Posted: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 8:00 pm
Dear Annie: My brother and I grew up in the shadow of our older sister, “Nina.” Nina had new clothes while we had stained, torn hand-me-downs. If I asked for something, I was called a “spoiled, selfish brat.” If our plans conflicted with Nina’s, we had to cancel ours. Mom always favored her. Nina’s needs always came before ours. My father didn’t notice or didn’t care.
I am now an adult, living on my own, and my mother still treats me like this. The thing that kills me is that she will ask me for an extreme favor and become furious if I turn her down. Of course, when I ask her for help, she runs for the hills.
My boyfriend and I are talking about marriage and children. I don’t want this cycle repeated. I cannot have my mother treating my children as second-class grandchildren. The things she has said to me over the years still hurt to this day. But I do want a relationship with my parents. Is it possible to have one like they have with Nina? Is it worth it? — Distraught Daughter
Dear Distraught: You are not likely to have Nina’s relationship with your parents, but it doesn’t mean yours can’t improve. Changing how you respond when dealing with Mom could change how she behaves. At the very least, it will alter how unhappy the situation makes you. You are smart to recognize that this pattern should not be repeated with your children. Ask your mother to come with you for counseling to work on this. She may be willing for the sake of having a decent relationship with her future grandchildren. If not, please go on your own.
Dear Annie: I am engaged to an intelligent, beautiful, loving woman. We both work full time and see eye-to-eye on just about everything. However, we are becoming increasingly frustrated with her four kids when it comes to doing their laundry, putting dirty dishes in the dishwasher, walking the dog, etc. If a trashcan is overflowing, they simply pile more on top of it instead of taking it outside.
These kids are between 13 and 21. We want them to take responsibility for their actions and take pride in their home. We have tried making lists and assigning tasks, punishments and rewards, to no avail. During our most recent conversation with the kids, one said, “It’s too difficult to remember.” Another said, “You can’t make us do it.” Two of these kids are working. Any suggestions? — Frustrated in the Midwest
Dear Frustrated: Some children need to be reminded to help around the house, and the reminder has to stick. Mom should tell them that neither you nor she is a servant and they all need to care for their living space. Any children older than 18 should be nicely encouraged to move into their own places, which will highlight their choices. The younger kids should have privileges restricted if they do not follow the house rules. But Mom has to enforce these rules, or nothing will change.
Dear Annie: This is in regard to the letter from “Older Sister,” who recently discovered that her brother had sexually molested family members when they were children. Your advice to inform the entire family was on the mark, but they should also contact the police.
It is very possible that the brother has continued his sexual assaults, which is reason enough to alert the authorities. But there is also the issue of what it says to the children that their parents remain unable or unwilling to protect them by confronting the criminal whose presence they are expected to endure at a family reunion. The passive acceptance of the sexual assault of a child almost always means that other children will be victimized. — Dan William Peek, Grandparents and Others on Watch Inc.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. 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 9.18.12