While I'm away, readers give the advice.
ON STEPPARENTS AND THE GRANDPARENT ROLE
Many years ago I went through a devastating divorce after a long marriage, and my former husband eventually remarried. One day I saw a snapshot of his new wife holding the hand of my precious 3-year-old granddaughter, my first grandchild, at a fair. They were smiling together, obviously having a great time. It went through me like a sword. My first thought was NO! That's MY granddaughter! You WILL NOT have her!
Then I brought myself up and remembered: No child can ever have too much love, and the more people who love her the better. She does not belong to me, or to any other; furthermore, she will love whomever she loves.
Although I sometimes experience the sadness of not getting to share grandparenting joys as I had planned, I vowed not to allow jealousy to rule me nor contaminate my relationship with my granddaughter, who is now grown and married. We love each other deeply. As for the other "grandmother," well, that love continues also, and why not?
Our personal experience was with a grandmother who introduced her grandchildren (two adopted, one biological) to a neighbor and explained that only the youngest was a "real" grandchild; I managed to smile and say, "They all look pretty real to me," causing a little embarrassment to her, but she never said anything like that again.
ON THE BEAUTY OF "NO"
There are really very few people to whom you owe explanations; bosses and spouses come to mind first, and only for certain circumstances. Examples of a "succinct no" for all others:
"I can't make it."
"I cannot participate."
"I'm not interested."
"I cannot commit to that."
Providing more elaboration only encourages others to start negotiating or, worse, invoke their own objections to your "no" response. Once you start using these simple turn-downs, you'll receive little additional badgering, and you'll have less stress.
Delivering these messages via email and IM/texting is often easier than verbal communications - a good place to start for the shy or wavering folks.
ON LOVING THE MARRIAGE YOU'VE GOT
My husband is a workaholic. The good side of the coin is, I was able to be a stay-at-home mom with our four children, and we have had an amazing life. Yes, he has missed some important things, but he has been able to be there for the kids when it matters.
Sometimes I miss being married to a man who does romantic, thoughtful things. But I'm not, and my husband has many wonderful qualities (the things that really matter!). If I want flowers, I buy some.
Ask yourself what you really want. I wanted a safe home, a refuge, a place where we could just be ourselves. That is what I made, that is what matters.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at washingtonpost.com.