Family Inheritance | Busybody Neighbor | Drop the hint

Dear Ask Micah,

I have three children. Meg (I’ve changed the names and some of the sexes for anonymity) is
very close to us. Lives nearby, visits all the time, calls every day. Jessie lives in town as well but we
rarely see her. She calls some, but not with reliable frequency. Jason moved out of town a few years
back. We almost never hear from him unless we call and he never comes home except two days at
Christmas. All three kids have expressed interest in being left a certain piece of property in our wills that
was left to me by my father. It isn’t very feasible to leave it to all three and I am not sure what to do.
My father used to take all three of the children there to fish when they were growing up. It’s a special
place in our whole family. My husband and Meg still fish there even now. My mind tells me that Meg
will appreciate and use the spot more than Jason will. Jason won’t ever come back to live here and will
eventually just sell it I’m sure. Then there’s Jessie, who may not visit us often, but she might visit the
property. I like the idea of my grandchildren fishing there one day the way my children did and the way
my sisters and I did. I just don’t want to alienate my remaining children in order to keep a tradition
going. Do you have any helpful advice?



Dear Allison,

I don’t know helpful I’ll be, but I’ll give it a shot. First of all, let me clear your mind a little. No
matter who you give the land to, you’ll be dead, so you don’t have to worry about the repercussions!

As for your dilemma, I am not very clear as to why you can’t just leave it to all three of them. That makes
the most sense to me. That way it’ll stay with the family and one person cannot sell without all of the
owners’ approval. I’m not too familiar with real estate laws, but I remember that when we were buying
the building that my partner and I have our hair salon in, we had a similar sibling co-ownership situation
to deal with. This was in Homewood, and I’m not sure if different city municipalities have different real
estate laws or not, but I doubt that they do.

Anyway, we were buying the old Brass Rail building, for any of you that are familiar with that place from the city’s past. The building was owned by several family members, and when we were trying to close on the loan, there was some concern about one of the family possibly not agreeing to the price and not signing the sale. That leads me to believe that if one of your kids decided he or she wanted to get rid of the property that you cherish so much, they won’t be able to unless all of the property owners agree to sell. So, long story short, I don’t see why you can’t leave it to all three. However, if you just don’t want to leave it to all three, or if you can’t for reasons I don’t know, then you must choose just one child to favor with this sentimental fishing hole!

Your problem is very reminiscent of an old Alice Walker story called “Everyday Use.” A mother of two children had one child who was always with her and very dutiful. She was her Meg, (only I think she was kind of deformed and was a few kernels short of a cob). The other daughter was like Jason, the kid who moved away and started a whole new kind of life and sort of forgot about those back home. There was a family quilt that was dear to the girls for various reasons and the mother had to decide who got it. She gave it to the Meg one. She gave it to her because the quilt was made to be used and loved and Meg used it on her bed every day.

My little parable is meant to illustrate that Meg is the most deserving of the property. The other children may have made memories there with their grandfather, but Meg continues to build upon those memories by adding newer ones with her own father. IF you have to choose one, give it to Meg. Then make things fair in your will by maybe giving a little more of your estate to Jason and Jessie.


Dear Micah,

My neighbor (and sort of friend) keeps giving me parenting advice when I am not asking for it.
Every time the subject of my kids comes up, she has some kind of advice to give or tells me that I’m
handling something wrong. We’re not talking about big issues here either. My kids aren’t the
neighborhood terrors or anything like that. She just butts in on small things. Here’s a for instance for
you about what I’m talking about. The last incident that happened was when my son was shooting
hoops in the driveway yesterday after school. She asked him if he’d done his homework yet. He told
her that he hadn’t. Then later she came over to my house to visit and just mentioned that it probably
wasn’t a good idea for him to be allowed to play before his school work was completed. That infuriated
me, but I didn’t say anything. Growing up, my family had a rather hostile relationship with a set of
neighbors and I always try to not recreate that terrible experience in my adult life. I bend over
backwards to be nice to my neighbors. This one woman, though, just gets under my skin. She’s a nice
person and I think she means no harm, but it irks me! What can I do other than tell her off? That won’t
solve anything and I don’t want to have negative relations with my next door neighbors.

Getting Perturbed


Dear Perturbed,

If you don’t want to cause a scene, then there is really nothing that you can do other than drop
hints that she’s going too far. When I first saw your question in my inbox it made me laugh because I
thought to myself “How the hell am I going to give this lady advice on this subject when the same thing
is happening to me!” You see, I am getting unwanted and unwarranted advice from people too. I think
that’s just part of being a parent I guess.

Everyone has an opinion of how “they’d do it” and they think they’re right. I can’t really get angry with them because I am very opinionated too and think I am always right. The only difference is that I am usually always right. It seems lately that I too have been judged by various people. The other day I gave my son a Pepsi and some people acted like I’d handed him grain alcohol! I have learned in my very short three years of parenting that other parents are the judgiest people you’ll ever encounter. And hey, I do it too! I catch myself thinking all sorts of hateful things. For example, these same people who judged me for giving my son a soft drink, have kids that run WILD anytime they have anything sugary (which isn’t often), so of course my thought is, “If you’d let your kid have some sugar once a day then you wouldn’t get this reaction.” So I’m judging too. Just like your neighbor is judging you for allowing your son to put off homework for a while.

I see absolutely nothing wrong with your son coming home from school and playing basketball while the sun’s still out. He can do homework after dinner. It’s really none of her business when he does it, but you can’t really say that to her. You could say something a little more veiled. You could make up a story about a co-worker that is always telling you how to parent. Tell her that Betty from work made a comment that burned you up inside, then make up something that illustrates the point. Unless your neighbor is a complete idiot, she will walk away learning that you don’t respond well to parenting criticism. I doubt she’ll relate it to her own behaviors from the past, but she might think twice in the future before she tells you anything like that again.

Then again, you may not want to say anything. This woman is meddling and she is frustrating, but she is also an extra pair of eyes watching your son. As he gets older you might want that extra spy looking out for him. She may report back to you on things you didn’t even know was going on. Perhaps it’s better to not discourage her from speaking her mind. You can always explain your stance on issues to her and diffuse her rants with your reasoning. For example, “Tim does his homework at night so that we can be there to help him if he gets stuck.” That explains why he was outside playing. That explanation is suitable enough that now she probably would let the topic drop.

If you said nothing or if she felt uncomfortable telling you her opinions, she might go tell someone else. She might tell another neighbor “Jan just lets Tim run wild. He doesn’t do his homework in the afternoons and just bounces that ball until dinner!” Remember, a busybody is not going to stop being a busybody. Just because you are no longer hearing their opinions doesn’t mean that they have stopped telling them. Someone somewhere is hearing it. So perhaps it’s better to just hear her out, arm her with explanations and diffuse her gossip–and best of all, save her in your arsenal to be an ally later when he’s a rebellious teen! I think that’s the solution I like best. Now, I’ve helped the both of us. Thanks for writing in. You helped me too!


Dear Micah,

What’s the best way that I can get my husband to buy me a special ring that I want for
Christmas? I’m racking my brain trying to come up with ways to drop the hints. I’ve even recruited a
couple of girlfriends to help me. He’s notorious for picking bad presents and I really want this ring. Do
you have any good suggestions of how to plant some subtle hints?



Dear J,

Take a day this weekend and go out shopping with him. Pass by the store and sort of maneuver
him over to the window where the ring is encased. Point at it and say, “Hey, I want that ring right there
for Christmas.”

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