Annie’s Mailbox for Jan. 15, 2011: Torn between husband and daughter
Dear Annie: I am 55, married for 29 years, and the mother of three children. The problem is our middle child, “Martina,” who is living with a 50-year-old divorced father of two. One of his children is married with kids, so our 24-year-old daughter is living with a grandfather.
Martina lied to us for eight months, and when we found out about the relationship, we were furious and threw her out. The fight was nasty and physical, and the police were involved.
Now my husband wants nothing to do with Martina, and our oldest daughter won’t speak to her sister. Our son doesn’t approve of Martina, but hasn’t cut her off. I have seen Martina a few times since our fight. I have told her that I love her but will never accept the relationship.
Martina wants to come to our house for a visit. My husband says if she comes home, he will leave. But, Annie, I miss her terribly and don’t want to choose between my husband and my child. When I was young, my parents divorced, and I had to choose which one to invite for birthdays and holidays. It was awful. What can I do?
— Torn Mom
Dear Torn: Martina is an adult, and she is not always going to make decisions that you will like. But you must allow her to make her own choices, even when you disagree, and even when there are unpleasant consequences — such as your husband’s refusal to welcome her home.
But also understand that your family’s extreme censure may convince Martina to stay with this man out of sheer stubbornness. Keep meeting with her elsewhere so you can see how she’s doing. She needs to know her family still loves and cares about her.
Dear Annie: My 78-year-old mother-in-law has terrible hygiene and smells awful. She comes to our house, sometimes for weeks at a time, and will not take a bath or a shower. She believes washing “the important parts” constitutes sufficient cleanliness. We have suggested she bathe twice a week, telling her it will make her feel good, but it doesn’t help. The last time she was in our family room, our daughter asked if the baby had a messy diaper.
I know she reads your column, so maybe if she sees it in black and white, she will do better.
— Tired of Being Around the Funk
Dear Tired: When was the last time Mom had a complete physical and an evaluation? It is not unusual for people her age to lose some sense of smell, and we suspect Mom does not realize there is an odor. She also may fear slipping in the bathtub, so be sure yours has grab bars and non-slip mats. If she is not seeing a geriatrician, make an appointment for her, and alert the doctor to check for these problems.
Dear Annie: I smiled when I read the letter from “Losing It in Canada,” the parents of two small boys who do not have great table manners despite their parents’ best efforts.
When my son was young, we went through the same thing. Then one day, he was invited to a girl’s house for dinner. I wanted him to make a nice impression, so I started reviewing table manners with him. He looked at me and said, “Mom, you have been telling me about manners for years. I know what to do. I just choose to ignore you most of the time.”
He went to his friend’s house and displayed excellent manners because those years of teaching had obviously sunk in. Tell those parents not to give up. Their boys are learning.
— Mom in Connecticut
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