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Unreliable parent leaves behind a guilty legacy. Untrustworthy parent abandons legacy of victimization

Unreliable parent leaves behind a guilty legacy. Untrustworthy parent abandons legacy of victimization

Q. I grew up with a mom I could never trust to show up reliably. She was an alcoholic until I was 7 and I spent a lot of time with her while she went through relationships with dozens of men. She had a sober period from when I was 7 to when she was 13, and then she remarried and had two more children.

I was no longer invited home once I finished college, and this continued even after I married. She rarely called and was very busy with my half-siblings. There was always an excuse as to why she couldnt see me. She would cancel at the last minute to see a friend or make it difficult to establish strong plans. If I didnt initiate getting together, I wouldn't have seen her.

My kids are now teenagers, and they dont even know her at all. She never invited them over during their childhoods. She never invites us to Christmas dinners with my stepdad and half-siblings. I feel like it has been my duty to try to establish a relationship with her.

I often feel it as an extra burden with a lot of guilt attached. Am I right to feel this way?

Ive always wanted supportive and involved grandparents for my children, but I dont know what that is. When Ive told my mom that I would like for her to come up with something to do with my children, shes just said that she cant.

Am I right to feel burdened and frustrated?

She isn't that old; she's strong, drives, and cares for others in her community. Ive long longed for close family connections, but feel like my efforts havent paid off or been reciprocated.

How do I make the connection Ive longed for?


A. When theyve experienced chaos and dislocation in childhood, you question your own feelings.

Childhood is the period when humans learn to live and feel their true feelings. Competent, sober, and reliable parents guide children through this process. In your own childhood, you were denied this and much more .

Continue to cultivate this connection with your own children as you seek for the connection youve longed for since childhood.

You are the surviving adult child of an alcoholic, and if your children grow into adulthood knowing their own mother to be the stable, reliably loving parent you never had, youve successfully broken the chain.

Sadly, you won't receive this nurturing from your mother. She cannot give what she does not have. Learning to release your own expectations (without guilt) will be liberating for you.

You'd be more likely to feel comfortable in a group like an Adult Children of Alcoholics group. Information and meetings are available at

Q. Im responding to a question in your article, Guilty Bystander, which was written by an adult who had become aware of rumor about sex between heiress and an underage female student at her high school.

As the retired head of health education at a large urban capital city school system in the United States and with more than three decades of teaching experience in my resume, I can undoubtedly agree with your advice to Bystander, who asked about their role in reporting what may prove to be harrowing, life-changing criminal act.

If the brutal treatment of our Team USA gymnasts has taught us anything, I would like to see us begin to understand that it is everyones responsibility to speak up. These abused girls and young women were not adequately protected by any institution, even FBI investigators, over the course of many years by a monster.

If you dont speak out, you are merely part of the problem rather than the solution.


A. The implication from the documentary Guilty Bystander was that this (rumored) sexual relationship between teacher and underage student was thought to be consensual. None of the gymnast survivors of Dr. Larry Nassars abuse consented to this behavior, while the premise from The Guilly Bylooker" was similar to that in Gilthy bystanders.

However, as I mentioned in my answer, there is a reason that the law favors establishing stipulations that require judicial consent. The power difference between an adult and an underage person, or teacher and student, can very easily result in exploitation.

Ive heard from many people who are concerned about the rights of a teacher who might be wrongly accused. I understand this concern, but adults have the duty to report, and institutions must investigate.

Amy Dickinson can be reached at

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