Dear Readers: Because of syndication scheduling, I write and submit my columns two weeks in advance of publication. Due to this time lag, the Q&A’s will not reflect the latest information about the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic we are currently facing.
Dear Amy: I wish I could undo some of the terrible mistakes I’ve made.
My daughter hasn’t spoken to me in years.
When she was very young, I divorced her dad and moved hundreds of miles away. I married a man with two sons and a parenting method that I didn’t agree with, but I felt trapped with him — the way I’d felt trapped with her dad. We were together for 10 years.
I waited until after my daughter graduated from high school, and then I separated from her stepfather. It was very difficult to live on my own and we ended up getting back together. It was more out of convenience than anything.
When I told my daughter that I was getting back together with him, she blew up and told me that her stepbrother had drugged and raped her several times. I was in complete shock! She has not spoken to me since then.
I think about her every day. I stalk her on Facebook (with an unrecognizable profile) just so I can see her life. I can’t be a part of her life because she has blocked me. This estrangement breaks my 83-year-old mother’s heart, and I would like to see us all together again.
Dear Regretful: If you want your relationships to change, then you need to change. It’s really that simple. Although you admit to having regrets, you don’t seem to have taken responsibility for the role you played in your daughter’s trauma. Your reaction to her disclosure that she was raped while in your household was to express shock, and then passively sigh — and continue on to reunite with your ex.
Are you not aware that the best thing to do when someone reports a rape is to call the police? (And people wonder why assault victims hesitate to report!)
Yes, you’ve made mistakes. Admitting this is definitely a step in the right direction, but you don’t get to claim victimhood, here. Until you take responsibility for your parental neglect, passivity, and terrible judgment, you cannot hope for a reconciliation. Even your Facebook-stalking seems to me more melodrama than the action of a mother desperate to make things right. You are not Stella Dallas standing in the rain, wistfully watching your daughter through a window. You are not the victim of her blocking you. There are many ways — other than Facebook — to contact someone, however, until you can commit to positive change, it is probably wisest for your daughter to keep her distance.
A compassionate and competent counselor could walk you through the events in your life that have culminated in this moment. With coaching and positive change, the reconciliation you desire might be possible. I hope you will try.
Dear Amy: “Queasy in Florida” wanted to put an anonymous note in the mailbox of a woman at her retirement community, criticizing her behavior at the home’s communal dining table.
Thank you for recommending a discreet, in-person conversation. My loving, kind, 86-year-old parents just voluntarily moved into an assisted-living community. My dad wore a hat in the dining room because his head is always cold.
Someone left a copy of the dress code at their apartment door with an arrow pointing to “no hats in the dining room.”
My mother was furious, and I was heartbroken that someone would be so catty and cowardly toward my wonderful parents, especially as they were brand new and just getting used to their new home.
— Protective Daughter
Dear Protective: Nonjudgmental, discreet, and in-person is almost always the best way to communicate.
Dear Amy: I was absolutely blown away by the letter from “Justin,” the young transgender man who sent you a follow-up after you published his question about how to communicate with his parents over the holidays.
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So many of us in the LGBTQ community are tasked with extremely challenging and awkward social or family-related negotiations. It’s not fair to us, but yes — humor always helps.
— Been There
Dear Been There: Justin is a special person — I appreciated hearing back from him that his parents are really coming around. The companion letter in that column, from the mom of a transgender girl, showed how hard it can be for parents to adjust how they refer to their transgender kids.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at email@example.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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