Dear Aunt Gabby: Should we cut off our mooching step-son?

Today, Aunt Gabby deals with mooching step-sons, and unwanted parenting advice

Dear Aunt Gabby

My step-son, Graham, lives across town in an apartment. He works as a fry-cook and sporadically attends college. He is 26 years old.

Recently, his father and I found out that he has been getting a monthly allowance, not only from us, but from his mother, his grandmother, and from his two favorite aunts—and he has a roommate!

We are outraged! Everyone who loves him is paying his freight, so he can eat out, party, and buy high-dollar clothes. When confronted about his scam, Graham got defensive and angry. He accused his father of doting on me for the past couple of years and leaving him to fend for himself.

Of course, my husband feels guilty, but I want to cut Graham off and let him figure it out. How do we untangle Graham’s mess and keep everyone happy?

Sign me, Stepped-on Step-Mom

Dear Step,

Having had experience as a step-child and a step-mother, I can attest that the step-child get the raw end of the stick. For every slight, for every twinge of jealousy, for every bitter pill you swallow, consider that you are an adult, and any child is defenseless against such an onslaught of feelings.

The fact that this “child” was an “adult” when you married his father, means that Graham was probably an entitled, immature young man before you arrived on the scene. This is a problem that your husband (and Graham’s mother and family) created and nurtured for years.

It is theirs to clean up. Not yours. As the step-mother to an adult son, continue to Butt-out! Stay on your husband’s side. Tell him you sympathize with him and don’t give him unasked-for advice. Grow a thick skin and refrain from taking any bait. You cannot get stepped on, if you are out of the way.

Remember, it is always painful to grow a backbone.

Aunt Gabby

Unwanted parenting advice?

Dear Aunt Gabby,

What should I do when strangers correct my children or give me parenting advice that I don’t want?   It makes me so made, I want to slap them. I am Chip, Lorna, and Baby Theo’s Nice Mommy.

Dear Nice,

I feel your pain. Your children are special and wonderful. They are lively. No one likes to think they are doing well and hear anyone tell them otherwise. Parenting is a particularly touchy subject. Knowing folks, the way I do, most people will try hard to tolerate children until they just can’t take it anymore. Some people have very short fuses.

I recently attended a political meeting in which a young woman was running for a state office. She was in a room with about 70 grown-ups, who were lounging and listening after dinner. With her was her tall, handsome house-husband and their precious 2-year-old darling. This woman was running for office and fund-raising for an expensive campaign. She gave her rambling, inarticulate speech, accompanied by her daughter, squirming, bubbling, crying for Mommy, and her adorable husband holding on for dear life. When the question-and-answer session began, the toddler broke loose and ran up to Mommy and pulled on her skirt, cried and climbed on her legs. Daddy sat grinning, obviously in love with his baby girl.

The audience was not in love. That little girl was gorgeous. She had no business being there. Her adorable parents should have hired a baby-sitter. No one said a word about this occasion (until now), but it was extremely awkward and maddening. I don’t even remember what the candidate said. I won’t vote for her or give her money because she showed such poor judgement that evening.

Sometimes, it is exactly what we need to hear. How can you tell if you are being targeted unfairly or given good advice? If one person tells you that your children are misbehaving, you might discount it as that one person’s pet peeve. If 2-3 or more people are frowning, moving away from, or running for the exits, you might pay more attention.

If you or your children are reprimanded every time you take them out, it is time to take your children (and yourself) in hand. For your children’s sake, check your ego at the door, and visit a mall, hospital, or restaurant without you kids. Observe how other people’s children behave or don’t. What do parents do?

Your children’s lives depend on your ability to teach them to mind you. It will certainly make other people happier to see them coming.

Aunt Gabby

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