Posted: Tuesday, August 10, 2010 8:01 pm
Dear Annie: I have been married for five years to a wonderful man. When we first began dating, he had custody of his then 2-year-old daughter. Her biological mother, “Jessie,” wanted nothing to do with her. In fact, the first time I met Jessie, she asked if I wanted to adopt the girl.
Jessie does not have a good relationship history. At 12, she dated a 30-year-old man. At 14, she gave birth to her first child. She married my husband when she was 20 and then gave birth to his daughter and divorced him within the year. My husband got custody because Jessie did all kinds of dangerous things to abort the baby during her pregnancy.
Jessie has dated, lived with or married at least 20 men. Three years ago, her then-husband encouraged her to reconnect with her daughter and she came back into our lives. She is now divorced and dating a man she met on the Internet who lives 100 miles away.
The problem is, she wants to take our daughter to his house when she has visitation. He lives with six other adults and three children. Jessie and our daughter recently spent the day there, and we discovered that the children were left with the other adults while Jessie and her boyfriend went out. Worse, Jessie doesn’t let us contact our daughter. We do not have Jessie’s phone number because she blocks it when she calls us, and when we bought our daughter a phone, Jessie took it away until she came home.
I have been told that Jessie has various “friends” living with her at different times. Her own relatives called to tell us she leaves the children with whoever she can get to watch them. Does my husband have reason for concern, and if so, what are our legal options? I fear for our daughter’s safety, but we do not have the money to keep hiring lawyers. — Worried in Ohio
Dear Worried: You have plenty of reason for concern. Jessie is leaving her daughter with questionable people under questionable circumstances. The fact that she won’t allow you to be in touch with the girl is particularly worrisome. Is there a custody agreement in place, allowing Jessie to have unsupervised visits? If not, we urge you to push for supervised visitation for Jessie and to get the details in writing, even if it means hiring one more lawyer. Your daughter is worth it. You or your husband can also contact the National Center for Men (nationalcenterformen.org) for additional support and suggestions.
Dear Annie: I am writing about the two overweight boys, 11 and 13, who live with their widowed father.
While childen do undergo a prepubertal growth spurt, if they are substantially overweight now, they are unlikely to outgrow the weight. Also, they clearly have developed counterproductive eating habits, which will probably lead to an even greater rate of weight gain later in life. I also wonder whether there is a component of depression involved. They may have developed a habit of comfort eating to help deal with the loss of their mother and the stresses of a single-parent home.
They also might have too much unstructured time and may spend a lot of it watching TV or playing video games. Even a modest increase in physical activity, such as Dad taking the boys for a 20-minute walk around the neighborhood after dinner, may help with both the weight and general feeling of well-being.
The father may not know what a reasonable portion is for his sons. He should look into childhood obesity programs in his town. Children are most likely to make healthy lifestyle changes when they are educated about nutrition and health and receive positive attention from both adult role models and peers. — Bonnie L. Bunch, M.D., Ph.D.
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, 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 8.10.10