Dear Amy: My mother raised six children during her lifetime. She chose to be a stay-at-home mom, although my father barely made enough to keep us afloat.
As soon as we turned 13, we were told to find a money source because we would be responsible for our tuition at private school.
This did not kill us. In fact, it made us responsible people.
Now that my parents are older for some reason my mother likes to guilt us for our father’s lack of initiative in providing her with a better lifestyle.
She has told me that as her children she would think that we could provide winters in Florida for them to enjoy warmer weather, and that we could all afford this since we enjoy trips with our families and do not feel the need to invite them along. I am at a loss for words when she starts on these tirades. What I want to say is right on the tip of my tongue, which I bite every time. My mother made her choices a long time ago. How should I reply? — Upset
Dear Upset: I realize that your question is really about your mother, and yet your attitude mirrors her bitterness and entitlement. Although you claim to have turned out well, you seem to have felt financially abandoned by your parents.
You don’t say how many children you have raised from scratch, but being a full-time parent to six children is no easy job. It would be nice if you found a way to acknowledge both of your parents’ efforts, even if you have found them to be inadequate. You and your siblings are not duty-bound to provide winters in Florida for your parents. Nor should you sign up for a guilt trip, courtesy of your mother.
You should draw a boundary around your own choices, but also dig deeper to try to see what is really eating you. If you felt your mother didn’t do enough for you in childhood, then maybe you should tell her. She might then see you as an ingrate and stop wanting to spend time with you.
A better and more emotionally healthy response would be for you to realize that your folks no doubt made mistakes, but at some point you should be willing to forgive their mistakes, even if you have no intention of compensating them.
Dear Amy: I learned today that one of my son’s grandparents is facing a serious and sudden cancer diagnosis, with a poor prognosis. This woman is my ex’s stepmother: she has been in my son’s life since the day he was born. She and I had a warm, cordial relationship while my ex and I were together. I have not seen her since my ex and I ended our relationship almost 12 years ago. Our son is now 20, so our co-parenting has long since dwindled to minimal contact. My son sees his grandparents several times a year, however.I am shocked and obviously very sad at this news. I would like very much to send her a card or letter, ideally to communicate that she influenced my life with her sense of grace and served as quite a role model.
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I have no idea how to go about this, or even if it’s appropriate in the first place.
How would you start the wording on such a letter? Do you acknowledge the prognosis? Is it simply too late? — Sad
Dear Sad: I am truly surprised at how often people inquire about whether it is appropriate to express their affection toward someone they care about.
It is always appropriate, and — regardless of the ex-in-law relationship — it should be done. You start like this: “Dear Carol, Randy told me you are ailing. I’m so sorry to hear that. You’ve been such a wonderful grandmother (Randy is so crazy about you), and more than that — you’ve influenced me so much over the years!”
Then you share stories, memories, and affection — without being sappy or maudlin.
Dear Amy: Thank you, thank you for explaining “gaslighting” to the woman who signed her letter “Gaslit.”
She claimed her husband was gaslighting her by not mowing the lawn.
Amen to your suggestion that she should mow the lawn herself! — Grateful
Dear Grateful: The term “gaslighting” has increased so much in popularity that it now seems to be used as a blanket term for when two people are in conflict. However, it has a very specific context, pulled directly from the wonderful movie: “Gaslight.”