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Wife fears husband’s bragging sets family up for failure

Carolyn Hax
| Saturday, January 12, 2019 1:30 a.m
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Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

Two years ago, we were invited to skip our son “Johnny” ahead from first grade to second mid-year. My husband was a bit insufferable about it, bragging to a number of our friends about how well Johnny was doing academically. This really bugged me at first but I ultimately decided I couldn’t control another adult’s mouth and stopped worrying about it — though I tried to lessen the damage by telling our friends about some of the tougher parts of skipping a kid ahead.

Two years later, it’s clear that Johnny was socially unready to skip grades; he also has a late birthday and so was almost two years younger than most of his classmates. In the fall, he’ll be starting third grade for the second time.

My husband is, unsurprisingly, mum about this when we talk to our friends about how school is going.

Any suggestions about how I can head off something like this next time — i.e., not letting my husband’s braggy tendencies set us up for failure?

— Came Back to Bite Us

You use this experience to spell it out for him, privately, after a fresh brag attempt. “When you talk about how well X is going, I cringe. The grade-skipping humbled me, and rightly so — good fortunes can turn pretty quickly.”

But, seriously? If he didn’t learn this exact lesson himself, then I’m not sure he’s mature enough to embrace the spelled-out version, either.

Assuming it’s a trait he’s not poised to outgrow, you have your own role here: as a person who converses without bragging. When you “talk to our friends about how school is going,” for example, you be the agent of reality. “Turns out skipping a grade wasn’t the right call for Johnny — he was way behind everyone socially. He’s back with his age group this fall.”

That’s not fixing your husband’s tendencies, or heading them off, or in any way parachuting into his conversational territory. It’s just being honest and well-adjusted in your own right, and, as a convenient byproduct, setting the record straight.

Dear Carolyn:

I have a friend whose daughter is struggling with depression and has been hospitalized twice in as many months. Can you suggest any book or other resource for him as the parent, for how he can help his daughter and handle this?

— Friend

The National Alliance on Mental Illness — NAMI — has excellent support groups and can recommend other resources. Family to Family is the one my readers say has been most helpful to them, though it is not specific to depression or adolescence.

Your friend can call NAMI’s Helpline to discuss that option and others: 800-950-6264.

If your friend’s daughter has suicidal thoughts, then that’s a situation for immediate help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).


Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.


Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook or chat with her online at noon each Friday at washingtonpost.com.

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