. “That’s a lot to put on FacebooK” Ha! Most of my FB friends go back and forth between <140 characters and writing a couple paragraphs.

    " when you’re 50 years old and lucky enough to still have a Granny," Hellyeah! A friend of mine recently lost his grandma and seemed to have no concept how lucky he was to have her for so long.

    "once …the parents no longer have to control anything". Goals. Or rather, wishes. I'm starting to think that in addition to Mom's concern not to inconvenience her son's-in-law (and unwillingness to even consider how my family is affected), they probably assume that i feel the same kind of helpless Mom feels when she considers life without Dad, and that i would like to have someone there to take care of me as her has done for her. Besides her father ceremoniously giving her in marriage, there is a little story that means a lot to her in which her father stopped her mother from stepping in to help her in a small way, saying "he will take care of her now". She gets all ready remembering. I need to find a way to tell them that no, absolutely not wouldmi ever want a "managing partner" over me. That tied right into a Milo theory, didn't it?

  64. Teary.
    Sorry about that. If anyone is considering updating to iOSx, I’d advise you to wait. Trying to click on a word in a sentence I just typed to fix a mistake is making the thing scroll down to halfway through the replies. The cursor stays where it should be, so I count spaces and make corrections blindly, but I clearly miss some.

  65. “I don’t agree that it is so easy for many people (including totebaggers) to find private school money.”

    I don’t believe I ever said it is easy to find the money. I did mention the need to prioritize it over other spending, using Milo’s boat as an example of spending that might need to be curtailed in favor of paying tuition.

    The kind of tuition Kerri is looking at is not something we’d be able to afford. Perhaps that’s one reason it’s not uncommon for alums to move back here when their kids get accepted into their alma mater.

  66. “Last, how the heck do people pay for private school (not college)?”

    For us, our housing and commuting costs are low, and we have an only. Our housing, commuting, and private school combined are ~20% of our gross income these days. Tuition is higher than the local parochial schools, but below the cost of the “elite” schools (like Lauren mentioned). If we moved to the suburbs, we would have to hire at least a PT nanny or some other kind of extended hours childcare coverage, plus we’d have to get a 2nd car, and our commuting costs would go up, so I’m not sure how much money we would actually save even if our housing costs were comparable.

    @Lauren – I don’t understand how to pay for $40K/year in tuition for twins that you would need to earn $140K more in income plus more for extras.

  67. Saac – I meant that it was a lot to put on FB because it would seem like the poster is saying publicly that she doesn’t like the new boyfriend/girlfriend of her son or daughter.

    I can’t begin to unravel what you’re trying to say in your third paragraph to confirm whether it supports a theory of mine.

  68. “using Milo’s boat as an example of spending that might need to be curtailed in favor of paying tuition. ”

    Like I said, if I owned 39 boats, you’d have a point.

  69. Regarding public middle schools: One of my hometown friends sent his three daughters to this place: http://www.girlsms.org/ The Girls’ Middle School. The idea was that keeping the girls away from the boys during those critical years will help them maintain their self-esteem and self-respect. He says it mostly worked, but turns out that some middle-schools are horrible little vipers, so it’s not like it was a totally fabulous experience.

  70. Cordelia, how’s your DD liking college life?

    I know it’s going to be tough when DS flies the nest, but I’m trying to make the best of it by sharing his excitement in the college selection process now, and I hop he’ll stay in touch enough to share at least some of his excitement when he’s in college.

  71. I don’t believe I ever said it is easy to find the money. I did mention the need to prioritize it over other spending

    Our house and cars are not nearly as nice as what our friends with comparable incomes have. A few families we know have moved to bigger, nicer houses in better areas for the schools. Other friends we know are very aggressive savers.

    I looked quickly at what the top private schools cost in town, and they’re probably around $25-30K/year. We couldn’t find enough ways to prioritize, without getting financial aid, to afford $40-60K/year.

  72. tcmama – my DH and his brother are very close to their mom. I think a few of the reasons for that is because their dad was devoted to their mom (he always made sure her needs came before his own), and when the boys grew up and moved away, she picked up and relocated near them. Some give and take on each person’s part.

  73. Lemon, I’m. not sure if I got around to saying congrats on your daughter’s good test scores, and how relieved you must feel, yesterday. I have a tendancy to try to form the perfect greeting, birthday wish, or whatever, and then pass up the occasion entirely. I apologize if I did that, or if I just doubled up.

    On the discussion re if anyone ever wishes on their deathbed that they had seen their family more, I’ll just say that I hope to have gotten all the negative self-images from them out of my head by then.

  74. “I’m trying to make the best of it by sharing his excitement in the college selection process now”

    Ha! No excitement here. I have had to nag DS more than I’d like to get his applications in, and complete the numerous tasks that are associated with the applications (recommendations, transcripts, essays, etc.) Not fun for either of us. I told him after he’s completed 3 applications, I will get off his back. Then I can go back to being “laid back Mom.” I miss “laid back Mom.”

  75. Lemon – that gives me hope! My DH keeps trying to reassure me that it’ll be fine, but every time the in-laws come I have a little worry session.

  76. Milo, is the more clear? My mom is glad that her parents handed her over to my dad, and that he has taken care of her ever since. She fears being on her own. I am starting to think that they may assume that I am the same way, and that may account for their meddling tendencies. (Their explanation for why they do this only with me is that Mom wants to be considerate of my sisters’ husbands/families). Seems impossible if you know me, but I have always said my mom looks at me and sees the person she wishes I was, instead of who I am. I thought that sounded like what you said about grandparents assuming that daughters need their help more.

  77. Thanks S&M.

    tcmama – also, my MIL was so excited to have a daughter that when DH and I were dating she would give me wonderful birthday and Christmas presents. She made no bones about it that she was excited to finally buy handbags and jewelry, so I graciously accepted them. :) Then I marry into the family (and although she occasionally drives me up the walls) we have a great relationship. Her and I will grab lunch together, etc. I know that it means a lot to my DH that I get along with her. I’m lucky that she is awesome.

  78. You are lucky Lemon! I get along fine with my MIL, but I’m not close to her. DH isn’t close to either parent. It could be worse though.

    Also, congrats on your daughter’s test scores!

  79. Are there really no middle-of-the-road private schools in NYC? There is just Spence and the like or “crappy parochial schools”? Or are the middle-of-the-road schools also $45K/year? Seems like a business opportunity.

  80. “@Lauren – I don’t understand how to pay for $40K/year in tuition for twins that you would need to earn $140K more in income plus more for extras.”

    $40k per kid – so $80K after tax. Assuming 40% tax rate (fed, state, city/local), 140K is ballpark. (I didn’t actually run the numbers, just guesstimated.)

  81. Public service announcement– Have you heard about the ‘slider’ robberies at gas stations? Guys are stealing purses from cars as the drivers are pumping gas and focused on the pumps.

    Key takeaway is to keep the doors locked on the side of the car opposite the pump you’re using.

  82. She would be looking at twins in NYC. It would probably cost approx $ 90,000 total. It may even cost more depending on the school. She might be paying 35 to 40% of her gross income to federal, local and social security taxes. She would need to be in that type of income level to have enough after tax income just to pay tuition, rent/mortgage, food, commute and some day to day living expenses.

  83. The $60K schools are specialized schools – special needs kids, including super bright kids. Many of them are the schools that kids attend after their parents have sued the city because the public school can’t accommodate the needs of their child, so the parents aren’t footing the full bill.

    The $40K schools are in the same rough category of Dalton, Berkeley Carroll, Montessori or Friends’ schools. We haven’t really looked into religious schools (other than Friends).

  84. “tcmama – also, my MIL was so excited to have a daughter that when DH and I were dating she would give me wonderful birthday and Christmas presents.”

    And even when your in-laws have their own daughters, there is a benefit to meeting your future DH after his parents have given up all hope. :-)

  85. Kerri, how are your public schools?

    If private is too expensive, and you’re not satisfied with public, that would suggest a potential need to relocate.

  86. Finn – that’s just it. Our public middle school options range from “eh” to “hell no” to “awesome, if we win the lottery and both get chosen”. Even the “eh” school is not a shoe-in because it is in high demand. Lots of people do relocate at this stage.

    Some simply rent an apartment in a better school district and use that address. I have qualms about doing that.

  87. BTW, Kerri, I suggest you look at the tuition history of the schools you investigate. Increasing at 6%/year, tuition will about double in 12 years.

    You should also see if tuition goes up for older kids.

  88. My mom was good friends with her cousin when they were both children, but they had drifted apart by the time that they were in their mid twenties. Fast forward sixty years, and they run into each other at the retirement facility where they both now live. They are having a great time reconnecting after all these years.
    When my neighbors were dating, they discovered that they are third cousins (they have the same great-great grandparents). They had genetic counseling before they got married and had kids. Makes organizing family reunions a bit easier!

  89. Most of the guys in my family call their parents every week. I email my mother frequently so I don’t feel the need to call every week. The women tend to be very close to their mother and sisters so they will routinely call each other.
    In the home country my extended family mostly lived close to my grandparents so many Sunday evenings we gathered at a relatives home for an informal get together and a pot luck dinner. Most of my cousins moved away so the number dwindled and getting together is rarer now. My parents, aunts, uncles miss those days.

  90. Ah, of course. Marginal tax rate.

    It seems like there is a real opportunity in the NYC private school market for schools in the $20-25K range for tuition.

    “Some simply rent an apartment in a better school district and use that address. I have qualms about doing that.”

    People here do that too. I don’t really find that to be cheating if you are actually renting an apartment, even if it is a studio or something that you can’t/don’t use. But people also use a friend or relative’s address, and I have ethical issues with that.

  91. When we bought our house we had 3 options – house 1 $165K, “better” school district and 12 mile one-way commute for the person who commuted the farthest OR house 2 $350K , “best” school district and 25 mile one-way commute OR house 3 $300K and school district was an uncertain outlook and a 18 mile one-way commute. We took the cheapest house and shortest commute. The result is that we paid $1000 less a month than the uncertain district and $1600 less a month than the “best” school district in mortgage and taxes. Plus an unknown amount in gas from the longer and bumper to bumper commute. $1600 a month went a long way to paying for private elementary and middle school for two kids – here the parochial schools are now about $700 a month.

    Our second child is now a transfer into the district that was of uncertain outlook and our first is in a private high school. Second child’s school focuses on the IB program and flip/flops being 2nd or 3rd behind the most aggressive academic high school in that district.

  92. Finn,

    Thanks for asking. She is making friends and enjoying the football madness. Classes are harder than she anticipated and she feels woefully unprepared. Her distress is sufficient that we are now looking into private schools for our youngest. The middle one will take a gap/preparation since she is already a junior. The youngest hasn’t started high school yet.

  93. Around here the elite privates are between $25K and $30K and I still don’t want to pay that so our kids will probably be going to the public middle. Our ES is great so most send their kids to public for ES and then switch to private for middle (and it’s probably not most people, it just feels like that in my neighborhood). The middle school is not a bad option and the sixth graders have their own separate school which I like. We could absorb the $25K and still fund college, retirement and after tax savings but it would delay our early retirement plans. We have five years between #1 and #2 but I’m just not convinced of the ROI of private school around here.

    My husband has an extra retirement for counsel/partners at his firm that puts in 5% of your salary pre-tax above the 401k limits. They work it so the firm is making the contribution (although they really just lower your salary to do this so you are really making it). But we’re doing it because it will save on the tax bill.

  94. Cordelia: Your DD might want to look into some private tutoring options, if she’s having difficulty with STEM related classes. Some students swear by them. I will recommend that my DS looks into similar options for engineering-related classes, especially if he attends one of our flagships. You might want to check out these types of services on College Confidential, if you think it might help her.

  95. IRAs first. No one can contribute more than 5500 per year to any and all IRA’s of whatever sort. (6500 for over 50s). A backdoor Roth is for people who can’t qualify to contribute directly to a Roth because of AGI is too high. You contribute to a non deductible IRA and do an immediate rollover.

    The reason for non deductible 401k contributions (as opposed to Roth 401k contributions) is two fold. One, the deductible contributions for the entire company or firm may be limited by rules to prevent them being used disproportionately by higher earning workers. There are a couple of different tests applied. If you ever worked for a large company, they may tell you in Nov that you can’t contribute any more to the plan this year for that reason. At my former employer, everyone’s contributions were partially after tax and there was a non Federal deferred comp plan for execs.

    Rules have recently changed to permit someone who is rolling over the entire balance of an employer plan (as Kerri said, usually only on separation from service or retirement) to roll the Roth 401k balance into a Roth IRA, the pretax IRA contributions and all earnings into a regular IRA, and the after tax contributions in the regular 401k (no earnings thereon) into a Roth IRA. That was a change, because you used to lose the benefit of after-tax balance if you rolled over to a regular IRA. And you NEVER have to pay income tax on your after tax contributions if you leave them in the 401k – each RMD at 70 1/2 comes out proportionally pre tax and after tax.

  96. Cordelia, I’m sorry to hear your DD is having difficulties. I hope she is finding help in the form of tutoring or similar. Was this something you all anticipated at all?

    Kerri, time to come up here for more house hunting. They city schools can be so complicated and frustrating, especially in cases of twins!

  97. Family –

    I was thinking of sending CoC a post about how the older generation can make it more likely that you get to see children and grandchildren frequently. If you live in or near a bustling area – not a in free standing college town or more rural area or a warm weather active retiree magnet area – your chances go up that someone may live near you. If you stay in the family of origin area (and there is ample work and the kids do not want to flee), your chances go up that they may live near you or at least have a reason to visit annually. If you don’t downsize to a home that lacks a proper guest area or enough space for grandchildren and or family dogs, your chances go up. If none of these things work, you can budget for long weekend trips to the city where your kids and grandkids live. All that money totebaggers are putting away can allow you to work less as you age so that you have the freedom in your schedule to be there when the worker bees and highly scheduled grandkids can fit you in.

    No matter whether closeness means a daily phone call, or a yearly family vacation, or attendance at every confirmation and moving on ceremony (we are a close family and none of that is part of our routine), for my generation the job is to be welcoming and available, IF there is a desire is for a continuing close relationship. The other thing is to plan well for old age and infirmity, so that when it comes you have done what you can not to overwhelm your kids’ lives in their 50s and 60s.

    Right now my family life is so full it is bursting, with the three grandkids nearby, an adult child in the house so far so good, and good contact via text and facebook with the children in other cities. My mom fled her immigrant family life, so I don’t really know my cousins well, but I went to see my sole surviving uncle (youngest of 10) on his 90th birthday in Philly, and one my first cousins who is 78 for her grandson’s bar mitzvah (midwest university city). My kids are grateful that both of their parents are in their city of origin, as well as aunt and cousins, and nieces, and the 92 year old grandparents. One stop shopping.

  98. Kerri – how much are taxes and commuting if you move out to theat suburbs for school? Also, didn’t you awhile back talk about your apartment becoming cramped? Any updates or changes made?

  99. Risely, Dell, and others interested in a vegan diet: Terry Gross nterviews a couple who have two vegan restaurants and a cookbook, V Street on Fresh Air today. The words “richness” and “flavorful” come up a lot in their conversation. Could be good!!

  100. My parents can’t be in one place for more than three or four days, and that causes some mild resentment along the lines of “So we’re going through the effort of getting everyone together, all your grandchildren in one place, and you can only come for 3.5 days?”

    In my family, 3.5 days is about the right amount, maybe 4. On DW’s side, 3.5 days is too much. We did a get together for the in-laws 50th last month, and we ended up with 2 days with everyone and that was the right amount. Some people stayed a little longer on either side, but if anyone suggested we should all go for 5 or 6 days, they would’ve been laughed at for the absurdity.

  101. Kerri, your icon irritating me because it is the same as a former regular’s who knows her way around great dessert restaurants. Reading about your wishes for a school for twins, something just clicked for me. Hi there!

  102. After three days, visitors and fish begin to stink. That’s supposedly a Mark Twain quote. I think it’s pretty accurate, at least with family. The only time I’ve ever tested it with friends was traveling as a young adult. Week long trips were effortless.

    With all the moving around between schools that my DS has done, the one thing I’ve learned is that fit matters even at a tender age. His high school has sent kids to the Ivies, but is nowhere near the top in the county, not even near top public school. But the teachers nearly all really care that he learns, and are really good about digging in and making that connection with him. Kerri, I hope you can find one that works for both boys!

  103. We see my parents most days (the point of living in the same town) and DH’s every couple of weeks (hour away). I talk to my sister most days and see her several times a year (day’s drive away).

    I grew up with a large and close extended family and always wanted that for my kids.

    We will see what they want, I guess. I think how you respond to the potential future children-in-law makes a huge difference, so I will have to work on keeping my opinions to myself :)

  104. Cordelia, I’m hoping for a good turnaround for your DD. Lots of kids struggle at first even when they are well prepared. College is a whole lot of change in all areas of one’s life. I never was able to figure out where she went but I expect the school has some resources and tutoring that could be helpful. The issue is when kids won’t avail themselves of the help that’s there, and that doesn’t sound like your DD. Best of luck!

  105. Tcmama- we have considered moving before but what is stopping us is the commute and the taxes in Westchedter are nuts, nearly as bad as private schools. We also have some time still since middle school starts at 6th and mine are in 4th. We’re really trying to make a go of our current place.

    My office is moving to an open floor plan and as a result I may be able to work from home regularly. If that is true, a move is more likely. I may submit a post on working in an open environment after the move.

  106. When we moved here convenience mattered a lot because we were looking to shorten our commutes. All we cared about were decent enough schools, close to home and the office. We had fully expected our kids to be in the town public schools because that was what we knew in the Northeast. When we moved here there was a bewildering array of choices at different price points. However, some of the choices like some magnet schools involved longer commutes that we were not interested in. Then, as we put in the application for a private school nearby, we thought we’d have NYC like completion. But there was nothing of the sort. Different school scene here. And home schooling with an online component is an option that quite a few parents have taken especially in the lower grades.

  107. Kerri – my sister moved to Westchester last year and the taxes are insane. Her little 1400 square foot house has about $12K in taxes. Her husband only works in the city three days a week and she works from home so commuting is not bad for them (he drives in fact because he doesn’t work 9 to 5). I would think though with two kids the math may work in Westchester’s favor.

  108. I considered myself very close to DH’s family, until we had kids. Once we had kids being around his family was like death by paper cuts. His sisters and his mother are constantly just slightly critical of my parenting. It’s like drip drip drip. Nothing so blatant that I can call them out on it, it’s just 100 little comments in the day about what I should be doing better or could be doing better. After several years of this, I just started to avoid them and keep my kids away from them as well. I have flat out put my foot down about spending holidays with them, and we haven’t done that for years. His parents live two hours from us and we can easily go 6 to 8 months without seeing them. DH doesn’t object, because he finds the constant criticism annoying too. He thinks it’s passive aggressive and it gets on his nerves as much as it gets on mine. He has periodically talk to his mother about it, but things didn’t get better so we decided as a family it was healthier to just stay away.

    So, I definitely give a lot of thought to how I can be a better mother-in-law and my own in-laws are to me. Because it really does affect how often they see our kids.

    Regular poster, but will be a non-for this because it’s a little personal.

  109. That’s too bad, Anon. It’s awful that your MIL keeps up the criticism, even though it drives her family away.

  110. Anon, I’m sorry to hear that! I hope your kids have good relationships with your parents, where ever they are.

    Sky, the bit about withholding judgement is so important. It will be very hard for me, because my son and I are so close. He reads me very well, and he will probably seek my approval of his choice. I hope I’ll be able to be open to whoever he’s with, as long as she isn’t abusive of him.

  111. “there is a benefit to meeting your future DH after his parents have given up all hope. :-)” I remember my aunt telling me that she used to pray every night for Will to meet a nice girl and settle down. She said now she just prays that he’ll meet a girl. She doesn’t have to be that nice…

    I agree on the 3 days. That is about the amount of time my husband and son can go before they’re done and begin to get a little out of sorts. Sometimes when we visit my in-laws we’ll arrive in town in time to have dinner with everyone, visit for a while, then head to our hotel. Routinely, before we even get out of bed in the morning my husband will ask when we’re going home, and then asks if there’s anyway we can change the plan and leave that day. So something just under 24 hours seems to work best for him.

    I hope my kids remain close as they get older. I do very much wish we had more kids, but that ship has certainly sailed. They have always been great friends, so I hope they both put in the effort to maintain that as they get older.

  112. Anon, I had the same situation. We got along so well pre-kids. I can remember my MIL telling me when I was pregnant and we were out somewhere together that she wanted me to promise not to hate her after the baby was born and she told me what to do all the time, because her other DILs had hated it. I thought she was joking so told her not to hate me when I didn’t do anything she said. She didn’t laugh. I got the same steady drip of criticism, and she would never say anything positive about our (perfect!!!) first-born child. Any milestone we mentioned was met with “all babies do that”. She wouldn’t give an inch. It was so out of character that I remember the first compliment she gave in my presence, when my daughter was 6. In front of a room full of family, she started scolding me about leaving my soon-to-be-first-grader alone at home to get herself off to the school bus while I went to work. WTF?! That was never an option even discussed, and she knew that – but she made sure everyone in that room thought it was my plan and she set me straight. There were so many crazy things like that. It definitely affected how much she saw her grandchildren.

  113. I agree with Anon and MBT. The similar thing has happened in DH’s family. MIL, till date doesn’t think she is at fault and that is why she gets to see her other kids and grandkids so little. Her kids did try but the visits are always filled with tension and though the adults except my in laws and the grandkids get on well, no one wants to face criticism filled visits. When people are younger, they think their adult children and the spouses should be guided and give advice but what is advice to one person is criticism to another. The result is less contact with kids and grandkids overall.

  114. I like Meme’s set up. It is a good balance between supporting/helping but at the same time keeping ones distance and opinions to oneself.

  115. Anon and MBT – that’s dreadful. I don’t blame you for wanting to stay away. It’s crazy to me that someone would act like that.

  116. “When people are younger, they think their adult children and the spouses should be guided and give advice but what is advice to one person is criticism to another. ”

    So true, and often that “advice” is not verbal but is in the form of actions such as facial expressions and gifts meant to be helpful. I guess the silver lining from having such relatives is that you will strive to be better.

    The daily contact with parents or siblings, whether phones, visits, emails, is still a bit of a foreign concept to me. I’ve seen it up close, and it was a shock initially. But I would not discourage it with my children. However, I have seen that close relationships can endure even without daily contacts. It depends on the people, their personalities, their interests, etc.

    “I like Meme’s set up.”

    Me too. There’s a lot I can learn from it.

  117. We had similar criticism issues with my in-laws when the kids were little. It culminated when I threw them out during a visit because I had enough. Amazingly, they later apologized and we have a good relationship now. We don’t see them much because they live 2000 miles away, but when we do, the visits are very pleasant.

  118. My MIL used to always say “you are such a good mother. How do you want me to handle x (snack, bedtime, etc)”. I’ve vowed that will be my tactic also. I’ve realized now that she probably decided always to say that. At the time, I thought she meant it.

  119. Wow! I’m taking notes here. I didn’t plan to criticize my kids’ child-rearing anyway, but now I’m really going to keep my mouth shut.

    Routinely, before we even get out of bed in the morning my husband will ask when we’re going home, and then asks if there’s anyway we can change the plan and leave that day.

    I am your DH.

  120. Wow, I’m feeling a sudden appreciation for my MIL right now.:) She was intense when we had our first child (first grandkid) because she wanted to make sure she was involved (like I really didn’t need her to get up with me in the middle of the night and watch me nurse), but has never really criticized our parenting. She has mellowed a lot now that she has six grandchildren and so I actually enjoy visits with them now.

  121. Ah, daughter’s in law! My son is married, and I have always had a good relationship with his (now)wife-all through their dating years. I never took sides, and was always neutral when asked my opinion-and bit my tongue when NOT asked. Now they have a baby-and I try to remember what it felt like with my first kid, and what helped, and what did not help when people gave advice, comments, etc. I have no interest in judging-being a parent is hard enough, and I am no expert even though I have 5 kids-all I can do is support them always, and give opinions when and if asked-the goal is to enjoy my kids, in laws and grandkids, not be the all-knowing expert on all things parenting. Focus on the relationships, and they build into something great over time. The effort is always worth it. It must be working-because they are always at our house, and frequently request we come to theirs, so…

  122. Rocky & MBT, those are questions my kid asks at bedtime, usually starting the second night, even when he’s enjoying the visit.

  123. Nyx, that’s a great prescription.

    Meme, I agree with you on the general idea, but not the specifics. For many people, a bustling city is what they want to escape from, and warm weather and beaches the perfect place to escape to. Having enough places for everyone to sleep? Yes.

  124. At certain life stages and in certain family situations, having space for everyone to sleep is a plus. Assuming that there is consensus on whether that “space” can be the sofa in the family room. When kids and grandparents get older, it can be a real blessing to be able to say “Well, it’s been a long day and we are heading to the hotel. Let us know if you want us to bring bagels in the morning.” Older friends told me that they would check into a nice local hotel and turn over the house to the kids and grandkids when they all visited at the same time. They would disappear when the kids started getting cranky in the evening and return after a good night’s sleep and free breakfast.

  125. ” When kids and grandparents get older, it can be a real blessing to be able to say “Well, it’s been a long day and we are heading to the hotel. Let us know if you want us to bring bagels in the morning.””

    Yes. I feel like our visits to my parents’ house are much more enjoyable because we stay at a hotel. (they downsized) I would far prefer that to staying with them. I really do not like staying at other people’s houses, even family. I also feel like it is a feature, not a bug, of our own small space. “Oh, we’d love for you to visit – here’s the hotel 1/4 mile away”

  126. Parents find it harder to withhold criticism or advice directed at adult children when those children are still being supported fully or in part by their parents. Although you can fault the parents in these cases, they probably really want to help their child become financially independent.

  127. “When kids and grandparents get older, it can be a real blessing to be able to say ‘Well, it’s been a long day and we are heading to the hotel. Let us know if you want us to bring bagels in the morning.’”

    +1. This is the only way we tolerated visiting my great-aunt, with whom every conversation was passive-aggressive complaining about how nothing is ever good enough and no one ever visits her, and who could not understand why my toddler couldn’t simply be trained (instantly) not to touch the 800,000 china and glass geegaws she had displayed from floor to ceiling throughout her house. But of course our decision to stay at a hotel was a personal affront. To this day, it amazes me that she just never grasped the idea that people will come visit more if they actually enjoy themselves vs. being made to feel like abject failures for everything they do (and even more so for what they don’t).

    I think the key is (i) have sufficient comfortable space for people to stay if you can swing it, and (ii) don’t get pissy or insulted if someone chooses not to.

  128. “Older friends told me that they would check into a nice local hotel and turn over the house to the kids and grandkids when they all visited at the same time. They would disappear when the kids started getting cranky in the evening and return after a good night’s sleep and free breakfast.”

    Brilliant! I’m totally doing this when we get to this phase

  129. “Brilliant! I’m totally doing this when we get to this phase”

    It used to drive my SIL batty when my parents did this, especially when my parents were the ones visiting but would check into a hotel.

    Everyone has different expectations about how they think guests–particularly when children and grandparents are involved–should act, and should WANT to act. There’s no single correct path that anyone can offer as fool-proof.

  130. We would give over the house to the kids and stay in a hotel for a large family event when there were multiple sibs and kids camping out. Mostly that was because DH is their stepfather – it was much more comfortable to walk around in your pjs without him.

    You all seem to think that visiting relatives is some sort of obligation that you have to fulfill and how short can you make it. Au contraire, my away kids want to take quick trips back to Boston to see their grandparents and cousins and nieces and friends and father who won’t come to see them, and use of my home and automobile make it convenient and cheap for them to do so. Sometimes I feel like a hotelier when the domineering family I used to be married into schedules up their entire weekend, but we always try to settle in for the Patriots game at our déclassé house.

    Staying in the bustling city, saac, was about hoping my kids would live near me be part of my week to week life, which is my idea of heaven. Not too many regular jobs in Taos or Hilton Head for the breadwinners. I have seen too many people build vacation home palaces with room for kids and grandkids and find with some sadness, if not resentment, that it doesn’t work out that way. I have also seen people downsize and/or relocate to someplace out of the way and not understand both that it is inconvenient and that a (legitimate) choice to live one’s retirement life as one chooses may have consequences for family closeness.

  131. Meme, that’s awesome. I guess I’ve forgotten about that attitude, since my own mother insisted I should be glad they were too busy making friends in their retirement place to be able to come help the toddler adjust to his new home, but then would insist on visits on her schedule, no matter what I told her about good vs bad times to visit, eventually backed up by articles from NYT, WSJ, and the Chronicle. Their visits to us always seemed to be on the weekend when little one’s birthday party was schedule. I’d say “oh, nice that you can be at the party!” She’d tell me to cancel it and I’d reschedule. Looking back, I am sorry I let her push us around. Had she chosen to run away instead of meeting our fiends, fine, but I should not have put up with insistence to visit on a certain date. Anyway, your idea of involvement in daily life appeals to me, but is clearly one I’ve had to give up.

    Several people have mentioned “colorful” family members on past posts. Interesting that they don’t show up in this discussion.

  132. I hope I can be like HFN’s MIL.

    While it probably won’t be easy, I hope when I get to be a grandparent I can remember to have faith in the job DW and I will have done as parents and trust our kids to be good parents as well.

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