Dear Annie: My wife and I recently had several relatives over for a family gathering. During the evening’s events, my 10-year-old nephew threw a tantrum and threatened to hurt my 1-year-old son. He said, “If someone doesn’t get him off of me, I am going to throw him.” I called for my son to come to me, hoping that my sister would correct her son’s behavior. But my son didn’t move, and my nephew said again, “Someone get him off, or I will throw him off.”
I removed my son from the situation and hoped my nephew’s parents would intervene, but they didn’t. My wife and I talked about the situation afterward, and, being new parents, we were not sure what to do. Our conclusion was that the safety of our son is primary, and we do not want anyone threatening him in our home.
Before the next family gathering at our home, we sent an invitation to my sister with the caveat that this behavior is not acceptable, saying if her son threatens ours during one of his tantrums, they would be asked to leave. She proceeded to blame my wife and me for the fracas.
Since this conversation, my sister has been very divisive with my parents and their interaction with my son, carrying a sour mood with her to other family events. Were we wrong in making it clear that this behavior is not acceptable? How do we address my sister’s behavior? Are we being overprotective?
— Concerned Parents
Dear Parents: You are not overprotective, but we’re going to ask the obvious: Why was your son on top of your nephew, and why didn’t you remove him sooner? Your nephew did not, in fact, hurt the boy, throw him off or do anything other than yell for assistance. That is when you, the parents, should have immediately removed your son in order to protect him. We’re not sure what you expected your nephew to do. He may be much older than your toddler, but he is still a child.
As for your sister, you cannot dictate someone else’s behavior. Either invite her or don’t, although you certainly can set rules in your own home about what behavior you will tolerate. But we hope you will use your nephew’s presence as an opportunity to teach him, gently and lovingly, how to behave around your son. Encourage him to be the boy’s protector instead of his competition.
Dear Annie: Could you please perform a public service about smart phones? Some people behave as if the planet belongs to them alone. They should know that (a) nobody wants to hear your personal conversation at ear-splitting volume in a public place, and (b) if you are texting while on a sidewalk, stairwell or other public thoroughfare, please lift your head and watch where you are going. Others are under no obligation to clear a pathway for you.
Dear Irritated: We’ve heard plenty of stories about people who are so absorbed in their texting while crossing the street that they don’t notice the car coming right at them. Or they walk into walls and trip over dogs. Also, too many people think they have to shout into a cellphone, when they are perfectly audible (and much easier on the ears) at a lower volume. But of course, the worst offenders never think you mean them. We hope they see this and shape up.
Dear Annie: I’d like to add to your answer to “Bound, Gagged and Furious,” who was the victim of a home invasion. Although she and her friend seem to be taking it in stride now, it would be perfectly normal for them to have some lingering trauma after the adrenaline and attention have subsided.
People routinely seek counseling for less intense events. I think they’d benefit from a couple of sessions to make sure they’re OK.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Email your questions to [email protected], 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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