Posted: Wednesday, April 11, 2012 8:00 pm
Dear Annie: I am a 22-year-old senior in college and will graduate in May. There is a growing riff in my family, and most of it is due to my stepmother. She says horrible things about my family (and others) when she thinks no one is listening. But we’ve heard her. In fact, my grandmother and I recently overheard some awful remarks on the way to a family member’s funeral.
When anything she says or does gets back to my dad, he claims we blame her for everything and blows up at us. I can barely speak to him anymore without accidentally starting a fight. Last year, these tiffs ruined my birthday and our family celebrations. Dad refused to come to Christmas Eve dinner and really upset my elderly grandmother.
My stepmom ran up a massive credit card debt, and my father had to stop helping me pay for tuition halfway through the school year. It has gotten to the point where I’m considering medication for stress in order to handle coming home during spring break. I really don’t want to become one of those people who loses contact with her family, but this has been building for a long time. It’s harder and harder to forgive and forget and behave as if nothing is wrong.
What can I do to alleviate this situation? — Too Much Drama in Virginia
Dear Virginia: You need to step back from the drama and understand that your father will always defend his wife. He isn’t going to leave her because of your criticisms, nor is he willing to make her behavior an issue within his marriage. We recommend you spend as little time as possible around your stepmother, don’t bring up her faults to your father and, when you graduate, move into your own place.
Dear Annie: I have eight grandchildren from high-school age on up. None lives nearby, although I see them several times a year at family events. I truly love them all. Long ago, not knowing sizes or preferences, I stopped sending gifts and now send $100 checks for their birthdays and at Christmas.
Some of them respond immediately with thank-you notes, emails or phone calls. A few grandchildren respond most of the time. But there is one I never hear from at all. What should a grandmother do? I enjoy being able to give them each a check and don’t want to stop, but I admit that I’m getting more and more annoyed when I don’t get a response, especially with the one granddaughter in her early 20s who never says thank you.
If I send a card acknowledging her birthday, but without the expected check, do you think she would figure out the reason? — Schenectady, N.Y.
Dear N.Y.: Maybe, but even if she does, it doesn’t guarantee a change in her response. We suggest being more direct and then giving her one more opportunity to show her gratitude for your generosity. Call or email your errant granddaughter, and tell her you are never sure your gifts arrive because she doesn’t acknowledge them, and it makes you wonder if perhaps she’d rather not receive them. Say that even a brief email would be much appreciated. Consider it a teachable moment.
Dear Annie: This is for “Steve in Ohio.” My father-in-law was Frank, my sister’s husband was Frank, and another brother-in-law was Frank. When our son was born, we named him Frank after my father-in-law. My sister named her son Frank. So did my sister-in-law. We also had two cousins named Frank. When we were together, things could get quite confusing and funny, but when someone called Frank Paul or Frank Peter, they knew they were in trouble.
They are all grown now and just fine. The next generation is carrying on the tradition of naming their first son Frank. — Pennsylvania
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. 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 4.11.12