Q: I'm a 30-something woman in a long-term relationship with a man who I really love and like, and who my parents like as well. We are very happy together, and have decided not to have children.
My mother has never hassled us about our decision not to parent, and that's good. However, she is excessively devoted to the children of her two stepsons. For example, we were all at dinner the other week, and when someone asked her if she had other grandchildren (meaning — not from me!), she whipped out her wallet and showed around the pictures of my stepbrothers' kids and called them "her" grandchildren.
Am I right to feel resentful — I mean, they aren't actually her grandchildren at all. Shouldn't she explain that they are technically the children of her husband's children?
A: So many family situations involve so many people and so many feelings, of such complexity, that you have ample room to see into them what you like.
Sure, you can resent your mother for doting on children who "aren't actually her grandchildren at all."
Or, you can be grateful these children fill your mom's heart, when she might otherwise have "hassled" you for grandkids.
Or, you can be grateful these kids have a warm, loving stepgrandma in their lives who doesn't keep them at arm's length on a genetic technicality.
Or, you can be proud of your mom for rolling with everyone's life choices and choosing to love — you, your boyfriend, her stepsons, their children — instead of judge.
Or, you can decide to be okay with your own choices and stop there, instead of peering into familial tea leaves for signs that your mom or some dinner companion or anyone else isn't okay with them. You're 30-something and happy. What reason do you have not to grab the kindest, most openhearted choice on this list? Or two?
Don't make assumptions about pet-sitting neighbor
Q: I have an odd question for you. My parents have hired a neighbor girl up the street to watch their cat a few times while they are gone, and lately it has gotten weird. Over a three-day period of cat-sitting, she ate a whole box of taquitos, half a box of chocolate-covered cherries, a box of truffles, all the remaining Christmas cookies, a box of granola bars and a few other assorted things.
Later I noticed their YouTube search history had some inappropriate searches — things like "Angelina Jolie sex scenes" (and no, it wasn't my parents doing the searches).
She is part of a very conservative and religious household, so I am sure she wouldn't do those sorts of searches at her house. Also she is really the only one available for my parents to ask to pet-sit, and since they have a close relationship with her parents it would be quite awkward if they suddenly hired someone else. However, there is no nice way to say, "Please don't eat all our food and please don't search porn on our computer." What to do?!
A: Password-protect the computer, obviously, or hire somebody else. More important: Don't assume anything about who searched what on YouTube, or why. You're in other people's business about six different ways here — and fixing that isn't as easy as tucking the chocolate in your sock drawer.