Ask Amy: Dad seems to vie for his son’s attention
Dear Amy: I’ve been dating a single dad for just over a year.
He only gets to see his 4-year-old son for a limited time each month, as his ex lives several hours away.
Over the past six months or so, we have been slowly increasing my time spent with his son (playing, blanket fort campouts, occasional outings around town).
It seems like his son has really warmed to me. He even asks that I come over to see them both.
I’ve never been around children, so I feel very honored that his kiddo wants me to be around.
However, recently it seems like my boyfriend resents that his son wants me to be there (almost like he wishes that his son wanted to hang out with him alone).
I don’t know what to make of this. I always figured that if the son likes me, then that’s a major win in the relationship category.
Is this a form of parental jealousy? — Wondering
Dear Wondering: Your boyfriend is acting jealous because he probably is jealous. Jealousy is a real human emotion, and parents sometimes feel jealousy toward their kids’ favorite teachers, aunts and uncles, spouses and partners because parents are human. Parents are not perfect and don’t always respond in ideal ways. And as much as children receive from their parents, parents also crave their children’s love and attention in return.
The age of four is a particularly wonderful stage of childhood, Children this age tend to be lively, fun, affectionate, and fascinating. Because his time with his son is precious — and fleeting — your guy wants to hoard it. He is likely conflicted because he wants to spend time with both you and his son.
You should ask your guy to be honest with you regarding his son’s affection for you. Let him know that you will support his relationship with his child in whatever ways the father needs, including making sure the two have plenty of alone time. If this dad can establish a nice routine (a “Dad’s night” followed by a playdate with you the next day), this will give the two more time to bond and create unique and private experiences for them to share.
Dear Amy: I recently graduated college and was surprised to receive a card and $100 in the mail from an uncle I am somewhat estranged from.
He is a toxic person who is very difficult to be around, although I’ve always tried to be cordial. He has truly caused hurt for people in my family and shows no signs of changing.
I decided to thank him for his gift through a nice, private Facebook message.
He replied graciously. My parents found out, however, and are angry that I didn’t call to thank him personally for such a generous gift.
They said if I’m so against having a relationship with him, I should return the money, but Amy, in my current financial situation, I can’t afford to pass up a gift, and I think it would do more harm than good to return it!
I can’t bear the thought of speaking with this person on the phone.
What should I do? — New Graduate
Dear Graduate: You have reached a milestone in your development. One aspect of this stage in your life is that you can (and should) take your parents’ recommendations into account, but you don’t have to follow them.
In terms of your relationship to this particular uncle, you are not a placeholder for the rest of the family. You thanked him sincerely through a private channel, and he acknowledged your thanks.
I agree with you that returning this money is unwarranted and would be extremely insulting. This sort of behavior is how longstanding estrangements gain fuel.
You have already thanked your uncle, but if you also popped a card in the mail reiterating your thanks and adding a couple of details about your plans for the future, it would be appropriate, and he would no doubt welcome it. I assume your mother would also be satisfied.
Dear Amy: “Befuddled Guest” was struggling handling a fellow guest’s gender transition because she hadn’t been told in advance.
I agree with you that this could have been handled differently by all parties, but most importantly, Befuddled didn’t bother to introduce herself. Why is it the other person’s job to make Befuddled feel more comfortable? — Aware
Dear Aware: Exactly. When you introduce yourself, and ask for someone else’s name, you have all the information you need.