I bring my kids to our nearby playground every afternoon. This is a wonderful community of parents and children. Sometimes a family allows their children to bring toy guns from home—life-size realistic pistols and machine guns. I don’t want my young children to be exposed to guns or to have them become the norm. Problem: My kids spend their entire time in the playground trying to take turns firing guns; they are too small to understand my childish warnings about them. And the parents of kids with toy guns don’t seem to care: they see me dragging my kids away, but they don’t do anything. How can I deal with this? There are no rules regarding toy guns in the playground.
My first (disturbing) thought here was of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy who was fatally shot by police while playing with a toy gun in a public park. If your neighbors’ toy guns do look “realistic” enough to be mistaken for real firearms, stop waiting for those other parents to read your body language. Directly warn them about the danger – to everyone on the playground – of someone confusing a replica for a real weapon.
Now, if these guns are clearly toys – brightly colored or cartoony – some data might convince you to think otherwise. Many studies have found no association between childhood gun play and criminal behavior and violence later in life. Some of these games can even boost creativity and help in a child’s development. And, as you know firsthand: toy guns are like catnip to some kids.
However, this is your call as a parent. If you don’t want your kids to play with toy guns, try redirecting their attention. It won’t be easy in our culture, and even harder when there are kids running around with toy guns. But I’m afraid the ship has sailed on the normalization of guns and gun violence in the United States: We have more weapons than people. As a survivor of gun violence and with some experience here, I’m not optimistic about asking parents to remove toy guns in public. “It’s just a toy!” (Yes, and candy cigarettes are just candy.) I encourage you to speak up anyway. Who knows? These parents can go with you. Or another parent can support your concerns.
Some cuts are deeper than others
I had dinner with my friend for 15 years. Her daughter is getting married. She said, “It’s embarrassing, but we can’t invite you to the wedding. We want to keep the numbers.” I understand. I asked how many people they were inviting and she told me 150. (“But we hope 50 say no.”) I was crushed! How could I not be among the 150 people? She does not have a large family, and the groom invites only a few guests. Mostly they are friends. Thoughts?
First, let’s acknowledge your grievances. I know they are real! However, I encourage you to review them. Your friend feels close enough to you to be frank: she hopes a third of those invited to the wedding will say no. Do you really want to give her trouble by putting your name on that guest list?
Here’s how I (try to) look at neglect: if I see my friend regularly, if she is responsive to me, and we support each other, all is well! I don’t expect to be a part of everything in her life. Moreover, this is not your friend’s wedding, and you did not mention any relationship with the newlyweds. Try to respect your friend for being frank with you.
What does the ex owe? Distance.
My ex-wife has been in an emotional and physical state for the past six months, but she and my adult children have excluded me from any involvement. My daughter often writes to me how hard it is for her. My ex-wife, with whom I was on good terms, refuses to talk to me. I advised my daughter to find professional family support, but she seems determined to find her own solution. What is my way out?
You understand what divorce means, right? You no longer have a say in your ex-wife’s life (no matter how reasonable your suggestions are). She doesn’t want your help. So instead put your energy into supporting adult children, but don’t tell them what to do.
When your daughter writes about her struggles, encourage her to speak up. If she and her siblings are caring for your ex-wife, they may need help with their own lives, whether it’s groceries or childcare. Offer to participate. Be generous with your children and respect your ex-wife’s decision.
My mom has a big jar of gummies that she uses as a sleep aid. She doesn’t know that I know about them. She told a friend whose daughter told me. I followed the bank. She doesn’t seem to use many of them. Can I take some gummies to sell to school friends (over 18s only) to pay for Hanukkah gifts for my family?
Nice try with Hanukkah gifts, but absolutely not! Keep your hands off your mother’s gummies. Even if recreational use is legal where you live, a license is required to sell gummies.
If you need help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, Philip Galanes on Facebook, or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.