Dear Amy: My wife and I are retired teachers. We’re childless.
When 9-year-old “Jacob” asked me at church, “Can I call you Grandpa?” he filled a spot in our lives that had been empty.
That was nine years ago, and now Jacob is planning his university study.
Jacob’s parents immigrated with him from a formerly communist country where they both studied at universities.
In America, they have both worked hard, but their combined income is far below ours and they have no retirement savings.
When we pay for things for Jacob, they protest loudly that we do too much for him.
My wife and I are now wondering: how we can support Jacob’s university study without offending his parents’ pride?
We could give him enough to get through university without federal loans, but how can we persuade his parents to let us do that?
Dear Grandpa: First, a shout-out to all of the de facto “grandparents” out there, who step up to engage in powerful and lasting relationships with young people they aren’t necessarily related to. “Jacob” sounds like a lucky young man.
I suggest that you and your wife sit down with Jacob and both of his parents.
Tell them that you have set up a scholarship fund for his education, and that it would cover tuition (and whatever other expenses you choose) at his chosen college. Tell them that this scholarship would be a gift to be applied only toward his education, and that there are no other strings or expectations attached.
Ask them to discuss it together and to let you know.
If these parents believe that you are overstepping (or if you have overstepped in the past), this offer could create a problem within their family. I hope you will be sensitive to that possibility, but … at 18, Jacob is legally an adult, and he should take the lead in terms of financing his college education.
Dear Amy: I have been married for 47 years, and I am 67 years old.
A few years ago, my husband’s friend, “Dan,” put his hand on my thigh, and it made me feel very uncomfortable.
I told my husband about this and his response was, “It’s just how he is.”
We have had several arguments about this, and my husband still doesn’t understand how this made me feel.
Now Dan is coming back into the area for a visit and is supposed to stay in our home.
My husband said he talked to Dan and it will not happen again, but this was not the first time Dan had made me uncomfortable.
How do I get my husband to understand? I feel this is so unfair to me and I am so hurt that my husband would even suggest letting him stay in our home.
Could you please help me to get my husband to understand? Should I just give this person another chance, the way my husband wants me to?
Dear Uncomfortable: Your husband is only willing to understand your distress or empathize with you to the degree where it won’t interfere with his own friendship.
Yes, this is very disappointing.
You face some choices: To refuse to have this man in your home, to find somewhere else for you to stay during his visit, or to confront “Dan” yourself (you can rehearse ways to do this) — understanding that he may also deny, diminish, or refute your claim.
It is always best to have an ally in your own home, and to have a partner who has your back, but your husband will only go part-way.
You are going to have to pick up the slack and validate your own experience, and then take steps to resolve it, so that you don’t continue to feel so vulnerable and alone.
Dear Amy: Like your reader “Used to be a Mom,” my son also chose estrangement over 30 years ago.
I still don’t know why, and it was devastating.
I was counseled to think of the estrangement as a closed door. If I pushed and got angry, he would lock his side of the door.
If the door was unlocked on both sides, someday he might open it.
Over the past four years, he has called to chat, and this year he has started sending text messages and photos.
I would love to see him, but again I have no control over that.
— Always His Mom
Dear Always: The analogy of the closed door perfectly describes the dynamic. Thank you.