Ask Amy

Sunday, October 4, 2009 at 10:45pm

DEAR AMY: Two years ago, my children attended a day care center in our area.

The facility was amazing and the owner-director, "James," was like a second father to my daughters.

I completely trusted him and his staff, and my children loved going there every day.

My husband and I stumbled into some deep debt, mainly because of his job loss, and fell behind in our payments to everyone, including the day care center.

I pulled the children out of the center and promised to pay as much as we could every week or month until we were caught up.

Long story short, everything else seemed to take priority and we never got caught up with them.

A collection agency eventually took over and finally, recently, we were able to pay him what he was owed (plus numerous completely understandable fees).

Now that we have finally caught up, should I send a letter expressing my embarrassment and apologies about leaving him in the lurch like that?

I would like him to know how much we appreciated his care of my children and how much I wish this situation had never happened.

Should I apologize or leave him alone?

— Embarrassed Mom in N.J.

DEAR EMBARRASSED: In general, if you wonder if you should apologize for something, you should.

Many people don't realize how powerful the act of apologizing can be. You should also ask to be forgiven.

James provided a necessary service to your family and then had to chase you for payment. You should acknowledge your embarrassment over this, tell him you'll forever be grateful for the high-quality service he provided for your family and tell him that despite your financial troubles, you've done your best to clear your debt — but that you will always feel a personal debt of gratitude to him.


DEAR AMY: I've had a tumultuous relationship with my mother-in-law for 15 years.

Though I have not been a saint, I have always done my best to behave respectfully to her and to take responsibility for my actions when I haven't made good choices.

The ups and downs with my mother-in-law have been a real and sometimes unbearable strain on my marriage, but as we've gotten older and grown up a bit, my husband and I have gotten better at recognizing this situation for what it is and keeping the line between his mother's problems and our relationship clear.

Recently, my mother-in-law became confrontational with me.


She called me out of a room where I was chatting with friends and laid into me in the kitchen over a minor cooking squabble.

My husband followed up with her a few days later to request that she please approach him if there are issues that need to be addressed, but there is a part of me that wants to say something to her myself.

Is my husband's effort enough, or should I say something to her directly?

I don't want to make the situation worse. But I'd like to do what I can to bring this drama to a close — if that is even possible.

— Seeking Peace

DEAR SEEKING: I have recommended that adult children should advocate on behalf of their spouses in sticky in-law situations because the parent-child relationship is the primary one. However, many letters from abused in-laws have demonstrated how important it is for the abused party to demonstrate that she has a backbone.

You should let things lie for now.

The next time your mother-in-law steps over the line, you should call her in for a "kitchen confidential" and bring down the hammer yourself. Your husband can follow up with her to make sure the message is clear and consistent.


DEAR AMY: "Paula from Detroit" wrote to you wondering what direction she should take in life.

You should have suggested the military!

My son went into the Army right after high school, where he did just enough to skate by. Now he has a sense of pride, strength and a strong character.

College is not for everyone.

— A Blue Star Mother


DEAR MOTHER: Your suggestion is great, thank you.

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