Dear Amy: My mother was a difficult person. She was often not nice to my sister-in-law. I admired my SIL for taking the high road and for being respectful toward my mother, and I told her so many times.

I bumped heads big time with my mother, too, but we had a good last six years when she moved near me.

My mother died five years ago, and my sister-in-law reminds me often of how awful she was. The last time she brought this up, I stopped her and said that although her experiences are valid, this is my mother and she is dead now, and I find it offensive to keep hearing about it. I validated her feelings and told her again how much I admired her.

Initially she apologized, but afterward apparently decided that I was wrong. She is now quite angry with me, and said she prefers to work through this in therapy. When I tried to reach out, she said she doesn't want to talk about it with me.

I'm upset about this. I feel like making me the bad guy here is gaslighting. What do you think?

Amy says: I think this only qualifies as gaslighting if you actually believe that you're the "bad guy." You don't believe this, because you aren't.

The only thing I think you might have done differently would be if you had altered your wording when responding. Instead of saying that your sister-in-law's remarks about your mother were "offensive," you might have said how this made you feel: i.e. "Now that Mom is gone, I feel so sad continuing to hear about how awful she was to you."

I believe that speaking the truth about abuse or toxic behavior of family members (even after they have died) is valid and can help people resolve the sometimes impossible duality of being the child of an abusive person.

Your mother treated people badly. And yet, she was still your mother.

As for your sister-in-law, talking this through in therapy (instead of with you) is exactly what she should be doing. A skilled therapist will help her figure out who the "bad guy" is and should lead her not to punish you for your mother's sins.

You have been extremely kind and gracious to her, and I hope that will continue. You also have every right to hold your own good memories of your mother.

Set boundaries

Dear Amy: My boyfriend and I are in our late-teens, and we recently learned that I am pregnant. We have a lot to deal with, but we are doing our best to handle this situation.

We saw my boyfriend's sister last weekend, and she told me that she wants to go with us to our doctor appointment so that when we learn the gender of our child, she can then host a "gender reveal" party. (She is married and has a child.)

I know that some parents do this, but I don't think I want to do it. Should she come with us to the appointment? Should we let her do this?

Amy says: No, and no.

You and the baby's father should go to these appointments. If you would like more support at an appointment, you could invite her or another family member, but this invitation should come from you, not the other way around.

Establishing respectful boundaries can be a tough job. But this is the beginning of your life as parents, and you have the right and responsibility to develop good boundaries and good judgment about what you believe is best for you and your child.

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