The Gabber’s semi-regular advice column, Dear Gabby, is here by reader demand. Have a question or a conundrum for Gabby? There’s no problem too small for our resident advisor. Send your questions – they can be anonymous – to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ve been married a little over 5 years now, and I still can’t do anything right for my mother-in-law. If I make dinner, it’s too salty or too spicy. If I give her a gift, she usually returns it or never uses it. No matter how hard I try, she just doesn’t like me. She and my husband are very close; he insists that I’m wrong. Mother’s Day is coming up and I know I’m going to strike out again. What do you get for a monster-in-law you can’t please?
In-laws can be a force to reckon with, but you should have someone on your side: your spouse! Ask your husband for a little insight on what might be a great gift for his mother. You don’t have to frame it as, “Hey, your mom hates me and I want to impress her,” as that can open a can of worms, but you can ask a few questions to get to know her a little bit. Ask your husband to tell you a few stories about his mother, whether it be from when he was a kid to him being an adult. I’m sure he’ll mention something that might give you a hint toward a great gift that might be just the thing to turn the relationship around.
I’m newly single, living alone and thinking of getting a pet. I like dogs, cats – pretty much everything (except birds. They’re creepy). What do you think makes the best pet?
This is a personal preference for sure. I think any pet that will make you happy to come home is a winner. It all depends on what you like and what capacity for care you have. For example, I love my dog but sometimes wish he could bathe himself and spend more than just a few hours home alone. There’s tradeoffs for everything, so find what’s right for you by talking to someone at a pet shop or shelter (highly recommend shelters) to get a good feel for what kind of pet might be right for you.
My children all spend a lot of time on their devices. This has only gotten worse through the pandemic, and I fear I am losing the battle with them. Especially because my husband is now home a lot more and he’s ALSO on his phone and tablet all the time. I’ve tried “taking away” phones and devices, setting time limits, etc. but nothing seems to work, especially when my husband also sets a bad example. We’ve discussed it, and he agrees, but he’s still scrolling on his phone all the time. Help!
The struggle is so real when it comes to the attention economy. That’s right, a whole economy. I read an article on The Economist reporting that our data, sourced by our attention/time spent online, is now worth more than oil! Our attention is valuable in dollars but more importantly, it’s valuable emotionally, so it’s no wonder you’re worried about all the time your family spends on devices. The problem with limits and taking away devices is that we’ve grown accustomed to giving our attention to something that’s fast, low stakes and easily accessible. So when we take a device away or shut off the wifi, we have to work that much harder to fill the void left by our quick fix. In order to fill the void, and maybe even retrain your family’s beautiful brains, you’ve got to have a fast and easily accessible replacement ready. Plan a family game night, outing, movie, or activity – like cooking together, doing a puzzle or craft, karaoke – that brings you all together to interact IRL, be present and engage each other in ways a screen can’t. Also, if your husband agrees, he’s gotta put down his phone for family time, too. Remind him that children do what they see far more than they do what we say!
A Milwaukee native, Sheree L. Greer is a local text-based artist, educator and taco lover. In 2014, she founded Kitchen Table Literary Arts to showcase and support the work of Black women and women of color writers and is the author of two novels, “Let the Lover Be” and “A Return to Arms.”