DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have two children through adoption, and am in the process of adopting the biological sibling of my younger child.
These siblings were born into the foster care system. Their birth mother grew up in foster care. That, together with her family’s extreme dysfunction, led her to addiction. I have enormous sympathy for her circumstances, and have seen her weep for her losses and what her life has become.
Aside from her addiction issues, she is a sweet, likable and respectful individual. While clearly the circumstances of the children’s births are not ideal, we are so grateful to have them, and I make sure to tell our children how much she loves them and how wanted they are.
My problem is with people who ask me if she has heard of birth control, or proclaim that the authorities should just tie her tubes, or offer other simplistic solutions to a very complex issue. I know I have a far deeper understanding of the situation and have tried explaining some of it, but this takes time and often reveals more of my children’s stories than I might wish.
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Does Miss Manners have a kind and gentle response that reminds people that until they have walked a mile in her shoes, they are in no position to judge?
GENTLE READER: It would be tempting to respond with something like, “Birth control? What’s that? I’ve never heard of it, either.” But don’t.
Rather, Miss Manners recommends a cold “I beg your pardon, but I must remind you that you are talking about the mother of my children.” That should at least confuse them enough to be rendered speechless.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Frequently when our family meets for dinner at a restaurant, we find that our mother has ordered food and we’re not allowed to see a menu or make any choices.
We’re middle-aged children, and our mother insists that this is the same as visiting her house for dinner, therefore she makes the choices. I’ve asked her to stop doing this and she ignores my requests.
Is this appropriate host behavior? I don’t like having my food chosen for me, but am I rude to insist on ordering for myself, or is the host rude for not letting me choose?
GENTLE READER: This does seem to defeat the very point of going to a restaurant, doesn’t it?
Is your mother paying for the meal and therefore trying to avoid a fight over the bill while still staying within her budget? Miss Manners would ordinarily never dream of asking about money, but she is trying to eke out the rationale here.
Perhaps your mother is confusing this casual family dinner with renting a restaurant party room, where one would act as host and plan the menu?
As you are middle-aged children, at least one of you should set a good example by insisting on taking her out for dinner, asking her what she would like to eat, and requesting, when making the reservation, that the bill be presented only to the host. If this is not feasible, Miss Manners recommends that you give up, and either give in or start inviting the family to your house for dinner.
Judith Martin writes the Miss Manners column with help from her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, MissManners.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.
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