DEAR AMY: My boyfriend and I have been happily living together for almost two years.
We moved in together early in our relationship to pursue our educations in the same city. We are in our mid-20s and felt that we were old enough to take this "risk." It has worked out well for us.
Upon announcing our decision to his family, we were not met with much acceptance. His mother quickly turned on me, calling me "manipulative" and "controlling" and began spreading hurtful lies about me to other family members.
My boyfriend confronted his mother. She agreed to a fresh start. We occasionally attend his family gatherings, but these are extremely awkward for me. I feel as though his mother still dislikes me, and she shows it. For instance, I have special dietary needs. She says she is more than willing to accommodate, but then she doesn't (despite reminders), leaving me unable to eat meals served at her home.
I am at the point that I don't want to attend these gatherings. My boyfriend really wants me to have a relationship with his family, but I am finding it increasingly difficult. With the holiday season around the corner, I am at a loss for what I should do! Ideas? -- Stuck
DEAR STUCK: Your boyfriend's mother may have promised a fresh start, but so far this seems to herald nothing more than a shift in tactics -- away from her more obviously aggressive maneuvers and toward a more passive guerrilla-style engagement. If you want her to "win" this war, then by all means, stay home. This is probably exactly what she wants.
One more course correction might be effective. This is where her son says: "Mom, really. If you're going to invite us over, it would be great if you could also serve something my girlfriend can eat. If you can't or don't want to do this, we'll bring our own food. But don't be insulted when we do."
Your own behaviour while you're with her should be above reproach. Enter the house assuming that things will go well. Also, return the hospitality by inviting his family to your home. That'll show her.
DEAR AMY: I often host other mothers and their children in my home. The mothers chat while the kids play.
My house is very kid-friendly, and I don't mind the kids making a mess as long as they are having fun. We enjoy it.
I am trying to teach my sons that when you are the host, it is your job to make sure your guests have a great time and you will clean up the mess after they leave. I don't feel guests should have to pick up the toys before leaving. I want the kids to associate our house with fun.
We have an organized system for how the toys are stored. Unfortunately, there are several mothers who insist on making the kids clean up before they leave. I tell them they don't need to pick up the toys, but they ignore me. So then the kids and mothers start throwing all the toys into bins and containers, which mixes everything up and messes up our organization system, creating more work for us.
What is the best way to handle this? Am I wrong for asking them not to pick up? -- Let Them Play
DEAR LET: You should support other parents' efforts to promote respectful and responsible children by making it easier for them to participate in the cleanup. You sound like a very hospitable and organized person, so use these traits to everyone's advantage. Supervise some easy kid-sized cleanup that works with your system -- and stop judging other parents (and children) for behaving well.