DEAR AMY: My (white) parents have never approved of my wife, who was born in Mexico. They also seem not to care for our daughters — their two grandchildren. A while back they asked to take these granddaughters for the weekend. The girls were 4 and 6 at the time. Our daughters have always had long, dark hair — down to their waists — that my wife loves to put into ponytails or braids. When we went to pick up the girls after the weekend with my parents, we found that my mother had decided the girls’ hair was “too much work,” and took the kids to the local barber. Their long hair was gone, replaced with very short — almost military-style — cuts above their ears. My wife was heartbroken, but she said little. My mother told me that I was wrong to protest the haircuts, and that they had done the girls a favor. My father laughed at me for being angry and told me the girls “finally looked normal.” My family seems entirely racist to me. I feel they are a danger to their granddaughters (who they do not seem to care for or about). Is estrangement merited?
DEAR DAD: Yep, your folks seem fairly racist to me, too.
Granted, grandparents have undermined their grown children and disrespected their grandchildren in this way from time immemorial, but that doesn’t make it right.
What makes this act racist is the extra context they’ve thrown in, just to make sure you know that they don’t see your children as quite “normal,” and that their long, dark hair is strange and unmanageable.
Hair is important to all children. But hair has a special importance to children of color. In many cultures, basically — if you mess with a girl’s hair, you’ll be answering to her mother.
Your wife showed amazing restraint, but I wonder why she was so silent. She is not a second-class citizen. She is the mother of these children, and she has a voice and a right to use it.
Your folks’ attitude, statements and behavior toward your daughters puts them in the category of, “With grandparents like these, who needs incompetent jerks?”
On top of other, more important, matters — if your parents can’t manage to help groom their granddaughters for a total of two days, then they aren’t equipped (or able, or willing) to take care of small humans.
I also assume your folks could have returned their grandkids after a weekend looking like they were raised by wolves and that wouldn’t have mattered, as long as everyone had fun and felt well-loved.
I don’t necessarily recommend total estrangement, but I do recommend distance. It is a natural consequence of their actions and attitude.
DEAR AMY: I have been married for a long time. My husband is a great guy. He’s a hard worker, considerate and a wonderful father. However, he has developed many facial tics lately — he is constantly pulling his ear, touching his nose or rubbing his lips. It’s nonstop and incredibly annoying. I have a hard time even looking at him, which has (understandably) created all sorts of problems. I have mentioned it to him multiple times and he gets very defensive and even denies he does it. I’m sure its involuntary, and it seems to get worse during times of stress. Any suggestions?
Trying to Overlook It
DEAR TRYING: Rather than try to overlook this, you should urge your husband to see his physician. This rather sudden and marked change in his physical behavior could be a sign that there is an underlying medical cause that should be addressed. Because this seems to come on during times of stress, he may be offered simple strategies to control his stress level, and these various tics would subside, but this could also indicate something more serious.
I would hesitate to take an amateur stab at diagnosing him, which is why he should see his doctor right away.
DEAR AMY: The question from “Tired Mom” took me back. Tired Mom was exhausted by hosting her teen daughter and her friends, and driving them around. She wanted other parents to step up. Well, my own parents never stepped up. Fortunately, I had a friend whose parents were fun and lively, and always made time for all of us. They helped give me a happier childhood.
DEAR GRATEFUL: Any teen is lucky to live in “that house” — the house where everyone gathers. Tired Mom is doing a great job.