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Ask Amy

Grandma struggles to connect with grandson

Dear Readers: I’m stepping away from the “Ask Amy” column for a week. Please enjoy these “best of” columns in my absence.

Q. I am a 65-year-old widowed grandmother living in New York City. Frequently a male companion and I visit my daughter, son-in-law, and their son, “Jeb,” on Long Island. The boy is 5 years old.

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Never do I get a kiss from Jeb, and only on his parents urging do I get a desultory, fleeting hug, whereas my companion is welcomed with smiles, kisses, and high-fives. In every situation he is favored over me. My companion, very fond of Jeb, has offered to stay away, so Jeb won’t be distracted. Please advise.

A. No creature is more mercurial, prickly, and sensitive than a 5-year-old is, and 5-year-old boys are famously female-averse. Most boys this age feel that, except for mom, “girls” are yucky, and even at your age and stage, you are a girl to him.

I’m concerned that you are taking his behavior personally when it is so normal. Please don’t remove your male friend from the scene — it wouldn’t achieve what you wish and would be confusing for everyone.

Send him things in the mail — nothing big, but postcards from New York or an envelope with some fun stickers inside will let him know that you are thinking of him even when you’re not around.

Please remember that relationships take time and that no one likes to be forced to hug or kiss someone. Would you like that?

Q. In your column you occasionally refer to the “basics of having a relationship.” But what are these basics? I’m only 87 years young, and I’m attempting to find friends after my wife of 61 years died over a year ago. I live in a small town, and there are probably many people who are as dumb about relationships as I am.

A. I think we’re all pretty dumb about relationships, but friendships and relationships can grow — with some practice. I hope you’re able to get out and about and mix with people.

A daily trip to the library or your local diner, regular attendance at a house of worship or involvement with a seniors club will help put you together with people who are happy to see you and who you look forward to seeing.

That’s where relationships start. They start with a nod and a smile and a tiny little conversation. Those little conversations take root, and friendships grow from them.

Q. My father has a habit that I find annoying. He says I’m lacking a sense of humor. Whenever he is introduced to a woman, he turns to me and says, “Watch me make her feel good,” then turns to her and says, “You’ve lost weight.” Remember, he is saying this to a perfect stranger and thinks it is funny.

I don’t know if it makes a difference, but he is quite elderly. I Should I continue to try and get him to stop this, or am I truly lacking a sense of humor?

A. You are both right. Your father’s comment isn’t funny, but then you’re not handling it with a good sense of humor. If a man made that remark to me, honestly I wouldn’t be offended, but I wouldn’t think it was funny either.

I think you should good-naturedly say to him, “Dad, I think you need a new act. Even Buddy Hackett occasionally used new material!”

Amy Dickinson can be reached at askamy@tribune.com. Follow her on Twitter @askingamy .
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