Aunt worries about Cinderella effect

(Fotolia)

(Fotolia)

Amy Dickinson, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:45 AM ET

DEAR AMY: My sister died from breast cancer two years ago at the age of 50, leaving behind three kids (ages 20, 18, 17) and her husband, "Martin." Martin started dating "Laura" (no kids) about four months after my sister's death. The kids were naturally upset that he started dating so soon.

There were a lot of issues that needed to be resolved, but Martin chose to ignore these issues.

The youngest two girls went off to college and the oldest son enlisted in the Army. Shortly after, Martin married Laura but didn't tell his kids for two months. It wasn't pretty when the youngest two found out and learned that their father didn't have the courage to tell them.

The girls are home for the summer. One daughter is sleeping in the basement bedroom and one sleeps in the unfinished attached cinder block garage, without HVAC. Her former bedroom has been turned into a guest bedroom.

This story sounds like Cinderella but without the glass slipper part.

This is the third marriage for Laura. She has not been supportive of the girls and stepped into the role of stepmonster when she told the youngest recently that she needs to get over her mother already.

As their aunt who lives far away, I am outraged by the manipulation and spinelessness.

I think my best role is to listen to the kids when they call or text, but what more can I do? -- Anguished Aunt

DEAR AUNT: These kids are old enough to entertain alternatives to their current Cinderella status at home and -- if they say they need to make a change -- you may be able to help them brainstorm ideas, even to the extent of inviting them to stay with you over the summer (or next summer) if they would like.

Otherwise, encourage them to talk about their mother and commiserate with them (but never instigate) about their father and stepmother's behaviour. You need to remember that even though he seems to be treating them as second-class citizens, he is their dad and they will likely continue to feel conflicted about him for a long time.

DEAR AMY: Several years ago I "friended" my grandmother's friend "Janet" on Facebook. I have met her a few times and like her. She was also connected through Facebook with the rest of my family. She is well-liked by all.

Several months ago we all got lengthy e-mails from my grandmother with many barbs against Janet, including suspicions that she would "twist" our minds.

After a number of those e-mails, my grandmother hinted that we should "unfriend" Janet. My mother, aunt and sister all complied. My mother said they were just trying to keep the peace with our grandmother. I have not followed suit.

My grandmother calls me to talk about my unwillingness to protect myself against Janet. I feel like I am back in junior high school, except this is my 70-year-old grandmother and I am almost 30. I live a long way away. I love my grandmother but it seems to me that if I "unfriend" Janet I am playing a game I don't want to be in.

What should I do? -- Granddaughter

DEAR GRANDDAUGHTER: The first thing you should do is make sure your grandmother has a medical checkup. Her obsession with this (and her paranoia) is a sign that something could be very wrong.

If this volatile and controlling behaviour fits a lifelong pattern for her, then yes, you should stand up to her: "Gran, this silliness is like being in middle school again. I don't tell you how to run your relationships, and I'd really appreciate it if you would not interfere with mine."

DEAR AMY: A man signing his letter "No Friends" wondered why his girlfriend had introduced him to family members but seemed to want to keep him away from her friends.

If this letter had been written by a woman, you would have suggested that he was hiding an affair. Just another example of your gender bias. -- Male Reader

DEAR MALE: An affair doesn't explain (to me) the mystery behind introducing a steady partner to family but never to friends.


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