Dear Annie: I have a 35-year-old daughter with two children (ages 13 and 2), and they all are living with us. "Micki" moved in after leaving her common-law husband a few months ago. He was the third man in her life.
Since Micki has been home, she has been going out every weekend. I am "old school" and believe she should come home from work and take care of my grandchildren. But if I open my mouth, my wife will toss me out. It has already happened once before.
This situation is slowly killing me. My wife tells me Micki is still young. I say, so what? That doesn't mean she can go to bed with every Tom, Dick and Harry. I don't know what to do next. Any suggestions? — One Step from Leaving
Dear One Step: Micki is not as young as your wife thinks. At 35, she is closer to middle-aged. Unless your wife wishes to enable her daughter to remain irresponsible, the two of you need to set some ground rules regarding Micki's behavior. A social night out once a week is fine. A weekend sleeping around is not. Encourage your wife to put her grandchildren's welfare first and see if you can come to an agreement regarding Micki's responsibilities at home.
Dear Annie: My family is dealing with a sad and disturbing situation. My mother died a few years ago, and a mentally ill sibling is still living with Dad. "Joyce" is financially and emotionally exploiting him and is isolating Dad from the rest of the family. The house is full of garbage and is overrun with mice and bugs, and yet my father says if it weren't for Joyce, he would be in a nursing home. (She threatens him with this every day.)
I don't understand how he can abandon his children to live in this filth, especially when my mother kept that house spotless. Please tell us what our options are. — Desperate
Dear Desperate: Your father hasn't abandoned you. He is frightened and has become dependent on Joyce. Would you or another sibling be willing to take Dad in, at least temporarily, until you can straighten this out? If you want to wean him away from Joyce's care, you will need to be more directly involved. Call the Eldercare Locator (eldercare.gov) at 1-800-677-1116. Explain the situation and see what services are available in Dad's area.
Dear Annie: I am now a mother-in-law and have a wonderful relationship with my children and their spouses. I am also a daughter-in-law and can tell "Michigan" that the best way NOT to lose her son is to always include the wife as part of the family.
My husband and I have been married for many years, and I have always felt like an outsider in his family. When we married, my mother-in-law tried to undermine our relationship. According to her, everything in our home is "his," nothing is "ours." When she calls our house, she barely speaks to me. She immediately asks to talk to my husband. She makes it clear that he is her priority and the children and I are just baggage.
But the good part is, she has taught me what not to do as a mother-in-law. I never drop in on my children. I always call first. I spend the same amount of money on my kids as I do on their spouses for birthdays, Christmas, etc. I never ask personal questions about their marriages or finances. If they are not able to come for a function, I don't get upset or make them feel guilty. I try to be supportive and loving.
It is the small, everyday gestures that will make your children's spouses feel like part of the family and that will help you maintain a great relationship not only with your own child, but with all the new children that come along through marriage. — Loving All My Children in Virginia
This Classic Annie's Mailbox column was originally published in 2005. To find out more about Classic Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at www.creators.com.