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Parents deal with racism from family

Posted: December 9, 2011 3:29 p.m.
Updated: December 12, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Dear Annie: My husband and I adopted our daughter at birth. When my mother-in-law found out that “Amanda” is biracial, she informed my husband that we were no longer welcome in her home. Initially, she admitted it was simple racism, but now she says it’s because she can never accept a child “not of my own blood.” When our daughter was 3, Mom visited and told Amanda that she was a “friend,” not a relative.

My husband and I have seen marriage counselors and two pastors, all of whom said he needed to make it clear that his mother must accept our child or we would no longer have any relationship with her. My husband has not heeded any of their advice. In addition, we have helped support this woman and have always been kind to her, regardless of her behavior.
Amanda just had her 12th birthday. Of course, there was no birthday card or acknowledgement from my mother-in-law. Now she is planning to move to our area, and I’m not so sure that is a good idea. How should we handle this hardhearted woman? -- Frustrated in Colorado

Dear Colorado: Your mother-in-law’s racist attitude is reprehensible, but there could be a silver lining. It’s possible that if she lives closer and sees Amanda more often, she will learn not only to accept her but to cherish her as a granddaughter. In fact, moving to your area may be her way of doing that without admitting it. Attitudes like hers are difficult, but not impossible, to change. Please give her the opportunity before you cut her off from Amanda entirely.

Dear Annie: Why is it that the same family members who send out announcements for weddings, births and graduations never bother to send birthday wishes to the same people from whom they expect gifts?

Many of our family members are on Facebook and will drop a quick little “Happy Birthday” message on that person’s special day. Yet some of my husband’s nieces and nephews don’t have time to bother. We have remembered their birthdays and other special occasions year after year. Now that they are all adults, does it not make sense that they would reciprocate?

To make matters more hurtful, there have been times when we haven’t even received a thank-you note for gifts sent. This makes us feel that we’d rather not bother anymore. -- We Have Feelings, Too

Dear Feelings: This is partly poor manners, but it’s also an age-gap issue. Many young adults expect to receive birthday wishes from aunts and uncles who have known them their entire lives, but do not realize they should reciprocate. Instead of assuming this is deliberate hurtfulness, try a wake-up call. Tell them, “It’s my birthday tomorrow,” and let them offer their good wishes. If you send a gift and they don’t reply, ask whether they received it. Give them the chance to develop the manners that apparently didn’t sink in when they were younger.

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to anniesmailbox@comcast.net, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 5777 W. Century Blvd., Ste. 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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