Dear Margo: When Granny Is A One-Woman Bonnie and Clyde

My mother has stolen consistently from me and my family members. Should I allow her to have a relationship with my child? Margo Howard’s advice

When Granny Is a One-Woman Bonnie and Clyde

Dear Margo: Where to begin? My mother has stolen money from all of my family members. Most of us had decreased contact with her over the years, especially me, since I’m the only one who lives out of state. The final straw came when she recently stole $1600 from a bank account she opened for my sister. When did she do this? While my sister was in a psych ward due to severe depression and a history of cutting — caused by my mother’s behavior over the years. Now we have all cut off contact.

My sister now lives with my aunt, and while I am perfectly happy not speaking to my mother again, I have a 2-year-old son who is her only grandchild. I wouldn’t trust her as far as I can throw her, and my instinct is to keep my son away from her. She asked for his Social Security number when he was born, saying it was to set up a savings account for him. I told her to do it in her name and she could give him the money when he’s older. That was the last I heard of it.

Between the childhood neglect, the stolen money and the constant evictions throughout my childhood, I obviously have a lot of resentment toward my mother. I don’t know if my anger is clouding my judgment, but I can’t think of a good reason for my son to see her. –“Glenda”

Dear Glen: I can’t think of a good reason, either. This is a woman who has been destructive and toward whom you have justified anger. I cannot imagine your child learning anything of value from her. And I honestly think that no grandma is better than a thieving one who has been harmful to you and your sibs. And she would probably filch his Lego blocks. — Margo, guiltlessly

Keeping Complications to a Minimum

Dear Margo: I have a complicated and frustrating situation, and everyone I talk to tells me a different way to handle it. So here goes.

I was seeing a guy about six years ago; we will call him “John.” I met my husband while I was seeing John; we’ll call him “Dan.” I was really torn between the two men. I eventually chose Dan and stopped seeing John. Then, when Dan and I split up for a while, I told John, but it was too late. He had already started dating someone else. It broke my heart.

Dan and I got back together, eventually married and now have two young children. We fight all the time, and there’s pretty much no sex life. We’ve been seeing a counselor, and it doesn’t seem to be working.

Recently, I ran into John, who is no longer with his girlfriend. He expressed to me that if he had known how I felt, he would have broken it off with the other woman. It kills me to know that all this time things could have been different. Nothing has happened between us, but we talk. I don’t think I could ever have any kind of affair. I feel like I need to try harder with my husband, mostly because of the kids. But don’t I ever get to be happy? –Unsure

Dear Un: You are wise to incline toward the view that an affair is not the answer. Often it just multiplies the problems. I would suggest you give the marriage more time (set a limit in your mind). If things don’t improve, then I would end it, and your heart’s desire might still be around and he might not. I am not in favor of living one’s life in misery, and a rotten marriage does nothing for kids. –Margo, rationally


Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via e-mail to Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


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20 Responses so far.

  1. avatar JedWeissberg says:

    We can assume that how she treated you is how she will treat your kids – therefore no reason to continue that!

  2. avatar vicki ebeling says:

    #1 – granny doesn’t need your boys s.s.# to set up a trust/savings account for him.  let her start one and fill it up with all the money she’s been taking from everyone else, and when she’s gone, she can leave it to him.   i don’t have much sympathy for granny!
    #2 – if you are unhappy, leave.  as a product of 2 people that decided to stay together for the kids, let me tell you…don’t.  you’re not doing anyone any favors.  but do whatever you do for you…not for the possibility of being with someone else.  if you so choose, you have an opportunity to enrich you’re own life with your life.  in time, things will work out for what is supposed to be, not just what’s next with whom.  perhaps you should take some time and speak with someone who can help you find a sense of self, which seems a little lacking…not to sound rude, just being straightforward.  good luck to you.

  3. avatar marywells says:

    LW#2: What I’m going to say might sound unreasonable and even paranoid, but are you really sure “John” wants to get serious with you? There are people who feel attracted by the prospect of wrecking the marriage of someone that dropped them in the past. But at the first sign of a commitment, they realize they don’t really want it. Sure, these are childish jerks. But they are out there. Would he be there for you (and your children!) throughout the divorce and after?
    Anyway, I completely agree with Vicky Ebeling: if your marriage was a mistake, you don’t have to stay in it for the kids’ sake. But whatever you do, do it because of YOU! Do not be afraid of the possibility of having to start your love life again from zero. Do not rush into a divorce because of dreams of an idealized “John”. Assess both situations (i.e., your marriage and your desire to go back to ‘John”) separately.

  4. avatar Theresa Vittal says:

    LW#1 – Granny wasn’t going to open an account to pillage later, she was out to steal your kid’s identity for herself or to sell.  Children’s identities can fetch up to $3000 on the street and can be sold over and over.  Don’t let her near you.

    • avatar Katharine Gray says:

      You are so right Theresa.  I didn’t know about the market for social security numbers but my immediate thought was identity and credit fraud using the kids SS#.  LW#1 might want to run a credit report on her baby.  She may find out that he has a number of credit cards and a huge balance on each of them. 

      LW2:  Don’t leave your marriage because of John.  My guess is, once you are free, John will dissipate into the nether world and be extremely surprised that you mistook his gestures of *friendship* as an invitation to have a committed or permanent relationship with him.  However, if your marriage is bad, and counseling does not work after time, then end it.

  5. avatar Bella Mia says:

    #1 Relationshiips have to be based on trust.  No trust, no grounds for a relationship.
    #2  Sounds like someone has  a hard tine making decisions.  I always recommend for people to default in favor of working on the marriage except in cases of addictions, abuse, and repeated infidelities.  Even in those cases there may be a way to save the marriage.  You will lose precious time with your son if you divorce.  It’s something to think about.  Hooking up with the other guy, even emotiionally while you’re married is a bad example to set for your young ones.  They’d figure it our eventually.

    • avatar Michelle Zumbrum says:

      I agree Bella. I think this woman has serious issues that need to be dealt with.
      If she was pining over the “other guy” (which seems to be which ever one she was NOT with), then how could she have really been successful in EITHER relationship. AND now she has two small children to think about.
      I am not a big advocate of staying in an unhealthy marriage for the kids sake. But to me, it doesn’t seem as if LW #2 has put any real effort into her marriage to begin with. Maybe all the fighting has to do with the kind of “wishful thinking” “fairy tale princess” vibes she was putting out.
      I hope my meaning is clear. Not feeling very well today.

  6. avatar Michelle Zumbrum says:

    Normally, I agree with Margo 100%.
    But, not on LW#2. If she has been vacillating back and forth for the last five years between the two guys, well, she can’t have put too much effort into her marriage to start with.
    This lady needs some counseling on her issues before she cuts her husband loose to run off into the sunset with the other guy.
    Heard a saying once, “The grass is always greener… WHEREVER you water it.”
    Maybe she needs to water her marriage.

  7. avatar Emilee says:

    lw2:  You only get to be happy when you take action to get what you want.  I had an emotional affair a couple of years ago but stayed with my husband for my child.  BIGGEST MISTAKE OF MY LIFE.  She is happy but I’m miserable with NO CHANCE of happiness since guy #2 died.  My first thought every morning and last thought every evening is what might have been and how life could have been SO much better, even briefly, for both of us.  Daughter will be grown soon, we will divorce and I will be alone.  Seize the day and do what you want – NOW.  Nothing is worses than living with regret.  What would you regret?

    • avatar bootyboot says:

      why does staying in a loveless marriage benefit your child?  that is such a lame excuse for the fact that you don’t have the guts to leave your poor husband, and you’re afraid of being alone.  just nut up and get a divorce.  jesus, i don’t get people like you.

  8. avatar CanGal says:

    LW2 I agree with the posters who said do not stay together for the sake of the children, if you stay, stay because YOU want to give your marriage another shot.  Also, do not leave him just to be with this other guy, make sure you are honest with your feelings for hubby.  BUT, if you do stay, make sure you tell hubby you are unhappy – he can’t help fix what he doesn’t know is broken.

  9. avatar jezoebel says:

    LW2: This reminds me of the Nip/Tuck episode where Julia is in a dream sequence where she relives her life where she marrys bad boy Christian but pines for good guy Sean, whereas in the real world she’s married to Sean but pines for Christian, but both outcomes end up having her running into a plate-glass window.

    In a nutshell, no matter who LW2 ends up with, she’ll never be happy. Just leave husband Dan, forget about John, and just live a happy fulfilling life for yourself and your kids.

  10. avatar bootyboot says:

    I feel bad for Dan, that guy’s going to get screwed.
    And that’s why when you marry someone, you should do it for the right reasons, not just because you don’t want to be alone.

  11. avatar jc97 says:

    As much as I hate to admit this, I did have an affair with a married man with kids.  We were friends first, he talked about hating his wife, being miserable and wanting to leave…  it progressed to a full-blown love affair, we realized that we are each others true love.  However, when he realized that he couldn’t leave his kids under any circumstance, I broke it off completely.  He was willing to martyr himself.  Having an affair is something I never thought I would do, but we fell deeply in love.  Breaking it off devastated the both of us.  Not just losing the love of a lifetime, but a best friend as well.  I’ve moved on for the most part, but he hasn’t.  He still hates his wife, thinks he’s doomed to be miserable for the rest of his life and has just basically succumbed to it.  Now, from a spouse’s perspective, would you WANT to be with a partner that felt that way about being married to you?  I sure wouldn’t.  Meanwhile the kids feel the tension and resentment, hear the fighting, and they don’t see much marital affection between the two.  They’re setting a very poor standard for their boys, IMHO, if the boys grow up believing that this is a normal, functional marriage.
    There doesn’t always have to be a good guy and a bad guy.  It can be as simple as incompatibility.

    • avatar butterfly55 says:

      Would you want to be with him?  A person who does not have the guts to get out of a situation where he is making everyone miserable?  The wife has to know he has problems being with her, the kids certainly know things aren’t happy.  And he had an affair with you, would you ever trust him not to have an affair with someone else when he was with you, or could he trust you?  You have to be happy on your own, you can’t get it from someone else, they can only be a nice addition to your life when you get the right person.

  12. avatar Davina Wolf says:

    LW1’s mom, the grandmother, sounds like a sociopath–no conscience or regard for others.  The LW should check her kid’s credit report as well as her own because it does sound like the grandmother wanted the SS# for fraud.  These kinds of people don’t change and the best protection is to stay away from them. 

    LW2 should leave her husband if that what she wants.  She sounds miserable, she tried to make it work, it didn’t, she doesn’t seem to love him, and there’s nothing sacred about the man-made institution of marriage.  Kids know when their parents are in miserable together.  Mine stayed together when they clearly weren’t right for eachother, and at the age of 11 I would have been thrilled if my mom had left my dad! 

    It might work out with the “lost” boyfriend, but she should be on her own for awhile and date after she’s had some time alone.  Things work out with old boyfriends all the time–there’s no universal law against that happening.  

    People miss out by jumping directly from relationship to relationship without living on their own–everybody needs to know how to be happy single.  Most importantly, her son deserves a stable, peaceful household without having to adjust to a divorce followed directly by a new boyfriend or marriage.    

  13. avatar wendykh says:

    How old are those young children LW2? My cousin and her husband had a similar issue about a year ago. They had two children 11 months apart, he was the sole breadwinner, they were broke, she was going to school at night to become a nurse, and their second child was very critically ill the first six months of his life. They agreed to live separate lives and as they also agreed divorce was a matter of time began bickering over that intending to split up once their son was no longer so critical. He’s fine now, and is almost 3.
    Guess what? So is their marriage. She finished nursing school and got a job. Their boys got older and sleep all night. Neither are so darned worn out anymore. They had sex a few times and remembered they actually like it together. They have more money and can hire a sitter and go have a nice dinner and some drinks once a week. Divorce isn’t even an option anymore.
    Parenting young kids is absolute hell. I don’t know if this is your case, but I absolutely encourage all parents to wait until their last child is in kindergarten before making any rash decisions. It may just be the strain of a young family.

  14. avatar jc97 says:

    April, I wish it were like that for his sake, and for the kids.  Those two fight constantly.  She’s attacked him physically, she even attacked his mother – in front of the kids.  She’s controlling, wants no part of him physically, and they’ve been through counseling.  He is very intense and can be difficult, too, but I think that it’s just a very bad match.  No, they’re not even friends.  I’ve seen and heard her in action, he’s not spinning anything.  It’s just a bad situation all around.  A big part of me is very glad that I didn’t get sucked into the middle of it all…  If I hadn’t broken things off, I can’t imagine how ugly they could’ve gotten.

  15. avatar Shannon R says:

    In regards to LW #1, just because someone is related to you, that doesn’t mean they need to be in your life.  My father’s father was an alcoholic who took advantage of people whenever he could.  He lived out of state and I saw him maybe one time in the first 12 years of my life.  I didn’t even understand that he was my grandfather until I was about 12 or 13.  My grandmother remarried before I was born and to me, he was my grandfather.  When I got older I came to understand the kind of person my actual grandfather was, and I feel fortunate that he wasn’t in my life.  I was shielded from the chaos he created because my father didn’t want me to experience what he did.  A grandparent like LW’s mother will wreak havoc on her child’s life.  Kids do not understand that the things adults do are not their fault.  She will surely make false promises, take advantage of him, put him in the middle of her and her daughter’s relationship.  Once you allow someone like this into a child’s life it’s hard to minimize the damage they can create.  The grandmother has not earned the right to be a part of her son’s life.  If her son doesn’t have any other grandparent figures in his life she should look into a local “Adopt a Grandparent” program.  There are many elderly people who do not have families of their own who would cherish the chance to be a positive role model in this child’s life.  A family is much more than just the people you are related to by blood.