DEAR AMY: My father has been married to his second wife for 14 years. I have a pretty good relationship with my dad, and initially I enjoyed a good one with his wife. Over the years, things have changed. It is not a bad relationship, but it’s just not a good one. She has two children. Initially, I went out of my way to attend events with my father’s new family and I had a good relationship with her kids. My sister is a different story. Things didn’t start out great with the second wife, and they haven’t gotten better. Both women seem to try, and things seem better, and then the second wife finds something to be offended by. My dad’s stepdaughter is getting married in two months. I received an invitation, but my sister did not. I think this is completely wrong. I would love to know your thoughts on this, and how to handle it.
DEAR TROUBLED: I agree with you that it is wrong for your sister to be excluded from this family wedding. Keep in mind, however, that the invitation list is most likely drawn up by your stepsister and her future husband. In this case, you might assume that your stepmother approves of this exclusion, but if asked she may maintain plausible deniability.
Over the years, because of their poor relationship, your sister might have excluded this side of the family from events, and now they are retaliating. They may also be convinced that your sister would not attend, if invited.
You should go to your father and his wife and ask them about this. Express your honest view that excluding your sister is not good for family harmony. You may feel that because of this exclusion, you (also) don’t want to attend this wedding, but be aware that this choice will likely negatively affect your relationship with them.
DEAR AMY: My brother and I purchased a lake house together when our children were young. We’ve had many wonderful years there together; we are a close family. My brother and his family spend much more time there than my family does, due to my work schedule. This is fine with me. The house is small, so we take turns having our own company at the house. Recently, my brother went on a cruise, so I told him I would take that week off and go up to the cabin with some friends. While there, my niece called to say she wanted to come with her children. I told her there was no room for her to stay. She was upset and complained to my brother, and now my brother is mad at me for telling her no. Was I wrong?
DEAR FEELING GUILTY: You had a prearrangement with your brother for this particular week. Everybody in your circle knows how small this lake house is. Your niece knew you had the house over this particular week, which is why she called you. She knew you were there, using the house. She knew she needed to ask your permission to go there with her children. She just didn’t expect to be told no.
If you co-own this property, you have every right to use it exclusively, just as your brother does, and you should not feel bad for reserving the right to use it during this prearranged week. This sort of co-ownership occasionally causes problems and glitches, because the next generation may feel they should have unfettered access to the family cabin.
Your brother should back you up, and your niece should grow up. Your “no” might have disappointed her, but she is an adult, and she needs to cope.
DEAR AMY: I wanted to weigh in on the conversation surrounding spanking children as a discipline tool. I agree with you that spanking is unnecessary and cruel. I was spanked as a child; my brother was beaten with my father’s belt. We both still carry the scars — him from the abuse, and me from witnessing the abuse. I resolved never to hit my children, and my husband and I have found creative and effective ways of disciplining them that don’t involve violence.
DEAR BEEN THERE: I’ve heard from many readers whose parents took spanking too far. And that’s my primary problem with it — most of us would resort to spanking out of frustration and anger, and that’s the worst time to hit a defenseless child.
I believe that spanking children instills fear, not respect. One way to discipline children is for parents to demonstrate consistent self-discipline.