Adoptive mom is spiteful of birth family

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Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

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DEAR AMY: I am adopted. My upbringing in my adoptive family was quite dysfunctional, involving verbal and emotional neglect and alcoholism. I forgave my parents for their transgressions many years ago. They are my parents and always will be. Growing up, I felt the need to find my birth mother, and my adopted mother said she would support this effort. The problem arose when I actually found my birth mother and my biological siblings years ago. I know that my mother feels threatened. I try to reassure her that she'll always be my mother no matter what. But she can be spiteful about my birth family, and she has said some truly hateful things. I enjoy having my birth family in my life, but out of respect for my adoptive mother I chose never to talk of my birth family with her. My birth family has been present in my children's lives for nearly 20 years. My daughter views my birth mother as a grandmother. My daughter is getting married and has invited my birth mother. My mother called my daughter, to say that my birth mother isn't really her family. I want my daughter to have a beautiful wedding. I know that my mother would behave at the wedding, but I'm worried about her capacity to say hateful things beforehand. Any advice?

--Frustrating Dysfunctional Family

DEAR FDF: Your choice to protect your adoptive mother from your relationship with your birth family over the years has had an unintended consequence: She continues to be threatened about a mature, ongoing relationship that she cannot control. Tell your mother, "I know this is hard for you, but I really expect you to be kind and respectful. That would be a wonderful gift to your granddaughter." If your mother has something to say, hear her out. But listening doesn't mean you have to do anything differently. This is your daughter's wedding, and she gets to decide the guest list. She also gets to decide who is "family." Your job is to back her up, and you're doing this very well.