Dear Amy: Three years ago, my (then) 35-year-old sister-in-law (who lives with my mother-in-law) referred to my 9-year-old and her 9-year-old cousin as "bitches," "brats" and other words that I would have preferred my daughter had never heard.
This was the straw that broke the camel's back, and my husband and I have not allowed our children to go back without our presence.
I would like an apology given to my child, and have made this known, but I am told I am creating drama. I've been told that my sister-in-law did not really mean what she said, and my child and her cousin did not hear it anyway.
If you tell me to let bygones be bygones, then I will certainly do that. But if not, do you have some advice for me to give to my daughter? She does not want to see her aunt or her grandmother because she says they were always mean to her and her cousin anyway.
I feel I've been harboring resentment for way too long now.
Dear Resentful: Three years after this incident, you can do the math and know for certain that an apology will never come.
Some people just "don't do" apologies. Not surprisingly, these are often the same people who wallow in their own offensiveness. Expecting, demanding or even waiting for an apology just strengthens their resolve never to offer one.
You reacted appropriately by removing your daughter from this aunt's toxic presence. Other than to say, "Your aunt was completely inappropriate and used words no one should use," you should not dwell on this with your daughter — or anyone else. You need to demonstrate a mature ability to file this incident in a imaginary drawer titled: "Regrettable, Unfortunate and Won't Happen Again."
Your sister-in-law's "punishment" for this offense (and I agree that it is a grave offense) is that she has to live with herself. The very act of being her every single day can't be a picnic.
You should retaliate by forgiving her. Forgiveness works every time.
Dear Amy: I've got a morbidly obese mother, but I don't know how to gently ask her to lose weight.
She has all sorts of incorrect beliefs about her own weight, i.e., she can't exercise because of bad knees, she's big boned, she's not that fat, she has to keep her blood sugar up, etc.
Help, Amy. I don't want to see her die. How can I address this?
Dear Worried: Your mother is intractable about her weight, and so don't frame this issue as being about obesity, but about health.
Engage and encourage your mother to become better informed and proactive about her basic health, without dwelling on her weight. You should urge her to get a checkup and some tests to determine her baseline health. You both might enjoy reading Dr. Oz's accessible book decoding the mysteries of the human body, "You: the Owner's Manual," by Mehmet Oz and Michael F. Roizen (2009, HarperCollins).
Dear Amy: I read with interest your answer to "Suzi" on the requirement to love members of your family.
I was an only child, so I never had an issue with siblings.
When I married and had four sons, I had to face the situation with them. I taught them that they didn't have to love or even like each other just because they were brothers.
I did insist that they had to respect each others' privacy, belongings and person. I would not tolerate name calling or hitting or fighting.
To this day that premise still holds true. They don't all always like each other but there is still respect. They support each other in times of need and cheer for each other in good times.
— Happy Mother
Dear Happy: Mutual respect and support between brothers sounds suspiciously like "brotherly love" to me. One thing I noticed from the responses to this question was that there is no one way to define love — but you know it when you have it.
Send questions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Amy Dickinson’s memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.