DEAR ANNIE: My son’s marriage broke up after 10 years. Twice they attended counseling because his wife wanted to see other men. The third time, she was actually dating another guy. He and “Mandy” share custody of their three children.
Mandy had a troubled upbringing. Her mother neglected her, and she ended up in state care. At 18, she lived with a cousin in exchange for baby-sitting. This only worked until the cousin discovered Mandy was sleeping with her husband.
Mandy has a college degree, which she obtained while married to my son, but even while he paid alimony, along with her rent and utilities, she never made any effort to find work. She then took the money she received from my son’s retirement account and moved to another state to live near some guy she met on the Internet, leaving the kids with their father. The children were devastated. My son now works 12-hour days while his current girlfriend (a saint) watches the children.
Mandy is now emailing our relatives, claiming my son beat her and the girlfriend is beating the children. She says she is broke and suicidal, has autism and PTSD and cannot live a decent life. If that’s true, however, she would be eligible for disability benefits, but she refuses to apply or seek counseling.
Mandy drinks and smokes pot and obviously has some mental health issues. She threatens to sue for sole custody so my son will have to pay her child support. She has alienated her entire family and most of her friends. She has no one other than the current boyfriend, who lives with his mother and has no job.
Should we send her money? How do we protect our son? — Worried Mom
DEAR WORRIED: Your son needs to document every instance of Mandy’s erratic behavior and keep copies of her harassing emails in case she follows through with her threats. Do not send her money as a consequence of her blackmailing efforts. It will only reward her negative behavior and ramp up the demands. Instead, if you choose to do so, you could offer to pay for therapy sessions (sending the money directly to the therapist after verifying credentials). This would be for the benefit of your grandchildren, who need their mother to be stable and loving.
DEAR ANNIE: I disagree with your advice to “Too Many Grandmas,” whose mother doesn’t want her ex-husband’s fiancee, “Kitty,” to be called “Grandma Kitty.”
While bitterness and a grudge may play a part, the bigger issue is that “Kitty” did not give birth to or raise these children. It is inappropriate to give her the title of “Grandma.” To do so is a discredit to the biological grandmas.
Grandma Edna should not be expected to share the honor of the title with her ex-husband’s fiancee, because it is hurtful to her. They can find another term that shows respect but doesn’t take away from those who have earned the title. — Rapid City, S.D.
DEAR RAPID CITY: It is counterproductive to put so much emotional weight on a title. Kitty has known the granddaughter just as long as Edna has. The girl loves both of these women and shouldn’t be stuck listening to Grandma Edna cry over Kitty. If “Too Many” chooses to have her daughter call Kitty something else, that’s up to her. It’s not up to Edna.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column.