Ask Amy: Biological father’s return inspires family’s fear

May 3, 2012

An earlier version of this story had an incorrect headline. This version has been updated.

DEAR AMY: My granddaughters are 12 and 9 years old, and they haven't seen their biological father in seven years. This is by his choice -- he abandoned his family and left the state. My daughter filed for divorce when he didn't return after a year. She has really struggled to keep her head above water and care for her daughters -- emotionally and financially.

My daughter met a very nice man six years ago and has since married him. My son-in-law has stepped in and really taken care of the girls. They call him dad and love him very much.Their biological father has reappeared after all this time and says he wants to get reacquainted with the girls. We are all against it. My daughter has had a talk with my granddaughters and explained that their biological father has returned, and the girls are not interested in meeting him.

They know their dad is the one who takes care of their daily needs, and they are scared to be involved with somebody who is essentially a stranger to them.I wish the biological father would just stay gone and not disrupt the children's lives.What do you think? Is this fair? Is it a reasonable request?W e feel so afraid and are always looking over our shoulders. -- Worried Sick Grandmother

DEAR WORRIED SICK: It is not clear why you report feeling "afraid." I can understand your anxiety over this, but fear is a whole other issue. I'm going to assume that as far as you know, this dad is not actually dangerous -- but that you perceive his presence as dangerous to your family's stability.

This reappearance has legal as well as emotional repercussions for the parents and children.You also don't say whether this father has been paying child support, but if he has been, it should be recognized as demonstrating a commitment to them.If he has not been paying child support, then his re-emergence is an opportunity for him to make things right financially.

Your daughter and her husband should see a lawyer with expertise in parental rights to clarify some of these outstanding legal issues and questions before they communicate too much with the ex-husband.You should not wish this father completely out of your grandchildren's lives, if only because he may emerge sporadically for many years to come, regardless of how you (or others) feel about it.It is best if the kids know him -- even a little bit -- so they can be empowered and unafraid, and can learn to cope with this on their own terms as they mature.

DEAR AMY: I am a woman in my late 50s who, due to embezzlement, has been left penniless. I faced the unfortunate reality of moving in with my mother. I help with the housework, pay rent, phone and other expenses.My mother nags me incessantly about everything. I have repeatedly asked her to stop talking to me like a child, which leads to many arguments.I told her that if she doesn't treat me with respect like an adult, I will not pay rent because I don't need the verbal abuse.Is this going too far? -- Frustrated

DEAR FRUSTRATED: This situation raises red flags that unless things change, it could lead to an increasingly toxic and potentially abusive situation for both of you. This is obviously stressing your family to the breaking point.You should not withhold your rent, however.

Doing this will not work -- and it may make things worse. If you are able to afford paying rent and other expenses at your mother's home, then you should investigate the possibility of moving out and renting a room in someone else's home.

DEAR AMY: I was offended by your response to "Offended Omnivore," whose vegetarian friend was peppering her with notices about her "disgusting" habit of eating meat.

Granted, her rantings were obnoxious, but your suggestion that she treat these statements as "vegetarian comedy" was obnoxious too. And your suggestion that she enjoy this along with a "juicy steak" was offensive. -- Also Offended

DEAR OFFENDED: I was reacting to the reality that even a vegetarian can be a jerk.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

2012 by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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