I am treating my family to a special vacation in Alaska. My grandson, 28, and his wife are unable to join us; they are expecting a baby soon. I’m sorry they can’t come, but I was shocked when my grandson asked me for a cash gift equal to what I would have spent for them to join us on the trip. He suggested I donate the money to the baby’s college fund. I am stunned! I was happy to help them with wedding expenses and part of the down payment on their first home. But I told him this is not how life works. Was I wrong?
You know it’s bad when I’m shocked, Popsy! I see two ways of reading your grandson’s nervy request: He may be an entitled young man who has grown too comfortable counting your money as his. Or — and this requires some compassion — freaked out by the pending responsibilities of parenthood, he might have made a silly cash grab.
In either event, you were right to refuse him. Your generous offer to spring for a family vacation does not oblige you to make compensatory payments to those who are unable to attend. I would have a follow-up conversation with your grandson to clear the air. Let’s hope he sees the light.
Tell him you’ve been happy to help him with occasional expenses. If you plan to contribute to the baby’s college fund — not that you have any duty to — let him know. More important, though, tell him he is not entitled to your money and your invitations do not include an option to collect their cash value instead. Let him know, too, that his behavior was hurtful, and risked making you feel like a walking ATM.
No Good Seat Goes Unpunished
I am a woman in my early 30s. My commute involves a crowded bus ride that often leaves people standing. These buses have “priority seats” in the front for the elderly and people with disabilities. I was sitting in one when a rush of people got on, including a woman with gray hair who looked about 70. I stood up and offered her my seat. She responded loudly, “How old do you think I am? Honestly, this gets annoying!” I felt terrible. How can I avoid this in the future — only offer my seat to those who are clearly old or in need?
I like your thoughtful impulse but let me suggest a different approach: Stop offering your seat to specific people. It’s not for you to decide who is old or living with a disability. (After all, age is relative, and many disabilities are invisible.) When the bus becomes standing room only, get up from the priority seat. You don’t need it or meet its requirements.
In my experience on public transportation, this usually works out, and a person who needs the seat more than I do generally ends up in it. But if the prospect of a teenage boy snagging it is too much for you to bear, ask the people standing nearby if any of them would like the seat.
Even Honest Mistakes Call for Sincere Apologies
I organized a sailing excursion for three young families with children. All our kids are in elementary school. At the end of the ride, I discovered my husband’s cannabis vape, which he thought he had lost, under a pile of bags. Our friend was upset when she saw it. She feared briefly that her 10-year-old son had used it. I apologized but was taken aback by her anger. All the adults were drinking alcohol openly, and my friend smokes pot. (It’s legal where I live.) The idea that a 10-year-old would vape seems preposterous. How grievous was this error?
There are few phrases worse than “I apologized, but …” We don’t have to share our friends’ distress to make a good apology, but we do have to feel sincerely sorry to have upset them. Minimizing your friend’s feelings as overreaction suggests (to me) that you should revisit your apology.
As for your arguments: Adults may drink alcohol or smoke pot but still not want their young children to. There is no hypocrisy in that. And I disagree that a 10-year-old would never try to vape. (I pinched cigarettes from my mother at that age all the time.) It sounds as if your husband made an honest mistake that upset your friend. No big deal! Your husband or you should apologize sincerely and put it behind you.
I am a 45-year-old who has done his fair share of air travel. Having witnessed undeniable climate change (due, in part, to airplanes), I have sworn them off and encourage others to do the same. My dear cousin plans to send her young son to Paris by plane to participate in a summer camp. May I encourage her not to?
I agree that we face a climate crisis, but focusing only on commercial air travel — without considering any other element of our carbon footprints — seems blinkered. The response must be deeper and better coordinated than simply canceling a kid’s summer plans. I would keep quiet about camp but try to engage your cousin in the larger climate project, instead.
For help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.