WAVING, NOT DROWNING

Dear Viv: My 7-year-old wants me to straighten her hair

On this week’s podcast, Viv discusses what to do when your mother-in-law gives you presents you hate, how to react if your 7-year-old wants her hair straightened, getting teenagers to revise for GCSEs, and long-distance relationships

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By Viv Groskop on

Dear Viv,

I know I sound like a horrible ingrate here, but my mother in law keeps giving me the most hideous gifts, and I don’t know how to make her stop. The latest addition to the collection is perhaps the ugliest picture frame I’ve ever seen, which she said would be perfect for our hallway. I’m not an interior designer or anything but I admit I’ve fallen for the hygge craze, and a filigree frame with ‘love’ written on it doesn’t exactly scream ‘Scandi’. Is it going to be a case of having everything hidden in the attic, and brought out when she visits (at least once a month)? Or is there a way of politely asking her to stop?

Oh dear. Well, your response is not very hyggeligt for someone who claims to be into hygge, the Danish phenomenon of being cosy and snuggly. In fact in her own way, it sounds as if your mother-in-law’s gifts may not fit the aesthetic of hygge but they certainly fit the philosophy, bless her. No, I’m afraid I have bad news: you have to accept the lovingly-given hideous gifts and accept them with joy and gratitude. You say: “I don’t know how to make her stop.” I don’t think you can. So find a way to enjoy them. Can you keep one or two of the easiest ones in a cupboard and get them out when she comes round? Give the rest to charity. Don’t think twice about it. If there are ever awkward moments when she says: “What did you do with that filigree frame with ‘Love” written on it?” then you can say something like “I was wondering that myself the other day -- I put it away somewhere safe and I was wanting to get it out again.” In my experience, though, people generally get the message if you don’t display their gifts and unless they are mad they don’t tend to ask where they are. So hide it all in the attic, bring it out on demand and practise doing big, false, grateful smiles. Welcome to marriage and to compromise.

Dear Viv,

My seven year old daughter has very curly frizzy hair (her dad’s) and keeps asking me to straighten it for her. She’s not telling me exactly why she wants this but I get the impression that someone at school has been teasing her about it. It makes me feel awful for her, but also conflicted - I want her to have a healthy image of herself and to be confident in her looks, but if she’s decided she hates her hair there’s not much I can do to convince her that it’s actually lovely and unique. If I give in, am I sending the wrong message?

Well, you cannot know what’s going on unless you talk to her. The hair-straightening is less worrying than the fact that something might be going on and she hasn’t talked to you about it. Can you ask her about it? Are you sure she is asking for this because she “hates” her hair? Or are you putting that onto her? (You didn’t mention it’s her dad’s hair and not yours...) I have dead straight hair and would give anything to have curly, super-frizzy hair, in fact I have spent thousands of pounds and millions of hours trying to achieve this effect. It’s not because anyone ever made me feel bad about my hair. It’s just because we all want what we don’t have. She might just enjoy the time that she spends with you when you are straightening her hair. Or she might want to feel grown up. Have a talk with her, tell her how beautiful she is however she has her hair. I disagree with you when you say “If she’s decided she hates her hair there’s not much I can do to convince her that it’s actually lovely and unique.” She is seven years old. You are the adult. It is up to you to convince her that she is wrong to hate any part of herself. Good luck and send me your straighteners when you’ve finished -- I have come full circle.

You can hear the answers to these and the following questions on Viv’s podcast, Waving, Not Drowning, above.

Dear Viv,

I can’t seem to get my son to revise for his GCSEs. He doesn’t respond to me reminding him about it, or he says he’s done it and is lying to me. I’ve tried everything - I’ve even taken his phone away from him, I’ve made a revision schedule, I’ve even brought the desk from his bedroom down to the front room so he’s got more space to sit and revise. He knows they’re important but he doesn’t seem to care. What can I do?

Dear Viv,

How long is it healthy to be in a long distance relationship for? I’m scared that I’m going to lose interest and get bored. We’ve been going out for 6 months and we met in a pub in Newcastle, where my parents live.He says he’s going to move to London (he’s currently living in Newcastle) but he’s not made any proper progress on this. How long should I stick it out for before accepting that it’s not going to happen?

Got a question for Viv? Email her at DearViv@thepoolltd.com. The Dear Viv podcast airs fortnightly on The Pool at 5pm on Tuesdays. All letters will be edited for length. Unfortunately Viv cannot reply to your emails personally. 

You can subscribe to The Pool's podcasts on iTunes.

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