DEAR AMY: I have a 3-year-old child. During the pregnancy, it became very clear I would be a single parent. My ex is not able to provide a stable environment for our daughter. He drinks heavily and involves himself with people (and some family members) who do illegal activities.
He often claims he loves our daughter but says he feels undeserving because he can’t support her, and he says this is the reason he doesn’t see her. However, he has done nothing to better himself or disconnect from bad influences. He rarely sees her and isn’t physically, emotionally or financially supportive.
His family seems to believe that I have ousted him from our lives and that this is the reason he is not taking on the full role of a loving father.
How do I correct this idea with his family without crossing any lines or being disrespectful? I want our daughter to know both families, but I don’t want to take the blame for someone else’s immature actions. — Single Mom
DEAR MOM: You should tell these family members the truth as you see it. You say: “I’m doing the best I can. I’m sorry my ex is having such a hard time, and I hope he’ll get it together someday. He knows I want the best for him.”
Mainly, this is for your own satisfaction, because these family members will believe what they want to believe. You should never criticize your ex to your child or to his family, because there is simply no point. Let his actions speak for him, and continue to advocate for your daughter to have peaceful, loving relationships with people who will be positive role models for her.
DEAR AMY: I live on a wonderful street with my husband and two children. We love our street and everybody who lives on it.
Our next-door neighbors have a privacy fence surrounding a portion of their backyard. The bottom half of one of the panels is broken off, and it’s big enough for my daughter or the neighbors’ children to kneel on the ground and put their face up to the fence.
Sounds crazy, but this has become an intrusive problem. We have had company over, dinners outside, and a lot of playtime interrupted by their children. Either they stare at us while we’re playing or eating, or they call my daughter to the fence constantly and order her around (she’s younger than they are). These kids even call over to us from the fence and invite themselves over!
There have been many dinners and playtimes interrupted by my daughter being called over to the fence because the neighbors’ children are staring at us. Sometimes we don’t even want to go outside when we know these kids are out and will come over to the fence.
I would love to fix the fence or put a board over the broken piece, but it is not our fence and it is not on our property. What should we do? — Frustrated in My Backyard
DEAR FRUSTRATED: In a world gone mad, I take some comfort in the idea that your domestic life is being ruined by children peering through a broken fence. Life must otherwise be very tranquil for this to qualify as an unsolvable problem.
These are your neighbors. You say you are close to them.
Here’s the first thing you do (use your “outside voice”): “Kids — KNOCK IT OFF. Get away from the fence, please. You’re driving us bonkers.”
The second thing you do is to say to the parents: “Could you do us a favor and repair your fence in the back? The kids are playing Tom Sawyer back there and driving us crazy. I’d be happy to repair it myself, if you want.”
DEAR AMY: I don’t understand why you would criticize “Worried Wife” for looking in her husband’s cellphone. Married people should not have secrets. — Happily Married
DEAR MARRIED: Married people should not have secrets, but even married people have a right to privacy. Many of us have professional or family communication that we do not want to share, even with a loving spouse.