DEAR READERS: Every year I step away from my daily column to work on other creative projects. I’ve gathered some topical "Best Of" columns from 10 years ago. Today’s compilation considers some of the abundant challenges of fatherhood (Some content has been lightly edited.) I’ll be back in two weeks with fresh columns.
DEAR AMY: I am a widower with five children. We live in a large home in a private, gated community. I allowed my wife’s sister and her family to move in with us when she and her husband lost their jobs and their home was foreclosed. They have three older children. I am truly blessed that both our families get along well, and that my children have a mother figure in my sister-in-law. I am concerned, though, for my youngest son "Stevie." At a little over two years old, he has yet to speak (for some context, I didn’t start talking until I was four). Stevie also likes to cuddle with everyone! Despite having his own bed and stuffed bear, Stevie and bear can be found in the beds of either his brothers, sisters, cousins, aunt and uncle, or my own! He does not discriminate! I found him recently sleeping with our chocolate lab! Is this behavior something to be concerned about? Friends and family say it’s just a phase, but I’d like to be sure. What is your take on this?
Concerned in Michigan
DEAR CONCERNED: I’m happy your unusual living situation is working out for your families, but as the youngest, "Stevie" may be expressing some of the natural stresses of being at the end of the cuddle chain in your very large household. At only two-years-old, he has been through a great deal. He now has a wealth of cuddling and sleeping options, and he is trying them all. Take your son to see his pediatrician for an evaluation. His lack of language could be a sign of a processing or hearing problem, or evidence that he has suffered a loss, is stressed and confused, and is going through a transition. I’d let him cuddle with anyone and everyone (as long as you are assured he is safe), but you, especially, should give him as much one-on-one ”Daddy time” as you can. (August 2010)
DEAR AMY: My daughter is 19 and has been dating her boyfriend for 2 1/2 years. She has four siblings. All of her siblings dislike this guy. He lives with my daughter in my ex-wife’s house most of the time. He rarely contributes to the household resources, yet he often takes advantage of all the household has to offer. He is polite and kind to her and to her mother — and to me — but I don’t think he is a warm, giving person overall. He is employed and he treats my daughter well, and she loves him, but almost everyone he encounters does not like him. I don’t think he does anything to elevate her or make her better, and I am convinced that she would be better off without him. I am afraid to intervene because I don’t want her to have to choose between him and me, and yet I feel like I should say something. I made a mistake marrying her mother, and I wish my parents had intervened when I was her age. Do you have any advice for me?
DEAR DAD: If you lay an ultimatum at your daughter’s feet and force her to choose between you and her boyfriend, she will "choose" him, I assure you. Despite your current and retrospective take on the matter, you would have done the same at her age. I agree with you that this relationship doesn’t sound ideal, although according to you he treats your daughter and the rest of the family well. This person’s function in your daughter’s life is not to elevate and make her ”better.” She should elevate herself and strive to be her best self. You should mentor your daughter to further her education, do good work and aspire to great things. Without trashing her boyfriend, you could tell her, ”You’re young and wonderful. I want you to live your very best life. I feel you’re too young to settle down, and hope you will consider all of your options.” You could tell her you’ve learned from your own mistakes, but please don’t say you regret marrying her mom. That is a disrespectful message to convey regarding the mother of your children. (July 2010)