Dear Amy: I sent a check for $300 to my mother to cover my daughter’s expenses during her visit. Upon my daughter’s return, my mother sent me an invoice for $475.50 for additional expenses, including the cost of gas to and from the airport to transport her (45 minutes away), train tickets to go to the city to a museum, and the cost of the museum admission. It was an itemized bill.
This is hurtful, as this past winter my mother came to live with us for four months and we paid for everything, including a nice vacation to an island over Christmas. (Neither of my siblings has a relationship with my mother because she is petty and doesn’t respect boundaries – like a $300 budget).
How do I address her behavior? I am hurt and angry by her decision to charge me for gas to pick up her granddaughter from the airport, as well as the other expenses. My mother is a single woman (a retired college professor), and we have never asked her to pay for anything. We even write her a check for groceries when she hosts Thanksgiving dinner.
Now I feel she has taken advantage of my generosity and I don’t trust her to spend time with my daughter because it is just too costly for me (financially and emotionally).
Burned by Grandma
Dear Burned: You are going to have to express your concern directly to your mother. Your daughter’s trip to see Grammy has cost you (I’m estimating) around $1,000, with plane tickets, plus the invoiced expenses incurred while she was there.
Is your mother financially insecure? Is she worried about maintaining her own lifestyle in retirement? These are legitimate concerns.
But is there a legitimate reason she couldn’t stay within the reasonable $300 budget, spending over twice that amount? Is this itemized bill her passive-aggressive way of telling you that she doesn’t actually want to host your daughter for such a long visit?
After you communicate your questions and concerns to your mother, you will have to make the tough decision about future visits. Because your mother seems to communicate through monetizing relationships, you’ll simply have to decide whether this relationship between grandmother and granddaughter is one you can afford to foster.
Dear Amy: I had six sisters. Now I have only two, but I have been very blessed to have my sisters and the love and the bond that we share.
I have a couple of friends who were only children – never being blessed to know the love of a sibling. Recently, they have told me that, “I am the sister they never had.”
Today I had a text from one of my friends who addressed me: “To my sister from another mother.”
I love these two friends, but I have sisters. I do not want to hurt them and do not want to say anything that would emphasize the fact that they have no siblings.
What can I say that is not hurtful and will show my love for them? Should I pretend that I love them like a sister?
Not a Sister
Dear Not a Sister: You don’t have to pretend anything. You only have to respond with kindness and generosity to an extremely kind expression of friendship and intimacy.
People enjoy fellowship and kinship in a variety of ways. Many people form “families” with people outside their own biological circles.
You seem confused – or even a little offended – by these sisterly expressions. Instead you should celebrate the bounty these friendships offer, and let these women feel their own feelings and express their affection however they choose. You are all quite lucky.
Dear Amy: I especially liked your answer to “Waiting for Sorry,” because you suggested that she talk to her mom directly. People are so fast to yell at each other but rarely sit down one on one to say what they really feel.
Once I did that with my mom, I didn’t need her apology anymore. Asking for an apology is like closing the deal on a sale. Ask for what you want. Sometimes you don’t get the sale and sometimes you hit the jackpot and get the apology and a hug.
A Faithful Reader
Dear Reader: It’s important to negotiate this particular transaction with reasonable expectations.
Email Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org.