Posted: Wednesday, June 3, 2009 8:01 pm
Dear Annie: Recently, an e-mail correspondence between my mother and sister somehow ended up in my inbox. I can only assume it got there by mistake because it was full of criticism and hurtful comments about my family. The saddest part is that I had no idea either of them had issues with my wife or the way we raise our children. My wife has been the only saving grace. She was able to calm me down and help me deal with the pain. She read the e-mail, deleted it and made sure I said nothing about it to my mother or sister to avoid damaging the relationship permanently.
We are supposed to celebrate July 4th with my extended family. I’d like to go and enjoy the day, but fear I might slip and say something about the e-mail or engage in a conversation that might not be appropriate for a family gathering. What should I do? — Stressed-Out Son
Dear Stressed: It is not unusual for family members to criticize each other, especially in-laws, in private. (You and your wife have probably done the same.) No one is looking for trouble, which is why Mom and Sis would never dream of saying these things to your face. We know your wife was trying to spare you, but it might be better to discuss this openly. Tell your mother and sister that you saw the e-mail and are disappointed they harbor such negative feelings, but you hope you can all get past it. In order to salvage the relationship, you must find a way to forgive them.
Dear Annie: My wife and I have two beautiful children aged 4 and 2. My wife’s sister is married to a man who always feels the need to play rough with the children. “Joe” wrestles with them, picks them up and spins them around, pretends to fight over toys, etc. On the surface, this might sound normal, but the results have been unnerving, including broken furniture and hurt and crying children.
This past Easter was the breaking point. I observed Joe fighting with my 7-year-old nephew over a toy gun, and the boy ended up shot in the eye with a foam dart. I went ballistic. The boy’s parents and my sister-in-law have forced this “man” to promise not to roughhouse with the children anymore. I guess my question is, does this sound like something that could possibly be resolved with a promise? Should we insist Joe see a therapist or avoid him altogether? — Angry in Massachusetts
Dear Angry: Joe sounds like an overgrown child who never learned to control himself. (There also may be some unresolved hostility toward children.) He may want to do better, but it will be difficult and the children’s safety must come first. If the children are getting poked in the eye, Joe should be forbidden to play with them or touch their toys. Period. He can play with the adults like the rest of you.
Dear Annie: This is for “California,” the man who lost his son to alcoholism. My heart goes out to him. Believe me, there was nothing he could have done to help. I was an alcoholic for 20 years. I would sometimes stop drinking because the person I was dating wanted me to, but I would always start again.
I used to pray I could walk beyond a liquor store on the way home. Sometimes I walked in my door and went right back out to get a six-pack of beer. I might go out three or four times a night. Twice, I let a cigarette burn through my fingers because I was drunk and fell asleep. I’m lucky I never burned the house down. I finally reached the point where I could not stand myself and got help from God, but it had to come from within. — St. Charles, Mo.
Dear St. Charles: We appreciate your efforts to help “California” understand that he is not at fault. Bless you for caring.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.
Published in The Messenger 6.3.09