Life Advice



Ask Amy: Stepchild would like for dad to leave stepmom at home

Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: My stepmother has been in my life since I was 15. There was a lot of trauma living with her. For years, I would have recurring nightmares of her berating me. I would wake up crying.

Her behavior puts a severe strain on my relationship with my father.

Recently, I discovered she has posted odd photos of the exterior of my home with cryptic messages to social media.

While she has never exhibited violent behavior, I felt very uneasy to know she has been standing outside my home taking pictures.

When I confronted my father, he just ignored it. He is uncomfortable having crucial conversations.

She has also posted lies about my mother. While I don't feel any need to confront her about that, I also don't want to be around a person who behaves this way.

I don't know how to get my father to respect my wishes.

Recently we argued because he wanted to come over to barbecue — and bring her along.

I put my foot down and said absolutely not, she is not welcome in my home, but he yelled at me and said that I'm selfish.

I'm 45 years old. I have my own family and no longer care to be around someone who is always so mean-spirited. I’m trying to leave the hurt behind.

Do I have any hope of getting my dad to come around and have a relationship with me and his grandkids that doesn't include her?

– Tired of Toxicity

Dear Tired: I’m so sorry that your father didn’t protect you – or at least advocate for you — when you were a teenager and being verbally abused by his wife.

Given that he didn’t protect you then, and won’t engage about this now, I think it is very unlikely that he will cooperate when it comes to any conditions you try to impose.

Based on how you describe this, you seem to be trying to do for your children what your father didn’t do for you when you were young. That’s a parent’s job, and you’re doing it.

You have laid down some clear boundaries and your father can either respect them and see you and the children occasionally on his own, or he can berate you and call you selfish for trying to be a more protective parent than he was. The choice, really, is his.

Dear Amy: I have one daughter, who is now an adult with a husband and three grown children of her own. My grandchildren are all in their 30s.

I have never missed a birthday, holiday etc., consistently giving gifts to those grandchildren. I usually give each of them $100 for holidays and birthdays.

When they were young, they all thanked me.


At this point, the 33-year-old always phones me to say “thanks” for every gift, but the other two — nothing! No acknowledgment, whatsoever.

My psychologist friend told me to conduct an experiment: For Christmas, write a $1,000 check to each. If they call or text a thanks, that is a plus. If they don't acknowledge their gift, then all gifts from you should STOP.

Well, I received the usual thank you call from the 33-year-old, and nothing from the other two!

I know I will get flak from my daughter if I stop giving.

Should I keep "donating" or just not give any future gifts?

– Generous Gran

Dear Gran: Your friend provided you with a useful (and expensive!) test. What you have learned is that no matter the size of the gift, two of your grandchildren will not see fit to thank you.

If you don’t give money to your two ungrateful grandchildren, it doesn’t mean that you love them any less. It just means that there is a natural consequence to their own behavior.

You could tell them, “I’m a little embarrassed that you don’t seem to value the gifts I’ve given you over the years. I accept that – and so I’ve decided to stop.”

Dear Amy: I hated your response to “Concerned in DC.” This person was worried about his wife’s “negativity” due to political differences.

Please, Amy, keep your politics to yourself. I read this column for entertainment, not to be lectured by you.

Former Reader

Dear Reader: “Politics” seems to have surfaced recently as a point of conflict. That’s why I cover the topic in my column.

I have reviewed my response to “Concerned” with a finely pointed pencil – never once do I mention my own political point of view.


(You can email Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

©2021 Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.




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