Dear Ann Cannon • Three years ago, I connected with a daughter that I gave up for adoption. She lives in another state and I have visited her, her husband and her six children (my grandchildren, ranging in age from 18 to 1). We’ve gotten together about five times in the last three years. I’m a new person in these kids’ lives and I know they feel obligated to accept me. I have sent birthday/Christmas cards and money to them because I want to be part of their lives but don’t want them to feel weird. Should I keep this up? Also, what should they call me?
— New to This
Dear New to This • It sounds to me like you’re already doing a good job of navigating uncharted and potentially difficult territory. Well done! Meanwhile, should you keep reaching out to your grandkids? I see no reason why you shouldn’t, but ask your daughter for her opinion. In fact, let your daughter be your guide in all things when it comes to her children — and that could include deciding what the grandkids should call you. It sounds like she’s already welcomed you into her family’s lives. Here’s wishing all of you the very best of luck.
Dear Ann Cannon • My adult brother (who is two years older than I am) has suffered from bipolar disorder ever since it was first diagnosed after he came home early from his Mormon mission a few years ago. Our parents have been very good about getting him the help he needs and I have huge respect for that. I love my brother and would want them to do the same for me. Here’s my problem. Because of my brother’s illness, he does take up a lot of the family oxygen. I try to be helpful, but the truth is that I mostly feel overlooked by my parents because I don’t cause them any trouble. I’m starting to resent them and my brother, too, even though I’m an adult now. Help! I don’t want to feel this way. What can I do?
— The Quiet One
Dear Quiet One • Your letter reminds me of a conversation I had with one of our adult sons who, like you, went quietly about his business during a particularly stressful period in our family’s history. Because he’s always been good about taking care of himself, I stopped checking in with him regularly. I assumed he was fine — until he called to say he missed having us reach out to him. “I’m always the one who calls,” he told me. “I’d like it if you called me sometimes, too.” Bottom line? Even though he knew we loved him, he was feeling neglected, something I wouldn’t have realized had he not told me.
The moral of this story? Follow my son’s example. Tell your parents that while you admire and appreciate everything they’re doing for your brother, you need some of their energy directed your way, too. Meanwhile, don’t feel guilty. Given the circumstances, your feelings are both normal and understandable.
Dear Ann Cannon • I’ve hated the last four books my book group has selected. All of them have been bestsellers. Is there something wrong with me?
Dear Discouraged • There’s nothing wrong with you. It might be time for you, however, to find another book group.
Meanwhile, this reader from the South politely countered my advice to the woman who received a tchotchke she doesn’t want to keep:
That woman with the thing she cannot possibly keep? She just has to give it away [instead of giving it back], because giving it back is so … un-Southern. The Southern way means we do anything to keep from hurting someone’s feelings. The woman who was gifted the little whatever has to understand this was part of the daughter’s grief process and giving it back is rejection. Rejection is very un-Southern.