Dear Amy: My husband and I have been married for 40 years.
We have two daughters in their 30s.
I happily was a stay-at-home mom, and my husband was a busy physician. Although busy, he and I never missed a sporting or school event that our daughters participated in.
We traveled, gave them every opportunity in life, and they had a wonderful childhood.
Or so we thought.
My youngest informed me last night that she had some “childhood trauma” (she couldn’t give me an example) that she is going into therapy for.
She also informed me that her older sister told her that she had a horrible childhood.
My oldest has in the past been very disrespectful and dismissive of both my husband and me. She has never provided a reason for her attitude.
She is mother to our only grandchildren, whom we adore.
Could her father and I have gotten it so wrong?
I’m beyond devastated. Thoughts?
— Totally Confused Mom
Dear Mom: Something seems to be amiss in your ideal family, but your angry daughters are not ready — or willing — to illuminate things for you.
You say the daughter who reports childhood trauma cannot give you an example of what she is referring to.
I say that she is not ready. This could be because you and your husband have a habit of denying problems, explaining things away, or glossing things over.
Your other daughter is disrespectful and dismissive but refuses to explain why.
You are expecting both daughters to explain themselves to you, but they might lack the words, or the wherewithal, to pierce your family’s beautiful façade in order to describe their own experiences and feelings.
They might have had a traumatic experience with a neighbor, a family member, or kids at school. They might have felt afraid, lonely, or harshly judged.
Parents need to make sure that their children understand that they can fail, and fall, and have problems — because that’s what it means to be human.
This is a humbling experience for you. I suggest that you start framing your concern toward them, personally — versus the impact on you — and offer to enter therapy with each, as soon as they are ready.
Dear Amy: My wife and I keep an immaculate home. It is our sanctuary!
We live in a different state from majority of family. My cousins have made it known that they anticipate staying with us as house guests while visiting our area.
This particular family chooses to live in squalid conditions.
They have four small children whose manners and behavior are also very challenging.
We don’t believe that this family will transform the moment they cross our doorstep.
Others say that we should accept hosting them. The theme seems to be that we should make the sacrifice and put up with painful house guests, because that is just what you do when it is your flesh and blood.
My position is that it’s unfair to make us the bad guys for wanting to spare ourselves the trial of hosting these folks in our home.
Envision being trapped in the role of manners cop/maid service for several days! What I see here is a recipe for resentment — definitely ours and probably theirs, too.
What are our options?
How would you respond to family members who imply that we’d be cold-hearted to turn the would-be guests down?
— Touchy Situation
Dear Touchy: For people who have taken a tough stance, you and your wife seem especially vulnerable to the opinions of others.
I don’t know of many households that can easily accommodate a family of six for several days.
Regardless of your capacities, you are unwilling to host this family.
You don’t need to supply reasons.
You don’t need to explain yourself.
You DO need to be willing to appear inflexible or ungenerous to those who will judge your choice.
If the family wants to visit your town, you could research nearby short-term rental homes. It would be kind of you to spend some time with them and host them for a few meals.
Dear Amy: Responding to “Overwhelmed,” who was struggling with cleaning out her mother’s apartment, when my father died, my sister and I took the things that were sentimental and/or useful.
Then the church ladies had a whole house sale.
It took three days and it was a happy event for them.
They kept all of the proceeds, and the only condition was that the house would be left TOTALLY empty.
Dear Downsized: This is brilliant!
(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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