Dear Annie: My husband and I spend winters in a three-bedroom condo in Florida. A month ago, our daughter and her two teenage girls visited. We love having them. Here's the problem: The girls share a bedroom with ample room for their clothes. But by end of the week, no clothes were in the drawers. Everything they had, dirty and clean, was on the floor, along with their used tissues. It was a mess.
I thought this was disrespectful of our hospitality. When the older granddaughter was questioned about it, she said that she would have picked things up and put them away had she been at a friend's house. So she knew better.
Was I wrong to have expected them to have a reasonably clean room? I did keep their bedroom door closed most of the time, so I didn't have to see it, but I thought the degree of mess was way beyond acceptable. Should I not have said anything? — Wondering Grandma
Dear Grandma: It's your house and these are your granddaughters. You not only get to say something, their mother should have spoken up, as well. The next time the girls visit, tell them you expect them to keep their room reasonably tidy, because it is unfair of them to make you work so hard. Put a basket in their room for dirty clothes, make sure there is a trash can for their used tissues and say that you'd appreciate it if everything else is put away before they go to sleep. They may not do everything perfectly, but they will likely get more done than they did last time. Don't nag. Just remind them sweetly and with humor. And don't worry. They will still love you, Grandma.
Dear Annie: I read the letters you printed from "The Ones Left Behind," who said she received no help from her ex-husband, but now the kids suddenly want a relationship with him, and "Been There," who said it was important to re-establish a relationship with Dad, but Mom became angry. Please allow me to add a third side.
My ex-wife was emotionally abusive and we divorced when my son was a year old. I dutifully paid child support and tried to be in my son's life, but without warning, my ex moved away. For eight years, I couldn't find them. One day, she called me out of the blue saying she couldn't handle my son. He stayed with me that summer, but she took him back and moved away again in the fall, because she didn't like how well we got along. I could not track them down.
I found my son on Facebook when he was 18. It made his mother extremely angry. He's now 24, and we are still estranged because of the poison she fed him. Her hatred destroyed any possibility of a relationship with my child.
Here's what I say to all ex-wives: Make sure that the father supports your child, but also foster a good relationship between the child and the father. Your problems with your co-parent should not become your child's problems. It only punishes the child. — Bitter But Still Hopeful
Dear Bitter: Your ex sounds particularly unstable. But you are right that all divorced parents should put the kids first, and not use them to punish the ex-spouse.
Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to [email protected], or write to: Annie's Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. You can also find Annie on Facebook at Facebook.com/AskAnnies. 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.