Dear Annie: I’m concerned about my sister’s parenting style. “Sara” just went through a nasty divorce, so we let her move into a house we own next door, thinking it would help to have family close by.
Sara’s kids spend a great deal of time with us. What worries me is my 7-year-old niece, “Andrea.” Andrea appears underweight for her age and height. When she has dinner here, she eats like she’s starving. Several weeks ago, Sara joined us for dinner, and I watched her dole out food for the kids. She gave her 5-year-old son a much bigger portion than she gave Andrea. When I mentioned it, Sara said the pediatrician warned her that Andrea is obese. I do not believe this for one second.
Andrea is sick all the time. Last week, when I was preparing the kids an after-school snack, Andrea started crying. She said she was really hungry, but if she ate anything, it would make her mother angry because she is “so fat.” I have never been so furious with my sister.
I spoke to the school social worker and was told there is little they can do. I also spoke to Sara about getting help, but she became hysterical and slapped Andrea for “telling tales.”
I’ve never seen Sara like this before. I called CPS, but I worry that Sara will take off with the kids before help can be provided. What else can I do?
— Big Sis
Dear Sis: Sara should not be slapping her daughter. You need to befriend your sister so that she trusts you and her children can turn to you for help. It’s difficult to ascertain whether Sara is still stressed from the divorce, simply needs better parenting skills or there is something else going on. You may be interpreting the food issues through your own subjective filter. Leave a message with the pediatrician’s office with your concerns. But please do not criticize and alienate Sara right now. Those kids need you. Be a safe haven for all of them.
Dear Annie: I am a married woman in my 50s, and I hate to be hugged. I’m sure it stems from my childhood, when my mother, who was not affectionate, forced me to hug relatives.
I have a friend in his mid-70s who’s a great guy, but he’s a hugger. “Henry” insists on grabbing everyone and giving them a bear hug. I have told him repeatedly that I don’t like this, but he doesn’t listen. He also hugs my husband, who has a bad back, and those bear hugs really hurt.
I’ve been avoiding Henry lately, but I miss him. Perhaps if he sees this in print, he might finally get it.
— Hate Being Hugged in Kansas
Dear Kansas: You will have to remind Henry each time he comes near you that you don’t want a hug. He has difficulty controlling his effusiveness, and until he can associate his hugging with negative consequences, he won’t stop. Gently put out your arm to distance him. Tell him he is hurting you. Cry out in pain if need be. Do whatever will make it extremely clear that you don’t like this and he must stop.
Dear Annie: Some responses to “Your Husband” indicated that he needed to try harder to be intimate with his wife. Maybe he did.
I tried talking to my wife. I shared and cleaned, went grocery shopping, did laundry and dishes. I took care of the kids while she went out shopping. Giving her flowers didn’t work, small gestures didn’t work, and talking about her day didn’t work. Seeing a therapist didn’t work. I didn’t cheat, because I didn’t want to lose my kids. Well, that didn’t work, either. She left with no explanation. It takes two to make a marriage work.
— Mark from N.C.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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