Dear Amy: I am 33, married with a 4-year-old son. My mother has always been distant and controlling. She shuts down if things don't go her way. She tries to undermine or sabotage family events to exert her control. She also makes bigoted comments and sometimes drinks to excess. She then plays innocent and claims I am attacking her.
I learned early on that I will never have a loving mother-daughter bond, but now I don't know if we can even be in the same room.
Recently, on a family vacation, my parents took my son and me to a restaurant. We waited 90 minutes for a table. While we were waiting, my son had a little "accident." I decided I would take him home, quickly change his clothes and come back. I told my parents it would take a half-hour and that they should stay and we would be back.
They got up and followed us out.
I said I feel they don't respect me or my son. My mother hasn't spoken to me since.
The next morning, I left. We were supposed to be there for four more days.
Did I overreact, or was I justified in possibly severing my relationship with my mother? I felt a twinge of guilt for leaving after my parents planned and paid for this vacation to spend time with their grandson.
— Confused mom
Dear Mom: Your folks left the restaurant, and you retaliated by leaving forever. Yes, I think you did overreact to this.
I assume your choice was influenced by a lifetime of feeling off-kilter by your relationship with your folks. They wrote the script that you are now following. The fact that you are now a parent is bringing all of this to a boiling point, but it also presents opportunities for you to forge a more balanced relationship. You may gain some insight by reading "Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life" by Susan Forward and Craig Buck (2002, Bantam).
Dear Amy: I was struck by the letter from "Acting Foolish." He is a stepfather who is insulted that the daughter he raised from childhood has chosen her biological father to walk her down the aisle. I went to a wedding where the family dealt with this by having the bio dad walk the bride halfway down the aisle and the stepfather the rest of the way. It was beautiful.
— Wedding guest
Dear Guest: If this is what the bride wants to do, I think it's a neat solution.
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