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Am I Being Unkind by Rejecting My Father’s Gifts?

I am a biracial young woman whose parents were never married and come from very different cultural backgrounds. My white American mother …

I am a biracial young woman whose parents were never married and come from very different cultural backgrounds. My white American mother raised me mainly on her own, with the help of her parents. Because of conflicts and misunderstandings, I had barely any contact during my childhood with my father and his family — who immigrated from China to the United States before I was born. But after I started college, I wanted to use my newfound autonomy to develop a relationship with them.

But although my father seems eager to have one with me, I was hoping to approach the relationship under the assumption that we are both adults and can talk about our lives almost as equals, getting to know each other through meaningful conversations. He seems, instead, to be focused on offering to give and buy me things, such as money, international vacations, a car, etc. Because I am very fortunate to have everything I need already provided for me by my mother’s family, who are well-off, and I don’t feel that I need a car or large sums of pocket money, his offers of expensive gifts make me feel uncomfortable, and I usually turn them down, except for allowing him to help with my college tuition. I don’t want our relationship to be based on money, and I don’t want him to think that the money is what entices me to keep contact with his family.

I’m concerned, however, that my turning down his money may be offending him or making him feel as if I’m rejecting him. My father is an introverted person, and I’m worried this might be his only attempt to connect with me. (And although I don’t want to reduce this to cultural essentialism, I’ve also had friends who grew up in Chinese households tell me that giving money is a sign of love in Chinese culture and that their Chinese fathers are more emotionally removed than the societal expectations of Western fathers.) Is it unethical to expect my father to conform to my expectations of our relationship? Should I accept his gifts and money even though I feel bad about it? Name Withheld

Why not try to explain your feelings to your father? If it’s right for you to take into account your father’s ideas about the relationship, it’s right for him to take yours into account, too. You both should try to negotiate the terms of your relationship respectfully. There are two sets of traditions for each of you to consider. I expect your friends are correct that his offers of gifts are meant to convey his love for you. (Mind you, that would be the natural interpretation of similar gifts from the non-Chinese side of your family as well.) So you and your father should be able to have a conversation that presupposes a caring relationship.

Before you have that conversation, though, it might be worth asking yourself not just why he thinks such gifts are appropriate but why you think they are inappropriate. Is it simply that you fear your motives could become suspect, or is it also that you fear he’s trying to buy your love? Is it, in part, because you’re worried that he’s acting out of guilt at having abandoned you? (Is the tuition help untroubling, by contrast, because of the customary expectations about parental help with paying for college?) Once you’re clear about your feelings, you can, as I suggest, try to share them with your father — and to listen carefully to what he has to say in response.

Still, he may never be the cool TV dad who will treat his daughter like a fellow adult, complete with searching conversations about love and life. Neither fathers nor their children can reliably be forced into the template the other might favor; that’s especially true if there are cultural gaps to cross. At some point, you might reasonably decide to meet him a little more than halfway. Even if it means swallowing your pride and taking that Tesla.

My primary-care doctor is in her mid-60s. I visit her three times a year because of a medical condition. Over the past year she has become increasingly forgetful, and I’m concerned that she is having cognitive issues. At my last visit, which lasted about 40 minutes, I got a flu shot in addition to the regular exam. After administering the flu shot, taking my blood pressure and reviewing my current meds, she asked me again if I wanted a flu shot. Then twice more before I left, she asked if she had given me the flu shot. I plan to find a new doctor, but I’m also concerned for her and her other patients. Is there something I should do to report my concerns? Name Withheld

Sadly, there’s potential for a serious problem here. She might, for example, forget to enter someone’s prescription into the system or to arrange for necessary lab work. For the safety of her other patients, you should indeed report your concerns. Every state has a mechanism, involving either the department of health or a medical board, by which a complaint can be filed and, when appropriate, an investigation opened.

If your doctor works in a practice with others, you should probably speak to one of her colleagues; the American Medical Association Code of Ethics says that doctors have an ethical and legal obligation to report failures of competence that may put patients at risk. Given that your doctor’s memory problems were so evident, others in her clinic have very likely noticed the issue and failed to carry out this duty. Formally drawing it to their attention should put them on notice.

My 17-year-old daughter stole my credit-card information and over a two-month period ran up bills of close to $3,000. I reported the fraud to the credit-card company without knowing that it was my own daughter.

It is highly probable that eventually it will come out that it was her, with the resulting legal problems. She has always been adept at squirming out of the consequences of her actions. Perhaps this would be a painful but useful learning experience. Given her age, it could also damage her future. My dilemma is: When her fraud becomes known and the problems begin, should I step in to help her? Name Withheld

You’ve already stepped in to help — by not revealing her misconduct to the authorities. Having a record for fraud could certainly damage her prospects. Practically speaking, though, it’s unclear what consequence she’ll face. Credit-card fraud can carry serious criminal penalties. But it sounds as if you haven’t reported the fraud to law enforcement, and I doubt that the credit-card company or issuing bank would do so. Most likely, the merchants in question will have already paid the “chargeback.” Will those merchants pursue an action against your daughter? Probably not, to spare themselves the hassle.

And if they do, you can choose between making sure your daughter has good legal representation or reimbursing the merchant, which will probably end the matter. You might want to save yourself some money and do the latter. Let her know that she has committed a crime that can land a person behind bars; but remember, too, that this scapegrace is a teenager for now, and your daughter for always.

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