lilysea: Serious (Default)
[personal profile] lilysea
DEAR ABBY: I have been friends with a woman for the last 30 years. Our children are the same age. My daughter, who is in her late 20s, has a number of tattoos on her arm that she can cover with clothing if she chooses. However, she doesn't cover them often because she likes them and they mean something to her.

Recently, I showed my friend a picture of my daughter that showed one of the tattoos on her upper arm. My friend said, "Oh, I am so sorry about the tattoo," and proceeded to cover the tattoo with her hand, implying that my daughter would be attractive if it weren't for the body art. I was shocked.

I have always been supportive of my friend's children and have never criticized any of them, even though I haven't agreed with everything they have done. I was so hurt by her comment that I was speechless. I'm not sure I can continue the relationship feeling this way. But I'm hesitant to lose a 30-year friendship over something I might be overblowing. Am I being too sensitive? How do I resolve this? -- COMPLETELY THROWN BY THIS

DEAR THROWN:
For a friendship of 30 years to end over one thoughtless comment would be sad for both of you. Sometimes people say things without thinking, and this is an example. Resolve your feelings by talking to her in person and telling her how deeply hurt you were by what she said. It will give her the chance to apologize and make amends.
lilysea: Serious (Default)
[personal profile] lilysea
Q. Pets are not family, are they?: My childless sister “Sally” and I are close but are having a disagreement. Sally lives several hours away, and my 8-year-old daughter and I try to visit for the weekend about once per month. The problem is that my daughter has severe pet allergies, and Sally has two cats and a small terrier.

Though she keeps her house as clean as possible, the very presence of these pets causes my daughter to sneeze, congest, and sometimes break out in hives. I’ve repeatedly asked Sally to either get rid of them or keep them outside during our visits, but Sally claims that though she loves her niece, she can’t keep her pets outside all weekend because the cats are “indoor only,” the dog is too little to stay outside, and coyotes are a danger. She also told me that I was out of line to ask. Was I? They’re only animals, after all, and her niece is family. When she visits us she boards them or gets a sitter, so I don’t see why she can’t do the same when we visit. She’s also suggested that my daughter take allergy medication, but I find that out of line. Is it? How can we resolve this?

A: The most important thing to do here, I think, is to make sure you don’t let a conversation about reasonable accommodation turn into one about whether your sister’s pets “really count” as family. (I’m on your side in the sense that I think a human child’s health is paramount here, but I just don’t think it will be useful to turn this into a litigation on your respective reproductive choices.)

It’s absolutely fair of you to say that the present situation is dangerous to your daughter’s health. It’s also fair that your sister is anxious about leaving her dog outside for an entire weekend, especially if she lives in a coyote-heavy area. If she were willing and able to hire a pet sitter during your visits, that would be an ideal solution, but since she isn’t, you should advocate for your daughter’s health and stay in a nearby hotel so that she can get a full night’s sleep without having difficulty breathing.

Incidentally, unless your daughter has an issue with allergy medication, I’m not sure why you wouldn’t have some at the ready with you, given that she might have a reaction to someone else’s pet at any time. That doesn’t mean she’ll be suddenly able to sleep comfortably in a house with three small furry animals, but there’s nothing wrong with giving someone allergy medicine for an allergy attack.

minoanmiss: (Default)
[personal profile] minoanmiss
Dear Carolyn: In my childhood, criticism from my parents was the constant theme. My grades were never good enough, my room was never clean enough, whatever. As a result, I feel little to no affection for my parents now that I’m an adult, and I don’t spend much time with them or talk to them much. I just don’t like them very much.

However, some people who know this say I’m going to regret distancing myself from them when they’re gone. Do you think that’s true? Should I make more of an effort to spend more time with them now so I don’t regret it later?

— Criticized


Criticized: Your friends would regret distancing themselves, if they were in your position. That doesn’t mean you will.

So, no, I don’t think that is universally true that distance equals regrets.

However, I do believe that seeing parents as people, instead of just as parents, is a more useful way to determine how to adapt your relationship with them over time.

What you describe of your parents is a child’s view of people who, apparently, thought that being a parent meant being strict and teachy all the time. I agree with you that it’s a cold way to go, and tough to forgive, but there are other aspects of parenthood that could provide a fuller and fairer picture. Were their parents that way with them? Was the culture around them one of “seen and not heard” and “spare the rod” orthodoxy? Did they tend not to question things about life in general, their parenting views among them? Was one of them softer but not strong enough to counteract the other?

And: What did they become after their active child-rearing years were over? Did they remain locked in a cold orthodoxy, or did they bloom a little when the weight of responsibility was removed? Are they trying to get to know you now, or are you still 12 to them?

Do you know them all that well as people, or did you distance yourself effectively enough that your last real impression of them was formed as you fled their home after high school?

I ask these questions entirely without judgment. People have their natural, even reflexive ways of looking out for their own health, and kids of unhappy childhoods can even have this need as their central motivation. It makes sense.

But when you get to the point where you’re asking whether this is the right way to go, my inclination is to suggest that you keep asking questions and see where your inquiry leads you. If you don’t feel up to digging all that out, that’s reasonable. Your prerogative. It might also make sense to spend a few sessions with a skilled therapist.

And it might be liberating just to try, once or twice, with no great expectations, to talk to your parents with a different image of them in mind as you do it.

They’re people. Possibly kind of stunted people who meant no harm but had no clue. People who might have interesting things to say if you asked them different questions, and/or with a different objective in mind. Not “I want them to say they’re sorry” or “I want just once for them to be warm and welcoming,” but maybe “I want to see them how their friends do,” or one of my favorite suggestions from a long-ago chatter, “I want to approach them as an anthropologist would and see what I find out.”
cereta: Laura Cereta (cereta)
[personal profile] cereta
Dear Amy: My daughter and son-in-law are expecting their first child. My husband has a granddaughter, but this will be MY first grandchild. My husband and I have been together for more than 16 years and have helped raise each other’s children.

I love his granddaughter and I don’t want her feelings to be hurt by announcing on social media that I am expecting my first grandchild. She is 8 years old and knows that I am her father’s stepmother, but I still don’t want to hurt her. Whenever she comes over, my husband and I both spoil her (like grandparents should), but she has always favored her “Papa.”

The problem for me is that I am much younger than my husband, and I didn’t want my social media friends to think that I was old enough to have an 8-year-old grandchild.

How can I say that I am expecting my first grandchild without making her feel like she doesn’t count?

— Grandma to Be

Dear Grandma: I appreciate your sensitivity about this situation, but I have news for you — you are already a “Grandma.” You have been one for the past eight years, and for you to try to find a way to deny this now that you are about to have a “real” grandchild in your life is all about your own vanity.

Your young granddaughter wouldn’t be the only person surprised (and possibly hurt) by the revelation that she isn’t your grandchild. Her parents, especially the parent you “helped to raise,” would likely be quite wounded.

I could also venture a guess that the reason your granddaughter has always favored her “Papa” is because you are signaling to her in a variety of ways that she is a placeholder for the real grandchild who will someday come along and claim your heart.

I became a grandmother quite young — at least it seemed so at the time, because I wasn’t prepared for this life stage. But family comes to you in different ways and at different times, whether or not you’re ready (or “old enough”) for it.

And so now the thing to do is to take to social media to announce your joy at the birth of your second grandchild.
cereta: Laura Cereta (cereta)
[personal profile] cereta
Dear Carolyn,

I am at my wits' end with family drama. I will spare you the very long and ugly details and start with the most recent heartache.

My husband's daughter from a previous marriage invited our son and his wife and 2-year-old to spend the weekend with them since they were going to be in town for a wedding. His wife accepted. My husband has been estranged from this daughter for over two years. She lives down the street from my husband and me.

When my son and his family arrived, they went to lunch with my husband and stayed through the evening with us. It was a lovely time. Our little granddaughter even went into "her room" and told her dad she wanted to sleep in her bed. It was cruel to see her cry when she had to leave and go to my stepdaughter's house.

My husband is furious. His feelings are crushed and he is angry they would subject her to such nonsense. My husband feels they have been disloyal to him by staying with his estranged daughter.

I have expressed to my son how I felt about his staying with his half-sister. Not because of her so much as how wrong it feels to me to not stay with us. After we are dead and gone, he will have time to stay with his half-sister.

My first thought was to leave town before they got here so I could avoid the whole ordeal. Now, my husband and I have hurt feelings, plenty of tears to go around, and lost sleep over this.

Heartbreak seems to follow wherever my stepdaughter is concerned. I don't want to alienate my daughter-in-law because she will cut my granddaughter out of my life. How can I manage to keep the peace and not "betray" my husband in the process?

-- C.

Your argument, recapped: It's your stepdaughter's fault that she wants to spend time with her brother. Except the part that's your daughter-in-law's fault for saying yes.

Maybe you won't like it in those words, but that's what you're saying -- and it's impressive that you're able to present this without attributing any drama to the man who was "crushed" and "angry" and suffering "tears ... and lost sleep" at the "ordeal" of witnessing the "cruel" and "disloyal" "nonsense" of a child "subject[ed] to" ...

[theatrical pause]

A planned visit to her aunt's house.

After spending an entire day with you two.

Drama, thy name is Grandpa.

I can understand your powerful incentive not to see this; even thinking it opens you to accusations of betrayal from your wounded husband, no doubt. And more tears and sleepless nights and garment-rending and whatever other tactics he uses to keep you emotionally at his service.

But the longer you remain faithful spokesbot for your husband -- or for Stockholm Syndrome -- and declare with a straight face that your son can't sleep at his sister's house until you're dead! (you really said that!), the more soul-rebuilding you'll need when you see the view I've got from here: that you've been devoured by your husband's narcissistic fantasy world.

Even if I'm way off, your family dynamic is still way off. Please find a well-recommended family therapist and go. Just you. Unspool those "very long and ugly details."
minoanmiss: A detail of the Ladies in Blue fresco (Lady in Blue)
[personal profile] minoanmiss
This one is a doozy. I'm putting it behind a cut. Read more... )
cereta: Amy Pond in space (Amy Pond)
[personal profile] cereta
DEAR ABBY: My parents have been happily married for more than 30 years. While flipping through an old family album recently, I discovered photos from a wedding many years ago that I had never seen before. Turns out, they were from my father's first wedding. That's when I realized his marriage to my mother was his second wedding.

I'd like to learn more about his first marriage, but it's clearly something from my father's past that I can't talk to him about. I also wouldn't want to sour relations with his side of the family by bringing it up with them. What should I do? -- WANTS TO KNOW MORE

DEAR WANTS TO KNOW MORE: The shortest distance between two points is a direct line. How do you know this is "clearly" something your father won't discuss? If his first marriage was a deep dark secret, those photos would not have been kept in an album. The solution to your question would be to tell him you saw them and ask him to tell you about it. He may have learned lessons from his first marriage from which you could benefit.
cereta: White Wine (White Wine)
[personal profile] cereta
Dear Prudence,
Our family has been close, seeing each other every week. My children are all in their 20s and have their own homes. Our only daughter got married earlier this year and we adore our son-in-law. Our son got engaged about three months before our daughter’s wedding. Our daughter was vocally angry that her brother got engaged before her wedding. When the newly engaged couple were looking for wedding venues, I (mistakenly) recommended the place my daughter planned her reception. It is a lovely location and I was thinking it would be a good fit. Unfortunately, they decided to book this same venue for their wedding scheduled a year later. Now my daughter is furious. She is demanding they move the reception somewhere else even though it will mean losing the substantial deposit. This has created a great deal of anxiety, especially for me, because I mourn the loss of our close-knit family. I don’t know what to do. We have even offered to pay the deposit and that angers her too. She says they have to pay the cost (I guess as a form of punishment). This is tearing our family apart. Please help.

—Something Borrowed

I fail to see how your daughter has been harmed in any way. Her ability to spin offense out of the thinnest strands of “thunder-stealing” rivals Rumpelstiltskin’s ability to spin straw into gold. Don’t think of this as losing your tightknit family. Part of what makes a family tightknit is the ability to handle conflict. Your daughter is throwing a tantrum and the best thing you can do for her (and yourself) is to refuse to humor her. She’s denying herself the opportunity to celebrate her brother’s wedding (and trying to manipulate him into giving up a substantial security deposit!) because she thinks the love and celebration that children deserve is a zero-sum game. It isn’t. Her brother proposing to his fiancé did not make her any less engaged to her own; her brother hosting his reception in the same building she once had hers does not diminish the uniqueness of her marriage. I hope very much this is an unusual lapse in grace for her. Tell her that she is being unreasonable and churlish, and that you look forward to her being able to put aside this imagined slight in time to celebrate her brother’s wedding. It’s going to be a lot of fun. She should try to have some.
cereta: (batgirlwit)
[personal profile] cereta
DEAR ABBY: My sister, "Dawn," recently got engaged to a man I detest. They have been dating for two years. I don't trust him, and I believe he is controlling her. He has lied to me and to my parents, and has strained Dawn's relationship with our family by constantly making her choose between either him or us.

Dawn worked hard to earn her master's degree and is now earning a great salary; her fiance has no education beyond high school, constantly switches jobs and uses my sister for financial support.

I have spoken to her multiple times in the past about my concerns, and at one point made it clear that I wouldn't attend her wedding. Now that Dawn has decided to move forward with the relationship, am I required to go? My parents, despite not supporting my sister's marrying this man, still plan to attend and are urging me to go. I don't think I can stomach seeing it. What do I do? -- OPPOSED IN NEW YORK

DEAR OPPOSED: Go to the wedding. If this man is as awful as you say he is, your sister is going to need all of the support she can get from people who love her. One of the things that insecure, controlling men try to do is isolate their victims. Letting Dawn know that you love her and will always be there for her will make it much harder for her husband to do.
cereta: blue clay teapot with tan flowers (teapot)
[personal profile] cereta
Dear Prudence:

My husband and I have been happily married for three years. We each have grown children from our first marriages. His daughter had a baby as a teenager, and my husband and his first wife raised “Maggie” until she was 5 years old. After Maggie’s father was discharged from the military, he and his wife raised her. Last summer, he was convicted of a crime and incarcerated. His wife divorced him and was unable to care for Maggie, so she came to live with us. She is a 16-year-old high-school sophomore, very pretty and well-behaved; she is involved in sports and sees a therapist weekly. My husband has been appointed her legal guardian until she turns 18. He and I work full time and have had to give up kayaking and travel for family dinners and sports practice. I’m feeling a huge sense of loss about my wonderful life with my husband. I know this sounds selfish, but I raised my kids, and I was looking forward to our gradual retirement and relaxing of responsibilities. Maggie's mother is now married, has small children, and lives across the country. We have taken Maggie to visit, and it’s gone well. I would like Maggie to go live with her mother, who loves the idea, because she’s been wracked with guilt for abandoning her. She and her husband are struggling financially, but my husband and I could help. My husband is a kind man, and he is afraid to let his granddaughter go again. Maggie would prefer to live with us in comfort than with her birth mother and her family. What should we do?

—Wicked Step-Grandmother

Dear Wicked,
Let’s say Maggie was a dog. You wouldn’t advocate re-homing her yet again, because it would be too traumatic. You are rightly feeling wicked because you know making Maggie live with a group of struggling virtual strangers will be disastrous. It's good to facilitate a relationship between Maggie and her mother, but you don’t send a high school sophomore to start over at a new school with a new family. Let’s be blunt about your self-interest. Maggie is 16 and, despite everything she’s been through, on the right track. If she continues along this path, in two years she will be heading off to college. But if you want your husband to withdraw the love, support, and stability she has with you two, then you will vastly increase the chances that this girl falls apart. In that case, you will have an undone teenager living in your basement for the foreseeable future. Sure, you’d like your life to look like a Cialis commercial (presumably without the need for Cialis). But instead, for the next couple of years, it’ll be more like a Playtex Sport tampon advertisement. (And I don’t understand why the three of you can’t do some traveling and kayaking together.) You married a decent man who’s now the legal guardian of his granddaughter. Honor that obligation and the fact that he took it on. It’s likely you will benefit from having chosen someone who doesn’t flinch when circumstances get tough. Surely by this point in your life, you know how fleeting two years will be. I also have a 16-year-old high-school sophomore, and my husband and I are feeling acutely how swiftly the time will pass before our daughter is off.

—Prudie

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