Dear Amy: I am 33 and married with a 4-year-old son. My mother has always been distant and controlling. She shuts down if things don’t go her way. She tries to undermine or sabotage family events to exert her control. She also makes bigoted comments and sometimes drinks to excess. She then plays innocent and claims I am attacking her.
I learned early on that I will never have a loving mother-daughter bond, but now I don’t know if we can even be in the same room.
Recently, on a family vacation, my parents took my son and me to a restaurant. We waited 90 minutes for a table. While we were waiting, my son had a little “accident.” I decided I would take him home, quickly change his clothes and come back. I told my parents it would take a half-hour and that they should stay and have appetizers, and we would be back.
They got up and followed us out. I begged them to stay. They didn’t listen.
I said I feel they don’t respect me or my son. They got defensive. My mother hasn’t spoken to me since.
The next morning, I packed up my son and left. We were supposed to be there for four more days.
Did I overreact, or was I justified in possibly severing my relationship with my mother? I felt a twinge of guilt for leaving after my parents planned and paid for this vacation to spend time with their grandson.
Amy says: Your folks left the restaurant, and you retaliated by leaving forever. The way you describe your mother, this sounds like something she would do. So yes, I think you did overreact to this.
I assume your choice was influenced by a lifetime of feeling off-kilter by your relationship with your folks. They wrote the script that you are now following. The fact that you are now a parent is bringing all of this to a boiling point, but it also presents opportunities for you to forge a more balanced relationship.
You might gain some insight by reading “Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life” by Susan Forward and Craig Buck (2002, Bantam).
Wait to bring a date
Dear Amy: I’m a 60-year-old widower. My wife died in early 2013. We were married for more than 30 years. Our marriage was incredibly blessed.
We raised her two sons from a previous marriage (we did not have additional children). My stepsons are now in their 40s. I have three grandkids, ages 10 to 14. They are great kids. A grandchild is named after me.
I’m now dating and plan to ask my stepsons if I can bring a companion to family holiday functions. I’m not asking for an immediate response from them, knowing they need time to consider.
I’ll honor their response. I don’t want to give control of my remaining life to my stepsons, but I also realize the complex task the parents would face in discussing the subject with the grandchildren.
How should I handle the sensitive issue?
Amy says: You are proposing to bring a companion to celebrate the first holiday season since your late wife’s death. You don’t mention if your stepsons are aware that you are dating anyone. You can let them know you’re seeing someone and see if they offer an invitation — but don’t ask them to invite her.