Dear Annie: My husband and I have two children, ages 11 and 8. They enjoy spending time with my mother-in-law. The problem is, my husband’s nephew lives with Granny and brings girls home with him for sex. The latest girlfriend likes to brag about it in front of everyone, including my kids.
We tried letting the kids visit when the nephew was at work, but the girlfriend kept showing up. I don’t want my children learning about sex at Granny’s house. Mom says there’s nothing she can do — her house, her business. Now she has shut us out completely. We no longer see her or talk to her.
Our kids are hurt. What can we do?
— Looking for Middle Ground
Dear Looking: First, please be sure that the nephew and his girlfriend are not somehow bullying or abusing Granny. It’s one thing if she simply thinks you should leave her alone and another if she is intimidated and afraid of antagonizing the nephew. You may need to contact Adult Protective Services in your area for help.
Otherwise, perhaps your husband could speak directly to his nephew, without blame or judgment, and say that the kids miss Granny, and his girlfriend’s uninhibited conversation makes it difficult to visit. Enlist his help to remedy the situation for the sake of family harmony. We hope he will ask his girlfriend to put a filter on her mouth when the kids are around and convince his grandmother to open her home.
Dear Annie: My boyfriend’s mother can be a nightmare. Boundaries mean nothing to her. Her oldest son and his wife moved out of state to get away from her.
My own mother taught me how to handle her. First, she kept reminding me that this woman created the man I love, so there must be something good about her. Then she and my grandmother began inviting my boyfriend’s mother to women’s lunches and small outings. They developed a beautiful relationship, and now our families share holidays together. This set a great example for me. I began taking cooking and painting classes with my future mother-in-law at the local library and going on errands with her when my boyfriend was busy. I helped her in the kitchen and asked for her advice.
I understood how much I had to gain by sharing small pieces of my day-to-day life and taking her to places we enjoy. As I developed my own relationship with her, it became easier to carve out special time with my boyfriend. She felt included in our life and was more likely to respect our time together. Of course, there are times when she still steps on my toes, and my boyfriend lays down the law, but there is no resentment because of the effort I have made.
I have gained a second mother by being patient, tolerant and kind. It took time, but I can truly say that she is my family now. My boyfriend and I plan to marry soon, and I know his mother can’t wait. Had I been cold or resentful toward her, I would have missed out. For all the people in a serious relationship: Make the effort now. It’s worth it. Family is important, and life is short.
— Thankful for Her
Dear Thankful: Thank you for understanding the long-term gain of having this relationship and being willing to do the work to make it happen. And bless your mother for her wisdom. We hope every soon-to-be bride will clip this out and save it for future reference.
Dear Annie: Grandparents complain that they don’t get thank-you notes or phone calls for gifts to grandchildren. I’ve noticed that grandparents rarely send thank-you notes to grandchildren when they do something special. We must teach by example.
— Menasha, Wis.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Email your questions to email@example.com, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
— Creators Syndicate Inc.