Q. My girlfriend and I have a 3-year-old son. We both have other children (including other sons) from other relationships. Both my 22-year-old son and my father live in different parts of Texas.
Today, I shared with my girlfriend the following: “I’ve been thinking about taking a fishing trip with my dad and my son. Maybe start a tradition.” Her response was, “And you completely just showed that you aren’t thinking of the other boys, which is sad. It seems like you don’t view my kids as like your own.”
I didn’t think of it that way. What do you think?
FISHING FOR AN ANSWER
A. It is challenging to blend various sets of children, especially when some of the children live elsewhere, and with an almost 20-year age gap between sons. There is no perfect way to do this, and certainly in the earlier years of a newer relationship, some parents and their biological children will continue to spend some exclusive time together.
I am in favor of this sort of relationship-keeping between parents and their children, as long as there is also relationship-building between stepparents and the children their partners bring into the relationship.
This has obviously upset your partner. Does she view your 22-year-old son as her own? I’m guessing not because he doesn’t live nearby, and he’s an adult. But claiming this important kinship runs both ways, as you should remind her.
In addition to advocating for her kids to have a close relationship with you, it’s possible that she feels left behind, as you make plans that don’t include her and your young son.
Building a relationship with stepchildren takes time, effort, and patience. Show her that you are willing to put in the time and effort to continue to build a healthy and positive relationship with them. In my opinion, this should not preclude an annual fishing trip, which, in time, your younger son (and perhaps stepchildren) could join.
Q. This is a “trivial” subject that has nonetheless bothered me for years.
My parents have the original Trivial Pursuit game, circa 1983. At various get-togethers, my mom will drag out this relic, and enthusiastically try to rally us around a good old game of “General Knowledge.”
I feel like she should upgrade her game, at least to a game from this century. We go round and round, arguing about the obviously outdated questions, which the parents insist be answered in the vernacular of what the correct answer was, back in 1983.
Any suggestions to update, or at least omit the blatantly wrong answers, fall upon deaf ears. I’ve become so exasperated by their childish behavior, and refusal to update, that I simply refuse to participate.
We used to enjoy the familial camaraderie, but it now seems ludicrous to me, when most of these questions are no longer relevant.
A. The childish behavior in your family may have passed to the next generation. You ... are pouting.
Your folks have anchored themselves to this particular tradition. They are eager to re-create times of togetherness. I suggest that you work harder to laugh about it, in a good-natured way, putting this into the category of bad “Dad jokes,” your Aunt Marjory’s molded Jell-O salad, and other groaning reminders of family traditions that seem absurd, silly, or pointless.
Instead of trying to replace this game, you could try to introduce a new game, to be pulled out after all of the questions about the Reagan administration and Madonna’s career have been answered, and all of the Trivial Pursuit pie pieces have been played. There are a lot of fun parlor games that are not trivia-oriented, and still encourage conversation and laughter.
I assure you, if you don’t laugh about this now, you will regret it later. Someday (hopefully well into the future), you and your siblings will be going through your folks’ stuff. You’ll pull out that well-worn relic and fight over who gets to keep it.
Q. “Hoping for Happily Ever After” was wondering about her daughter’s partner, who never says, “I love you.”
My husband of 20 years doesn’t like to say, “I love you,” but shows me every day. He keeps my car immaculate, vacuums, supports me in my work, brings me flowers for no reason, etc.
If she can’t accept not hearing three words that are thrown out too easily, she needs to look for someone else. He deserves better.
A. I appreciate your take.
Amy Dickinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.