Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: I know my daughter is interesting, but I don't love her the same as the other kids. I know I should, but I don't. She and I are different kinds of people and she has never needed me. She prefers her stepmother, who is younger and more with it. She could hardly wait to go to her house for visitation and she would come home and parrot everything that woman said. One day when she was about 10, she looked me dead in the eye, and said, "Why can't you be more like her?" I tried for a while, but I failed.
I am the same old conservative Mennonite lady I always was. I feel guilty for not loving her right, but I have other kids who love me back, and now she lives on her own. What can I do to change this for the better? -- Bad Mother, North Kildonan
Dear Mother: The next time you get a chance to write your daughter a card, list all of her good attributes -- even the ones you don't understand -- and sign it, "Lots of love, Mom." Emotional honesty is not always the best policy where family members are concerned -- don't ever tell her you feel less for her. Fake it until you make it. Once she sees you appreciate her differences from you, and that you're not frowning at her with disapproval whenever she talks about her friends, activities and philosophies (so many parents don't know they do this), she will start warming to you. That is what you want: for warmth to blossom into love one day.
And kids like getting stuff -- presents for no reason. Load her up with thoughtful little gifts and food whenever she comes to your house. If she wonders why you are doing that, say, "Tokens of my love. See you soon, dear." She may not get it at first, but I can guarantee she will enjoy the tangible love from you.
Here's a tip on opposites: you don't have to be one bit like another family member to be a big fan. Embrace people close to you who are different from you and say, "Maybe one day you could teach me how to (fill in the blank) like you do so well. I might not be very good at it, but I'd like to try." I recently saw an awkward mother at a salsa lesson with her saucy-boots daughter and they were having a great time, laughing together. That's how you build relationships between opposites: by actively becoming fans of each other.
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: Well, I sure made a big booboo. I took my boyfriend out to my parents' cabin and thought he could manage with a little roughing it. Turns out he can't stand to be away from the comforts of the city for longer that one day. You should have heard him whining about having to make fires (most guys love doing that) and he didn't like the toilet. He hated warming water for a bath in the old copper tub, which is something I think is romantic. Now we're back in city and I don't think I like him the same. Does this seem mean of me? -- Cottage Girl, Fort Richmond
Dear Cottage Girl: It wasn't a big booboo. It turned out to be relationship test, and this city slicker flunked it. You're a city/country hybrid and obviously don't want to give up that rural side of your life -- cottage country enjoyment. As for how you're looking at him now, know that once you lose respect for your partner it's like someone stole the plug out of the bath tub and the water is draining out.
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