Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: My son and daughter-in-law are separated. My son is in county jail awaiting sentencing. His wife has moved on and is in a relationship with someone else. She is currently living a great distance from us. There is a child. I love this child dearly, but now cannot see her due to the distance (and other considerations). The mom has served my son with papers for full custody. I am so sad. How do I deal with my profound disappointment at not having this child in my life?
DEAR SAD: Given that your son is in jail, the mother should have full custody of the child, and as the child’s grandparents, you should embrace whatever living situation is best for the girl.
You don’t mention having any relationship with the child’s mother, but you should make a heroic effort to stay in touch with her. Tell the mother that you respect her choice and that you all want whatever is best for your grandchild. Ask her to email photos and videos from time to time and do your best to be supportive, long-distance grandparents to this child.
The child’s mother has an ethical obligation to try to honor your relationship with her child, but she has no legal obligation to do so. Given the extreme circumstances, she may blame you for some of your son’s choices. If your son’s crime is a violent one, then divorcing him and moving away might be best. You need to own and understand this, and always hold this child in your heart — even if she isn’t in your daily life.
DEAR AMY: Last year my husband and I traveled across the country to visit our son and his family. The visit was not a very friendly one. My daughter-in-law made herself unavailable. She was never rude but never at home when we were there. She did not go out to eat or on drives with us. My son always made excuses (“She is tired, has a headache, needs to visit her mom next door, etc.”). Finally, my son told me that I had really hurt her feelings. The first night we were there I made a comment about how much weight I had gained. My daughter-in-law got mad because she assumed I was not talking about myself, but about her. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have always had a weight problem and would never comment on someone else’s weight. We were not invited back last Christmas and have not seen them since then. The problem is we have been invited to visit again and have bought the plane tickets. I am dreading it. What if I say something else that sets her off again? I always tell my son to tell her “hello” and send my love when I talk or email him, but visiting for a whole week is a long time to be neglected. She always seems to be not on speaking terms with someone in her life — family or neighbors. She is very sensitive. How should I handle this?
DEAR MIL: A week is a long time to be neglected, unless you are being neglected by someone who is challenging, hyper-sensitive and unpleasant. In that case, being neglected should come as a sweet relief.
It is best not to expect anything specific of your daughter-in-law. You are her husband’s parents and she may feel little more than an obligation to host you. Her own mother lives next door and your son presumably has a lot of interaction with his own mother-in-law.
Ask your son in advance to be very frank with you about things you can do to make this visit easier for everyone.
During your visit, be a great guest, maintain a low-key presence in their home and concentrate on building positive memories with your son. If your daughter-in-law chooses to stay scarce, don’t take it personally; instead be grateful.
DEAR AMY: “Best Friend” was excessively worried that his young buddy and roommate was becoming an alcoholic. I cannot believe that you actually encouraged him to confront him over this. We are increasingly living in a nanny state, where people feel comfortable confronting individuals over their choices. You just encouraged this. If the friend doesn’t like his roommate’s drinking, he should move.
DEAR DISGUSTED: Friends and family often worry about the dangerous habits of people they care about. I agree that the chances they will force someone else toward change are slim, but many feel compelled to try.