DEAR AMY: After my daughter was born, I fought for custody for four years. I was living with my parents during that time. My daughter stayed with my mom during the day while I worked because I could not afford child care and lawyer fees. Eventually I was granted full custody. I moved out of my parents' home with my daughter when she turned 5. I met a very nice girl with a daughter of her own. Eventually we decided to move in together. Our kids love being around each other and love both of us. The adjustment was very easy for all of us. We have now been together for over two years. My mother helped me with the custody battle and I thank her for that, but now she thinks she can control every aspect of my daughter's life. She will not allow my fiancee to parent my daughter, nor does she accept her daughter, who is 4. My mom criticizes any choice I make with my fiancee. I am overly stressed out because I help my father after work and see my mom every day. My fiancee takes my daughter to her after-school activities, which upsets my mom because she can no longer do it. Despite my mother's disruptive behavior, I feel she should still see my daughter regularly. My fiancee thinks she should be cut off because she does not listen to any of our choices. What can I do to keep the peace?
DEAR DAD: Your fiancee's stance -- to cut off your mother completely -- makes her seem almost as intractable and controlling as your mother.
You will have to be gentle and compassionate, but also very firm with your mother.
Perhaps it would also help if you two parents were actually married and adopted each other's children, if possible. Taking this step will help all of you to clarify your roles.
Understand your mother's special connection, but do not reward her favoritism. If she mistreats the younger child then you shouldn't trust her to spend time alone with the older child. You and your fiancee should include your mother on your terms, without allowing her to dominate you.
An objective mediator could help all of the adults in this situation by discussing the practical roles, as well as the feelings involved. A pastor or social worker could serve this role. If you offer your mother mediation and she won't cooperate, then the very tangible consequence is that your family will want to spend less time with her. That will be your bottom line.
DEAR AMY: My son is 27 and lives with me because I have MS. I can do most things for myself but I have no balance and use a walker. My son primarily takes the trash out. Our house has a bonus room in back where he and his friends can hang out so that we have our own space. My problem is that it takes nagging him many times to get him to do something that I can't do, and I am sick of it. His father was the same way. When we were married I did all of the simple maintenance because it was easier, but now I can't. I don't want to make him feel he has to take care of me. He needs his own life. He has a job he loves but does not make that much money. Should I kick him out?
DEAR MOM: Yes -- you should free your son to live his own life. Removing this stress from your daily life might have a positive impact on your health. You should look into local services offering hands-on help. You might be able to rent out your bonus room in exchange for some more useful assistance.
DEAR AMY: "Frustrated" wanted to discipline her 5-year-old "spoiled brat" of a stepdaughter. I could not believe your advice to her. One thing that's wrong with this world today is that there are too many spoiled brats who haven't been disciplined.
DEAR DISGUSTED: I received not one response supporting my compassion toward this child. A stepparent should not discipline; she should teach and lead. In this case, the child's father should apply the discipline.