Isn’t My Granddaughter Too Young to Walk Home Alone?


After school, my granddaughter, 9, walks a quarter of a mile — by herself — from the bus stop to her house while her father works from home. She texts him when she gets on the school bus, and, most days, she is the only child walking in the direction of her house. They live in a fairly safe suburb, but the situation seems dangerous to me. My concern is the constant traffic of gardeners, painters and delivery people through the neighborhood who could harm her. Her father believes the walk is good for her confidence, but I don’t think it’s worth the risk. I’ve offered to pay for someone to meet the bus, walk her home and get her started on homework, but I was refused. My daughter defers to her husband. This situation keeps me up at night! Any suggestions?

GRANDMOTHER

I’m a worrier, too. So, let’s talk this out. There is no magic age at which a child can walk home safely from school or the bus stop. That depends on her maturity and the safety of the neighborhood. Even so, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises that children ages 9 to 11 — who have good judgment — are ready to start.

I know it can be scary to envision a child alone in the world, navigating all kinds of adults she doesn’t know — not just laborers. But rather than torturing yourself with worst-case scenarios that are extremely rare, let’s focus on your granddaughter’s readiness, instead. Does she know the route? Will she keep her eyes on the road (and off her phone)? Will she scream and run if a stranger approaches her too closely?

Her father seems to have decided that the walk is safe and she’s up to the task. I doubt your daughter would defer to him if she disagreed. And they probably know their child better than you do. Psychologists concur with your son-in-law that walking home alone can boost a child’s confidence. So, rather than pressing your case (on which you don’t get a vote, frankly), perhaps observe your granddaughter from a distance one day to see for yourself how she navigates this challenge. I hope it puts your mind at ease.

We host regular bridge games for a group of eight people. When using our bathroom, a couple of the men seem to have trouble keeping their urine inside the toilet. (It is often running down the outside or on the floor.) We don’t know if this is a medical issue or poor manners, but we’re grossed out when having to do the cleanup. How can we approach this issue in a clear but sensitive manner?

M.M.

I have rarely cleaned a bathroom without wondering why men are allowed to pee standing up. Our aim is not that reliable! Still, I would probably avoid speaking to guests directly. It suggests you are paying too-close attention to their bathroom habits (and personally, I dislike making anyone feel uncomfortable in my home).

Try this instead: Make sure the toilet seat is down at the beginning of the evening and affix a note to the underside: “Please sit to urinate unless your aim is flawless.” Let me know how it goes. We can take it from there.

My ex-girlfriend and I, both 30-ish, recently ended our short but intense relationship because I want kids eventually and she (adamantly) does not. The breakup was hard; we still feel a strong connection and affection for each other. We agreed not to text, but we’re finding that difficult. My head tells me that resuming this relationship would be a mistake. It will only make it harder to leave when my desire for kids is more pressing. But my heart doesn’t want to give up on this rare feeling of deep compatibility. What should I do?

EX-BOYFRIEND

I was about your age when it hit me, with considerable force, that many of the choices I was then making — about career, geography and relationships — were narrowing the sense of unfettered possibility I had enjoyed throughout my 20s. Welcome to (true) adulthood!

I don’t know if you definitely want kids or simply want to keep that option open for now. (There’s a difference!) Nothing would foreclose it like committing yourself to a woman who is adamantly opposed to parenthood. If you are not willing to seriously consider a life without children, move on. I know this is a hard decision. And it won’t be your last one, either.

My sister told me she had approached her adult daughter’s longtime boyfriend and had said if he ever decided to propose marriage to her daughter, she would appreciate it if he used our grandmother’s engagement ring. I feel sorry for the young man, and my gut reaction is to pull him aside and tell him to ignore my sister and listen to his heart. Your thoughts?

BROTHER

Sorry, but your gut reaction is wrong. Please keep out of this. It’s bad enough that your sister butted into her daughter’s relationship behind her back, creating awkward pressure on her boyfriend. But adding your two cents — even with a corrective message — will not help matters. It only keeps the awkwardness going. Let’s hope the boyfriend decides to ignore your sister on his own.


For help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.



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