Dear Ann Cannon • In an effort to save some money while my daughter and her husband search for new employment, their family (daughter, husband, three kids and a dog) moved in with us about six months ago. My daughter and I have always gotten along well in the past, but our current living arrangement has put a definite strain on our relationship. Everything I say or do seems to make her feel defensive. I didn’t see this coming and I don’t know how to handle my daughter’s current negativity toward me. Do you have any suggestions?
— Mama Who Currently Walks on Eggshells
Dear Mama • Like the songwriter Robert Earl Keen says, the road goes on forever and the party JUST NEVER ENDS!
While there are good things about them, multigenerational households do present unique challenges — one of which you present here. Your particular situation is similar to the experience my friend had when her daughter’s family moved in. Every time my friend asked a question, the daughter saw it as an attempt on the mother’s part to control her. And every time my friend offered to help with something, the daughter read it as implied criticism of her ability to manage things for herself. My friend, understandably, was hurt by her daughter’s reaction. After all, she was only trying to be supportive, right?
In the end, this friend chose to speak about the problem with a therapist who gave her this advice: Don’t Ask. Don’t Offer.
While on the face of it, this advice seemed harsh to my friend, it actually had the effect of giving the adult daughter (who found herself in the uncomfortable and embarrassing situation of being a dependent again) the sense that her mother trusted her enough to manage her own affairs. As a result, their relationship improved. Think about trying this approach with your own daughter and see if it helps.
Dear Ann Cannon • I wonder what your take on the following situation would be. I was recently invited to go on a trip with a few friends. When I returned, another friend invited me to breakfast and then angrily launched into me over our eggs for not including her. I was stunned. For one thing, I’m not the one who planned or organized the trip. For another, I had no idea she’d be interested in going on the trip. And, finally, I couldn’t believe she was attacking me loudly in a public place. I told her (sincerely) that I was sorry her feelings had been hurt and then I tried to change the subject so people in the restaurant would stop looking at us. But then my friend yelled, “YOU ALWAYS DO THIS! YOU TRY TO DIVERT ME FROM THE ISSUE.” Finally, when it became clear to me that she had no intention of lowering her voice and engaging in a calm discussion, I just signaled to our server to bring me the check. I paid for both our breakfasts and then left my friend by herself in the restaurant.
Was there a better way to handle this? A part of me feels guilty for leaving her.
Dear Blindsided • Was there was a better way to handle this situation? Maybe. But I don’t know what it would have been. (P.S. I think you were also nice to pay for her breakfast.)
Because I don’t know either of you, I don’t know what your history together is, and yes, I totally get it. There are always two sides to a story. But she was behaving badly and you were within your right to leave. Don’t feel guilty about that.
Dear Ann Cannon • I don’t have a question for you — rather, a concern that begs for attention. During the month of July, I am overcome with worry about the effects of fireworks on the veterans and service members of our state! The military personnel who defend our freedoms are already traumatized by the horrendous sound of gunfire and “the rockets bursting in air.” Many of our vets suffer from PTSD and when it becomes unbearable, they commit suicide.
In my opinion, it’s monstrous to entertain oneself with the sound of warfare for those who are desperately trying to forget.
Instead of blasting our environment with pollutants imitating battles, let us honor our underappreciated veterans at the VA hospital with a plate of cookies or a prepared meal at Fisher House where families of the seriously wounded find sanctuary. And please don’t forget to say, “Thank you — I am deeply grateful” to the vets you meet.
— A Concerned Reader