Dear Annie: I’ve been married for 19 years to “Mitch,” a wonderful man. We have a beautiful 16-year-old daughter, “Jessie,” an honors student who is involved in extracurricular activities, holds down a part-time job and is just a great kid.
Mitch and Jessie were close until she hit her teens. Now, he is struggling. He worries that she spends too much time on the phone and computer. When she started dating, Mitch worried she would have sex. Jessie is adamant she’s not ready yet, but that doesn’t calm Mitch at all. He says we aren’t doing enough to make sure she doesn’t make a mistake. He will occasionally erupt with edicts like telling her she needs to be home by 8 p.m. or refusing to drive her to an activity. She views it as being overly strict and so do I.
Mitch tells me Jessie’s been slacking off at school, even though she has been on the honor roll every semester. He says she needs to spend more time on homework. I’ve tried to point out all the ways Jessie is responsible. She recently stopped hanging out with a girlfriend when she discovered her drinking and smoking. Last week, she came home early from a party because she said it was getting out of hand.
I firmly believe Mitch is having trouble letting go. He can’t stand that Jessie doesn’t want to “hang” with us anymore. His behavior is driving both Jessie and me crazy. I worry it will cause her to rebel in a much more extreme way. She’s a good kid and he just isn’t seeing it. Any suggestions? — Massachusetts
Dear Massachusetts: Some parents find it difficult to accept that their children are growing up, but it’s healthy that Jessie is learning to be independent. You are right that Mitch’s attitude is likely to push her in the wrong direction. When parents treat children with mistrust, the kids often feel they may as well earn it. If you cannot convince Mitch to put a lid on his fears, suggest he talk it over with someone — his clergyman, a friend with same-age children, his parents or a therapist.
Dear Annie: I am 24 and getting married next year. The problem is my older brother, “Derek.”
When my fiancé and I asked Derek to be a groomsman, he declined, saying he preferred to sit with his wife and son. Recently, I learned they are expecting a second baby and the due date is three weeks before my wedding. I am nervous that Derek will bring his toddler and newborn to the ceremony and reception. My biggest fear is a crying baby or fussy toddler interrupting our vows. And my fiancé and I are enforcing an “adults only” reception, but I do not believe my brother will abide by this.
How do I gently convince Derek not to bring his little ones? — Baffled Bride
Dear Baffled: Simply say, “Derek, you know we aren’t having any children at the ceremony or reception. Do you want me to find you a babysitter?” If you think he will bring them regardless, hire a responsible person to escort any little children to a play area and take care of them during the ceremony. The extra cost is worth the peace of mind.
Dear Annie: I’ve been mulling over your Thanksgiving column where one reader said, “My wife and I suffer from a host of diseases and diagnoses. We take a litany of medications and prescriptions. I give thanks that I have health coverage and live in a country where I can receive adequate care and competent treatment.”
I live in the same country and I have no health coverage to pay for adequate care and competent treatment. This is a national shame. — Healthy and Scared
Dear Healthy and Scared: We agree. America is an affluent and generous country and our citizens deserve better.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. E-mail questions to email@example.com, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
Published in The Messenger 2.15.08