Dear Prudence – January 20, 2015

I don’t know how many of you follow Dear Prudence at Slate, but the chat on Monday (here and here) had a few things I want to comment on:


Okay, within all the extraneous commentary is buried a little sentence that gets us halfway to the answer: “You don’t even say if your daughter-in-law wants you buzzing around when she gives birth.”

Well, maybe you should ask her.  Your son’s wedding is important, yes, but it will go on and be wonderful with or without you.  Yes, your grandchild will be around a lot longer than the day of his birth (God willing, of course), but labor and delivery is excruciatingly difficult for any woman – is she counting on your support?  If yes, then you are making the right decision to be there for her.

On to the next one –


Any or all of a few different things are accomplished by complaining about a spouse:

1) Validation in feeling irritated

2) Venting so when you do approach your spouse later you aren’t angry

3) Enjoying the intimacy of marriage, including the fact that you see all the wrinkles of another person

I think Prudie’s advice is good – give the other women the validation they seem to be seeking.  And don’t think too much of it beyond that – complaining about a spouse isn’t ALWAYS the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad habit some people think it is.

Last one –

3 4 5

This one is a pretty heavy one.  I don’t know what it’s like to raise a special needs child, so to the original letter-writer I say: you and ONLY you know how much you can handle.  You may be wrong about how much you can handle, so I would emphasize what the second poster said about making sure you have resources lined up to help you.

However, I do know what it’s like to have a special needs sibling.  I have a brother with severe autism who is two years younger than me.  I remember being young, playing with my brother, thinking that it’s fine that he can’t talk to me yet because he’s still a baby.  That’s okay, though – I just have to be patient.  He’ll grow and learn to talk and before I know it he’ll be able to play with me.  I waited a long time.  It never happened.

At 30 years old, he can say any of several memorized phrases to express himself, but he doesn’t string words together on his own.  This progress didn’t come easily – my parents’ entire lives were spent trying everything to encourage his development.  Everything was about what he needed and what would help him.  It really did feel like my needs were a distant afterthought, if they were even a priority.

But here’s the thing – I am a functioning adult.  I am not a slave to a developmental disability like my brother is.  At some point I have to say to myself, “Sure, I do feel like I got shafted out of getting some actual attention from my parents, but so what?  They are only human; they can only do so much.  It’s not ideal, but I do have the ability to make up for lost time; essentially, to raise myself as an adult.”  That’s the approach I’ve taken and the approach I would recommend to fellow adult siblings of special needs children.

I hope this letter-writer and her husband are able to decide what is best for their family.

Agree?  Tell me in the comments.  Disagree?  Go eat a rock.  Kidding!  Tell me that in the comments, too – nicely.


  1. I couldn’t have said it better myself. In the first instance, the older son may even feel like he is not loved at all with his brother (which is understandable) and parents missing from his wedding. On the other hand, he may just decide to understand where their priorities lie and focus on his big day instead. But like you said, she may not want her mother in law there at all. However, the mum should know time can be managed. Go for the wedding, if she gets into labour, you can go to the ceremony after the ceremony. It is also important to know exactly what is important to the daughter in law. Hopefully this is all sorted out by the pregnant daughter giving birth a week after the wedding as EDDs are not always exact:). On the third question, I hear what you are saying. A lot of the time children are resigned to raising themselves due to certain circumstances in the home front. At least you were a little lucky as you had two other “normal” siblings to keep you company. Some are left all alone. The trick is in raising themselves right. This may be to the advantage or disadvantage of the child…. depending on the peculiar circumstances of the home. The couple may also consider adoption of maybe 2 kids instead. This may be less emotionally and medically stressful I think.

  2. within all the extraneous commentary is buried another little sentence “first grandchild.”

    This tells me that the DIL probably doesn’t realize what she is in for. Given the choice of having 5 people to help out for a week or one person to help for five weeks, I would take the second option every time. Babies are a lot of work!

    Disclosure: we have twins, so we don’t even have much of an option of “oh honey I’ll watch the kids while you do yardwork.” Twins require man-to-man, zone just won’t cut it.

    If a complication did occur during the delivery, it would not be because MIL went to Older_son’s wedding.

    it also sounds like some extraneous drama. This summer an aunt couldn’t come to my wife’s shower because her daughter *might* go into labor that weekend. We didn’t expect her to actually show up but she could have simply declined the invite instead of broadcast her drama on Evite. Unless they have crappy Obamacare insurance that requires the grandmother to be a midwife or something.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts – how old are your twins now? I would think it would be simultaneously awesome and overwhelming to have twins – I don’t know how you do it!

  3. You make an interesting point but I personally think the parents should go to the son’s wedding rather than the grandchild’s birth. If my mother-in-law came for the birth I would be in much greater pain than if she didn’t. But even if I could use support, there are many other people who could provide that support — how crowded you need the delivery room, anyway?

    1. That’s a good point, too. I gave birth without any emotional support for my first child, but that fact didn’t bother me at all. But it seems that other people aren’t that way, so who knows?

  4. The one with the too-good husband was the most boring problem I ever encountered.

    As for the the third one, though, I’d say having a third child is immortal. A third child will suffer from the lack of attention, grief of losing his siblings plus the two special-needs children will get less caring. I understand the fear of being at age 40 without children, but what these children will go through seems worse.

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