DEAR AMY: My son got married about five years ago. His wife and I got off to a bad start right away. I try to be nice, but she seems to take everything I say the wrong way. She is the child of divorced parents. She overanalyzes everything, and I feel like I have to walk on eggshells around her. There are many things I admire about her, but when I compliment her, she takes it as patronizing. I have made some mistakes, such as being too involved in their wedding, but she has made mistakes, too. I always let her poor behavior go, but she is so unforgiving. I don’t know what to do, because she is married to a son with whom I have always been very close, and honestly, despite the way she treats me, I really love her. I can’t sleep at night because I’m so worried about this relationship.
DEAR TRYING: I give you props for wanting to improve this relationship, and also for admitting your own role in its dysfunction.
At this point, you have nothing to lose — and much to gain — by owning your role, and expressing your desire for things to change.
You should contact your daughter-in-law, privately, and ask her if she would be willing to help you to “reboot” this relationship. Say that you still regret overstepping at their wedding, and that you realize this got you off on a poor footing. Tell her that she is family, that you love her, and that you hope she will learn to forgive you your own flaws, in order to move forward in friendship.
DEAR AMY: After cleaning up after three relatives who have gone into senior-living residences, I would like your many readers to know that leaving endless piles of junk and money in countless numbers of banks/investments/holdings for others to deal with after you no longer can, is selfish and careless. We are facing another such disaster soon because this particular family obviously has some DNA strand that makes them slobs, and they have no shame in saddling this miserable chore on others. If you are growing older, look around your home and start straightening things up and purging while you still have the strength and will to do so. Consolidate your holdings and finances and leave directives to where they can be found. My own mother was very organized and meticulous but it was still a months-long task to get things in order. Other people should not have to clean up your mess just because you’d rather play bridge than deal with it. Have some self-discipline!
Sick of This
DEAR SICK OF THIS: I completely understand the burden that you have taken on (I wrote about this issue in my own memoir). In addition to this being a substantial burden of time and attention, it can also be fairly heartbreaking, if the person who has left a physical mess behind has also left a messy relationship.
Understand, however, that many people leave their affairs in a mess because they face sudden health challenges which make this task physically or emotionally impossible not because they are playing bridge. It is also a function of human nature to basically deny that our own powers will fade.
Your point about cleaning up while one is healthy is a good one. There are many resources for people facing this phase of life. One of them is: “ABA/AARP Checklist for My Family: A Guide to My History, Financial Plans and Final Wishes,” by elderlaw attorney Sally Balch Hurme (2015, American Bar Association).
DEAR AMY: Responding to the danger that dogs can present to children, you advised “Been There” to always ask an adult before approaching a dog. I’ve worked for a fly-by-night package delivery company for 25 years. I have been bitten three times now, and each time the owner was present and said, “Don’t worry. The dog doesn’t bite.” Extra caution is recommended.
DEAR OUCH: I can only imagine the burden placed on delivery people, regarding the many territorial animals you encounter in the course of doing your job.
Many years ago, when I was raising a young child in London (a dog-loving place, if ever there was one), people would encourage their pooches to approach me and my baby, saying, “Don’t worry, he loves children.” And I would think, “Yes, for breakfast...” I would always stand between the dog and my child until I was satisfied that this would be a safe encounter.