Ask Wendy

Ask Wendy

Jewish World Review / July 14, 2000 / 11 Tamuz, 5760

Divorcing brother-in-law, uncampy kids, and a dot.comer who makes it big time

By Wendy Belzberg -- My 7-year-old has been attending the same summer day camp for the past two years. Three days into this summer session he said that he doesn't like it and doesn't want to go back. We have already paid for the whole summer and would get only a partial refund. I think it is important to teach children the value of money and the importance of finishing what they have started. I am disinclined to let him quit, but I wanted to get a reality check.

--Concerned Mom

In principle I agree with the lofty lessons you would like to impart to your child. But, practically speaking, summers and summer camp are meant to be fun, not forms of punishment.

Three days is not long enough for your child to settle in, make new friends and adjust to a new place and schedule. But if after two weeks your child is still miserable, I wouldn't force him to keep going. If your son were older and had handpicked the camp, my answer might be different. But a 7-year-old is still closer in age to a baby than to an adult. Summer camp is overrated. There is something wonderful about spending the summer with your children in your own backyard; in a few short years they won't want to be there anymore.

You can make your point about finances with a cookie and lemonade stand from which the proceeds go to you and your husband. Or your son could forfeit his allowance for the summer as his contribution to defraying the cost of camp. Making your child suffer so he understands the value of money is not the way I would advise teaching this lesson.

* * *

I am one of the successful dot-comers everyone is talking about. I had a small idea at the right time, and suddenly I seem to have made it big. After a few articles in the press about my success, I have begun to hear from people I hadn't heard from in years. Old college and family friends, and long-lost relatives are also pitching me their business ideas; I am fast becoming cynical about why they are getting back in touch. I am inundated with letters and e-mails. Do I need to respond to all of the people who are contacting me?

--Suddenly popular

It's bad enough that your net worth has become a matter of public record, do you want to come off as a curmudgeon -- or worse, a snob?

Yes, you -- or a member of your staff -- must respond to every person who contacts you. There is a nice way to say, "Thanks for getting in touch, but don't expect to be invited for a cruise on my yacht." The tone should be polite but distant.

The content could sound something like this: "It is so nice to hear from you, but I barely have time to keep up with my current friends and family without trying to reconnect with people I haven't been in touch with for years. Thanks for your well wishes." If someone has the audacity to submit a business plan or ask for advice, you can sound a variation on that theme. Add that you don't have time to clear your desk and manage your own business matters and that you're sorry you can't help them with theirs.

Be forewarned: The kind of individuals who think fame and wealth are reasons to become reacquainted with you may be persistent. After you've responded once, you needn't respond again.

* * *

My sister and brother-in-law are getting a divorce after 27 years of marriage. My husband and I are getting sucked into the vortex and are having a hard time not taking sides and fighting about who is right and who is wrong.

Is there a way for a family member to get a divorce without it having an impact on everyone else who is close to her?

--Running for cover

Divorces are disastrous for everyone involved. I suggest limiting the amount of time you allow yourselves to talk about your sister's problems so it doesn't take over your lives -- perhaps once a week for an update.

Otherwise, spare each other the nitty-gritty details. You have 27 years of friendship invested in your brother-in-law, and, if he is a mentsh acting in good faith, it is possible to remain friends. The less you know about why their marriage is failing, the better. If you can't stay removed, you and your husband may have to institute a total moratorium on the topic.

Otherwise, the dissolution of your marriage may follow close behind.

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07/07/00: Hypocrites, reality checks, and the 'real estate challenged'


© 2000, Wendy Belzberg