Dear Amy: My hus­band had a rough child­hood. His mother was with a man who phys­i­cally abused him and sex­u­ally abused his sis­ter. His mother knew what was

The Denver Post - - LIFE & CULTURE - by Amy Dick­in­son Send ques­tions via e-mail to askamy@tri­bune.com or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tri­bune, TT500, 435 N. Michi­gan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.

go­ing on, but didn’t take any steps to pro­tect her chil­dren. She cut off ties to ex­tended fam­ily and iso­lated her kids. I pre­sume she was abused also.

My hus­band left home when he was 16. He moved half­way across the coun­try, man­aged to fin­ish high school and put him­self through col­lege, all while liv­ing in home­less shel­ters or on street cor­ners.

My hus­band still has con­tact with his mother, and his mom and her new hus­band (whom we have met on a few oc­ca­sions) have de­cided to come out to our house for Christ­mas. They didn’t ask; they just in­vited them­selves.

Ev­ery fiber of my be­ing screams that she shouldn’t be trusted and her in­ter­ac­tion with my kids should be closely su­per­vised. My hus­band thinks I’m be­ing il­log­i­cal and way too over­pro­tec­tive. He says his mother would never do or al­low our kids to be harmed. Am I crazy for feel­ing this way? It’s been al­most 20 years since my hus­band left. Can a per­son re­ally change in that time? —

Over­pro­tec­tive Mama Bear

Dear Mama Bear: Your moth­erin-law might have changed, but one sign that she has fur­ther to go is her choice to vi­o­late a very ba­sic boundary and in­vite her­self to your home over the hol­i­day. Why hasn’t any­one asked if this is OK with you?

Per­haps your hus­band hasn’t given you the full story re­gard­ing who is­sued the in­vi­ta­tion, but re­gard­less — you and your hus­band equally share the home and you should also share ma­jor de­ci­sions re­gard­ing guests.

The short an­swer is that it is pos­si­ble your mother-in-law has changed, but you don’t know your mother-in­law’s new hus­band (nor does your hus­band), and so — you should ab­so­lutely keep a close eye on the chil­dren.

Bring­ing a new male fam­ily mem­ber into the house­hold places your chil­dren at risk.

Never leave your chil­dren alone with the older cou­ple, for any length of time. Do not bow to pres­sure from your mother-in-law (or your hus­band) to let them babysit or take the kids alone on out­ings. If they chal­lenge your judg­ment, ex­plain your­self — frankly, firmly and clearly.

I hope you will sup­port your hus­band’s ef­fort to make peace with his mother. This could be a very im­por­tant step in his per­sonal de­vel­op­ment. But your job as par­ents is to use an abun­dance of cau­tion re­gard­ing your own chil­dren. Do not cre­ate or per­mit any sit­u­a­tions that might carry this ter­ri­ble pat­tern of ne­glect and abuse into the next gen­er­a­tion.

Dear Amy: My close friend’s mother died on my birthday five days ago. She was in the ad­vanced stages of de­men­tia and was liv­ing in a nurs­ing home, but her death came as a shock to my friend, who was very in­volved in her care.

My friend barely spoke to me about it. I tried call­ing her. She texted very brief state­ments in re­ply. I said, “I am here for you.” I asked how she was feel­ing. I said, “I imag­ine there is both sad­ness and re­lief.” Noth­ing. I told her I was sur­prised and didn’t un­der­stand why she hadn’t spo­ken to me more about what was go­ing on with her. We are close. She spills her guts reg­u­larly to me about ev­ery other lit­tle and big thing in her life. And I do the same.

I re­al­ize that peo­ple grieve in their own way, and I want to honor what­ever she needs to do. I feel guilty for mak­ing this about me, but I feel shut out. What’s your take? — Un­sure

Dear Un­sure: My take is that your friend is griev­ing, and that she does not feel “re­lieved” by her mother’s death. She also may won­der why you — her very in­ti­mate friend — keep bug­ging her about your friend­ship when her mother just died.

I sug­gest that you send her a hand­writ­ten note, re­mem­ber­ing her mother and ex­press­ing your con­do­lences. At­tend any funeral or me­mo­rial ser­vice. Drop off a plate of her fa­vorite food or flow­ers. In­vite her to go for a walk, but don’t worry about it if she doesn’t get back to you. Stop pok­ing her to see if she is done yet. The griev­ing process changes peo­ple. Let her change, and stand with her while she does.

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