Posted: Friday, July 30, 2010 8:02 pm
Dear Annie: I enjoy taking my 8-year-old daughter to our neighborhood park. Over time, she’s made many friends there, and while she has become close with some, there are others I’d prefer remain “playground friends” only. Most people seem to understand this.
There is one set of parents I do not care for at all. Their little girl is sweet, and I hate to avoid her simply because she has weird parents. Her mom has tried repeatedly to get me to drop off my daughter at their house for playtime. I don’t know her well and don’t feel comfortable doing this. Worse, the father, who apparently has anger management issues, is estranged “again” from the family and has asked if my daughter could accompany him to the park near his home so she can play with his little girl.
I’ve dodged all their requests so far, but am looking for a way to make it clear that, although their daughter is nice and my child enjoys playing with her, that’s as far as the friendship will ever go. Any suggestions? — Ohio
Dear Ohio: There is no nice way to say, “Your daughter is sweet, but you and your husband scare the dickens out of me, and I don’t want my child around you.” The polite custom is to be noncommittal by saying, “We’ll see” or “Perhaps another time.” If you are willing, it would be nice to offer to take their daughter for an afternoon. Say, “I prefer to have my daughter with me. Maybe I could bring your child to our house and I’ll drive her home later.”
Dearest Annie: My wife and I adopted our 5-year-old grandson, “Sam.” The boy has lived with us since he was a baby. His father (our son) has never been around, and the mother’s presence is intermittent.
Life is perfect, except for one burning question about our names. Sam has called us Grandma and Grandpa all this time. Now that he has started school, he questions why he has to call us those names when the other children have moms and dads. So he started calling us “Mama” and “Daddy.” To me, it doesn’t matter. Legally, we are his parents.
Our families have scolded us about this, saying we are Sam’s grandparents and this will confuse him. We don’t want that, but the truth is, he feels different either way, because in school, he’s the only one without parents. My wife says whatever names Sam chooses are fine. So do we answer to both names or what? What do you recommend? — A Concerned Daddy and/or Grandpa
Dear Dad: You have legally adopted this boy. You are his father now. Your wife is his mother. If he wants to call you “Mama” and “Daddy,” that is his privilege and nobody else’s business. He knows you are his biological grandparents, and if, at any point, you believe he is confused about the relationship, it is easily cleared up with an open discussion. Stop worrying.
Dear Annie: I share your horror about the 25-year-old man from Oregon who indulges in sexual fantasies about his mother-in-law. But your advice that he recalibrate his fantasies by indulging in stereotypes about mothers as asexual creatures is way off base.
Women struggle to feel attractive and sexy in a culture that defines female sexiness ever more narrowly. Let’s not contribute to it by declaring motherhood incompatible with sexual attractiveness. — Binghamton University
Dear Binghamton: You misunderstand the point of the exercise. Mothers can be sexy and attractive, and that is his problem. He needs to see this particular Mom as “motherly,” and that means using whatever old-fashioned stereotypes work for him. We could just as easily have suggested he envision her as Tarzan, but we didn’t think he could manage that as well or as quickly, not to mention it isn’t likely to help him develop an appropriately loving relationship with his mother-in-law.
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, c/o Creators Syndicate, 5777 W. Century Blvd., Ste. 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045. 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 7.30.10