Dear Annie: I realize that you ladies are not psychologists, but I value your opinion, so I hope you (and your readers) can help me.
My darling 4-year-old grandson looks 99 percent Caucasian, but he is actually 50 percent African-American. His biological father is in prison and has not been in the picture since he slept with our daughter. We doubt he will ever be interested in his son. We are raising the boy in an all-white environment, and I worry what will happen when he is older and starts asking questions about his father and his race.
My grandson also has several relatives who live in our town, and a few of them have been by to see him. Once he starts school, I believe he will find out the truth about his birth.
What is the best way to handle this? Should we start explaining his mixed-heritage now or wait until he is older? How do we approach the topic of his jailbird father? I worry about his emotional health if he feels we have deceived him. Our daughter lives with us, too, but we are in charge of the day-to-day child rearing. Please give me some advice.
— Concerned Grandma
Dear Grandma: Some things are best dealt with head-on. Your grandson’s biracial heritage should be incorporated into his daily life. He may not completely understand how he can look white yet also be black, so explain that “black” can include many different colors. Show him pictures of celebrities and public figures who are also biracial. If you don’t know enough about his cultural heritage, read books and take field trips to museums, and make sure he is inculcated with the positive aspects. He should be proud of who he is.
His father’s status, however, is something that can be postponed until he asks. Do not lie to your grandson, but don’t tell him more than he can absorb, and don’t badmouth the father. The important thing is that he doesn’t think the father’s absence is somehow his fault.
Dear Annie: Have the rules of etiquette changed? I have observed people eating in restaurants with hats placed on tables, caps backward on heads, someone using eye drops, another doing a manicure, and I’ve seen lots of people combing their hair and blowing their noses extensively, all while sitting at the dining table.
I always thought that having good manners means being considerate of the people around you. Should I just keep my eyes shut? Please remind people that their behavior could use some improvement.
— Sensitive in the Midwest
Dear Sensitive: It’s unfortunate that a lot of people now think etiquette is passe and no longer applies. But the basic point of etiquette is to behave in a way that is considerate of others. You don’t comb your hair at the table, because it can get in the food. You don’t blow your nose excessively, because it is distasteful to those who are eating. And the new ones: You don’t text at the table, because it means you are ignoring the person sitting with you. A little thoughtfulness goes a long way.
Dear Annie: “Sad Grandma” wrote that she wants more time with a newborn grandchild, but then stated that she has had shingles twice in the past two months. Hello? That woman has no business anywhere near a child who has not been inoculated for chicken pox until her shingles have completely cleared up and there is no chance of contagion. The child’s safety comes before the grandma’s drama.
— Know Better
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