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Carolyn Hax: Dad weighs giving adult son makeup money for meager childhood

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Dear Caroline: I was a single father for several years before marrying my second wife, with whom I have two daughters. My son is now an adult and independent, and my daughters are still in school and living at home.

My wife and I can now afford to provide our daughters with opportunities that I, as a single father, was unable to provide for my son. For example, we took them on holiday abroad and funded savings accounts for each of them. In general, they lead an easier life than my son growing up.

It seems unfair to my son. He works as a blue collar worker and earns a living wage, but I know he can’t afford much more than his living expenses. I was thinking of giving him a cash gift to “compensate” for the fact that he hadn’t grown as much as my daughters. Does that sound reasonable, or am I making a lot of noise for nothing.

Dad wondered: It’s not nothing. A well-funded childhood leads to upward mobility, a well-studied and documented phenomenon.

But it is also a generalized view of a very specific outcome. It doesn’t say anything about your son’s quality of life or his sense of purpose, and it certainly doesn’t prove that he would be anywhere different if you had been richer earlier. He might look at people who had a more cozy childhood and believe he was the lucky one.

But also walk realistically. Seems like he’s like most people to get by just fine…as long as nothing unusual happens. You may have noticed that most of us in the GoFundMe era pass a hat or drop a little something in one for a medical crisis or natural disaster or other costly fate.

The kind of money you’re talking about – handed down by a parent who can afford it – is not just a driver of mobility, but also an unwritten insurance policy. (And a helper for a good night’s sleep.) You provide this for your daughters too, so yes, please give it to your son and tell him you wish you could have it sooner.

Present it like this: as a kind of insurance, which you are honored to provide in an amount you decide but in a form he chooses. A lump sum now, a little cash annually, a trust? There are many ways to do this, and if your son accepts the gift, a lawyer and/or financial planner can help you put it to the specific use he has in mind.

Hello Caroline: My only child had a baby this year with her partner, who has a Filipino mother and a European American father. My daughter’s partner is very connected to her Filipino heritage, including her grandmother who helped raise her. He called her Lola, the Filipino term for grandmother.

Our family tradition is to call grandparents grandmother and grandfather. I prefer the Filipino terms Lola and Lolo instead. My thought is to be aware of the baby’s Filipino heritage and let him know that he has many identities, all of which are part of him.

My daughter accuses me of cultural appropriation. There isn’t really any other grandparent term that I like as well as Lola and Lolo and I really dislike other terms like G-ma, Grannie, Grandmother, Memaw, Nana, etc. I’m not interested in fighting about it and I want to enjoy being a grandparent. This is a huge and unexpected gift as our daughter is 35. I also don’t want to culturally appropriate anything. Who’s deciding ?

— Wants to be called Lola

Wants to be called Lola: Your daughter has already decided, and so have you. She – perhaps also speaking for her partner – is uncomfortable with this on principle. And you “don’t want to culturally appropriate anything.” So why does it matter which “no” wins? Choose another name and move on. Recognize that stubbornness is not a valuable trait in supporting roles.

It would be different if it was your real name. It’s your decision. If you are Rosie then we all call you Rosie and we love that. The epithets, however, are collaborative – which is fitting because they are part name, part role, part feeling.

If you really don’t like all the other non-ethnic grandma variants on earth, then use your first name. Or wheezy. Or Chuck. It won’t matter because, anyway, your grandson will call you whatever he wants when he adorably bungles your name while he learns to speak – that is, assuming you didn’t force this issue beyond common sense and out of your daughter’s good graces.

Stubborn persistence is a wonderful thing when trying to cure cancer or run a marathon. It’s not wonderful in the delicate renegotiation of a parent-child relationship when launching a new generation. Put it down and snuggle up to your gift.

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