While I’m away, readers give the advice.
On people who get pushy about the way their gifts are used:
My father was adopted at age 5, from an orphanage; family lore has it that his new father bought him a trike, then was upset and angry when my dad didn’t immediately want to ride it, their first day together.
Fast-forward 60 years. I am visiting my parents with my 10-month-old son. I am sitting on the porch; son Ted is under a nearby tree, absorbed in something as I watch. My father, also Ted, arrives home from work. On the way, he stopped at a yard sale and bought a used “corn-popper” toy. Senior Ted pulls out toy, demonstrates it a few times. Junior Ted watches, then continues what he had been doing: looking at the leaves above him. Senior Ted tries a few more times.
Then senior Ted sits down next to his grandson, and watches the leaves with him for a while.
Senior Ted has been dead for 15 years; junior Ted is 32. My dad was a very wise man, and my sons were very fortunate to have him as their grandfather.
On the idea that “she would be perfect if she would lose some weight”:
The body you have at 30 is not the body you will have at 50, 60 or 70. I am sure my husband would love me to have the body I had when I was 25, but, after four children and several serious illnesses, I don’t. I hate to mention this, but he also doesn’t have the same body he had 30 years ago. Nor the nice full head of hair!
We have had more than 30 years of peaks (a lot!) and valleys (a few). Both of my parents have died — my father had a long, lingering illness, which was awful. We got through. Our kids have had broken bones and some serious illnesses. We worked together to meet the challenges.
You do not know what is in store — a stray microbe, a patch of oil on the street, and one of you could be disabled. It is how you meet these challenges together that matters. You need a partner who will work with you, who will see you when you are 45, or 60, and think, this is the person who makes me happy. My resting place.
You deserve this. And you do not have to be perfect (no one is!) — but being with someone who is happy with you as you are is, well, pretty darned close.
On beauty and people’s reactions to it:
My little sister was so beautiful that strangers stopped us to comment. One woman then looked at me and said, “This one has an interesting face.”
At 80 years of age, I wonder if it impacted my life; I never forgot.
On nontraditional family arrangements:
It is such a temptation to transfer feelings about adult behavior to their children. A professor in one of my human development/early childhood courses said in answer to a student’s question, “But who is the dad?”: The dad is the one who acts like a dad. And the grandma is the one who acts like a grandma.