Posted: Wednesday, July 13, 2011 8:01 pm
Dear Annie: I am 16 and regularly baby-sit for a 2-year-old boy and his 5-year-old sister. Both children are very sweet, although the boy has some minor behavior issues. I have addressed them and made it clear that they will not be tolerated while I’m babysitting.
The problem is their father. He calls the boy “a little devil” and tells him he is “too feminine and babyish,” since he carries a blanket around and plays with his sister’s dolls. But he’s only 2! Am I overstepping if I discuss this with him or the mother? I don’t want to lose this job, because I love the children. — Auburn, Mass.
Dear Auburn: Not all parents have an enlightened attitude about child-rearing, and some mistakenly confuse belittling with good parenting. Most parents do not appreciate parenting pointers from a teenager. However, you are in a position to counteract some of Dad’s comments by giving positive feedback to those children when they are in your care. If the situation gets worse, you might speak to the mother about your concerns.
Dear Annie: This is a cautionary tale. I was seeing a psychotherapist (let’s call him “Tim”) to overcome a bad phase — I was in a loveless marriage and became involved with a womanizer. During therapy, I fell in love with Tim, a married man who occasionally badmouthed his wife in front of me.
Tim told me he could not ethically date anyone until two years after her last appointment. The fact that he was married didn’t seem to matter. Because I loved him, I stopped treatment so the two-year waiting period could begin. We grew closer, but were not intimate. I felt sorry for his wife because she was suffering from a grave illness and had undergone surgery. I actually told him to treat her better.
Many months later, Tim’s wife divorced him. He’d been unfaithful with three other women, one of whom was the mother of a child he was counseling. I feel like such a fool. I was heartbroken to realize that my trusted counselor was himself a womanizer. We are, of course, no longer in touch. I just want to let your readers know these things happen. — No Name, No City in USA
Dear No Name: Every profession has its bad apples. Most therapists are ethical and upstanding, and it is not uncommon for individuals to fall in love (“transference”) during treatment. But it is unconscionable for a therapist to take advantage of a client who is already in a vulnerable state. If Tim hasn’t been reported to his local licensing board or the American Psychotherapy Association, he should be.
Dear Annie: I have been reading with interest the letters you’ve printed on bullying. I would like to point out that bullying is not exclusively a “school” or “children” thing.
I retired 10 years ago and joined a very old and respected craft guild. Several of the members were bullies. I enjoyed the meetings, but after a time, these women made the meetings quite uncomfortable. One woman in particular would block my way and ambush me in the bathroom. Another woman ridiculed me publicly for doing certain charity work.
I tried talking to the president of the guild about the behavior and was laughed off, saying it was just a personality conflict. Other members noticed the bullying, and several quit. I tried ignoring it, but after several years, it was clear that the behavior was simply intensifying, and I, too, left the guild.
I since have joined another guild, which is no-nonsense and would not tolerate bullying activity. The contrast is dramatic. I miss some of the friends from the former guild, but am happy to be free to attend meetings without the stress. — Happier Now
Dear Happier: Bullying can happen in nearly all social contexts, including at one’s place of employment and in community groups. Fortunately, you had the option to leave.
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 7.13.11