Does “My House, My Rules” Apply to Adults? Ask Harry and Louise

Our husband-and-wife advice team counsel a man wondering if it’s reasonable to expect his grown son to abide by the house rules.

By: Harry Jaffe, Louise Jaffe

Dear Harry and Louise:

Our adult son lives in a different city, so we turned his old room into a study. When he visits, he stays in the guest room, a converted porch with its own entrance. One morning during a recent visit, I quietly entered the room to get something from a bureau drawer—only to discover he wasn’t alone. I mumbled an apology and retreated. He later appeared in the kitchen by himself, the young lady having left by the rear exit. I suggested it might not be appropriate to have his date—or whoever—spend the night. He said they were adults and hadn’t disturbed anyone. I said something about not running a hotel. You get the picture. He really did seem surprised that I would object. Am I just old-fashioned?

—Fogey Dad

• • •

LOUISE SAYS:

No, you are not. It’s your home, and your rules will always apply, even to adult children. Your obligation is to be a gracious host who’s concerned about your guests’ comfort, but you’re never required to compromise your beliefs about common decency.

However . . . I’m dying to know what all-important item you needed from the guest bureau so early in the morning. Couldn’t it have waited until after lunch? There’s no need to interrupt your guest’s languid mornings. This is where concern for your guest’s comfort comes in. Most of us aren’t at our most presentable early in the morning and appreciate privacy until we’re ready to face the world with our freshly washed faces and fully covered bottoms.

• • •

HARRY SAYS:

When your “guest” is your child, things are different. I imagine you’ve seen your son in his morning skivvies many times.

Your problem is that you’re trying to be too hip. Back in the old days, a father who found his son shacked up with a babe would have kicked him out of the house. You’re not your son’s friend, and your home isn’t his hotel. If he’s an adult and wants to entertain a “friend” for the night, suggest he find a room or go to her place. Too many parents are afraid of drawing lines.

Perhaps you should have told Junior the rules first. But either way, your home shouldn’t be his sugar shack.

• • •

LOUISE SAYS:

Entering the room in the morning is going out of your way to make your guest feel unwelcome. It creates discomfort at best and huge embarrassment at worst. Poor girl.

• • •

HARRY SAYS:

When the guest is your kid, parental rules still apply. Your house, your room. The girl got off easy.

 

This article appears in the January 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.