Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. Have a question for Care and Feeding? Submit it here.
Dear Care and Feeding,
I (24M) live with my dad (71M). I do most of the cooking for us because his cooking skills are next to none. The other day I was making lemonade and when he saw me juicing the lemons, he suggested I just blend all the lemons whole and strain it instead. When I said absolutely not and questioned why he would think that, he insisted that’s how lemonade is made and we got in a whole argument about it. I couldn’t articulate at all how off the wall he was being and got really frustrated. This is a repeating pattern throughout my life including some weird school lunches like a ketchup sandwich or a thermos of boxed stuffing mix. He raised me alone, and I’ve never felt comfortable really bringing it up with him, I just got really good at cooking through watching Food Network. We’re incredibly close otherwise and for logistical/financial reasons we’ll be living together for the foreseeable future. How do I have this conversation I’ve avoided my entire life?
—One Ketchup Sandwich Too Many
Dear Ketchup Sandwich,
It’s time for you to hit your father with some loving honesty about his cooking skills. Wait for a calm time to have a conversation, and then kindly explain to him that he isn’t the best cook, and that some of his ideas about preparing food are simply wrong. Point out that you learned how to cook by watching experts on TV and suggest that maybe he was never exposed to those sorts of lessons himself growing up. Offer to teach him how to make some basic recipes—such as lemonade—and see if cooking together can be a way for the two of you to bond. Put the Food Network on while you’re watching TV together so he can see pros doing it for himself. If he continues to dig his heels in and defend his methods, let it be. Continue cooking good food for the two of you and ignoring his strange suggestions.
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Dear Care and Feeding,
My parents abandoned my brother and me when I was an infant and he was a young toddler. We were left in the care of our paternal grandparents who were eventually granted guardianship of us by the courts. I don’t know many of the details of that time since we were both very young. We received excellent care from our grandparents and later our grandmother and aunt, all of whom are now deceased. I have met my father twice (once at my grandfather’s funeral when I was a teen) and have never met my mother, nor (to my knowledge) did she ever attempt to contact us or send birthday/holiday greetings. We have several half-siblings and a full sibling that we don’t really know (they were born later and were not abandoned, although they did have a very difficult upbringing).
We recently received word that our mother is dying of cancer, and I am trying to decide if I should contact her before her death. I don’t hold strong feelings of anger towards her, as I know my life would have been much harder and less successful had we been raised by our birth parents. When I had children of my own this was even more cemented for me, as raising children is quite difficult. So part of me can understand why she couldn’t continue on. I don’t think I owe any communication to my mother at the end of her life, but part of me feels I should at least attempt to relay some kind or comforting words to her in writing (I have no interest in a phone call). The other part of me feels I should just send comforting words to any family that has reached out to me and to leave the ball in my mother’s court in terms of communication. I am looking for your advice on how to move forward. What do you say to your dying mother who wanted to have nothing to do with you and who you were better off without?
—Abandoned but Happy
I don’t think you owe your mother anything, in terms of “kind words” or acknowledgment. However, as this may be your last opportunity for the two of you to communicate, you should decide for yourself if there is anything that you’d like—or need—to say to her. You’ve found peace with the circumstances of your upbringing and you’re able to understand your mother’s choice not to raise you. She may take some comfort in hearing that, if you’re so inclined to share. It would be very nice of you to send her some comforting words, but only if it’s in your heart to do so. If there was ever anything that you wanted her to know about you and/or about her choices, this is your chance to be heard. But if you would feel more comfortable engaging with the relatives who’ve contacted you and leaving it to your mom to do her own outreach, that would be totally understandable. Only you can decide what is right for you in this moment.
My husband and I don’t have kids and we were particularly close to my niece, “Lia” when she was a child. After an unexpected windfall, we set aside around thirty thousand for Lia’s education. Lia was 8 at the time and an only child. We told both my brother and his wife about the money. They ended up getting a divorce and my brother remarried a widow with two girls. The oldest, “Mia,” is the same age as Lia. My brother adopted Mia when she was 12. We love Mia and her sister but we are not in a position to fund their education like we did for Lia. The girls are going into high school and looking at getting college credit while there. If Lia plays her cards right, she could graduate college with little to no debt. Mia would not be so lucky. My brother and his wife want us to split the money to be fair to both girls while his ex-wife is adamant that the money belongs solely to Lia. This has fractured our family and put my husband and me right in the middle. None of us are rich. What should we do here?
—In the Middle
Dear In the Middle,
If your brother had additional biological children after Lia, you would likely consider splitting the money between her and her sibling(s). I don’t think things should be different just because these other daughters are adopted. Thirty thousand isn’t enough to fund Lia’s entire college education unless she goes to community college and/or receives additional money in scholarships. The kindest thing to do would be to divide the money evenly between all three siblings, not just the older two. It won’t have the same impact as it would if all the money was going to one person, but it will certainly help to defer costs for the first year. This will understandably be disappointing to Lia’s mom (and perhaps to Lia, if she’s aware of the gift), but it’s the right thing to do. These other girls are family as well, and it isn’t fair to treat them differently just because they aren’t blood relatives.
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