The Curse of the Grandma


I am engaged, with a 6-year-old daughter from a previous relationship. I do not want my fiance’s mother to be part of my child’s life. She smokes and curses constantly, and has made some racist remarks. She thinks she will step into the role of grandma, but I don’t think she’s fit to be around my child or future children. My daughter already has two loving grandmothers. How do I keep this one out? —Grossed Out

What’s missing here is what your fiance — the soon-to-be-stepfather of your child — has to say about all this. Because it’s simply not fair (we’re talking fraudulent-Kardashian-marriage unfair) for you to wed with secret plans to push his mother away afterward. In fact, it’s probably unrealistic and potentially problematic to boycott her completely; you want to aim not for a wholesale condemnation of her being (though she sounds like a peach!), but rather specific boundaries about her behaviors. So she still gets to be Grandma, but cigarettes are for outside; “shoot” and “fudge” need to become part of her vocabulary; and any racist remarks will end the visit for the day.

Very One-Sided Sibling Rivalry

I’m HUGELY jealous of my younger sister. I would never admit that to her, of course. Instead, I am a pretty big jerk to her and don’t let her get close. She already has her life together in a way I feel like I never will. She’s wanted to have a real relationship with me for a long time, but I don’t know how to get past my feelings of anger. —Mean Big Sis

This is one of the most honest letters I’ve gotten in a long time. You’ve already done so much of the work by allowing yourself to recognize the dynamic that’s at play. If you’re ready to do more, write her a letter. You need not bare all, but give her a hint of your vulnerability and your hope for the future. (“I know I don’t always give back what you put in; I struggle with your success sometimes, but it’s something I want to work on, and it doesn’t make me love you any less.”) Then take the small steps: a 15-minute phone call; a funny email that doesn’t involve a forward; an earnest “How are you?” that waits for a real answer. And realize two things: that her life is probably not as easy as it seems, and that a therapist could really help if the anger refuses to budge.

Dr. Andrea Bonior writes Express' advice column, Baggage Check.
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