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Ask Amy: Daughter-in-law goes silent for years after I challenged her parenting

Dear Amy: I am an art historian, out of graduate school for about five years. I am now pursuing my Ph.D., also teaching, and am starting to get invited to do presentations and sit on panels at academic conferences.

My problem is that my boyfriend says he would like to come with me to my first conference to, as he says, “Cheer me on.”

I’m uncomfortable with this. Honestly, I’m pretty keyed up about the preparation and I am finding the whole thing nerve-wracking. I can’t imagine also having the added distraction of having my boyfriend there.

He is taking this personally, and I don’t know how to explain to him that it’s not personal — I just don’t want to do it.

Your advice?

— Nervous

Dear Nervous: Adults don’t accompany one another on business trips. With rare exceptions, it is considered unprofessional to bring a “plus-one.”

Your own instincts underscore the reasons for this. When you’re giving a presentation in the morning, the night before is often spent sitting on your bed in a Guest Quarters Suite, mainlining fruit roll-ups and trying to get your PowerPoint to load.

The period after your presentation should be spent accepting your accolades and networking with fellow professionals in your field.

This is indeed nerve-wracking, and the “cheering-on” from a partner should happen remotely.

Once you get your feet wet, you can hope there will be a cool event or conference in the future where partners would be welcome to attend, but for now it is important for you to concentrate on your work, and project an attitude of serious scholarship and professionalism.

Dear Amy: A little over two years ago I made a comment to our daughter-in-law, telling her that I thought she was being overly harsh toward our eight-year-old granddaughter concerning what I considered to be a trivial matter.

We debated the point, and she has not spoken to either me or my wife since. Our son does not want to be involved.

I would dearly love to make amends and move forward, which I believe we could do in one session to clear the air, but I do not know how to go about this given her silence and ongoing refusal to even acknowledge our existence. Unfortunately, there is no common friend or neighbor who could run interference and get the ball rolling.

Do you have any suggestions?

— A Frustrated Grandfather

Dear Frustrated Grandfather: Grandparents often enjoy a relaxed perspective about children, hard won through years of experience. But you also need to understand that unless you live with this child you might not necessarily have all of the information to decide whether a parenting issue is truly trivial.

I’m not sure why you need another person to run interference when you could simply express your desire to put this behind you in a letter or email.

I suggest that you keep your message simple, acknowledging your sincere regret that your statement led to this estrangement, and expressing your desire to make amends and move forward.

You might add that you realize your interference was unwelcome and perhaps ill-timed, but that your intentions were heartfelt. Say that your family does not feel complete without contact with her.

Invite her to express herself and assure her that your goal is to repair the relationship, for everyone’s sake.

This situation is very unfortunate. You want to repair the relationship, and she might be indifferent to the relationship, and so you’re the one who needs to make the effort.

Dear Amy: “Superstitious” wondered about how to get rid of a wedding ring that had terrible juju.

I have a great story about jewelry.

Someone gave me a very unusual necklace, and the relationship eventually ended.

I took the necklace and put it in a small jewelry bag. I then threw the bag out the window of my car in an area of town where I knew someone would find it.

Fast-forward to a year or so later.

Our newspaper used to publish mugshots of people who had been arrested, and a lady was wearing that very same unique necklace in her arrest photo.

I love knowing that someone found it and wanted it.

— Amused

Dear Amused: I have received many responses from people about what to do with jewelry that seems to carry “bad juju.”

Yours is my favorite.

I assume you are interested to know that your necklace’s juju is continuing to work its magic. That’s powerful stuff.

(You can email Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

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