While I'm away, readers give the advice.
On missing your child's birth because of a prior social commitment:
I am an aunt to two children whose mother died giving birth to the second child 13 years ago. It still happens. You need to be there.
On unsolicited opinions and advice on medical conditions:
My daughter is 7, and from age 3 has had asthma triggered by tree-pollen allergies, as well as an egg allergy we must carry an EpiPen for. She is also allergic to any furry and feathered pets, dust, and weeds, and can get asthmatic in other people's houses from pet hair/dander. We also have to carry an inhaler, and she can't be at her best friend's house because of her dog allergy.
What I'd like to tell people:
Yes, I am aware that in other countries they don't have as many food allergies, or any kind of allergies. Yes, I am aware that kids on farms have fewer allergies. (Guess what? We had two dogs that passed away by the time my daughter was 4, and before then she wasn't allergic to dogs, but is now.)
The commentary about how there must be a reason that people get allergies (too much hand sanitizer, not enough exposure to foods, pets, etc., at an early age) is unhelpful.
I hear it all the time and it gets me nowhere. I have spun my wheels trying to follow well-meaning advice from people who do not suffer from allergies themselves, and it has all been unhelpful.
Could you please, people, unless you truly know what you are talking about, keep it to yourself? I always listen graciously, but all your commentary does is make me obsess anew for a day or two about what have I done wrong, or what could I be doing differently.
On parents who strongly disagree about healthful eating:
I grew up in a house where my parents could not agree on food for the kids. Dad grew up with junk food all the time, Mom trended toward healthier eating. You know what happened? Constant bickering. Dad would buy whole milk, Mom bought 2 percent (this was a "compromise"). Dad would make cakes all the time and hide junk food, Mom griped and got mad.
And it didn't really help that my mom was so into the healthy thing, in part because of weight concerns on my dad's side, that she took it out on me and made all junk food seem like the enemy.
So not only did I not develop good eating habits, I was obsessed with being fat, I hid my food, etc.
The good news is I'm healthy. But I can tell you: It chipped away at their marriage to openly fight over this (and a lot of other things); we got mixed messages from both of them; it affected our body image and eating habits; and to this day, the whole "milk wars" thing makes me roll my eyes. Kids can eat some junk food and live, so health-oriented parents, you need to chill a bit. Junk defenders need to grow up and not whine. Get on the same page and keep the disagreements away from the kids.
E-mail Carolyn Hax at firstname.lastname@example.org, or chat with her online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.