Ask Amy: Advice for the Real World

DEAR AMY: My ex-wife and I haven't been together for almost seven years, but only recently can we peacefully co-parent our twin boys.

My anger at her was due to her infidelity during the last year of our 10 years together. I am not sure why she was angry (more like scorn) at me, except for catching her infidelity and then leaving her.

Our twins' bar mitzvahs are coming up. While we are jointly planning a Saturday afternoon lunch after the service in temple, she is hosting a brunch at a country club on the following Sunday morning for her 125 guests. She initially invited me (only me and not my family) to the Sunday brunch, but has now rescinded my invitation, saying that I "would change the dynamics." I responded that our twins want me to attend and I therefore should be there, even if it makes her uncomfortable, which it obviously does.

I intend to ask her to reconsider her decision. However, I fear that our history and her resolve may cause her to dig her heels in even more. What can I do, or say, to change her mind so that I am a part of the most important and memorable day in our twins' lives? — Torn by Scorn

DEAR TORN: You are jointly hosting the kids' celebration, right after the ceremony correct? So must you attend every bar mitzvah-related event?

I agree that it would be nicest and most polite if your ex included you. I think she should include you, but she doesn't sound like an inclusive person, so why would you expect her to suddenly change?

The most important day in your kids' lives (so far) is their bar mitzvah day, not the following Sunday.

If your ex doesn't want you to attend this brunch she is throwing, then why would you want to go? Do not put your kids in the middle of this. They will have to miss you on this day and deal with their disappointment. You could lessen their disappointment if you accepted your ex's choice and didn't make too big a deal out of it.

DEAR AMY: I married later in life. My wife has a daughter, "Jenny," from a previous marriage. Jenny was in her 20s when I married her mother, and as such, she never lived with us. Jenny never calls me her stepfather, but introduces me as her "mother's husband."

Jenny is now married to "David," and they have a daughter, "Ariel." Am I David's father-in-law, step-father-in-law, or what? Am I Ariel's grandfather, step-grandfather, or what?

I hate to presume something, since Jenny doesn't acknowledge me as her stepfather. — Confused in Georgia

DEAR CONFUSED: In my view you are a stepfather, a father-in-law, and a grandfather. But these roles take some growing into.

I hope you don't take this too personally; this is actually a common occurrence (and question) when people remarry later in life and the children are grown and out of the house.

Your stepdaughter likely doesn't think of you as a stepfather because you had no hand in raising her. She may have only recently met you. This might not be a deliberate slight, but more a reflection of the way she sees the relationship at this point.

If this terminology interferes with your relationship (it sounds like it does), I hope you will be brave enough to say to her, "You don't seem to see me as your stepdad, and I get that, but I hope you think of me as one of 'Ariel's' grandfathers. Your mom and I hope to be a big part of her life." She may not respond to you, but when you express yourself openly, honestly and without hurt or hostility and don't demand a response from her, you will prompt her to think about it.

DEAR AMY: Oh, that letter from "Torn" made me crazy!

The birthday boy who wants to exclude Torn's wife from a party is the same kid who in grade school invited the whole class to his party except for a few of the heartbroken kids. Mean kids grow up to be mean adults. — Inclusive

DEAR INCLUSIVE: I think you're right.

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