Q. Re: Where’s the Money?: I'm the pregnant girl's dad. My anger is that this would NOT have happened at my home. I supervise parties and visits, and the fact that this other family was so irresponsible really galls me. I do think they have a duty to make right their lapse.
A: Ever heard of a car? They have back seats that have been the site of innumerable conceptions since the creation of the Model-T Ford. You can't seriously think that as long as parents supervise parties, a pair of horny 16-year-olds can't find a place to get it on. If you want to pursue this as a legal action, you will get nowhere and humiliate your daughter. Focus on the issue, Dad, which is that you're on track to become a grandfather.
Q. Military Sister: My brother-in-law is active duty in the military. I have two nephews and a daughter and son. When my BIL is deployed, I see my sister often, especially since our kids attend the same school and are in many different activities together. However, when my BIL is on furlough or has extended time at home, it is pretty much radio silence on her end. I know having a military spouse must be a unique and horrifying challenge, and I certainly appreciate her wanting to spend as much time as possible with her husband. However, a few times during her husband's last stay, some genuinely important things happened—I lost a late-term pregnancy, and our mother was in the hospital—both of which were either ignored or brushed off by my sister. When her husband is deployed and she is by herself, I highly doubt she would have reacted in this manner. Our current dynamic is starting to wear on me. My husband gets frustrated that when her husband is gone, she frequently asks him for help with things around the house but rarely responds in kind to us. I love my sister, and I want a better relationship with her, but I'm not sure how to bring this up to her. She can be very sensitive about military duty and the sacrifice involved, and I want to maintain as much of a relationship as we can.
A: It's good you understand the unique pressure the family of deployed military personnel face. And it also makes some sense that when Dad is home, the family is focused on getting every moment possible out of it. But ignoring a sister who lost a late-term pregnancy or a mother who was in the hospital is not OK. Yes, you give your sister a lot of leeway, but her circumstances do not entitle her to act as if no one else experiences pain or needs support. This is another one of those "painful talk" times. You start by acknowledging her situation and that you hope she feels you're there for her. But you say that when you lost your baby you really felt alone and that your mother was hurt she didn't show up at the hospital. Then hear her out, but don't get in an extended dialogue about whose situation is worse. Let's hope upon reflection she can understand the rightness of what you have to say.
Q. Romance: My girlfriend passed away from lung cancer two years ago. Before she passed, she made me promise to look after her mother, who is 87, widowed, with no other children, living alone, and housebound. I've been a faithful visitor, but lately she is making it very clear that she wants more ... a LOT more. For a lot of reasons, I don't want a romantic relationship with her—primarily because she's 25 years my senior, but until now I have just laughed off her flirting. Now, she's hitting my phone twice a day, begging me to visit her, telling me that she misses my hugs and kisses. How can I keep my promise and my dignity at the same time, without hurting the old lady too much?
A: You get her a doctor and explain there has been an alarming change in her behavior and she gets a complete work up. If this is the beginning of dementia, you are going to have to have a serious assessment as to what "looking after" the elderly mother of your late girlfriend means. You could be in for a long, expensive decline and if that is beyond your capacity to oversee, you have to make sure that there are social services in place to look after this lonely woman. Once you get a diagnosis, you can check with a support group for Alzheimer's, if that's what this is, about how to deal with someone who is losing the ability to make appropriate choices. I'm sorry for the loss of your girlfriend, and you should be proud that you have done yeoman's work in stepping up and caring for her mother.
Q. Stepdaughter Raising Her Siblings' Kids: My stepdaughter is a lovely 27-year-old woman with two young kids and a decent, hardworking partner. She is a stay-at-home mother. Her partner is a midlevel manager at a fast-food place, making well under $30,000. She is also raising her half-sister's two teenagers plus her brother's teenager because of family problems. Money is tight, and her father and I often supplement the household. We can afford the money but are tired of the immense amount of time, energy, and outright drama that comes with a situation like theirs. We feel that she wants to be the savior in her family, while we think her attention should be on her own immediate family. There are other family members, including biological parents, who could step up to the plate, but she believes these kids are better served under her roof, and she has fought to keep them, even though no funds are coming her way because of them. Her partner feels the pressure of having all these extra people in his home and life, but he goes along with what she wants. We have talked to her about our feelings, and she stands her ground. Do we keep giving money (a few hundred a month), or do we fold our arms and say, "No more"?
A: I'm not sure what the "no more" gets you, except that it definitely means less for five needy kids. This is your husband's daughter, and you say that you can afford to supplement their income. Your stepdaughter sounds generous, stubborn, and like someone who has too much on her plate. But your counsel just causes her to close down. You could try saying that anyone in her situation would need help, so you'd like to hire a social worker for her to aid her in sorting out the custody issues and obligations with her siblings. If she won't consider that kind of help, then there's not much you can do—except withdraw your financial support. I think that won't change things, except for the worse. You want to preserve your relationship with her so that you and your husband can be a stabilizing force in the lives of these children.
Emily Yoffe: Thanks, everyone. I hope you all have a banner week.
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