Dear Amy: I have an unconventional problem with my mother-in-law.
She does not meddle, undermine me, tell me how to raise my children, or imply that I’m not good enough for her son. She provides free childcare willingly, and always brings gifts for the kids, most of which I approve of.
My problem is that she’s unbearably annoying.
She has an extremely high-pitched voice, a thick Russian accent, and a pronounced stutter.
I can’t hold these things against her, and they are only mildly bothersome in normal conversation. But when she talks to my kids, especially the baby, it becomes unbearable.
She speaks exclusively in a mix of broken English baby talk and nonsense noises, and the level of repetition is borderline pathological.
She may repeat the same high-pitched sing-song “Oo goo goosh! Oo goo goosh!” sound to my baby literally hundreds of times over the course of an hour.
Once when I was feeling particularly snarky, I started timing her verbal runs. Many go for over 10 minutes without a break.
My level of annoyance is so high that I turn away, cringe, and silent-scream expletives when it gets bad.
I don’t know how to address this, or if it’s worth it.
I want to stop dreading spending time with her and feeling stressed waiting for the next round of high-pitched baby-nonsense to start. Please help! — Annoyed
Dear Annoyed: You say that you can’t hold your mother-in-law’s verbal tics against her, so ... don’t. Just don’t.
Much of what you report comes off as very unkind. I’m going to assume that you are suffering from a short-term form of annoyance-onset psychosis.
This kind woman is your children’s beloved grandmother. She cannot control her accent or her stutter. Her “goo goo gooshing” and baby talk are annoying to you, but she is really singing an ancient song — this is a song of human connection, passed from elders to babies since the dawn of time. She is also passing along part of her (and your kids’) heritage.
When the kids are older, they may say to her, “Babushka, I’m a big kid now. Don’t talk to me like I’m a baby, because I’m big.”
All the same, I totally understand how aurally annoying this would be to grown-up ears.
When it gets to you, excuse yourself and go into the kitchen to make a cup of tea. Take deep breaths while the water is boiling. Unleash your silent rant. And then congratulate yourself for being patient.
Dear Amy: I have an out-of-town guest visiting for a few weeks, both for work and relaxation.
It was an unplanned visit and she has been very accommodating to scheduled activities I had prior to her arrival. We have a lot of fun together and I’m including her in as many activities as possible.
I have been invited to an Oscar Night party, and she will still be in town during that weekend.
I would like to include her in my plans, as she doesn’t have anything else to do that night.
I asked the host if I could bring a plus one to the gathering. The host replied that it was a small group and they would prefer not to entertain an extra.
Well, now what do I do? I can see the situation from all sides. The host shouldn’t feel obligated to include another guest and I shouldn’t be expected to cancel. But I also feel bad that my guest has nothing to do that night.
What would be a good way to handle this situation, and similar ones in the future? — Good Host
Dear Host: You sound like a very thoughtful and accommodating friend. However, if your guest is with you for several weeks on an unscheduled visit, she is going to face a few instances where she will have to entertain herself. You have a previous commitment; she has a (presumably cozy) place to stay. She should be grateful for your hosting and understanding about your dilemma.
She’ll have to sashay solo down the Oscar red carpet this year.
Dear Amy: You answer a lot of questions about how to communicate across the political divide. Unfortunately, all of your questions seem to be from liberals who hate Trump supporters. Wow. Biased much? — Disenchanted
Dear Disenchanted: My theory is that these days liberals simply feel more aggrieved. I assume this goes with the territory of the “underdog,” but my advice — to talk and to listen — runs both ways.