Help! A Neighbor Has Been Poisoning Our “Cat Colony.”

Advice on manners and morals.
March 26 2013 6:15 AM

I Have but Nine Lives to Give

In a live chat, Prudie advises the caretaker of a “cat colony” whose unhappy neighbor may be resorting to poison.

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A: What is wrong with his kids? Dad finally dumps their shrew of a mother, finds someone younger, hotter, nicer (and fertile to boot!), and they're not celebrating. What ungrateful little beasts. OK, I'll give you points for actually wanting your husband's previous family in your lives, but please, try to see these events from their perspective. Consider that they likely love their mother and feel loyalty to her, and that they even prefer her to you, even though she is by your own description a dreadful person. You may not understand this, but it is not the dream of every twentysomething to have a new sibling young enough to be their own child. And it's their prerogative to answer in the negative to the request that if you and your husband make an early departure that they raise the kid. So back off. Encourage your husband to see his existing children separately. Invite them over occasionally for an adult evening—they are adults after all and are not going to ever think of you in motherly terms. Be open to their having a relationship with their new sibling, but don't force one on them. Not trying to grab them by the scruff of their necks and make them love their new family will be more effective in eventually allowing them to like all of you.

Q. Re: Attending Church: This could have been my dad writing in. Please, please, please have an OPEN discussion with your children and DO NOT force them to go to church. I went through that age of questioning why I should attend mass and by not talking about it, it drove a very large rift between my parents and me. It took years to finally be able to speak about it. Religion and faith are two different things. Please have these talks and let your children be free to come to you!

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A: Thanks for this. I agree letting the kids respectfully have their say, hearing them out, and explaining your own perspective is a lot more powerful than, "You're going to church, or else!"

Q. Dealing with Death: My fiancé and I typically have a great relationship, but we've had a hard time seeing eye to eye on how to deal with the death of a family member. We are both fortunate to come from very loving, supportive, and close families. But my family has some health issues and lifestyle choices that led all four of my grandparents and a few aunts and uncles to passing away in their 60s and early 70s. My fiancé's family is the picture of health, and most people live into their 90s. When his grandmother passed away a few months ago at the age of 96, the family staged a four-day visitation and funeral weekend. On day three I asked him if services in his family are always like this and he said it was the first family funeral he'd been to. I understand that everybody grieves differently, but since then nearly every weekend we are invited somewhere to sit around, eat, and talk about Grandma. I love my fiancé, and his family truly are wonderful people. But I think this style of grieving is ultimately damaging, since it doesn't give anybody the chance to move on. I suggested skipping the next grief session, and my fiancé said, "Just because your family doesn't care when somebody dies doesn't mean my family is the same way." I don't want to minimize his grief, but I also think clinging to this for this amount of time is unhealthy. Any advice for moving forward? 

A: Just because your family is able to say, "Well, Walter sure enjoyed his cigarettes and his booze. So long, buddy!" doesn't mean everyone can move on so easily. I agree that when your loved ones hit their 90s it's a good idea for everyone to mentally rehearse their departure so that while one can grieve, it can also be done with a sense of peace about the end of a long life, well lived. But your fiancé's family is having a harder time dealing with the death of Grandma. I'm wondering if you're fairly characterizing these get-togethers. It's one thing if the family is simply gathering and someone mentions a memory of Grandma or says how much she would enjoy seeing little Isabella learn to walk. It's another if these really are weekly grief support sessions. If it's the latter, instead of telling your boyfriend it's time to get over it—which will only make him feel disloyal to his grandmother—explain that you understand these events are important for his family to process this loss, but it would be better for him to go without you. I'm pretty confident it won't be long before people start moving on.

Q. Her Two Dads: When I was 22, I was so anxious to get away from a bad home situation, I married a nice guy I'd been dating. He was really a sweetheart, and we had a daughter together. Things were great until he lost his job and started drinking; we subsequently split up while my daughter was still a toddler. Several years later, I met and married the man who adopted her and raised her as her own. We were together for 15 years until he started seeing someone on the side. My daughter’s adoptive father and I split shortly before she graduated from high school. She has always known her biological father (who subsequently cleaned up and got his act together), and is friendly with him and his wife. When I remarried again a few years ago, I didn't tell my current husband about her bio dad; as far as I'm concerned, the man who raised her and adopted her is "Dad." Furthermore, since she was an adult and out of the house long before we met, I didn't think it was a big deal because we're well past the age of having kids ourselves. Am I being unreasonable about this? She refers to her adoptive father as "Dad," so while I haven't talked to her about it, she seems to feel the same way I do, but I have friends who insist I'm being deceitful.

A: A terrible upbringing can have consequences for the rest of your life. It sounds as if you've made it out, but not without a lot of bumps. But I fail to understand why you would hide the very important information that your daughter was the product of your first marriage. I'm guessing it's because you preferred not to disclose you'd had two previous marriages. I don't know how long you've been with your current spouse, but I agree with your friends that this is the kind of important biographical information one shares. Before the information is sprung on your husband, I think you need to tell him you're embarrassed about something about your past you withheld. He'll probably be so worried that you were a porn star in your youth, that he'll be relieved that your secret is that you had a brief, youthful marriage that produced your wonderful daughter.

Emily Yoffe: Thanks, everyone. Talk to you next week.

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