Posted: Tuesday, July 1, 2008 8:46 pm
Dear Annie: A few months ago, our 31-year-old son married a 27-year-old woman with two young children. They have known each other for two years. Our daughter-in-law had both children out of wedlock, each by a different father. At first, we were very concerned about this, but we have welcomed her and her children into our family.
My husband and I decided not to tell my 90-year-old father about the children’s parentage. Dad is of a generation that frowns on living together before marriage, premarital sex, etc. He has a history of abusive behavior, and we know he would berate our son, his wife and the children if he knew the history.
The children now are curious about their new great-grandfather and want to send him pictures. Our son asked what he should do. His wife was not aware of the deception. We advised that he tell her the truth, which he did, and they are in the process of deciding what to tell the children.
We all feel pretty sick about this situation. My daughter-in-law has never met my father, so I’m not sure she can appreciate the type of person he is and how abusive he can be. I want to explain why we handled it this way. Do you have any advice for resolving this family crisis? — Confused Mom
Dear Confused: Give your daughter-in-law as much information as you can about your father’s opinions and anger issues. Tell her he is not likely to be the warm and fuzzy grandpa the kids expect. If she still wants to risk being completely honest, that is up to her and her husband, and they will deal with the fallout. If Grandpa berates you about your daughter-in-law, ignore him. There is no harm, however, in withholding some information from a 90-year-old man who is likely to be apoplectic at the news. Send a picture if you wish, but don’t elaborate.
Dear Annie: My husband is an alcoholic. Five years ago, he was in an accident and arrested for DUI. It was a new beginning for us. I would like to thank the officer who found him because it was the eye-opener he needed. He quit drinking that day.
We have two children who are starting to hit the difficult teen years. They still remember the misery of their father’s drinking, but it doesn’t guarantee they won’t follow in Dad’s footsteps. What can I do to protect my kids from becoming alcoholics like their father? — Concerned Mother
Dear Concerned: Your children are old enough to understand that they may have a predisposition to alcoholism and, therefore, a great responsibility to be extra careful when tempted to drink. You cannot prevent them from experimenting, but you can help them appreciate that the repercussions may be more serious than they anticipate and that their friends’ reactions to alcohol is not going to be an accurate gauge of what might happen to them. Please have this discussion with them soon.
Dear Annie: This is in reference to “Bonnie in Napa, Calif.,” who broke her husband of his habit of spitting on the sidewalk by showing him how disgusting it was when she did it. Not only is it a revolting habit to spit in public, it is also illegal. This dates back to Typhoid Mary. — Sanitary Sam
Dear Sam: Actually, it depends on the local ordinances. For centuries, people spat on the floor in public places. The invention of spittoons encouraged them to direct their efforts in more specific locations. Concern about the spread of tuberculosis in the late 19th century, followed by the influenza epidemic of 1918, were what pushed many cities to enact laws against public expectoration. Still, such laws are rarely enforced, which means people feel free to disregard them and disgust us all.
Happy Canada Day to all our readers north of the border.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
Published in The Messenger 7.1.08