DEAR AMY: My young adult son recently traveled to a foreign country to visit a friend. Knowing how my elderly parents worry, I asked my son not to tell them; given the frequency of terrorism in the world today, I knew they would worry themselves sick over him being out of the country. They feel stress even if we go shopping in our own city. As they have aged, they fret about every situation, until they are actually physically ill and end up in the emergency room. I made the decision I felt was best for my parents. I was in no way trying to be malicious or deceitful. Now that my son has returned home, I am faced with the decision to tell them and explain the reasoning for my decision, or not tell them. I fear they will not understand my reasoning, and forever hold it against me, or worse yet, my son. My parents are not forgiving if they feel they’ve been wronged. I can’t go back and change my decision at this point. However, I regret dragging my son into a web of deceit, even though my intentions were honestly made with my parents’ well-being in mind. Do you think I should continue to keep the secret, or tell them, and end up hurting them and stressing them out in spite of my trying to avoid it in the first place?
Riddled with Guilt
DEAR RIDDLED: You should not feel obligated to tell your parents of the movements of your adult children in the first place. Your son’s trip is his news to share. It sounds as if he agreed with your choice to withhold news of this pending trip from your folks.
Now that he has returned, you/he should tell your parents, in order to relieve everyone from this secret-keeping, which will likely backfire. Keep it light and simple: “Has Chas told you about his trip to Europe? He returned home safely from two weeks visiting his friend, and I’m sure he’s eager to tell you about it.”
If your folks interrogate you about your role in this, simply tell them, “I made a judgment call not to let you know in advance because of the stress and worry it would cause.”
If they disagree with your choice — and you can assume they will — explain that you followed your best judgment and you’re sorry if they are disappointed, but it’s done now and you hope they will understand.
DEAR AMY: My brother and his wife are expecting their first child. This is the first grandchild for my mother. She is very excited for the baby’s arrival and she is demanding that everyone be as excited as she is. Although I am happy for my brother and his wife, their situation hasn’t been easy for me to deal with. My husband and I are not able to have children. My mother is not happy with my level of excitement. The baby’s arrival is quickly approaching. My mother is now asking me if I am making anything for my future niece or nephew. In the past I have made sweaters, blankets, hats, or booties for close friends who are expecting. Do I have to make something for my brother and his wife (who I am not close to) simply because they are family? I sent a nice gift for the baby shower.
Drowning in Family Obligations
DEAR DROWNING: You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. However, if you routinely make baby items for friends, surely you can understand why your mother might expect you to be working on something for this particular baby.
Your fertility challenges make this a heartbreaking situation for you, but you will have to come up with ways to cope. Be honest about your feelings, but also allow other people to react the way they want to react.
With time, I hope you will be able to embrace your relationship as the aunt to this child. Always keep in mind that none of this rough luck is anyone’s fault — least of all the child’s.
DEAR AMY: “Patient Passenger,” was fuming because a fellow airline passenger brazenly cut in line ahead of her at the airport gate. Your answer was interesting and informative, but you should have also told her that each passenger has an assigned seat. All will be boarded eventually and the plane will take off. She should find something more important to fume about.
DEAR TRULY: “Patient Passenger” was shocked at the way she got played. A healthy perspective usually arrives after the plane has taken off.