Ask Amy: Helpful mom may want to stay out of daughter’s marital problems

Dear Amy: I am the grandmother of two wonderful kids – a 7-year-old girl and 3-year-old boy.

My son-in-law has been overly critical of my granddaughter since she was four, and now is starting to treat the younger child the same. My daughter stood up for her children three years ago and they separated for six months, mainly because of his inability to be more patient with the children. (There were some other issues.) She and the kids lived with me at that time.

They’ve been to counseling off and on for a couple of years.

His behavior is mean, calling them idiots, and he often uses foul language.

He tries to teach them patience and manners by yelling and holds the older child to a standard that he doesn’t reach himself.

He has never hit them, but is very intimidating.

He is a stay-at-home dad because of some health issues and hasn’t worked in two years. He rarely cleans, and doesn’t cook or do laundry.

My daughter doesn’t want to hear my opinion anymore. She knows he won’t change and she would have to kick him out again, so she pretends it’s not that bad.

They are having financial problems and I want to offer to have them move in with me.

I have plenty of room but am worried about not being able to get along with my son-in-law all the time.

I know that I would probably take on most of the childcare and housekeeping, but I want what’s best for the kids and my daughter.

Should I make the offer?

– Sad Grandma

Dear Grandma: Your daughter has asked you not to engage so thoroughly in her marriage. Moving this family into your household would place you directly in the middle of it.

If your daughter perceives your legitimate concern for their welfare as judgment and pressure, she might respond by defensively digging in her heels.

Rejecting help is the strange dynamic that is sometimes part of an abuse cycle.

It is possible, too, that the counseling this couple receives is helping to reform your son-in-law’s behavior.

If things are not improving, providing housing, childcare and housekeeping for the entire family would actually keep this father in the mix, when it might be best for the children if the parents separate. If all of you lived together, your home would cease being a safe-haven and would become ground zero.

Your daughter has already separated from her husband once. She and the children have lived with you before; you should make sure she knows that this is always an option if they need housing again.

Dear Amy: Years ago, I planted a tree in my yard that was very close to my property line.

The tree has grown a lot. It has small leaves, and this year the leaf fall is large. It is a pain to clean up.

Many of the leaves are falling into my neighbor’s yard. My neighbor has no trees in her yard. All the fallen leaves in her yard are from my tree.

My neighbor and her husband are my age and are able-bodied. They have able-bodied millennial children living with them.

Am I obligated to rake her yard?

– Tree Owner

Dear Tree Owner: Researching your question, I have encountered a number of unfortunate accounts detailing extreme disputes between neighbors – brought on by falling leaves.

Leaves falling off of a tree become the responsibility of the person owning the property where they fall. The leaves that land in your yard are your responsibility; the leaves that land in your neighbors’ yard are theirs, no matter where they come from.

However, the tone of your question makes me worry that your tree issue might grow into a leafy dispute. Unless they bring this up, you should let them handle their leaves, but wouldn’t it be neighborly of you to at least offer to rake them? Leaves can make great mulch or a compost supplement.

Limbs from your tree reaching over the property line can be cut back by your neighbor. If they made this choice, it could reduce the leaf issue for them, but might upset you.

Dear Amy: I appreciated your tough take for “Unsure Mom,” who thought her teen daughter would look better wearing makeup. When my mom encouraged me to wear makeup as a teenager, it automatically made me feel like I wasn’t good enough without it.

– Fresh Faced

Dear Fresh Faced: This is the near-universal reaction when parents tell their children how to “improve” their looks.

You can email Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068.

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