Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: My husband died when my son was a preschooler. I have been trying for years to get his family to spend time with my son. It breaks my heart that his family, who live so close to us, make no effort to be a part of his life. I have asked them to do things with him; I invite them over and suggest activities. I even laid it out to them how important I think it is for them to help keep his father’s memory alive. I will do anything to make it easy on them — take him over there, pay for activities, etc. I’ve even asked for help when I was recovering from surgery, and still couldn’t get them to take him for an afternoon. We see them for birthdays and holidays and on rare occasions, they accept invitations to activities (once every couple of years.) They’re great with him when we are together. There are some empty promises, like “We’ll go play ball at the park.” True, they have jobs and other family commitments, but his grandmother shows absolutely no interest in him. I do look for other opportunities for male relationships, but have come up short. He’s on the waiting list for Big Brothers, but the list is several years long. My family is far away and we only see each other a few times a year. Is it time for me to give up and just accept that there will never be more than an “Easter bunny” relationship with these family members?

Sad Mama

DEAR SAD: You seem to have tried absolutely everything to engage these family members with your son, and now — yes, I do think you need to accept that it is just not going to happen. This is a shame, because — as you note, these family members are a living link to your son’s father.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (bbbs.org) is a great organization, but until he is matched with a “Big,” your boy might also thrive playing for his school’s band, participating in a local drama program, or on school or community sports teams. See if there is a local Boy Scout troop he might join.

Keep him busy and engaged with other children and adults — male and female — and don’t dwell too heavily on his losses, which are considerable. His situation might make him sensitive and vulnerable, and you should devote yourself to exposing him to activities that build him up and make him feel confident and competent.

DEAR AMY: I’m about to marry a wonderful man, who happens to be of a different ethnic background. I have been talking to my sister a lot about how I should handle inviting/not inviting our mom to my wedding because, well, she has issues with interracial relationships. I’ve not actually spoken to her in well over a year due to her actions. She’s always been very controlling and will use any means necessary to get you to comply. I’ve forgiven her for her actions, and I love her, but I’ve just decided that I don’t need her in my daily life. My sister puts up with her. My fear now is if I don’t invite her, none of my other family will attend (I have been “warned” about this). If I do invite her, I’m worried that she’ll make a huge scene (which is her style). I don’t want to have my day ruined, and I sure do not want her to insult my intended’s family. Is there a diplomatic way to avoid this?

Cringing Bride

DEAR CRINGING: Yes. It’s called elopement.

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If your mother’s family members are refusing to attend your wedding if your mother isn’t there, then it seems likely that her control extends beyond you and your sister.

It is hard to tell if you and your fiance have spent time with your mother. One way to handle this would be for you both to meet with her, and let her behavior during the meeting and afterward dictate your choice.

Otherwise, I suggest that you embrace the family that will accept you (hopefully, your fiance’s), and plan for a small, lovely and loving wedding, and leave the drama behind.

DEAR READERS: Sometimes people who dispense advice run out of answers. If you’ve ever been curious about the life behind my advice, read my new book, “Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Coming Home” (2017, Hachette).