Dear Amy: Nine-year-old “Danny” lives with his dad and grandparents, and none of them get along. Danny is always caught in the middle. Danny’s dad (in his mid-30s) is a self-absorbed jerk and spends very little time with Danny, but he lives in the same house.
If Grandma is mad at Danny’s father (who is her son), Danny gets to hear all about it, and vice versa. Caught in the turmoil, Danny gets chewed out by both sides.
The latest example of this is that Danny is going on vacation with his grandparents, but his dad wasn’t invited and doesn’t even know they are going! Grandma told Danny not to tell his dad, because she doesn’t want the dad to go! And when they return, Danny will be yelled at by his dad for keeping the secret. Danny cannot win in this dysfunctional family.
How can it be right for the other family members to leave on vacation with his son and not tell him, and to demand that Danny keep this secret? The grandparents are his main caregivers, and if they left him behind, I doubt his father would look after him for the 10 days, so Danny must go with them.
I’m a (not very respected) family member, who thankfully doesn’t live there. I keep my mouth shut because nobody asked me, but Danny does share with me some of his anxieties and fears. I really feel for the boy. All I can think to tell him is that he can chart his own path when he grows up, and that he won’t have to live with either his grandparents or his dad. It seems so insufficient.
Obviously, all of these people need counseling, and I seriously doubt it would ever happen, because they are blind to their angry dysfunction.
Is it right for them to take Danny without telling the dad? What can I say to Danny?
Dear Worried: It is NOT right for these grandparents to spirit their grandson away — unless they are the child’s legal adoptive parents or guardians, it would also be illegal for them to take the child without the father’s permission.
Any parent returning home to find his child missing without explanation would be justified in calling the police to report an abduction.
Poor “Danny” is in a toxic household. No adult should EVER ask a child to keep a secret from a parent; secret-keeping divides a child’s loyalty — it is also what people who exploit children ask them to do.
Danny can’t wait until he grows up to chart his own path. Given the dynamic in this household, the child will pay the price, and his path will be very rocky. Stay close to the boy.
You should not stay silent. This family desperately needs intervention, for the child’s sake.
Dear Amy: I enjoy meeting with my friends one-to-one; I just do. It’s upsetting to me when arrangements are made to meet up with one friend, and then I find out that she has invited others to join us.
It’s not that I don’t like the other people. It just changes the conversation when there are three, four or five people.
Should I seek other friends who think as I do, or is there a way to express my feelings without coming off as anti-social?
Something of a Loner
Dear Loner: You may not be a “loner” so much as an introvert, whose energy is sapped by groups of people — especially when you’re not expecting it. There is nothing “wrong” with feeling this way — it’s the way you’re built!
If you are issuing the invitation, you get to dictate the terms, so you can say: “Let’s meet up at the Corner Café — but just the two of us, OK?” If somebody else is making the plans, you can ask if others will be there. Understand that if you are meeting a friend at a bar, there is a likelihood that others may join you.
Read: “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking,” by Susan Cain (2013, Broadway Books).
Dear Amy: I really must comment on the letter “Seeking Too Much Courtesy.” She wanted thanks and validation for the polite things she did over the course of her day.
We do polite and practical niceties because it’s what we ought to do and who we choose to be — not for continuous acknowledgment and/or praise of each and every thing.
Give it a Rest
Dear Rest: I completely agree.