DEAR AMY: I am divorced and have two young children. Their father and I share equal custody. I have had a boyfriend for a year. He has a young child of his own and we all live together as a blended family. This man is kind, sensitive, supportive and loving, everything my ex-husband was not.
There’s one problem. My kids tend to act up a lot and I’m not sure why. His child NEVER acts up. She’s helpful, listens, is easygoing, etc. My kids are the exact opposite!
This past year, my boyfriend has really been working with my kids on discipline and setting good examples, and so have I. I am an easygoing person but their dad is not. I think they get this trait from him. I don’t really know what goes on when they’re with him. When they come back to us, I feel like we’re going backward. My daughter (age 10) doesn’t act her age. She whines like a 3-year-old, is unhelpful around the house and with her younger brother, etc.
Now my boyfriend is showing hostility toward ME because of their behavior. I honestly do my best at disciplining them, but because his child is “perfect” he does not understand. I know I’m trying but he doesn’t see that. What should I do? -- Challenged Mom
DEAR MOM: You should take your kids’ behavior not as a sign that they are “bad,” but that they are very stressed. Your daughter’s regression does not mean that she is immature, but having trouble coping.
You should establish consistent routines, make sure they get plenty of healthy food and sleep, and treat them with firm, unflappable, loving kindness. Their routine of switching households is extremely challenging (could you do it?). You, not your boyfriend, should be the primary disciplinarian. Let him teach you how.
Your whole crew could benefit from some professional mentoring. The kids need to see your family as a “team,” with good days and bad days, but always on the same side.
Most important, your daughter should get some private counseling with a child therapist. Because you are not willing/able to communicate with her father, you should make sure she is safe and well cared for when she is in his household. Her behavior could be a red flag that there is a serious problem.
DEAR AMY: I have had a friend, “Margaret,” for 18 years. We are both over 50 years old and have shared many important life-changing events.
On her birthday, she had a party at her house. I arrived early to help out and parked in front of her house, as I have done for the past 18 years. Unbeknownst to me, there is a new restricted parking zone in that spot. I got a $50 ticket!
I felt furious, betrayed and shocked that Margaret had not informed me or warned me not to park there. She told me privately that she would pay half of the ticket. The due date came and went, I paid the ticket, and nothing more was said. The other day, I made a remark about the $50 and she rolled her eyes. That would have been the perfect moment to offer to help pay.
She has never apologized. I would never let this happen to a friend. This is interfering with my trust and good feelings toward her, and I am leaning toward cutting back on the friendship, or ending it. Is this grounds to end a friendship? -- Betrayed in Denver
DEAR BETRAYED: If you believe this incident is grounds to end an intimate 18-year friendship, then you must have lots of other long-term friends waiting in the wings.
Consider this to be one more of the many challenges you two have weathered together. Explain that you are disappointed. And roll out of the red zone.
DEAR AMY: The letter from “Grieving Widower in San Jose” made me so sad. He was giving away his wife’s things, including her cats. I thought your answer was great but I wish you had suggested that he put up both cats for adoption together. It would be easier on them. -- Cat Lover
DEAR CAT LOVER: Absolutely. Thank you.