Dear Annie: I have been dating my boyfriend for four years. We both have children from our previous relationships and share custody with our exes. Until recently, we had our kids on the same weekends. Then my boyfriend’s ex decided that her children cannot be here when my 11-year-old son is staying over.
Because my son is the oldest, he tends to be blamed whenever the kids do inappropriate things. But kids pick up all kinds of things in school, from other kids and from other adults. I feel my son is being blamed unfairly. My boyfriend’s ex doesn’t know me or my children. I have heard her children say and do things they should not be allowed to do, but I seem to be the only one who notices. My boyfriend makes excuses for their behavior, but if my children misbehave, he is quick to let me know that I need to discipline them.
The major problem is his 9-year-old daughter, who wants to be the center of attention when she is around her dad. She becomes upset, demanding and controlling, and she recently began sassing me.
I love his children and take care of them as if they were my own. I understand the need for them to have individual time with their parents, but I’d also like them to learn how to get along with each other. I blame my boyfriend for letting his ex control the situation. Am I overreacting?
— Confused and a Little Sad
Dear Confused: You are on shaky ground when it comes to telling your boyfriend and his ex how to arrange their visitation schedule. It is not unreasonable for the mother to prefer that her kids have time with Dad without your children around. We think you should try to make friends with the ex so you can work on getting the kids together for holidays and special occasions. They will be less belligerent toward one another (and toward you) if they don’t have to compete for their father’s attention at every visit.
Dear Annie: I am an administrative assistant and am proud of the level of professionalism I have maintained in the office. However, I feel like I am about to go out of my mind.
I share an office with a very rude woman. I do my best to smooth out her rough spots with customers, but she has one horrible habit I cannot fix. She constantly chews gum with her mouth open and looks like a cow.
I find it amazing that our administrators, who deal with her daily, have never mentioned this to her. I purposely turn my music up a bit louder to drown out the sound. She and I do not have a good relationship, so I cannot think of a way to mention this without upsetting her. The stress it causes me is giving me a headache. It is gross and unprofessional. Any suggestions?
— Pro in Pennsylvania
Dear Pro: You have nothing to lose by asking her nicely to please not chew gum when dealing with the customers, because it is unprofessional, as well as unappealing to see and hear. You also could talk to human resources or a supervisor about instituting a behavior and dress code to cover such things. It is often easier than singling out one particular employee.
Dear Annie: I’d like to respond to “N.Y., N.Y.,” the 34-year-old who found it difficult to visit his ailing grandparents. When our parents’ health deteriorated, it wasn’t pleasant to visit, but we kept in mind all the times they took care of us when we were babies, cleaning soiled diapers and sitting up all night when we were sick.
Recently, my uncle suffered a stroke. At our first visit, he didn’t recognize us. For the next visit, we brought his favorite music and read stories from Reader’s Digest. I know those grandparents would enjoy some company.
— MD, Calif.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please 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.