My pushy extended family has turned my pool oasis into a swamp of despair.

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Dear Prudence is Slate’s advice column. For this edition, Rebecca Oniona Slate Senior Editor, will be filling in as Prudie. Submit questions here. (It’s anonymous!)

Dear Prudence,

During the pandemic, I put a pool in. I love swimming and it became an oasis for me. Now it is a headache. I made the mistake of letting my sister have her daughter’s birthday pool party at my place. Now the floodgates have opened and everyone in my family wants to throw a pool party at my place. I have over a dozen nieces and nephews.

Saying no reduces my siblings to squalling toddlers saying it isn’t “fair” that their kids can’t have a birthday pool party. I have given in to keep the peace more times than I can count, and it doesn’t stop it. I have towels gone missing, one kid throw up on my sofa, guests poking their noses into my private rooms, and my dog being terrorized by some of the worse brats I have ever met. The majority of my siblings brush off my concerns and leave me to do the heavy lifting on hosting.

I finally put a blanket ban on using the pool. But summer is coming up and I am already getting pressured again to let the kids come over to swim.

The problem is I can’t see a way between either not letting all of them swim or none at all. Our family is large and the community pool closed down years ago. Can you help me find the middle ground?

—Sink or Swim

Dear Sink or Swim,

Would it be possible to allow your family to come over, but to put an end to the birthday parties at the pool? Your question kind of slides back and forth between describing the annoyance of the birthday parties, which have included kids and other guests who are unrelated to you, and required you to act as host, and the annoyance you feel with anyone in your family, at all, coming over to swim.

I think it would be totally fair to tell your sibs that you are not hosting any more parties, and that you are happy to have them and their kids—anyone who’s in your extended family—over to the pool, but that you simply do not want anyone else to come over to swim. It’s your house, your dog, your yard; you can put your foot down here. This injunction may go a long way to reducing the visits naturally, as kids may not want to come over if their friends can’t join, etc.

If you don’t want any family members to come over, either, then that’s another story. Such a rule would of course be totally within your rights to create, but might require a different kind of explanation, and might not be possible to impose without the creation of significant familial friction. Pools! They certainly can bring quite a bit of trouble into your life!


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