Life Advice



Ask Amy: ‘Mama bear’ might want to hibernate

Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: A few years ago, my in-laws sent my (then) young-adult daughter a birthday card. Normally this would have included a monetary gift or gift card. However, when she opened it there was simply a note stating that there would be no gift, as they did not agree with what she was hoping to spend some of her birthday money on (a tattoo).

The words were hurtful and made my daughter cry, which woke up the mama bear in me.

I told my husband that he needed to talk to his parents and have them apologize. He didn't get what the big deal was.

I didn't care about a gift, but their note was hurtful, and I felt my daughter deserved an apology from people who should love her, no matter their personal beliefs.

He thought I should call them, as I was more upset about it than he was. I told him I would not be able to control my temper.

He never said anything to them, although I have asked him to on numerous occasions.

Although I know my in-laws love us, they are much more distant — emotionally and physically — than the rest of our family.

My daughter is now planning her wedding. Due to ongoing health concerns, I am not certain they will attend, but I want us all to be prepared.

Should I press my husband to tell them the ways they have hurt our daughter? Should I? Or should I just do my best to stuff my feelings under the rug and try to forget them?

Our daughter has not forgotten, as it is a running joke anytime she gets a card from someone.

– Mama Bear

Dear Mama Bear: Your husband’s parents were being judgmental and unkind – but, that’s on them!

Their harsh judgment has likely caused their granddaughter to be wary of them. Again – that’s a consequence of their choice.

I appreciate the fact that this has become something of a running joke for your daughter, because that’s where I believe this incident belongs. (For instance, if she receives a fat envelope in the mail: “Ooh – come to mama! I smell tattoo money!”)

What I don’t understand is why it is your husband’s job to confront his parents over behavior that doesn’t seem to surprise him in the least.

This incident happened several years ago. Your daughter is an adult. If she wants to try to affect some kind of resolution (for herself), she could contact them: “That birthday when you refused to send me a gift because you thought I might spend it on a tattoo – that really hurt! I felt like I’d fallen several pegs in your affection for me, and I worry that we’ve never really recovered.”

My advice for you is to – yes – do your best to accept their limitations as people and as grandparents.

If you accept them as flawed people who simply aren’t very good at being accepting and loving grandparents, then you won’t have to confront or forgive them.


And always – treat them the way you wish they treated others.

Dear Amy: My wife and I are struggling to make summertime plans with and for our kids. Quite simply, we don’t know if a COVID variant may emerge and derail all our best-laid plans.

Your suggestions?

– Organized Dad

Dear Dad: Make your plans, assume that all will go well, and prepare yourselves for possible changes.

And – I don’t want to be “that guy,” but please keep in mind that there are families dislocated by warfare and other natural and man-made events who don’t have the privilege of even making plans.

Your family – and mine – can handle a change of best-laid plans, and that in itself is something to feel extremely grateful for.

Dear Amy: I’m responding to the letter from “I Miss Her,” the pregnant woman whose sister-in-law had recently lost a baby. The SIL now had trouble attending baby-centered events, such as showers and birthday parties.

I lost my infant son to a drunk driver 40 years ago.

Like her sister-in-law, it was simply unbearable to be around anyone pregnant. All the same, your advice for counseling, etc., is correct.

Kindness and patience are key here because all these feelings and emotions are still quite tender and raw.

I believe that in time this relationship will turn around and all will be well.

– Been There

Dear Been There: This question has prompted many parents who have suffered through the loss of a child to show their support.


(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.)

©2022 Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.




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