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What about her self-image?

Dear Annie: My 4-year-old granddaughter, “Jill,” visited recently and declared, “My mommy told me to watch what I eat because she doesn’t want me get heavy.” Jill is certainly not heavy, and I was appalled that she was being told such a thing. I assured her that she is perfect.

My son is divorced from Jill’s mother. He informed me that his ex does indeed send this type of message to her little girl. My son is a great father. He tries to avoid confrontations with his ex and her parents, as they can be manipulative and self-centered.

I will never speak disparagingly to my granddaughter about her mother, but I am concerned about the consequences such messages deliver on a little girl’s self-image. Obviously, her mother and grandparents are a huge influence. Should I stay silent and let my son deal with his ex?

— Concerned Nana

Dear Nana: You should not say anything to the ex, but encourage your son to do so. A 4-year-old girl should be eating roughly 1,200 calories a day with an emphasis on healthy foods that provide her with the proper nutrients. It’s OK to teach Jill which foods are helpful for her body and which are not. But Mom should not give the message that Jill isn’t good enough unless she is skinny, nor should Mom be restricting her daughter’s calories in an effort to make her thin.

Please tell your son to discuss this with Jill’s pediatrician. He needs to be her advocate. But you also are an influence in Jill’s life. When she visits you, make her feel loved no matter how she looks or what she eats.

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Dear Annie: My mother wants to use the Internet to look up definitions to crossword clues she is unfamiliar with. I feel this is cheating. Is it?

I believe if you don’t know or can’t answer the word in one direction, the intersecting clues are there to help you create the answer. While looking up a definition might be helpful once you’ve solved the entire crossword, doing it in advance seems like an unfair advantage.

We are currently bickering over this, so your thoughts would be appreciated.

— Crossword Junkie

Dear Crossword: Part of the challenge of crossword puzzles is not to know all of the answers in advance. Where’s the fun in that? And some clues are deliberately set up to be interpreted in more than one way, so a definition isn’t necessarily useful. It might be considered cheating if Mom were in a competition (dictionaries also provide synonyms), but since she is not, it only deprives her of the satisfaction of figuring out the clues on her own. Please don’t make that your problem.

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Dear Annie: Like “Your Husband,” I was one of those men with a significant sex drive. But after three children, my wife shut me down completely. I slept on the couch for four years until a family counselor said we should divorce because we were lousy role models for our children.

My ex-wife has remarried, but is as unhappy as ever. I am still single, but have not regretted the divorce for a single day. Physical touch is too important to turn off and not expect consequences. For a lot of men, sex is the glue that makes a relationship work. Telling a man that sex is over is as devastating to him as telling a woman she can never again talk to her girlfriends. Women would label that “abuse.” Well, many men consider the loss of sex to be just as horrendous.

As I told my daughter when she was older, “If you decide to give up sex, do not expect your husband to agree with you. There will be consequences.”

— Your Next Husband

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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.

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