DEAR AMY: My mother-in-law's older son, "Adam" was a "wanted" child. A few years later, my husband, "Bill," came along. In the more than 20 years my husband and I have been together, she has told Bill to his face that he only exists because his father was too chicken to get a vasectomy. I'm not kidding. The sun rises and sets on Adam, despite failure after failure. Mom is constantly bailing him out. Adam's kids fail equally, and she bails them out, too. She cannot pass 90 seconds with our family without telling us what Adam has been up to and what she has given him and his latest spouse and kids. She cites dollar figures, which are astounding. Adam can't pay his bills or stay married (he's had several wives), but he sure walks on water in her eyes. She has pretty much ignored us for nearly 22 years. When she gets bored, she expects us to fill the gap. When we give in to this, against all sanity, she regales our children with how much she has done for their cousins. She barely remembers our kids at their birthdays, and does nothing for them at Christmas. NOTHING. Not even a card, to any of us. Bill lets this roll off his back. He's an amazing person, he's worked hard, put himself through school, and is a great husband and awesome father. I know she won't change. I want to learn how not to care. If not for Bill's sake, for our kids', because they are equally amazing human beings, but unlike their dad, they feel the imbalance and are hurt. So, Amy; teach me not to care?
DEAR FRUSTRATED: You seem to have already mastered the first step in not caring, which is acceptance. Yes, she won't change.
You also seem to acknowledge that her toxic enabling has actually damaged "Adam" and his family members.
Now you need to understand that you and your wonderful family have won the family sweepstakes. Imagine how different things would be if your mother-in-law turned her firehose of bad parenting and enabling in your direction!
Your husband tolerates this because she is his mother. His tolerance is a testament to his character.
You could try to behave differently when she is with you. You don't seem to have expressed how you feel about her behavior.
"Marge, it has always been clear that you prefer Adam. But I find it hurtful, and I really don't want to hear about it. Let's find something else to discuss."
And to your children, you need only say, "Your grandmother doesn't seem to know how to love everyone equally. Her real gift to you is a lesson in how NOT to behave."
DEAR AMY: I am one of four adult siblings, all in our 40s. One of my siblings and I have devoted ourselves to help counter the negative impacts of pet breeders and irresponsible pet owners, by fostering and spay/neuter volunteerism. Recently, our sister announced that she will be buying a dog from a breeder! She clearly is not interested in putting in the effort or caring about the impact of her actions. Amy, I can't tell you how upset we are about this. The sister making this awful decision cannot be redirected. She has been enabled by our parents her entire life and, as an underdeveloped adult, lives in a bubble without any consideration of her impact on the environment. How would you best recommend we handle this literal slap in the face?
Sibling of the Unconscionable
DEAR SIBLING: My first suggestion is that you stop seeing this as being about you and your values. This is about her and her values. She is not slapping you in the face; she is making a choice, which you vehemently disagree with.
She might be ignorant, wasteful and deliberately rejecting your activism.
So, message received.
You could respond by trying to create a "dog-neutral" balance to this behavior, by donating to a shelter the amount of money she paid for the dog, or by fostering a dog specifically in her honor.
DEAR AMY: "Sad Mom" was upset that her youngest child missed her birthday two years in a row. Although I love to get calls on my birthday, I think it is OK if a mom initiates the call. Placing the call yourself is worth it if it causes less stress and less fighting after the fact.
DEAR BEEN THERE: Great advice.