Annie: Message lost in texting translation
Dear Annie: Recently, I got sick. My daughter texted my husband saying I don’t let others take care of me and that I want to be the caregiver. She said, “She doesn’t get taken care of very well. She always wants to take care of others.” My husband took that as a slam that he doesn’t take care of me. He exploded at her and said some not nice things. Anyway, they are mad at each other.
My daughter is talking to me, but my husband has been giving me the silent treatment as he feels I should have taken his side. I knew exactly what she meant, but he is just reading too much into it. He won’t even let me make him food. He says, “You take care of yourself. I will take care of myself.” I hate the silent treatment and that they won’t try to talk this out. Now I’m stuck in the middle. Help! — Hate the Middle Seat
Dear Middle Seat: Texting is a surefire way for wires to get crossed. Your daughter’s intended message is clear: The best caregivers often make the worst patients. However, her phrasing coupled with a lack of in-person delivery says something different.
Your way out of the middle is to play mediator. Get your daughter and husband in one room together and help them talk it through. This miscommunication is far too minor and juvenile for anyone to be giving or getting the silent treatment. I’d also be willing to bet this tiff has done nothing to help your recovery, which is what should be the top priority here.
Dear Annie: My daughter and her husband have two darling toddler girls who I adore. Their parents had no plans for child care when the first was born and just assumed I would step up. Now the girls are in day care because caring for them full time was too much for me. I still watch them when day care is occasionally canceled or the parents go out and often just spend time with them for fun.
Day care works out well, except when the kids are sick and can’t go. When this happens, they sometimes ask me to watch the children. My daughter is paid hourly and has little sick time. Her husband sometimes travels or has important meetings. They live modestly but do have disposable income.
Annie, I am 68 and have elderly family and friends I see frequently, as well as other grandchildren. While I sympathize with my daughter and son-in-law, I don’t feel right about potentially carrying germs around after caring for sick kids. I have explained this to the parents several times, but they are starting to talk about the cost of missing work and hint that I am not very helpful or supportive. I feel so guilty!
Is there a better way for me to explain this to them or, alternatively, stop feeling so terrible about it? I love them all so much and do want to be reasonable. — Sad Nana in Idaho
Dear Sad Nana: To answer your question, no, there is not a better way to explain this. But that doesn’t mean you should be feeling terrible. The COVID pandemic has put a lot of things into perspective — including how irresponsible it is to expose yourself to viruses and then engage with the rest of the world, especially vulnerable populations like senior citizens or young children.
Still, sick children “do” need to be cared for, but luckily, there are other options. Some hospitals have programs that provide care for sick kids with working parents. Or perhaps they can find a local babysitter who is more comfortable interacting with a sick child. If all else fails, your son-in-law may have to miss one of his “important meetings.”