April 19, 2024
Plus: Am I a neglectful mom if I let my kids play on their own?

Dear Amy: I married my husband two years ago. He has two children from a previous marriage, both in their mid-20s. I have a teen still at home.

We have a really nice time with his children. We regularly talk/check in with them, and I believe we have a good relationship.

However, recently my mother died, after a sudden and torturous battle with cancer. My stepchildren have not expressed their condolences in any way, and both skipped the funeral.

I saw them two days later and they did not address it at all.

My feelings are very hurt, but I’m not sure they should be.

My mother used to say that young adulthood was her least favorite phase of life – people in their 20s are particularly self-involved. So this may just be the behavior of that age group.

I haven’t shared my feelings with my husband because I don’t want him to feel bad.

I suppose my real worry is that while we all get along, they do not want to be close.

I do want to be close. I love them and want to nurture a relationship between us and between my own child and them.

Should I bring this up? Or should I allow my feelings to subside (I’m sure they will), and allow time to tell?

– Hurt and Confused

Dear Hurt: Please, don’t question your own hurt feelings. Your feelings are yours, they are real, and you have every right to feel them!

Your late mother was onto something about people in their mid-20s. They are expected to assume mature behavior – because they are adults. But if they don’t know what to do in a given situation (expressing condolences, for instance), they tend to avoid it.

But, as a reader recently pointed out in this space, we are overall a “grief illiterate” society, where we lack the cultural tools and traditions to express solidarity and comfort.

You must talk to your husband about this. This disappointment is adding to your grief.

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He should advocate for you by essentially telling his children how important it is for them to express their condolences to you.

They can say, “I’m so sorry for your loss,” or even, “I know this is a hard time for you, but I don’t really know what to say.” An acknowledgment will help you to feel less lonely and invisible.

You and your husband are still in the process of knitting your family together. Let him do his best to comfort you, now.

Dear Amy: My husband and I have been talking about doing some updating on our house. I would also love to add a fresh coat of paint in one of the rooms, for sure.

But we have two young children (ages 3 and 1). They are at home all day, every day.

I’m trying to teach my children a whole bunch of stuff to make sure they thrive. I feel bad any time I try to do something that isn’t directly benefiting the kids.

I let dishes and laundry pile up for a few days before I actually do anything after they go to bed.

I feel like I’m neglecting them if I don’t spend as much time as possible playing with them.

Is it OK to let them play safely in a different room while I try to get the house in better shape?

How do I let go of the guilt for having my attention elsewhere?

– Feeling Neglectful

Dear Feeling: You’ve got an incomplete idea of how children learn.

Don’t leave them in another room while you work – have them “help” you!

A 1-year-old can clang Tupperware lids together while the elder child stands on a chair to help you to wash non-breakable items.

A 3-year-old can “fold” washcloths when they come out of the dryer.

My point is that there are many, many lessons embedded in house and yard work – and you could use some of these chores to teach your children.

Otherwise, yes, let them play independently for short periods while you do your work.

Dear Amy: “Upset” wrote to you about her son’s girlfriend being uncomfortable with the parents’ overnight visits. She mentions that she and her husband bring their dogs.

I suspect the dogs are the problem. Dogs that aren’t well trained can be destructive in their own home, much less in a strange place.

I wonder how many of the girlfriend’s things have been broken or chewed.

– Been There

Dear Been There: I share your instincts about the root of this problem.

You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.

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