Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
My husband and I recently bought a new home and, because we have a young child, we have decided to be a “shoe-free” household. We do not want our child crawling around on carpet laden with street dirt and germs. My parents visit often and because they do not have the same rule in their home, they walk in without removing their shoes. We have told them our reasoning and asked them to cooperate. They said they would, but rarely do. How do I get them to consistently remove their shoes?
— Clean and Concerned
Dear Clean and Concerned,
I imagine this problem would never arise in Japan where removing one’s shoes before entering a home is the cultural norm. It’s hard changing such norms, as you are finding out. Continue employing kindness and consistency and hope for the best.
In addition, have a basket of cozy knitted booties by the door and, if you have room, a comfortable chair or bench beside it. That way when your parents come to visit you can repeat the mantra, “Hi, Mom/Dad, great to see you. Would you mind removing your shoes? Because the kids are so floor-oriented these days, we’re trying to limit the street dirt we bring into the house. Here are some slippers if you want to keep your feet warm.”
Have a pair for each of them, maybe something fun, definitely cozy and comfortable, and assure them that these are for them only. They may not want to wear slippers possibly worn by other guests. Most important, be sure the footwear you provide has skid-free soles. You don’t want anyone to slip and fall. That’s also where having a solid bench or chair nearby will help.
Hopefully, your parents will accede to your wishes and trade their street shoes for the slippers. But they just may not be comfortable doing this. They may get offended that you are implying they are bringing dirt into your house, which technically they are but it could still feel like an affront. Also. there is an element of feeling “undressed” when one removes one’s shoes in public. That cultural norm thing again, and your in-laws may fall into that category.
If so, you will have to decide which is more important — generation-to-generation grandparent time with your children or avoiding the occasional street dirt. These precious years when your kids are little and forming bonds with your parents will be gone to soccer games before you know it. The long-term benefit of having grandparents be a regular part of your children’s lives will be of more long-lasting value than avoiding any possible ills picked up on your carpet.
Have a good door mat in your entryway for them to wipe their shoes. I googled “best door mat to remove dirt” and found one from West Elm — cute, inexpensive and made of dirt-grabbing coconut fiber. Continue to welcome your parents with open arms, remind them of the house rule and offer the slippers. If they choose to stay shod, chalk it up to a generational eccentricity and know that, in the long run, your kids will benefit from loving times with their grandparents. Just have your vacuum cleaner handy and switch it on as soon as you say l’hitraot! (See you next time!)
My sister and brother-in-law have invited me to share a two-bedroom home up north for a week. We are all retired. My sister said we’d share all costs, but how exactly should we do this when there are two of them and one of me?
—Going Up North
Dear Up North,
When it comes to sharing the house, it would be appropriate for you to share the rental cost fifty-fifty. For meals, you can ask your server for separate checks when you order. Or bring cash to pay for your meals each evening. I assume you’ll each be bringing food from home as well and/or grocery shopping during the week for making communal meals. You treat for something along the way (ice cream at Kilwin’s?) and let them do the same. Just keep in mind you are all there to have fun so give your inner accountant a vacation, too.