Q. I’m a grandmother who likes to have the family over for a Sunday meal. My husband and I like to cook. We have a large garden and like to eat a healthy variety of foods.
My daughter, who’s the mother of two of my young grandchildren, has food issues. Her requirements vary. She will say she is on a juice cleanse, or that she is no longer consuming gluten or nightshade vegetables; today she is not eating pasta, bread, or potatoes.
I received a text message very late last night with this new “no carbs” list. I had already made dough for make-it-yourself pizzas. I thought this would give everyone a chance to participate. (On Sundays my daughter is often hung over from Saturday-night reveling. I figured that, if she was napping, this could be a project the kids would enjoy.)
But she forces her children to follow her restrictive diets and lectures them about it. I try not to react to my daughter’s rude outbursts to her kids and to us.
Her two siblings have a strained relationship with her. Her brother prefers to just skip dinners when she is present. He says she has made his life miserable enough.
How should we handle this?
A. Let’s go back to your comment about your daughter’s hangovers. Has it occurred to you that her drinking might be behind at least some of her behavior?
Food obsessions are often about control. She is likely trying to control you (and her children), and she is succeeding. Because her food requirements change so frequently, you should realize that she is really saying that she wants to be in charge of her own eating.
From now on, ask her to bring and prepare her own food for herself and the children. If she is too hung over to interact with you and her children respectfully, she has an additional problem, which I believe should be acknowledged and addressed.
Q. I invited “Karen” into our all-couples group of friends. She is single. No one objected, including my wife. We have gotten together once a month for dinner over the past few months. At one point, my wife did tell me to please “discourage the overboard touchy-feely stuff.”
Thirteen of us met last night for dinner, and Karen pushed between my wife and me and took the chair next to me. While we were waiting for our food, she laid her head on my shoulder and her left arm around my neck and brought her hand up to caress my cheek.
My wife shocked me when she looked at the two of us and said, “Karen, that is my husband you are coiled around. So, please disengage so I don’t have to come over there and slap some sense into you.” Karen said nothing as she stalked out.
I don’t know what to do. Should I call Karen and apologize, or should I insist that my wife call her and apologize? My wife hasn’t mentioned the incident, so I don’t know how she would respond.
A. Assuming this really happened (and is not merely a plot recap from “The Young and the Restless”), I’d say that you and your wife are the ones who need to talk.
On the one hand, she definitely took care of business in her own (socially threatening) way. On the other, she treated you like a kitten stuck in a tree. You conveniently don’t say how you felt about “Karen’s” encroachment. When you talk to your wife, this is the information void that needs to be filled.