DEAR AMY: Five years ago, my husband left me for his younger co-worker. He saw our two daughters (9-year-old twins) only twice a week, and never kept them overnight.
We all survived, and my children seem happy and well-balanced today. They now see their father more frequently, and stay with him one night a week.
I have never spoken to my children about their father's relationship with his girlfriend or his behavior in the past. I never disparage him.
Today my ex-husband asked me to speak to our two daughters (now 14) about his girlfriend. He is afraid they "don't like" her because they are conflicted about my feelings about her.
He caught me off-guard and I said, "Um, OK" but almost immediately regretted it. It's not my problem if they don't like her. I don't think anything positive can be gained from me broaching the topic.
Since I haven't mentioned her name or anything about her in four years, it may be painful for me.
How do you think I should handle this? — Putting the Kids First
DEAR KIDS FIRST: If you could put yourself in the shoes of adolescent girls and their extreme sensitivities and maternal loyalty, you would see that there is a strong possibility that they are preventing themselves from accepting this other woman out of loyalty to you. But if you truly want them to live a well-balanced life, you will let them off the hook.
I assume you have never met your ex-husband's girlfriend. Therefore you cannot advocate for them to "like" her.
However, what he is really asking is to let the girls know that you are OK.
You can do this in a myriad of ways. After an overnight, you can say, "What did you guys do? Did 'Christy' go to the movies with you? ... You know, girls, I'm OK. You know that, right?"
They might not even realize that you know the girlfriend exists. They have likely been editing themselves for years out of fear that they would upset you.
It is not necessary for you to advocate for a relationship you don't care about. But if you crack the door open, your daughters will eventually walk through it.
And this is putting the kids first.
DEAR AMY: My husband and I have a blended family — all great, independent, gainfully employed young adults.
This year on Mother's Day I got a card or little remembrance from each of my stepkids. Although my children called on Mother's Day and said they each had a card for me, nothing was received. This has happened before.
This year my husband reminded my kids the holiday was approaching. Afterward, I messaged them both that I'm disappointed and hope that on my birthday in six months they could get their act together and mark the day, on the day.
They are both upset with me. Now I feel terrible.
I tried to be direct, but it feels like that backfired. I'm really not mad. I just want them to do better. Do I need to apologize to them? — A Beloved Mom
DEAR MOM: It would be almost impossible for a human being to miss the approach of Mother's Day, which becomes more of a national festival each year. Your kids don't need a reminder; furthermore, the reminder didn't work.
You did the right thing. You have a right to a little acknowledgment from them.
If you discuss this with them, you need only say, "Hey, I'm treating you like the adults you are. I don't want to upset you; this isn't the end of the world, but I do expect you to get it together. Consider this my attempt at a course correction."
After this, if nothing changes, you will have to put your disappointment in perspective.
DEAR AMY: "Fed Up" was frustrated because her daughter had left her two cats with the mother to raise.
I think she should gather up these cats and take them to the daughter's apartment (where animals are not allowed). This puts the problem back where it belongs — with the daughter. — Cat Lover
DEAR LOVER: This is definitely not fair to the cats.