Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: I am a 46-year-old, single parent of 17-year-old twins. My father abandoned me when I was a baby and has made sporadic attempts to be “part of my life” ever since. He gets in touch with me about once every eight to 10 years. He never paid a dollar in child support and had no influence on my life’s successes or failures. My twins have seen him twice in their lives, and he acknowledged their existence with the same sporadic attention he acknowledged mine as I was growing up. I have told him how his abandonment affected me; his response is to blame me. “Well, you could have called me,” he says. Right, because a 2-year-old knows how to use a phone. At Christmastime the last few years, a card would show up with three checks in it, one for each of us, made out for the amount of our age. This year we got a $46 and two $17 checks. We haven’t seen or talked to him in five years, so I’m insulted that this man thinks we can be bought! My twins feel hurt and abandoned. I shred the checks and don’t reply. Petty of me?
Resentful Mama Bear
DEAR RESENTFUL: The reason your twins feel hurt and abandoned by the grandfather they don’t even know is because you feel abandoned, rejected and resentful. One thing for you to reflect on is how your attitude affects your children.
Yes, your father’s attempts to be in touch with you are pretty ridiculous. The checks are not an attempt to “buy you off,” but are his lame way of trying to be in touch and give you a gift. Because he doesn’t actually know you, he cannot give you any sort of gift other than this one.
I understand your instinct to shred these checks. However, you might start to feel less angry if you softened your own response to your father. How different would things be if you said to the twins, “Well, here’s our annual little offering from my absent father. Let’s cash these in and go to the movies?”
Given how awful and neglectful a parent your father is, it might even be something of a blessing that he wasn’t actually around to make your life miserable — up close. But mainly, accept this as being the unfortunate and complicated reality of your life. If you let your bitterness rule the day, nobody wins.
DEAR AMY: I recently held a bridal shower in my home for a girlfriend’s daughter. They have been in my home on multiple occasions, but I didn’t know their guests. There were 22 people at the event, and I only knew four. After the shower was over and two days had passed, I realized I had a brand-new (still in the box) $4,000 watch stolen. I cannot tell you how upset I am. I never even wore the watch! I called my girlfriend; she and her daughter were equally upset. I know it was not their fault, but I cannot help feeling very distraught. I do not know if they contacted the attendees (mostly friends, bridesmaids and new/old family) letting them know what occurred. I did file a police report. I feel like mailing a letter to those in attendance and informing them what happened! I want nothing more than the “thief” to return the watch (anonymously). I am having a very hard time “letting this go” and really don’t have much desire to attend a wedding where there is a thief in the room! I am afraid I might make a comment exposing what occurred.
DEAR DISTRAUGHT: Contact all of the guests at this shower to let them know of the theft. Don’t accuse anyone, and simply say: “If anyone who was at my house that day has any information about this, I hope you’ll let me know. I’m really distraught and hope to see this watch returned to me. I’d appreciate any information from the guests who were in my home that day.”
DEAR AMY: I’m glad you didn’t let “Upset” off the hook when she came up with every possible excuse for her family not to attend her husband’s grandfather’s 90th birthday celebration. I hope Upset isn’t too bothered when they host a milestone celebration and invited guests decide it’s too much trouble to attend.
DEAR UPSET: This reader was absolutely determined not to attend this event. But — as you point out — there are consequences to making this choice.