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ASK AMY: First pregnancy ups the ante with tough love


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Dear Amy: I have been separated from my mother for a little over a year. She was mentally and sometimes physically abusive to me as I grew up. She herself was abused and neglected as a child.

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I’ve tried to fix our relationship, but it crosses every boundary I set and puts me in tough situations to prove my love and loyalty.

For example, she asked me to disinvite my brother, who had been estranged from her for years, from our wedding, then refused to attend a party with my in-laws in an effort to embarrass me.

The relationship has been strained for decades. She refuses contact when upset.

Now I am pregnant with our first child. We’re not talking right now (which is a relief), but I don’t know if I should tell him about my pregnancy.

On the one hand, our baby will be her first grandchild. On the other hand, if I reach out and tell him, it will be impossible for me to set boundaries without another extremely stressful outburst at some unclear point on the horizon. My husband and I are not sure: what do I owe him? What’s best for my new family?

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– Torn

Dear Torn: Let’s start with what you “owe” and to whom.

You now owe everything to your child. All. You and your husband will make your share of mistakes – like all parents – but you will give your child a different and better mother than you had.

You will break the legacy of abuse your mother inherited. She was a hurt child and she hurt her children. It stops with you.

Significant life events can prompt your mother to take action. I won’t try to diagnose her (I have a few theories), but you have to assume that regardless of how you behave, she may never behave in bounds.

For example, you tell her about your pregnancy, and she scolds and shames you for not telling her sooner. She can then punish you by initiating a separation – and blaming you for it. Expect this.

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The difference now is that you will be more in control. The way to do this is to be prepared to always say a quick, calm “no” whenever his handling or behavior crosses the line. You say “no” and you (figuratively speaking) show him the door.

I believe it’s possible to have your mother in your life a little – if you want – but the relationship will only be stable if it is stable. Urge and encourage her to get professional help.

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Dear Amy: My dad asked me what would happen to a model train he gave me when I was a kid.

I was never keen on this hobby, and the set remained largely in its original packaging at my parents’ house in Texas.

As my dad hits his mid-70s, I think he’s looking to close some of those memories. I don’t live nearby or usually visit long enough to build it with him. (It looks more like a few starter pieces than a standalone set.)

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Even though I had the space in my California apartment, I’m not sure my interest in model trains extends beyond the connection with my dad.

Is there a way to make him feel appreciated for the gift without accepting the gear? Is there an opportunity to connect with him on this without committing to a hobby?

– HO scale

Dear HO: My first suggestion is that you consider taking a trip to see your parents that lasts long enough for this train to actually be operational.

10 years from now, you might wish you had spent an entire week with your parents when they were 70, where you were just hanging out and playing, with no particular agenda.

Another idea is to tell your dad, “I’m sorry this hobby never ‘caught’, but there’s another fun way to play with this train…” and show him the magic of selling. of these collectibles online. In the original packaging, these parts could fetch a good profit.

Dear Amy: In answer to the question of “Feeling Helpless,” why should this child’s grandparents take financial responsibility for his mental health treatment? What are his parents doing?

I have several grandchildren and I love them all, but I wouldn’t be able to afford that kind of treatment.

– Disappointed

Dear disappointed: I assumed the grandparents had to pay for this residential treatment because the family was exhausted.

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