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Ask Amy: Uncle won't bond with child

  • Article by: AMY DICKINSON
  • August 14, 2013 - 1:27 PM

Dear Amy: My sister and her husband recently had a baby. They are in their late 40s, and have been together for 20 years. They never told me that they wanted a family, and it turns out they spent years trying to conceive.

I continue to feel hurt that my sister kept this important fact in her life secret from me, even though my nephew is now 3. She disclosed this to some close friends and co-workers. She feels bad that my feelings are hurt, but said that they kept the secret from all the family members and didn’t want to have to explain for years when fertility treatments didn’t work.

While I understand this explanation, and I think of this birth as me gaining a nephew, I am having trouble facing the reality that I never had the relationship with my sister I thought I had, and know now that I never will.

I find myself keeping an emotional distance from her, and I have a hard time emotionally connecting with my nephew.

Please help me reorient my thinking.

Amy says: You don’t say if you have children, but if you did you’d be more sensitive to your sister’s situation. Sometimes it is preferable to share challenging news about your reproductive system with people who you don’t have to face across the Thanksgiving table.

It’s also tough to disclose private information to one family member if you don’t want other family members to know (some siblings feel honor bound to disclose information to parents or other siblings, for instance).

Keeping intimate challenges out of the family realm can also be an attempt to try to protect loved ones from the drama and disappointment of infertility, job instability, splintering marriages or other personal challenges.

Here’s your reorientation: If you refuse to bond with a (no doubt adorable) 3-year-old because you don’t approve of how his mother handled her infertility, then you will never have the relationship with your sister you’d like to have. Rejecting a child is a surefire way to alienate the child’s mother.

Tired of weddings

Dear Amy: I’ve been invited to my daughter’s fourth wedding (it is also her fiancé’s fourth). They are 54.

How many weddings am I supposed to attend? She’ll be angry if I don’t come.

I am 76 and my only income is Social Security, so this is also expensive for me with airline tickets, motel, etc.

I also feel a big wedding is ridiculous, and I really don’t want to go to Florida in August.

If it’s the right thing for me to go, I will. I’m sure this won’t be the last wedding. Please tell me what I should do.

Amy says: It might help if you stopped seeing your daughter’s weddings as the start of yet another failed marriage, and more as family reunions.

If there is any compelling reason to go to this wedding (i.e. you might see friends and family, meet some new people — or even have fun), you should talk yourself into it.

However — and this is a big however — I think it’s kind, respectful and supportive for a middle-aged couple throwing a big fourth wedding to also pay for the mother of the bride’s flight and hotel room.

If she insists on having you there, she should act like a big girl and treat you to the trip.

Check laws on clergy

Dear Amy: Regarding the letter from the woman about her “nonreligious” Jewish husband who went online to buy an ordination so he could officiate at his son’s wedding (and get upgraded by airlines for being “clergy”), the commonwealth of Virginia expressly precludes anyone from doing this.

Several couples have called upon me at the last minute to perform their ceremony when they learn that online ordinations are not valid in our state.

Regardless of any costume or paper he shows to any fool who would believe him, there is only one title this guy deserves: “schlemiel!”

Amy says: Couples wanting to be married by an online schlemiel should definitely check their state laws before saying “I do.”

Send questions via e-mail to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com.

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