Dear Amy: I have a 4-year-old daughter. Her father and I separated when she was a baby. We share custody.
He has a long history of being hostile to me, including threats and insulting emails/texts, yelling for hours over actions I never did, not helping with chores or bills, etc.
Things between us have only moderately improved in the last four months.
I acknowledge that while he can be a jerk to me, he is caring and affectionate with our daughter.
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When he comes over to pick her up, he waits outside.
Last week she asked, “Why doesn’t he come inside?”
I provided a one-sentence factual answer with age-appropriate vocabulary: “Because he was mean to me and the cat.”
I have never given her details of the hurtful words and actions I endured. Later, she repeated the phrase to him and he sent me texts/emails demanding answers.
I want them to have a healthy parent-child relationship, and I do not want to cause drama or problems for her. Typically, I do not talk about her father in front of her. But as she ages, how do I answer her questions about him or our past together?
While I am willing to keep the past in the past, I do not want to lie or pretend these hardships never existed.
Dear Wondering: You might have used age-appropriate language and concepts with your 4-year-old, but you also burdened her with knowledge she doesn’t have the maturity or context to handle.
You also called her father a “mean” man, and then you sent her out into the world to be with him! How confusing for her. And – with your one sentence – you put her in the middle of your drama.
Children your daughter’s age are just starting to understand the concept of friendships, so you could frame your situation in those terms. You could say, “Daddy and I are trying to be better friends, but for now I just want to wave to him when I say goodbye to you. The most important thing is that we are both cuckoo-bananas about you, and I’m really happy that he is such a good daddy.”
There is never a need for you to tell your daughter that her father is a mean jerk. Unless he presents a danger to her, this is one case where you should not be completely factual and truthful in order to allow your daughter to form her own relationship with him. If that feels like lying to you – then I give you permission to lie your head off. In time, she may ask more pointed questions, and – no matter how old she is, you should be extremely circumspect in your answers.
Dear Amy: My fiance and I are getting married this summer. Well over a year ago, when we got engaged, my fiance and I told my younger sister that she would get a “plus one” to bring to the wedding.
She immediately said she was going to bring her best friend. I cautioned her at the time that she should wait to invite this friend, in case she got a serious boyfriend between then and the wedding.
Fast forward to now. My sister is in a serious relationship, and my parents are pressuring us to allow her to bring both the boyfriend and her best friend.
My parents and fiance already have a somewhat rocky relationship. This might make it worse. Am I wrong for my firm stance that she needs to bring just one person?
Upset Bride to Be
Dear Upset: This “plus one” business is not your or your parents’ problem; it is your sister’s problem.
All the same, there are times when it makes sense to cave (or compromise). If your sister (not your parents) comes to you two with this dilemma, you should talk to her about it. There is a possibility that another guest will not be able to attend; if somebody backs out, you might be able to squeeze in her extra guest.
Dear Amy: “Forgotten on the Fourth Floor” was upset that none of her hospital co-workers visited her after her knee replacement surgery.
I’ve worked in hospitals for 30 years.
There are very real concerns regarding patient privacy.
My rule of thumb is, if I am close enough with the co-worker that I would drive across town to visit them in the hospital, then I will go to see them in this hospital. Otherwise, I stay away and send a card.
Dear Experienced: Thank you.
Email Amy at email@example.com.