Posted: Friday, January 6, 2012 8:00 pm
Dear Annie: Seven years ago, I married into a wonderful family. It was my second marriage, and the family accepted my 10-year-old son as their own.
My father-in-law has always been nice to me, but I’ve been told there was a lot of verbal abuse when my husband and his siblings were growing up. In the past couple of years, Grandpa has shown some symptoms of dementia.
At the last family gathering, my son, now 17, went into the kitchen to talk to Grandpa. From the dining room, we all heard Grandpa scream at my son, some nonsense about never returning a book. My husband’s family just sat there behaving as if nothing was happening, so I went in to rescue my child.
I know Grandpa won’t remember how he acted, but I am having a problem dealing with the rest of my husband’s family. Not one of them said a thing or offered my son a word of comfort or sympathy. I stood there crying as the whole family sat at the table with eyes downcast.
My husband apologized for not handling it better, but doesn’t want to do anything to damage the relationship with his siblings. But they are not the loving family I thought they were. I feel everyone at that table owes my son and me an apology. I want my husband to be as angry as I am. I no longer wish to attend family gatherings, because I want to make it clear that their behavior was hurtful.
What is a good compromise that would allow me a little dignity (so they know I’m not a doormat) but still permit my husband and children to be with the family? — Furious in Florida
Dear Furious: We are not excusing the family’s behavior, but they have been living with an angry Grandpa for years. Their response implied self-preservation rather than “not loving.” Consider this an opportunity to teach them how to react appropriately to such outbursts. Have a family powwow. Tell them how upset you were that they didn’t protect your son, and then explain exactly how you wish they would have behaved instead. Also speak to your son. He’s old enough to understand that Grandpa isn’t quite himself and these rants are beyond his control.
Dear Annie: We have young adult children who stayed at our home over the holidays and spent the majority of time engaged with their individual smart phones. They rarely interacted with other family members. I found the behavior disrespectful and tried feebly to say something, without success.
My husband and I do not want to accept this rude behavior again. What is the proper way to set boundaries with these young adults, one of whom is still being supported by us? — Competing for Face Time
Dear Competing: Set ground rules for when the kids are in your presence, but don’t do it “feebly.” Allow them to use their phones when they are lounging around, but during meals, insist that all phones be turned off. Remind them when necessary. If you engage the kids in a conversation, ask them to please put the phones away for the duration. Be pleasant, but firm and consistent.
Dear Annie: Here’s how I solved the problem of kids who don’t appreciate what you give them. My nephew is like that. I thought he received too many toys for his birthday and Christmas, so I always bought him clothes. One time, he reluctantly tore the paper off my gift, peeked inside and casually tossed it aside, barely managing to squeeze out a “thank you.”
That was the last Christmas he received a wrapped gift from me. From that time forward, I took the money I would have spent and put it in a savings account. I would place the deposit slip with the balance inside the birthday or Christmas card. For his high school graduation, he will receive a check for $600. — Not Frustrated Anymore in Virginia
Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 5777 W. Century Blvd., Ste. 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045.
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 1.6.12