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Miss Manners: Insensitive remarks on birth mother

Dear Miss Manners: I have two children through adoption and am in the process of adopting the biological sibling of my younger child.

These siblings were born into the foster care system. Their birth mother grew up in foster care. That, together with her family’s extreme dysfunction, led her to addiction. I have enormous sympathy for her circumstances and have seen her weep for her losses and what her life has become.

Aside from her addiction issues, she is a sweet, likable and respectful person. While clearly the circumstances of our children’s births are not ideal, we are so grateful to have them, and I make sure to tell our children how much she loves them and how wanted they are.

My problem is with people who ask me whether she has heard of birth control, or proclaim that the authorities should just tie her tubes, or offer other simplistic solutions to a very complex issue. Do you have a gentle response that reminds people that unless they have walked a mile in her shoes, they are in no position to judge?

Gentle Reader: Miss Manners recommends a cold “I beg your pardon, but I must remind you that are talking about the mother of my children.” That should at least confuse them enough to be rendered speechless.

Dining out with bossy mom

Dear Miss Manners: Frequently when our family meets for dinner at a restaurant, we find that our mother has preordered food and we’re not allowed to see a menu or make any choices.

We’re middle-aged children, and our mother insists that this is the same as visiting her house for dinner, therefore she makes the choices. I’ve asked her to stop doing this, and she ignores my requests.

Is this appropriate host behavior? I don’t like having my food chosen for me, but am I rude to insist on ordering for myself, or is the host rude for not letting me choose?

Gentle Reader: This does seem to defeat the very point of going to a restaurant, doesn’t it?

Is your mother paying for the meal and therefore trying to avoid a fight over the bill while still staying within her budget? Is she perhaps confusing this casual family dinner with renting a restaurant party room, where one would act as host and plan the menu?

As you are middle-aged children, at least one of you should set a good example by insisting on taking her out for dinner, asking her what she would like to eat and requesting, when making the reservation, that the bill be presented only to the host. If this is not feasible, I recommend that you give up, and either give in or start inviting the family to your house for dinner.

This column was co-written by Judith Martin’s daughter, Jacobina Martin.