Q: My son, a widower with two boys, ages 6 and 9, has just informed me that his 33-year-old girlfriend, “Karen,” is pregnant and due in five months. He started seeing her three months after his wife died, and they have been an item for eight months. She has been staying at his house every weekend and plans to move in with him soon.
Karen has never been married and has no children, so she will become a stepmom and a new mom in a short period of time. Neither my son nor Karen seems to realize how difficult it will be to bring a stepparent into this situation, especially with a new baby on the way. One of the boys will have to give up his bedroom when the baby arrives. I’m concerned that the boys will be overwhelmed by this, when they have not yet been able to effectively deal with the death of their mother.
I think this relationship has moved too fast and they are clueless about how all this will affect the boys. My son has told me I need to “get over it, it’s his life and his kids.” Is there anything I can do to help the boys process all of this and adjust to the new situation? — Wise Lady in the South
A: Nowhere in your letter have you mentioned that the boys are depressed or acting out. They probably like Karen or the relationship wouldn’t have lasted as long as it has.
It appears that in trying to be helpful you may have come across as negative or judgmental. If that’s true, apologize to your son and suggest that if the adjustment becomes difficult for his boys, a family therapist could help to nip any problems in the bud. Then cross your fingers and hope it isn’t necessary.
Q: My husband and I have been married 10 years. Half of his family are smokers. Every year, there has been a family gathering at his dad’s house. Since the birth of my first child, smoking has become forbidden in that home.
This year, however, the party will be at the home of another, where smoking will be permitted. I can’t handle smoke. It gives me a sore throat, and I cough for a week after exposure. Because of my reaction and for the health of my children, I don’t want to attend. (When we get home we have to immediately shower and launder our clothing to get rid of the smell.)
My husband is adamant that we SHOULD attend and bring the kids. He was raised around smoking and doesn’t see what the “big deal” is. What can I say or do to convince him not to force me and our children to be exposed to the health hazards of secondhand smoke? Am I being unreasonable because it’s only one night a year? — Hater of Smoking in West Virginia
A: I think so. Much as you might like to, you can’t raise your children in a bubble. I would hate to see you isolate your children from their aunts, uncles, cousins and any grandparents who are still alive during their once-a-year holiday celebration.
If you would prefer not to attend because you can’t stand the smell of the smoke, stay home. But do not prevent your children from knowing the family. Assuming they don’t have health issues, one evening of exposure to cigarette smoke shouldn’t be harmful.
Write Dear Abby at DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.