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Graduation spurs flap in families

Dear Abby: I am a divorced man with a live-in girlfriend I'll call Donna. Her two boys also live with us. Donna's older son will graduate from high school this year, and she has planned a party that her mother and other family members will attend from out of state.

My daughter, "Sara," is graduating from the same high school. Sara has shared her concerns with me that Donna's family won't care about celebrating her graduation. I tried to assure her that it's my day to celebrate her accomplishment with her.

I discussed this with Donna and asked if we could recognize Sara at her son's party. Donna refused because my ex is having a party for Sara, and her son would be an invited guest but not the celebrated graduate there.

I say it's a different scenario because I'm Sara's father, and if I were remarried, we'd celebrate the stepsiblings' graduation together. Donna then told me she has some issues with the way Sara behaves at times. I feel this has given me an insight that I don't like. How should I handle this upcoming graduation and other important issues?

-- Mixed Feelings in Missouri

Dear Mixed Feelings: Handle the graduation and other important issues by keeping them SEPARATE. While it would be generous for Sara to be acknowledged at the party for Donna's son, it isn't mandatory -- and I'm sure the reverse isn't planned for the party your ex is hosting for Sara.

What the circumstances "would be" if you and Donna were married instead of living together is irrelevant because you are not married and the graduates are not step-siblings. However, this does point up that Donna has not warmed to Sara as much as she might have and you might wish she had. And, because it could be a deal-breaker, this is an issue that should be examined carefully in the very near future.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069.