Dear Amy: My only brother and I have always had a difficult relationship. About two years ago, we stopped talking completely.
When my husband and I found out that we were expecting our first child, I reached out to my brother to share the news. He was overjoyed, and we had a long conversation in which he apologized for his past behavior and told me he wanted to be a large part of his niece’s life
I delivered about two months early, and our daughter stayed in the NICU for almost a month and a half. My brother (who has never made a lot of money) generously gifted my daughter a beautiful set of linens for her crib.
In our month and half stay in the hospital with our critically ill daughter, we did not get around to sending out thank-you notes. When my brother visited the hospital, though, we thanked him profusely.
A week after we returned home from the hospital, my brother sent me an angry email claiming that we were unappreciative of his efforts to be a part of our daughter’s life. As a result, he has refused to speak with me and is emailing my husband for updates on the child.
When I asked him what prompted these feelings, he said that we had never sent him a thank-you note for his gifts.
Was I insensitive to his efforts? My husband wants to try to make this right, because my brother is our daughter’s only uncle. I do not think that this is a good idea, as my brother has proven to be unreasonable. How should I go about handling this?
— New Mom
Dear Mom: It seems that your daughter’s birth has not brought on a magical change in your lifelong dynamic with your brother. And so, you’ll have to do what most of us in challenging families do, take this relationship one day and one episode at a time, and react proportionally. This is something your brother, unfortunately, seems unable (or unwilling) to do.
Your brother is going to have to figure out that if he really wants to have a relationship with his niece, he is going to have to make nice with the child’s mother.
Your husband should respond to him clearly: “We’d love to keep in touch, but in order to be a friend to our family, you will have to be a friend to ALL of us. You need to communicate with your sister.”
Cutting you out of the loop is not the path to reconciliation. Otherwise the dynamic is only one of manipulation and capitulation.
Dear Amy: You recently wrote about the danger of guns in houses. I realize that I have no idea of how to counsel my elementary and middle school kids on what to do if they are in a house where someone brings out a gun.
Clearly, I want them as far away as possible from the gun, but telling them to leave the house and go to a nearby stranger’s house doesn’t seem like great advice either. Do you know any good guidelines?
— At a Loss
Dear At a Loss: You should talk to your children realistically about guns. Tell them that guns hurt and kill people every day and children are killed and hurt more than others when guns are present in someone’s home.
Very young children are capable of firing a gun accidentally if they find and pick up a gun. Accidental shootings are the most common way for children to get hurt.
Tell your children that if they see a gun, these are the steps they should follow:
Stop what they are doing.
Don’t touch the gun.
Leave the area where the gun is.
Tell an adult right away.
If they are at a friend’s house and they become aware that a parent or another adult has a gun out, they should follow these steps and also let you know. You may choose to talk with the other parent and perhaps not let the child go to that house, unless you are confident that the parents always lock their guns in a safe. Well-meaning gun owners also face the tragedy of gun accidents if their firearms are not properly secured.
Dear Amy: Thank you, thank you, for helping me to start my day with a laugh! In your response to “Aussie,” an idiotic architect, you managed to work in a reference to Art Vandelay. This Seinfeld reference tickled me to no end.
— Big Fan
Dear Fan: Thank you. I’ll be here all week.