Dear Readers – With so many parents dating after a divorce/spouse's death, adult children dealing with Mom or Dad's new partner can face an awkward (at best) or complicated/uncomfortable situation.
The following reader's commentary on accepting a parent's new partner, is both interesting and instructive:
I'm a self-sufficient woman in my 40s whose parents divorced when I was a child. I grew up with my mother.
Several years later, Mom met a new man. They were partners for almost 30 years until he passed from cancer. They never lived together (mutual choice as both had demanding careers and were very independent).
My mother took her partner's death very hard and retired earlier than anticipated.
After a few years, she began trying online dating. She eventually met a widower she really liked and they became an "item."
I figured it wouldn't be any different than her last relationship, just a matter of my getting to know/become used to someone "new."
Then the bombshell: After a year of dating she said he was moving into her house and giving his house to his adult kids.
She said it'd help her out financially. I was shocked. I'd never had to "share" my mother before, nor my "soft place" (her home).
After he moved in, "home" didn't feel quite the same. But that was my problem. I had to accept it and support my mother's happiness (and her right).
Her partner has many hobbies/interests so they dedicated a den and a basement work space for him, where he enjoys his hobbies and alone time.
When I visit, I get lots of one-on-one time with my mother.
They have a legal co-habitation agreement. He pays a fixed amount monthly toward household expenses but has no ownership of the house.
If my mother were to pass first, he has six months to seek alternate living arrangements. We'd have to split their shared possessions in the home to ensure he has enough to "start over" in a new home – perfectly reasonable.
My mother's first partner's adult children never accepted her, resulting in her being excluded completely from all mention and memorial after his passing – very painful for her.
I find it extremely sad (and quite ridiculous) that adult children can be so immature and selfish when it comes to their parents' new relationships.
Life is change, embrace it.
Q – Among my friends with teenagers, many found that, since classroom-life ended with the coronavirs (COVID-19 strain) lockdown, their kids stopped reading for pleasure.
My own teenager and others I know, used to relax with a book. They discussed books with each other, and even talked about their current reading at the dinner table.
It raised the younger kids' interest in books they were hearing about, and opened up new information for us all.
Why do you think teenagers stopped reading during the pandemic?
A – We're dealing with a generalization, of course. Undoubtedly, some teens still found a world of adventure through books.
However, teenagers typically tend to crave the company of friends, along with wanting something exciting in their lives.
Instead, they were mostly kept inside their homes for more than three months (depending on restrictions), unable to see friends except virtually.
Easy-access excitement came from fast-action video games or TikTok, Snapchat and other social media platforms, as quick hits of something to talk about with friends.
Keep reading and discussing books with your teen. Listen to books when driving any distance as a family.
They'll come back to reading, in time.
Q – I'm the eldest of three brothers, all married with children. Pre-pandemic, we regularly had very large get-togethers with our parents.
I married first. My younger brothers treat my wife like a sister. But both their wives changed after they had children.
They became uninterested in our family gatherings, made excuses not to attend, and aren't warm with my parents.
I worry that all responsibilities as they age will be only ours, and my brothers' wives will deter them from helping their own parents. Please advise.
A – Talk to your brothers. Don't criticize their wives but discuss how three sons should think about, and decide on, some shared responsibilities.
Ask your parents about their own plans – such as whether to downsize, how they want to handle serious health and end-of-life issues, whether they have legal wills.
After that, time will indicate what's needed from whoever's willing to help. It's harmful if forced.
In Monday's column, I left unchanged a letter writer’s description of her distanced brother as “the black sheep” of the family. I greatly regret this linking of undesirable behaviour with colour, especially as so many people today – usually including me – are recognizing and trying to change these hurtful and oppressive sayings and attitudes. – Ellie
Ellie's tip of the day
Adult children should appreciate parents' finding new, healthy partnerships after a loss.