Dear Ann Cannon • My dad was not there for my sister and me while we were growing up because of addiction and divorce. He has now been sober for years and wants to be in his grandchildren’s lives, but we don’t know how to navigate this situation. He has never expressed remorse for what we went through. His personality is still the same (he is rude to his girlfriend, just like he was rude to our mom); he doesn’t always follow through when he says he’ll do things; he’s not reliable; and we don’t want our children to get hurt like we did. He’s changed some, but we don’t know if it’s enough.
He currently lives a 12-hour drive away and sends the occasional text, as well as birthday and Christmas gifts to the kids (sometimes a few weeks or months late). We only see him when we go to visit my grandmother who lives near him, less than once a year. He is very proud of his grandkids and tells everyone how amazing they are. He’s a proud grandpa, but my sister and I are leery. How should we handle things?
— Concerned Mama
Dear Concerned Mama • I’m a big believer in second chances. People can and do change. But given the trauma you experienced as a child, I completely understand your hesitation to invite your father — who maybe hasn’t changed enough — to be a more active participant in your lives. I’m sorry you had to deal with so many hard things at such a young age.
Because your father lives so far away, I don’t think you need to worry about him being an unduly negative influence in your children’s lives. The reality is that he won’t have the opportunity to hurt them in the ways he hurt you and your sister. Meanwhile, it might be a good thing for them to know that their grandpa is both interested in and proud of them. That can happen fairly painlessly through an exchange of letters and/or texts with the occasional visit thrown in.
My advice? Keep your relationship with him pleasantly superficial, which is probably all he really wants anyway. You’ll be OK. And so will your kids. Best of luck to you!
Dear Ann Cannon • It’s October, so naturally I’m thinking ahead to Thanksgiving. We always host dinner for family and a few friends, and I’ve cooked most of the dishes because I’m quite particular about taste (it’s the most important meal of the year, after all). Plus, I love cooking. Here’s the thing: This spring I became vegetarian out of concern for the environment. Now I’m not sure what to do about the Thanksgiving turkey. Should I ask someone else to cook the centerpiece of the meal? Or should I just do it because I’ve always done it and do it well? I’m not trying to convert anyone and I don’t think a vegetarian turkey substitute will go over well with my crowd.
— Worried About Going Cold Turkey
Dear Worried • M-m-m-m-m-m-m-m. Turkey! (NOTE TO SELF: Stop thinking about turkey and FOCUS!)
OK. You’re in luck. The good news is that no matter who cooks the turkey, I’m sure you’ll have a lovely Thanksgiving dinner. In my humble opinion, however, I think you should cook the turkey — if doing so doesn’t offend you now that you’re a vegetarian. Why? Because you obviously have an excellent track record. Also, it may be mildly awkward for you to ask a guest to bring the main course, you know? I could be wrong, of course. But my sister-in-law still remembers the time she offered to bring something when she was invited to someone’s home for Thanksgiving and the hostess asked her to bring the turkey. Let’s just say the request ... took her by surprise.
I hope you and yours enjoy the holiday season ahead.