DEAR ABBY: My daughter died in a car accident two years ago. She and her boyfriend, "Reed," had a 4-month-old daughter, "Angela." Since then, Reed has been very understanding and liberal with visitations. However, it didn't take him long to find another girlfriend, who has a 4-year-old daughter I'll call Madison.
The first time I went to pick up Angela, the new girlfriend hinted strongly that I should also take Madison. I didn't like it, but I took her. Abby, Madison is the meanest, rudest child I have ever met. She called my dad ugly, my daughter ugly and my house "stinky." I saw her push Angela down and laugh. Then she tried to smother my granddaughter by sitting on her head on the couch. The last time I brought Angela home, Madison told me that everything I bought for Angela I had to buy for her, too.
I don't want to take Madison anymore. It has been difficult losing my daughter, seeing her replaced with a new girlfriend and now being expected to include an unpleasant "step-granddaughter" in everything. But if I don't take her, I'm afraid they won't let me visit Angela. Do you have any advice? -- ANGIE'S GRAM IN MISSOURI
DEAR GRAM: If you haven't already spoken to Reed and the girl's mother about her behavior, you should. Madison may act out because she's jealous of Angela and, among other things, she needs to learn better manners before she's included in any more visits. If she had pulled the shenanigans with me that she has with you, I would have taken her home immediately.
This is not to say that Madison should be permanently excluded, but you should have time with your granddaughter one-on-one. The same is true for Madison and her grandparents. You are not a built-in baby sitter, which appears to be how you have been made to feel, but nothing will change until you broach the subject.
DEAR ABBY: I feel fortunate to find myself with the love of my life at 24. "Josh" is charming, intelligent, a hard worker and a wonderful partner. I know we can achieve all the things we hope for. We have discussed where we stand on issues such as children, family, finances, living arrangements, etc. We are mostly compatible, and where there is tension, we work it through and compromise.
We are clearly headed toward engagement. He has picked out a ring and I want it badly, but I am hesitant. I am afraid I won't give him what he deserves.
I dated a man in college for three years. We talked about our future, made plans, and then I changed my mind. The pain I caused was terrible. I still regret hurting him, although I don't regret leaving. I'm afraid I will do it again. I'm so anxious I sometimes think I should bail now and cut his losses just in case. I don't think I will, but who can see the future?
My mother says I have always been obsessed with making the right choice. Am I being foolish and letting my anxieties run away with me? -- SUSAN IN CONNECTICUT
DEAR SUSAN: There are better ways to cope with your anxiety than "throwing the baby out with the bathwater." You are not the same person you were in college. You have grown and are obviously more aware of the consequences of your actions.
Because you are anxious about making a commitment to "the love or your life" -- someone with whom you have many things in common -- it's time to schedule an appointment with a licensed counselor to discuss it. It will be time and money well spent.
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