Posted: Monday, May 2, 2011 8:01 pm
Dear Annie: When I married my husband, I suddenly became a full-time stepmother to his three young children, all younger than age 5. Their mother would pop up when it was convenient for her. She rarely called on their birthdays and often left them waiting for scheduled visits. I raised those children, and they called me “Mommy.”
Now, after 10 years, the mother has returned and plans to stick around. This woman is irresponsible, immature and impossible to reason with. There have been many problems, including drug use around the children. They are afraid to upset her for fear she will abandon them again. I understand their worries. She has threatened on more than one occasion to walk out on them if they tell their father about her drug use. She leaves them alone for hours or brings them around people the cihldren do not feel comfortable with.
She tells the children that my husband kept her from seeing them all those years, which is patently untrue. He has gone out of his way to make sure they have some sort of relationship. I truly try my best to stay out of the middle even though I don’t feel she behaves in the best interests of the children. She says I’m “just the stepmom” and should keep my mouth shut.
Are my opinions irrelevant? She has violated every court order as if she is above the law. She also has no problem involving the children in this mess and seems to have won them over by playing the victim. How should I deal with this problem that won’t go away? — Irrelevant Mommy
Dear Mommy: Those children desperately want their mother’s love and will eventually realize that it comes with strings attached. Until then, let your husband handle all problems so you don’t become the target of her manipulations. Keep a record of any damaging behavior, missed visits, drug use, etc., which your husband should report to his attorney. If the children have not had counseling, please consider it. And give them extra doses of affection, attention and stability. They need you to be their rock.
Dear Annie: I have three sisters. I’m the “odd man out” because I neither smoke nor drink to excess as they do. Several times, they have made plans to do something as a family and not invited me. Recently, when my sister from out of state visited, I wasn’t told. I feel left out and unwanted.
Since my parents divorced 10 years ago, we’ve drifted apart. I am the only one who maintains contact with my father (a difficult man), and I suspect they believe I “spy” for him. I do not, although sometimes he tells me information about them that I didn’t know.
We all are on Facebook, but I seldom get to check because of work, family and household obligations. I’m in a quandary as to whether to confront them, and if so, how? — Texas
Dear Texas: A confrontation implies belligerence. It’s OK to tell your siblings, nicely, that you feel hurt when you are excluded from family events and would like to be notified when someone is in town. But you should also do your part by making a greater effort to stay in touch, either via Facebook, e-mail or phone.
Dear Annie: Love your column. The letter from “Love My In-Laws, But” gave me a big laugh. Obviously that “gracious hostess” is not Italian. In my family, a snack is usually a seven-course meal, and we always urge our guests to eat, eat, eat! We prepare enough for an army. My children are all adults, but I still make huge Sunday dinners for children, grandchildren, spouses, significant others, the more the merrier.
She is welcome to bring her in-laws to my house, and if there are any leftovers, she can have them. — Italian Mama
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 5777 W. Century Blvd., Ste. 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
Published in The Messenger 5.2.11