Ask Amy: If the elephant is in the room, take it for a walk

June 1, 2012

DEAR AMY: What is the proper way to acknowledge a special-occasion day — Memorial Day, to be exact — to a mother whose only son passed away? This is my daughter-in-law and we will be together on that day. This is sort of like the elephant in the room.

Can you help, please? -- Concerned Mother-in-Law

DEAR CONCERNED: Take the elephant for a walk. Say directly to your daughter-in-law, “I have been thinking so much about you. I imagine this is a tough day for you, and I just want you to know you are so much in our thoughts.”

She can say, “Oh, it’s been rough, but I’m coping.” She can say, “I don’t really want to talk about it.” Or she can get a little teary and not say anything. But you must acknowledge it to her, as hard or as awkward as you feel it is.

And then you follow her lead and either discuss this or leave it alone. But she will be grateful for your thoughts.

DEAR AMY: We are invited to a baby shower that we morally oppose.

Not only has the mother (our niece), dropped out of college after one semester, but the father of the baby is jobless, married with young kids and has a shady past — he is a “former” drug dealer.

The father is at least 20 years older than our niece, and he has no plans of divorcing his wife. Our niece will be a single young mother getting by with government support, just like the baby’s father.

Should we still go to the baby shower? And if we do, what present should we give, and what should we say? -- Confused

DEAR CONFUSED: You need to refine what you are morally opposed to — and then confine your moral opposition to the adults in this scenario, while not judging or penalizing an unborn child.

Being born to a college dropout, single mother who has a shaky hold on adulthood will saddle this child with challenges at the very start of life.

Do you need to add to this by insisting that you are too morally opposed to your niece’s behavior to contribute to the baby’s well-being with some diapers or a bassinet?

The way to keep this child out of poverty and off of government assistance is for your family to pitch in where you can to help steer this young mom toward a more stable path. She will need to find work, child care and adult mentoring to be the best parent she can be.

And if the drug-dealing dad stays out of the picture — all the better.

Only attend this shower if you can wrap your mind around the idea that you will have a new family member who, hopefully, will someday know you as a kind and thoughtful family member.

Your sibling (the grandparent of this baby) will have a lot to deal with. Surely you can think of ways to be supportive of your sibling without throwing the baby out with the proverbial bath water.

DEAR AMY: I had a thought about the answer you gave to “Betrayed,” who works at a local bar and was feeling “insulted and ... betrayed” by a good friend (now co-worker) whose sleeping with co-workers she thought inappropriate.

I was jarred by her statement that, “Neither of the guys she was with knew about the other until I told them; now we all feel betrayed.”

In my opinion, “Betrayed” had no business cluing-in the two guys — and that by doing so, she, herself, was “betraying” the confidence of her “good friend” and demonstrating her limited understanding of friendship. What do you think? -- DC Fan

DEAR FAN: “Betrayed” had recommended her friend for a job and had asked her to please not sleep with the bouncers. Friend had in fact slept with two of them.

I completely agree that Betrayed seemed to gratuitously notify both men — but these days people who do this have a ready reason: “I was warning him/her about the danger of STDs!”

As I responded, Betrayed is not responsible for her friend’s behavior — on or off the job.

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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