Posted: Monday, February 2, 2009 8:01 pm
Dear Annie: My husband’s ex, “Sophie,” is driving us crazy. They divorced 17 years ago when their son, “Sam,” was 3 years old. The ex is an alcoholic, very controlling and extremely overprotective of their son.
Sam is a bright, handsome, intelligent, sweet young man, but at 20 he has never had a job. He never even mowed lawns or had a paper route. Until he was 18, I could tolerate the constant money demands from the ex, even though my husband paid child support promptly every month and provided extras such as clothes, health insurance, trips, pocket money, etc.
But now that Sam is 20, Sophie is still demanding. The latest is to fork over money for clothes she bought him in September that we didn’t even know about. I work three jobs and my husband works two. We live in a small house with a modest lifestyle. Sophie has a Ph.D. Admittedly she is underemployed, but she refuses to leave the small town she moved to when Sam entered college there. She wants to stay close to him.
Sophie is rude, bitter and just plain mean. We have asked her to stop contacting us and told Sam to call if he needs something, and we will discuss it directly with him. Sam seems a little bitter that we expect him to work to contribute to his upkeep. Sophie is angry that we don’t just send her money. What can we do to get her to lay off while teaching Sam to become independent? Isn’t it time? — Fed Up in Texas
Dear Texas: It’s past time. No child should reach the age of 20 without knowing what it’s like to earn his own money. You need to stay out of the middle of this. Your husband is the one who must find the backbone to ignore his ex-wife’s demands and help his son learn self-sufficiency. There will be growing pains, but they will be worth it.
Dear Annie: For the last couple of years, I have been getting these large purple spots on my skin — especially on my hands. Many years ago, I saw something in Ann Landers’ column about a waterproof product that covers scars, burns and other kinds of disfigurements, but I don’t remember the name. Can you help me out with this? — J.
Dear J.: The products you are thinking of are Covermark (covermark.com) at 1-800-524-1120 or Dermablend (dermablend.com) at 1-800-662-8011. But first see your doctor to be sure those marks are nothing to worry about.
Dear Annie: I read your advice to “Mother at Wits’ End,” whose young daughter lies all the time. When our daughter was about 11, she began to lie about everything. We did all the usual things and nothing made an impact. Then we got creative. We told her that because she had shown herself to be untrustworthy and we wanted her to be safe, we as a family would not believe anything she told us and would act accordingly.
She didn’t think that was any big deal until “The Program” started the next morning. At everything she said — we smiled and did the opposite. If she said it was warm outside, we sent her out with a winter coat. If she asked for cereal for breakfast, she got eggs. If she claimed to get an “A” on a school test, I sent the teacher a note asking why she failed. You get the idea. “The Program” was actually fun for the rest of the family, but our daughter didn’t like it one bit. Within days our tearful and now truthful daughter was back. — Fixed The Problem
Dear Fixed: Very clever — although your daughter was older. When a child begins lying at the age of 2, she doesn’t know any other way to be and the parents’ behavior is often stuck in neutral. It sometimes requires outside help to break through.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to email@example.com, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. 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.