Dear Amy: My mother is 93 years old.
I found out a few years ago that she was pregnant with me when she and my father got married. I was looking through some papers (birth certificates and such), and I saw that their marriage license was in a sealed envelope. I thought it was kind of strange, but never said anything.
My mom gave me all of her important papers to put into my safe deposit box, so I opened the envelope and saw that my parents actually got married the year I was born, not the year before that, as they have always said.
I asked my mom about this, and the only thing she really said was that she was madly in love with my dad. She deflected any more conversation.
I think she should tell my sisters, since she was basically lying to us all these years.
She gave my youngest sister a terrible time when she got pregnant without getting married (of course my parents hated her boyfriend from the beginning, and this was devastating to my sister and her boyfriend).
So, Amy, don’t you think my mother should tell us the truth? Should I encourage her to tell my sisters what has been hidden from our family? — Oldest Sister
Dear Sister: Yes, I think your parents should have told all of their children the truth, many years ago. If they had, maybe you’d be over it by now, instead of pecking at your elderly mother over something you cast as an important deep and dark secret — but which shouldn’t be considered a scandalous betrayal, all these years later.
There is an undercurrent of disrespect and anger here, and because of this you probably should not be handling your mother’s important, private and personal business.
You might start the ball rolling by choosing to be honest with your mother in the way you wish she had been honest with you.
Tell her, “Mother, I’ve been going through your papers. I opened the sealed envelope containing your wedding certificate you entrusted to me and I see that you misstated the year of your wedding. I think you should disclose this to all of your children. I also think I might not be the right person to oversee your affairs because I can’t seem to stop judging you about this inconvenient truth.”
Dear Amy: Christmas is approaching and I know from experience what that will look like for my 18-month-old daughter and my mother-in-law: So many clothes. And toys. An avalanche of stuff.
I love my mother-in law-and appreciate her pampering her only grandbaby, but I have this issue: I am a dedicated tree hugger, and the textile industry is catastrophically destructive for the planet.
I shop 100% secondhand, except for the obviously necessary exceptions, all of which I source from companies with transparent methodologies and third-party accountability.
The deluge of unethically produced items honestly makes me a little sick, especially when it’s not just bad for the planet but, you know, ugly/tacky/cheaply made and unlikely to hold up to a toddler’s wear and tear.
Is there any way I can communicate this that’s unlikely to cause a problem?
My MIL is steadfastly conservative and believes that climate change is a hoax. — Reluctant Clothes Horse
Dear Reluctant: I hope your partner is onboard with this, because you two should be a united front in dealing with your mother-in-law.
You might approach this by assuming she is going to have a problem with it — and her problem is something you’re going to have to tolerate so you can get through this together.
No, I don’t think you should preach to her about climate change and third-party accountability, partly because it makes you seem snobbish and insufferable.
Tell her, “We are being really strict about the things we bring into the house. We’d like you to cut down your giving to two pieces of clothing and two small toys. Can you help us with that?”
You could also take her to your favorite resale shop and/or give her a catalogue from a company making clothing you consider acceptable.
Dear Amy: No, no, no. “Upset Family” wrote that their kid had used a racist epithet at school. You blamed them!
Parents are not responsible for every single thing their kids do.
Shame on you. — Disgusted
Dear Disgusted: “Upset Family” reported that their young child had learned this word at home. So, yes; this renders them responsible for his taking the word out into the world.
You can email Amy Dickinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.