DEAR CAROLYN: I grew up with a manipulative, volatile and mean-spirited mother. My siblings and I all have anxiety for which we've sought counseling. I have distanced myself from her and have a happy life with my husband and 4-year-old daughter.
I have begun allowing my mother limited contact with my daughter. I'm comfortable with the boundaries. My mother is not. She continually pushes to have my daughter for weekend visits (she lives several hours away).
I do not believe she would overtly harm my daughter, but she can "fly off the handle" when upset and has different ideas than I do about what is acceptable behavior from a 4-year-old.
My family seems to think I am being unreasonable to hold my mother at such distance. My sister has no personal relationship with her but does allow her to baby-sit her children. Am I wrong not to allow weekend visits, or am I being realistic?
DEAR MOTHER: I need more choices. Like this: "I refuse to leave my daughter with my mother unsupervised because I am (a) wrong; (b) realistic; (c) not out of my therapeutically repaired mind."
I'm going with (c).
I can't know what your sister is thinking and won't pass uninformed judgment on the way people raise kids, but I wonder how a parent too toxic for adults can be safe for kids.
You've mulled this, apparently, and come up empty.
Trust that. Don't be sucked in by a manipulative family that has damaged your mental health.
Mom's pressuring you? So what? You're a mother too, one who knows the harm people can do. Protect your cub. Be fierce.
DEAR CAROLYN: My 12-year-old stepdaughter has witnessed violence against her mother while at her mom's house, so her dad has her in counseling with a therapist she seems to like.
But recently my stepdaughter has said she doesn't like some things the therapist suggests that perhaps there are better ways to handle things than violence, and that perhaps my stepdaughter does get angry about things.
The therapist seems to be a consummate professional. But I'm worried my stepdaughter will think her therapist is biased against Mom. She needs a third party she can trust.
DEAR WONDERING: Encourage your stepdaughter to express concerns to the therapist directly. It'll be good practice for her in standing up for herself and setting agendas for her own care. She'll have to do it with doctors and other caregivers in her life. It will also give the therapist a chance to address these concerns.