Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: My daughter (in her 20s) recently became divorced from her husband after a few short years of marriage. Now she is pregnant by a boyfriend who is really bad news — but she is so happy. While I am happy about my first grandchild, I don’t want to tell my family anything about this. She had been diagnosed with major fertility problems, so no one thought she would be able to conceive at all. Do I have to tell my family now or can I wait until the baby is born? My heart is breaking because I know this relationship is doomed.
— Grandmother To Be
DEAR GRANDMOTHER: All of this should be up to your daughter. She is the pregnant one, and it is her right to disclose this news when she is ready. Ask her what she would like to do.
If she is delighted about this pregnancy, then it is hard to imagine she would want to keep it to herself.
Even if you feel her relationship is doomed, it is her relationship. Your attitude during this uncertain phase should be one of delight about the prospect of being a grandmother and a wise “toss” to your daughter concerning any other disclosures. If you are asked directly to render an opinion on this person, you should say, ”She seems delighted and of course I am hoping for the best for all of them.”
DEAR AMY: I have a son, 31, and a daughter, 19, from different marriages. Our youngest wanted to invite our son to her birthday celebration. He stated he couldn’t come because his son, 19 months, needs to go to bed by 7 p.m. Our daughter was hurt and was crying because she didn’t think he cared enough to even tell her happy birthday. I realize that the two have been treated differently because of the circumstances of two marriages. My son’s mother and I suffered a very tumultuous and short-lived marriage. I’ve been married to my current wife for 24 years. We were in our mid-40s when our daughter was born. I feel there is some jealousy involved, but I was not an absent dad and visited him every week and was involved with him as he grew up. We helped him and his wife purchase a home. We took him in when he was in college and helped him, although not to the extent we have our daughter. I am very disappointed that he did not take the time to find a baby-sitter for this event, as he was notified several days in advance. I am thinking about sitting down with him to express my feelings. I want more than anything for them to be close. My wife and I are not going to be around forever. Your thoughts?
— Saddened Dad
DEAR DAD: Yes — sit down with your son. But don’t complicate this with lots of back story, explanations and apologies. Simply say, “Hey, I want to give you a heads-up that we try really hard to celebrate each other’s milestones. That includes you, your wife and child — and this also includes your sister. It would have meant so much to her if you had been thoughtful enough to wish her a happy birthday. I’d like for you two to have a good relationship.”
You may find that he is harboring some wounded feelings, perhaps about his child. Is his sister working hard to be a good aunt to this child? Fatherhood will also cause him to reflect on his own childhood. Listen and respond compassionately.
After you state your case, then you need to leave it up to these two offspring of yours to express themselves honestly. You should encourage them to be close and help them work out any disputes, if they ask you to. In the future, if your daughter expresses frustration and wants you to intercede, you should encourage her to communicate with him herself.
DEAR AMY: The letter from “Dutiful Daughter” regarding her mother’s moody, irritable and nearly deaf boyfriend didn’t mention whether his hearing loss had been addressed. Maybe the fellow just needs some up-to-date hearing aids. It’s hard not to be moody and irritable if you can’t hear and enjoy what’s going on around you. — Ruth
DEAR RUTH: Although I didn’t feel the gentleman’s hearing loss was at the heart of this question, many readers made similar suggestions and I thank you all.