A month ago I wrote an email to my daughter about something worrying me. It was her weight. During the pandemic she exercised and lost two to three stone and looked amazing as well as being healthier.
This Christmas I noticed she had put on some weight, not a lot, but I thought in mother/daughter confidence I would say something to her in an email.
The main gist of it was that I hoped she wouldn’t go back to her old weight and urged her not to fall into the trap like me. I also lost weight during that time, but now things have relaxed I find myself putting on the pounds.
So I thought I would urge my daughter not to go down the same route as me and believed I had been quite sensitive to her about the issue, using acceptable words and phrases.
In her reply she said she was very upset with me. I immediately apologised because when I looked back at the email I realised it was a mistake. What possessed me? How would I have felt if I’d received this email?
My husband knows nothing about all this. Throughout the years I have been my daughter’s confidante and have kept some things from her father (nothing serious) because it was just between her and me.
Now I feel our relationship has broken down. We live many miles from her but visit when we can. I am due to travel down from Scotland to the south coast soon but am sensing that my daughter is being vague about meeting up. Even evasive.
I was looking forward to some special time together (as we usually do) but am starting to feel frozen out. I know I did wrong and will do anything to build our relationship back again.
I know if I see her we will be able to chat and hopefully clear some of the muddy water, but what if she avoids a meeting?
I am afraid she will not forgive me and that the rift will widen. I just feel so alone and responsible for inflicting hurt on her. Yet at the same time my concern about her weight was an entirely valid worry about her welfare.
Please can you give me some advice?
This week, Bel Mooney helps a woman handle how to best communicate with her daughter about weight
Mother-daughter problems often crop up on this page, and since I have experienced them in my own life, I read your email with a sympathetic wince.
It reminded me of the time my own daughter asked me my opinion about something and when I gave it frankly, she didn’t like it. Then things were written in emails that should never have been said, and the whole thing was horrible and I wished I had just kept my mouth shut. Even though I was right! Now we both vow, ‘Never again’.
Currently, obesity is such a problem in this country, making children the butt of cruel jokes, costing the NHS millions, and shortening lives. Yet everybody walks on eggshells around the issue. GPs are not supposed to ‘fat shame’ to spare feelings and yet we all know that since their only concern should be a patient’s health, the kindest and wisest words possible are probably, ‘You really must lose weight.’
Of course, we must all be aware of the sensitivities of other people — and there is no excuse for parents neglecting this aspect of their children’s health.
Thought of the day
A Light exists in Spring
Not present on the Year
At any other period — When March is scarcely here
Emily Dickinson (American poet 1830–1886)
The trouble is, at 38 (information in your longer letter), your daughter is no longer a child. She has to make her own decisions about what she eats, what she wears, where she lives. A parent can offer a point of view if asked (and in my own case, I was indeed asked) but it is very dangerous just to weigh in with an opinion, no matter how sensitively we think we have expressed it. This is an important message to other readers, as I am sure you will agree.
What to do? You feel full of trepidation about the coming visit, but I doubt your daughter will refuse to see you. Why not write to her properly, saying how deeply sorry you are to have upset her but you ask her to understand that your anxiety was triggered by how bothered you were feeling about how you look, as well as your coming big birthday — getting older, feeling unhealthy etc.
In other words, your opinion was not so much directed at her as towards yourself. Say you have been finding some of your favourite clothes too tight and how demoralising it is to feel yourself getting puffed climbing the stairs. (I’m sure bits of this might be true.)
Say ageing gets you down and ask her to go shopping with you for some new make-up, or something like that. I think you should stop your guilty conscience getting in the way of you greeting your daughter with a loving heart and a big smile. She will probably be as relieved as you are.
Meanwhile, do you have to keep this quarrel from your husband? Confiding your mistake might help you face the next step.
I fear for my vulnerable aunt’s money
I have an aunt aged 87 who is fit and well. Her husband died from cancer two years ago and left her financially sound.
The money was invested through a financial adviser to whom my uncle had entrusted his money for several years. When finances took a tumble and the investments were not performing a few months ago my aunt decided to withdraw the capital and place it in the bank.
The problem is that now her son has access to her bank accounts, and I have suspicions that he is taking advantage of this. He is a van driver, married to a cleaner, so it is hard to imagine that their combined earnings are in any way substantial.
A few years ago, when married to his previous wife, this son ended up in dire financial straits. It resulted in his house being repossessed and in time they divorced. They have two girls who are now teenagers.
Since his father’s death, his spending has known no bounds. Weekends away, meals out and in the past six months he has bought a house (mortgaged, obviously) and a car and seems to be living a comfortable lifestyle. How is this possible, with two relatively low incomes?
I am close to my aunt and she has already voiced concerns to me about her son’s spending. She says she has asked if he is incurring debt, but he denies it.
My dilemma is that I want to voice my concerns to her but obviously have no proof of any wrongdoing on his part. If I uncover what I think is the truth, their relationship will be damaged — and for what benefit? What do you advise?
To be honest, I have an aversion to questions concerning money because they are so sticky.
Parents feel they have been sponged off by ungrateful adult children, who then become cold and distant. Siblings quarrel over inheritances, step-children take control of possessions not rightfully theirs, and so on.
Nobody should ever underestimate the visceral desire of unscrupulous, greedy people for money — and to get it some of them would rob their grandparents of their savings. Do I sound cynical? Well, with good reason. The phrase ‘root of all evil’ springs too readily to mind.
More from Bel Mooney for the Daily Mail…
You are in an almost impossible situation. Yes, on the surface, it seems odd that he is spending so much when he and his wife are on low incomes. You are fond of your aunt and are right be concerned that this son might be sponging off his mother without her knowledge. It has certainly been known.
Should the time come when she discovers she has been fleeced by an unscrupulous offspring and is shocked and broken-hearted, then you will be consumed with guilt and anger and reflect that you failed to act on your suspicions.
On the other hand — let us be charitable and hazard a guess that the son has changed his ways. That he and his wife have been saving hard, that she herself had a small legacy from a family member of whom you know nothing and that your aunt might even have given her son a gift of money but did not inform you about it. Because why should she? She could have shown him generosity and subsequently worried that he was getting himself into debt.
This is a good example of that idea of being caught between a rock and a hard place and you are right to realise you must tread very carefully indeed. The son would claim all this to be none of your business. And who knows, his mother might well agree. So be careful.
However, if on one of your visits, you could direct the conversation towards money by bemoaning the fact that a friend of yours got taken in by a rogue email and became a victim of a scam. At her age she might not fully be forewarned about such things, so you could mention that you’d heard of similar cheats happening with her own bank.
Emphasise how important it is to check bank statements every month — and say you now do so more carefully and so should she. If she says her son is now in charge of all her online banking, it would be perfectly reasonable for you to throw up your hands in concern and say you don’t think that a wise decision, because he is so busy working hard he might not notice an anomaly. Tell her that she must keep tabs on her own money — as must we all. That’s all I can think of, because tact is vital. Good luck.
And finally… It is not too hard to feel a little hopeful
Spring is here at last — and whatever you do, don’t forget to move the clocks forward one hour at midnight. If you don’t you could get into trouble.
Some years ago my husband and son were headed on a spring jaunt to France and presented themselves at Bristol airport only to find they’d missed the flight. Oops.
Changing the clocks in autumn induced melancholy, but now we can enjoy lighter evenings and the promise of summer.
Even if you’re feeling gloomy because of politics, world disasters, the climate, your weight, a friend’s illness, or a few new grey hairs, doesn’t the sight of daffodils along the roadside lift your spirits just for a moment?
Bel answers readers’ questions on emotional and relationship problems each week.
Write to Bel Mooney, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Names are changed to protect identities.
Bel reads all letters but regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence.
When people are suffering from low spirits (and I prefer that expression to the ubiquitous ‘mental health issues’) it can be hard to believe things will get better.
But the other day I read a good distinction between being ‘optimistic’ and being ‘hopeful.’
These days I find it much harder to bounce around with all the optimism I used to feel. Because to say brightly, ‘Yes, I am an optimist’ seems to deny reality.
All that ‘glass half full’ stuff is pretty pointless if there is a crack in the glass and the liquid is slowly seeping away. Optimism is too sure.
I prefer the idea that you can always hope, because there’s no blithe certainty about that word. But it does imply possibility. If you feel too optimistic and then become disappointed and disillusioned, there is a danger that you will stay that way.
The bright bird of optimism crashed to the ground. Rest in peace.
Yet hope itself is a sad, bedraggled little bird (as the poet Emily Dickinson wrote) which clings to the bough in a storm and goes on singing.
Hope, you see, implies that change is always possible. So go and buy some daffodils for yourself and you might just believe it.