DEAR AMY: My partner and I are expecting a baby. It's our first baby, and the only grandchild in his family. I moved in with him and his family right after we discovered that we were pregnant. The problem is that during this time, his parents' relationship deteriorated, resulting in a messy divorce after 42 years. We've decided that it was best to hide the pregnancy from his family as long as we can, due to how childish and toxic his mother is. His father has moved out. My partner has serious resentments toward his mother from a past fueled by alcoholism and emotional abuse. I don't feel safe with her being alone with our baby since she drinks and drives all the time. She's so self-absorbed that she doesn't even notice that I am seven months pregnant. We are doing our best to save money to get our own place to live, because we don't want to stay with her any longer than we have to, but the baby will be here soon. We don't want her and her toxic behavior around the baby. Are we wrong for not wanting to tell her or her side of the family? What should we do?
Ready to Burst
DEAR READY: This is the first of many tests you will face as parents, so take responsibility for your lives and your choices, and tell the truth. By living with your partner's family, you have made your pregnancy their business. The presence of a baby in the household will have a profound impact on all of you. It is not right to spring this on everyone at the last minute.
You feel strongly that your partner's mother should not be alone with the baby. So don't leave her alone with the baby. You are the child's parents. You are responsible for your child's safety and well-being, even if that means confronting some challenging personal situations.
You and your partner need to get your act together, and keep it together. This means telling the truth, creating boundaries while you are in the household — and making solid plans to leave the household as soon as you can.
DEAR AMY: People often write to you, wondering what to say to others who are grieving. My wife and I lost a son over four decades ago. Before that tragedy befell us, I would feel uncomfortable if I met people who had lost a precious one. Now, I know what to do and say. Say to the bereaved, "I can only imagine your sorrow." Offer to hug them and if it brings you to tears and sobs, that is OK. More than anything else you might do or say, that gesture lets them know that you care. Don't ever say, "I know how you feel." Only those who had experienced such a tragic loss know. Don't disappear from them. When it happened to us, friends that we had been very close to — vanished. Other people that we had never met appeared and helped with hugs, tears and whatever else they could offer. It has been a long time. We will never be "over it." The sorrow, pain and ache in one's heart never totally leaves, but it becomes easier to bear.
DEAR DT: Thank you so much for sharing your own shattering experience. I know it will help others.
DEAR AMY: Thank you for including a reference to my work in your response to "Not Born in the USA," a Russian who immigrated to the United States as a teenager and who wants to become more acculturated to American life as an adult. I appreciate being included in your suggested American reading list. This is way cool. Indians are rarely included in lists like this. Reservation-raised Indians are even more invisible. I know I'm a big name in American literature, but I'm also a kid who grew up in a HUD house on the rez across the street from the tribe's K-12 school, and only a little farther away from the Indian Health Service Clinic. So, you know — waaaaaaaaaay Indian. So here's to all of you Indians living on the rez, and all who've gone urban (like me). Here's to the unbroken connection to our ancestors. To all of our indigenous beauty.
DEAR SHERMAN: "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian (Hachette, 2012) is taught in many schools, and along with your stories, novels, screenplays and poetry, has earned its place in the American canon. Thank you for your work.