DEAR AMY: My friend and I both have 30-year-old daughters. Each of our daughters has struggled over the years, during which we have laughed, cried, commiserated and supported each other. My friend’s daughter now has a successful career, is married, bought a house and just had her first baby. I gave fabulous wedding and baby showers at my home, and I am happy for her many successes. My daughter continues to struggle but is doing well in her chosen career, is unmarried and unattached, lives at home and just developed a serious medical condition that makes it unlikely she will have children. As I have only one child, this changes my daughter’s future and mine. I am not unhappy and choose not to dwell on lost possibilities. Life is unexpected and there are many ways to include children in your life, but neither my daughter nor I are ready for that just now. My friend recently told me she is hurt because I don’t ask for frequent updates on her grandchild. Quite honestly, I am happy for her, but the anecdotes and updates from a delighted grandparent remind me of what we may never have (but thought and hoped we would). I asked my friend if she could share news with other grandparents, but she feels I am not being a good friend and should keep grandchild updates as a regular part of our conversations. Do I have to?
DEAR OLD FRIEND: You don’t “have to” do anything you don’t want to do, but the kindest thing is for you to acknowledge and tolerate your friend’s life-news, just as she should kindly acknowledge and tolerate yours.
Ideally, you would be able to convey to your friend that you find this joyful accounting painful at times. She should never insist that you have to ask about this grandchild, but you should also not insist that she must keep this important part of her life completely private.
It is very challenging to be hitting a rough patch just as others seem to be sailing. I hope you and your old friend can privately, honestly and compassionately come to an understanding about your respective needs.
DEAR AMY: My daughter and son-in-law have 12-year-old twins. I witness horrible behavior such as tantrums, yelling, disrespectful talk to their parents and sometimes hurting each other. They are generally well-behaved when they are with me and without their parents, but they still have to be told to say “Thank you,” “Excuse me” and “Please.” They interrupt adult conversations, spend much of their time on their phones or the computer and will ignore their parents’ requests. I do notice that threats regarding bad behavior are never carried through; there are no consequences. I love them very much and am sad to see this happening. I think their parents are wonderful people but are struggling with parenthood. I would never be able to confront them about my feelings, but I dread family get-togethers. I would love to occasionally have each of the twins separately on a one-on-one basis. They are at an age where it might be wise to talk to them individually about how I feel about their behavior. But do you think I should I continue to be silent and not interfere?
DEAR SAD: I agree that it would be wisest at this point to spend one-on-one time with each twin. This will enable you to see them as individuals, and will give them fewer reasons to act out through reacting to each other, fighting and/or double-teaming you.
You should always expect their very best behavior, prompt them toward politeness and deliver reasonable consequences while in your household. Mainly I think you should offer them the peaceful, firm, loving and gentle atmosphere that they seem to be missing at home. Be honest with them about what you see in terms of their behavior. Tell them you know they can do better, and help to guide them to meet their true potential.
Grandparents have the opportunity to be hugely influential in the lives of grandchildren. Don’t give up on these kids.
DEAR AMY: “Deeply Disappointed” described a very tough situation with his 23-year-old stepson, who had already been jailed for DWI. Nobody mentioned if this young man was enrolled in a 12-step program to deal with his drinking. I feel this is necessary for his recovery.
DEAR WORRIED: I agree. Sobriety is a daily triumph. 12-step programs can help.