Should I go be with my friend and her ailing daughter? Our etiquette expert weighs in

Derik Holtman/
·4 min read

Q. My dear long-time friend called me this week and told me her oldest child is in intensive care in a hospital about four hours away from where I live. I offered to come and be with her and her child, but she said she didn’t want me to come that far and leave my elderly husband alone. She has been texting me and we have been talking on the phone when she has time to give me an update. We definitely do not know how long her child will be in intensive care, if operations are an option or what really is going to happen. If I decide to go, should I tell her in advance and if I do tell her I am coming, would it be proper to ask her if I can share her hotel room? Or should I just go directly to the hospital and then ask her about the room?

A. Your friend has told you she does not need you to come now. It would appear she is devoting all of her time to her child. She may be staying at the hospital or if she goes to her hotel room, she may be going there at unusual hours of the day, trying to catch a few winks, shower and get back to the hospital. She may not or does not need to be concerned about another person’s comfort or sleeping/eating schedule or worrying about who is taking care of your husband.

What you can do for now: Continue to make yourself available to listen to her phone calls and offer support for whatever she might need; pray with her and for her and her child — those are probably the most important and most appreciated things you can do for her right now.

Depending on the status of her child, If you feel you want to ask her again in a few days as to whether she would like you to make the trip to be with her, then do so, but I think a surprise visit may be too much for her at the present time.

If she does decide she would like to have you make the trip and spend time with her, I do not feel it would be appropriate for you to ask her to share her room with her. If she offers, fine, but otherwise not. If she does ask you to come, be sure to ask her if there is anything you can bring with you for her or for her child.

Question about daughter’s vacation

Q. Our daughter has been asked to by her best friend’s parents to go with them on vacation for a week next month to a beach area. They are very nice people, and our daughter really wants to go with them. We have never done this type of thing before, but we do feel I need to talk to the mother to find out what kind of clothes we need to pack for her based on the kind of things they are going to be doing and give her some kind of authority so they can take her to a doctor or hospital, if necessary. We want to give them some money to pay for her meals and souvenirs. My question is: Should I just offer a certain amount of money or should I ask them how much I need to give them for her? Should I give her a separate amount of money for herself to be able to spend on her own? Or should I not ask her at all because it might upset them?

A. How nice your daughter is being invited to go on vacation with her friend and their parents. It is appropriate for you to go talk to the mother regarding the type of activities and clothes your daughter will need. It is also appropriate for you to tell her you intend to give them money to cover her meals, souvenirs and any activity costs. It is also appropriate to ask her if you should send a certain amount of money with your daughter for her own spending money if they are doing the same with their daughter.

The results of this conversation should provide you with enough information to decide how much money to give to the parents and if you should also give money to your daughter and how much. If your daughter has any allergies or takes any medications, be sure to advise the parents.