Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: I have three grown children. My son and daughter both live in Boston. My third daughter lives in Baltimore. I live on the West Coast. I have to sell my West Coast home because I can’t afford to continue living in this area. I have asked my children if they’d like me to relocate to their city to help with grandkids, see them more often and be part of their lives. My son and daughter who are in Boston basically said, “Move to Baltimore, where ‘Sis’ is living.” Sis says, “Yes, move to Baltimore and be my full-time baby sitter.” I have a realm of cousins, aunts and my parents living in Boston, and I’d prefer to live there. But they apparently don’t want me to be close by. Should I move to Boston, where I feel more comfortable, or jump to Baltimore — unknown and different to me — in order to be my daughter’s full-time baby sitter? My husband has Alzheimer’s, and I feel we would both be more comfortable living in a familiar environment. What should I do?

Upset Mom

DEAR MOM: Here’s what you shouldn’t do: Ask a question and then blame people for answering.

The way I see it — you asked your children a very reasonable question. Then when they answered reasonably, you took their response as a personal indictment. You mentioned wanting to help with grandchildren, but then when all three of your children thought Baltimore might be the best place because you could help with grandchildren, you say you don’t want to be a baby sitter (I don’t blame you on that score), and that the two children who live in Boston obviously don’t want you nearby. “Sis” in Baltimore does want you nearby, but you assume it is just so you can be her full-time baby sitter. Are all of these assumptions fair?

You obviously want to move to Boston — and so that’s where you should go. I hope you can get your hurt feelings in check before you do.

DEAR AMY: I have been with my fiance for 10 years. We recently had a son. His mother has always been a thorn in my side. She goes out of her way to be nasty. We recently moved in with them to save money. We have only been there four months, and it has been total hell. We’re planning to move out soon. She has stolen from me — $5 here, $10 there. I know she steals my mail because I found a letter addressed to me in her coat pocket. Because she is his mother, I have held my tongue. His father is pretty evil, too — always money hungry. After we move out, I don’t want to have any type of relationship with them. How do I break up with my in-laws? I kind of don’t want my son to have a relationship with them, either. My fiance has been amazing, but I feel bad because he is in the middle and I let out my frustrations on him daily.

Cray Cray in-laws in D.C.

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DEAR CRAY CRAY: If these people are so evil, then why have you chosen to move in with them?

I understand that you feel put-upon by their behavior, but — while you are in the process of taking from them, you lose some leverage when complaining about them.

Obviously, stealing is wrong. It will be best for everyone when you move out. However it is not fair for you to proactively deny your child a relationship with your partner’s parents. This calls upon you to find ways to respectfully express your frustrations and concerns directly to them (not dumping on their son) — while expecting respect in return. Distance will be good for everyone.

DEAR AMY: “Proud Mother” was wondering if her daughter should invite the grandmother to her graduation, even though the grandmother always acted like she didn’t exist. My mother-in-law was fond of saying that although she had eight grandchildren she only gave her attention and time to her daughter’s kids. Her reasoning was that she knew that those children belonged to her daughter, but she could never be sure that her sons’ children actually belonged to her sons. I could tell you stories about how horribly these kids were treated but won’t go into it here. This teenager should do what she wants.

Been There

DEAR BEEN THERE: Your mother-in-law’s reasoning is one of the most obnoxious things I’ve ever heard. I’m so sorry.