October 27, 2016
My wife and I divorced last year. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t “The War of the Roses,” either. The court set a visitation schedule for our young son. I am supposed to take him one night a week and on alternate weekends. At the time, my wife said that she would be flexible; my work is unpredictable. But not only does she refuse changes, she sometimes refuses to give me my regular visits. This has been frustrating. My employer has now offered me a transfer to a city several hours away. If my wife were living up to the visitation schedule, I wouldn’t consider a move. But she’s not. So I’m thinking of taking the transfer. My parents are surprised. Thoughts?
I hate to go full Lady Gaga on you, but you have forced my hand: “I’ve got a hundred million reasons to walk away, but, baby, I just need one good one to stay.” You have that reason, George. The rational response to your former wife’s refusal to grant your court-mandated visits is not moving to another time zone, it is returning to court to secure those visits. (Or try mediation this time.)
It seems as if you are using your ex’s recalcitrance to rationalize taking the transfer, which perhaps you want but feel guilty about. I don’t mean to suggest that transferring is a bad decision. But it doesn’t solve the problem here; it simply creates different ones. And it, too, requires a return to court with your former wife to modify your custody arrangements. (Your son may visit during school vacations and over longer stretches in the summer.)
I get that going back to court may be a stressful prospect. But for the good of your child, and your relationship with him, it is necessary. I also think (though you didn’t ask me) that you should make a solid effort to minimize the “unpredictable” nature of your job in these early days after the divorce, including possibly speaking with your boss or co-workers. Your son needs to see you regularly, in a way that he can count on. It’s important to his sense of security.
Accounting for Friendship
My longtime friend is a certified public accountant. She has been doing my taxes for years. We are both in our 80s, and neither of us is as sharp as we once were. She is semiretired but has assured me that she will continue to take care of my taxes. But I would prefer to move my account to someone else in the firm. What can I say that will not hurt her feelings or reduce her self-esteem? I value our friendship.
First, an objection: When I needed help sorting out a kink in my mother’s estate, I consulted her (older) accountant, who was sharper than me, the estate lawyer and the horses we rode in on — combined. Youth guarantees no sharpness, and age no dulling down. Still, we don’t know about your specific experience with your friend.
If you want to move forward with replacing her, say: “I appreciate your offer to keep doing my taxes. But I, for one, don’t feel as detail-oriented as I used to be. Let’s give my taxes to someone else in your office. You and I can focus on being friends.” That shouldn’t be too upsetting. You’re not accusing her of anything, only noting a potentially shared experience.
Don’t Drive Her Crazy
My daughter just got her learner’s permit for driving. I am the calmer parent, so I tend to take her out on practice drives. She’s quite good. But I can’t help noticing that she consistently drives five miles an hour under the posted speed limit. This is pretty annoying for me and other drivers. Should I say something to her?
ALICE, NEW HAVEN
We’ll get back to your (responsible) daughter in a second. But first, a generational question of my own: Do all you Beliebers out there, and other fans of the song “Fast Car,” know that you are actually listening to covers of Tracy Chapman’s terrific original from the 1980s? I hear it everywhere I go, sung by everyone but Tracy. And she deserves a shout-out for highlighting the disparities in opportunity among us so early and in such an enduring song.
Now, back to your feather-footed daughter. Presumably she is driving at the speed at which she feels comfortable. That’s good! As she gains confidence, she may pick up her pace to the posted limit. (For now, five miles an hour under the limit is better than over.) If her driving is adding to congestion in busy areas or times, avoid practice sessions there or then. After she’s been driving consistently for a year or so, ask if she feels comfortable going a bit faster. But this will probably happen on its own.
Call the Foul
We accidentally used chicken stock in a risotto we made for a vegetarian friend last week. It was an honest mistake. (Honestly!) Should we tell her?
Apologize. It shows respect for your friend. Besides, it was an honest error. We all make them.