Dear Annie: I am one of nine children. There is a large age gap between us because my younger siblings are from a second marriage. They are 3, 5 and 7.
Since moving out a few years ago, I have begun to see my mother in a different light. As a child, whenever I needed something, I was always told to ask my father because she "didn't have the money." I accepted this. However, I now see how often Mom tells her children she doesn't have money for them, but somehow finds it for herself. She is a very selfish person.
Several times in the past few years, she has called to say how upset she is that she has no money to get my younger siblings Halloween costumes or school supplies or to send them on field trips. I always step up and offer financial assistance. But I am beginning to notice that soon after helping her out, Mom somehow finds the money to go out to a nice dinner, take a trip or buy a new gadget for herself.
I feel used and misled, but when I've said so, Mom replies that I'm inconsiderate and only care about money. A few times, she has threatened to not let me see my siblings if I keep being so "rude and uncaring." What should I do? I love my siblings and don't want to lose contact. — Sibling Support
Dear Sibling: Tell your mother you would be happy to get the kids Halloween costumes and school supplies — and then go get them. Don't give the money to Mom if you think she is misusing it. Instead, put it directly where the assistance is needed. But do it with the utmost concern and sincerity.
Dear Annie: I am a woman who doesn't care much for babies. What do I say to those who expect me to hold their infant? Some people actually thrust their little bundle into my arms without even asking.
I have never had any desire to have children, and I don't see what the appeal is. Babies are messy, leaky, smelly and noisy, as well as demanding and expensive. I understand that not all women feel as I do, so when I'm around mothers, I say nice things about their kids and have positive comments when shown pictures.
However, these same parents are shocked to learn that I am not as thrilled with their little darlings as they are. Is there a nice way to say, "I think your baby is sweet, but I feel more comfortable when the little tyke is on someone else's lap"? — Not a Mommy
Dear Not: No matter how nice you are, some people will be offended that you don't admire their child as much as they do. If they ask you to hold the baby, reply with alarm, "Oh, no, I couldn't possibly. I'm afraid I would drop it." If they push the baby toward you, put your hands up and back away. You are under no obligation to participate in this ritual, and if others can't understand your attitude, so be it.
Dear Annie: "Hurt and Confused in Wisconsin" said her husband's stepmother is emotionally abusive. She had trouble reconciling this with the biblical command to honor thy mother and father.
I am a minister who has counseled many in this position. "Honor thy mother" means do not speak to or about a parent in a disrespectful manner and do not treat them hurtfully. Do not refuse help for an honest need. Do not exploit or abuse them.
However, some people are nasty and cannot be reasoned, pushed or coerced into changing. Catering to their behavior only makes it worse. It is possible to honor thy mother from a distance, so I recommend they have as little contact as possible. I will keep them in my prayers. — Mishawaka, Ind.
This Classic Annie's Mailbox column was originally published in 2012. 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.