Dear Amy: I have been with my boyfriend for four years. Our daughter recently turned three. He also has a daughter from another relationship. She is 15.
My boyfriend is white. I am Black. His older daughter’s mother is biracial.
My boyfriend’s mother, “Shelly,” has a long history of drug and alcohol abuse.
She also has a habit of calling us when she is in an altered state and crying about other issues in her life.
Recently, we had a birthday party for our daughter. Shelly attended.
My parents take care of our daughter during the day. She sees a speech therapist, occupational therapist, and a behavioral therapist during the week.
Our daughter puts her fingers in her ears when noises are too loud and overwhelming for her. She did this several times throughout her party.
Afterward, Shelly called my boyfriend (while high) and said that her feelings were hurt because our daughter put her fingers in her ears when she was trying to talk to her. She said that our daughter is unsocialized/uncivilized because she is Black.
For me, this was the last straw. Since our daughter’s birth, her grandmother has excluded her, neglected to treat her as well as her other grandchildren, and has overall been a troublesome, toxic presence.
He doesn’t want to cut ties with his mother, and I would never ask him to. He is conflicted about this.
I have no intention of being around his mother or of letting our daughter visit.
Do you think I am unreasonable?
– Unsure in Decatur
Dear Unsure: First this. Your daughter has another parent – her father. You two should talk this through and try your hardest to come to an agreement on a response to his mother’s conduct.
I do agree that for the time being, you should not have your young daughter spend time with her grandmother – certainly unsupervised.
First off, even when she is sober, this grandmother obviously does not understand or have the capacity to cope with your daughter’s sensory processing issues. Your daughter’s response to noise and chaos is her (very logical) way of trying to cope when her brain is overloaded with too many different cues coming from different directions.
Second, “Shelley” is rarely sober. The way you describe her behavior, she could inspire any thinking person to stick their fingers in their ears.
Third: Your partner’s mother is a racist, and your daughter is a person of color. As you no doubt know from your own life, you cannot protect your daughter from encountering racism or prejudice. But protecting her now – when she is young and vulnerable – is a start.
Dear Amy: My partner and I are in the habit of watching TV together in the evenings. Recently he’s grown restless with the choices and checks out on his earbuds listening to music or other videos.
Earbuds are hard to see, so I’ve asked him several times to let me know when he’s popping them in so I don’t try to start a conversation.
He never does.
Should I just let it go, or do you agree that saying, “I’m going to listen to music now” is such a huge ask?
I suspect I’m not the only one with this peeve.
– Falling on Deaf Ears
Dear Falling: It occurs to me that the modern ability to enjoy personal entertainments has passively resolved many disputes over who controls the remote. (Remember those?)
Your husband might believe that saying, “I’m going to listen to music now” would interrupt your flow and your enjoyment. He wants to sit alongside you and experience a parallel enjoyment.
Maybe you should just assume that at some point during your evening routine he will pop in the old earbuds – so you can double-check with him by tapping on his knee: (“Hey, do you have your earbuds in?”) before you try to start a conversation.
Dear Amy: No no no! I could not believe your response to “Charlie,” who had three photos of his long-ago ex-wife taken during their youth in a photo album.
Charlie’s wife wanted him to destroy these photos and you suggested that he completely disregard her discomfort and wishes! This is not how to stay happily married, Amy. I’m very surprised.
Dear Disappointed: My response to “Charlie” inspired a wave of universal “NO, NO, NO” from readers. (Finally, everybody agrees on one of my answers!)
I was overly focused on the idea of “destroying” these photos.
But yes – removing them from the album would be a good idea.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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