DEAR AMY: I have been in a relationship for almost four years with a great man. He has three children from a previous marriage, whom I love dearly. I have a problem with their biological mother. Basically, she is no mother — I am serving that role and have been for a long time.
The last time she spent any considerable amount of time with the kids was last August. Since then, she has only seen them once, for less than an hour. The father has full custody.
She has not paid a penny in child support, even though she has a court order. She has had her driver's license pulled because of her refusal to pay, yet she still drives around.
The children continually ask when they will see her — I don't know what to say. Since August she has not called, emailed, sent a text or tried in any way to see her kids!
I don't know what to do. The children are catching on that she isn't there.
I am fed up!
Should we tell her (if she ever does call) that she should just leave everyone alone? I am about ready to flip my lid some days. I love these children as my own and have cared about them for four years.
— Their Other Mother
DEAR OTHER MOTHER: Your role in the lives of these children is to offer them a secure emotional attachment and a consistently mature reaction to the chronic disappointment of their mother.
Of course you are fed up with her. She has abandoned her children. Because of this, you should treat her absence as a loss for the children and help them to handle it appropriately. You don't have to worry about telling her to get lost because that already happened.
You don't say anything about their father. He should take the lead in helping them with this. You should be circumspect and kind. Do not detail their mother's deficits. Do not talk about child support. When they ask when they'll see her, you say, "I haven't heard from her for a while. Have you?" They may worry about her; you should encourage them to talk and help them to grieve. And if they want to see her, you and their father should do everything possible to try to make this happen. You don't have to point out what a loser their mother is. On many levels they are already figuring this out.
DEAR AMY: My wife is a great cook and baker, and on the rare occasions when we entertain at home she is known for putting out veritable feasts.
Our problem is this: We are two of a group of six people who usually dine in restaurants together. However, when my wife prepares a home meal, one of the couples insists on reciprocating by inviting us to dine at their home.
Unfortunately, the woman (who thinks she is a great cook) has prepared meals that are absolutely inedible. Even the dog refused to take scraps under the table.
How do we avoid a reciprocal invitation without hurting her feelings?
— A Refined Palate
DEAR REFINED: You may have a refined palate, but you don't know the first thing about being a refined guest, bub.
It is the height of bad taste to offer your food to the dog under the table (I hope you didn't really do this). It is also in poor taste (so to speak) to compare one cook with another.
If you can't find a way to suffer through a meal at this home graciously, you could end these invitations by telling the hostess the truth about you — that you are an unreconstructed snob.
DEAR AMY: Your answer to "AG" made me cheer. He was upset because his teenage kids received $25 gift checks from an aunt. He thought this was cheap.
People wonder where kids get their entitled attitudes!
DEAR DISGUSTED: Look no further than the parents.
Send questions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Amy Dickinson's memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.