Dear Annie: My sister complains that our mother (who can be narcissistic and self-centered) has never reached out to her son. "Mitch" is now 25, and Mom has never tried to get to know him. Mom sent my daughter (now 33) on trips to Europe and would visit us often, but did not do the same for Mitch.
Mitch is not easy. I used to send him gifts for birthdays and other milestones and never received any response, so I finally stopped. In person, he is monosyllabic and quiet. When he was 2, I remember seeing him bite my sister and throw tantrums.
Mitch is very bright. He's been in college off and on for the past six years, but still has not finished his degree. I am fairly certain that he was into pot through high school and may still be. He has never had a real job, although he's worked part-time temp positions.
My sister's relationship with our mother has always been slightly problematic. She is now divorced and struggling financially, and my mother is well-off.
Mitch could use help with tuition and books. When I suggested that he call or email his grandmother occasionally to let her know what's going on in his life, my sister became angry. She blames Mom for never reaching out to the "child" and claims a normal grandparent would show an interest in her grandson. She insists the onus is on the adult in the relationship. Is there an answer to this dilemma? — Confused Sister and Aunt
Dear Confused: First of all, let's eliminate what Mitch did when he was 2. It is ridiculous and unforgiving to stigmatize a child as "difficult" because he bit and threw tantrums as a toddler. And yes, your mother should have made an effort to know and love her grandson regardless of how difficult he may have been.
That said, Mitch is an adult now and is responsible for his own behavior. If he believes his grandmother doesn't care about him, he's unlikely to email her. If your sister reinforces the idea that it's Grandma's responsibility to initiate contact, Mitch won't do anything. And if Grandma is narcissistic and self-centered, she may have no interest in Mitch because it requires too much of her. This kid may not be easy, but he has been rejected by members of his family for most of his life. Please be kind.
Dear Annie: Our daughter is getting married in the fall, and we are having the wedding and reception in our backyard. How can we ask guests not to use their cellphones or text during the festivities? This rudeness has become acceptable, but not to my wife or me. — Jim
Dear Jim: It's perfectly OK to ask your guests to turn off or mute their cellphones during the ceremony. The minister or best man can make the announcement before the wedding begins. But you will have less luck at the reception. People want to take photos of themselves and their friends and text a play-by-play to those who couldn't attend. You can ask the guests to put their phones away so they can enjoy the real-time fun, but you cannot force them. If there is a band, even a muted noise level should be enough to lessen the distraction.
Dear Annie: This is in response to "Polly Positive," whose husband is dealing with cancer, whose family and friends keep telling him horror stories about death.
My nephew was recently diagnosed with cancer. He invited me for Thanksgiving, and I was dreading it. One of the first things I did was go online and look up "what NOT to say to cancer patients." I was amazed to see what comes out of the mouths of otherwise intelligent people. I encourage all of your readers to do this. It may save them from stepping on their tongues — Prayerful in K. Falls
This Classic Annie's Mailbox column was originally published in 2014. To find out more about Classic Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at www.creators.com.