Dear Annie: I'm writing about my elderly mother. It's gotten to the point where we (her daughters) don't want to spend time with her. Mom is an intelligent, active and independent 75-year-old. She also is critical, rude and insensitive, and always has been.
Mom makes unkind remarks in almost every conversation. After each encounter, we go away frustrated. When we tell her how we feel, she becomes sarcastic and defensive. She now is alienating her grandchildren because she makes insensitive comments when they stop by to visit her. We feel bad that we don't spend more time with her, but it's just too difficult. This behavior isn't new for her, but it has gotten worse over time.
Do we tolerate this carping out of respect? Is there any hope she will see how her behavior is affecting her relationships with her children and grandchildren? — Three Sisters
Dear Sisters: Maybe. Tell your mother politely, but in plain English, that her judgmental and rude behavior makes it unpleasant to visit her, and if she doesn't learn to be more considerate of her loved ones, you will see her less often, and the grandchildren will probably avoid her altogether.
She will become defensive, but it might penetrate. The next time she says
something unkind, tell her nicely, "Please don't be so rude." If she continues, leave. Do this each time you visit. Either behavior modification will work or it won't, but at least you will have tried. You certainly don't have to sit there and take it.
Dear Annie: In the last year, we've been invited to a number of bridal showers for relatives. At each of them, we have been asked to give cash in the amount of the gift we might have bought, and then the bride will go on a "Shower Shopping Spree."
It seems kind of greedy, but mostly it takes away the fun of socializing with the bride, friends, relatives, etc. Are we just old-fashioned? — Conservative in Tennessee
Dear Conservative: No. It is poor manners to tell your guests what to bring to a shower, and it is particularly crass to demand money. Showers are social events specifically intended to show off the gifts. Your relatives are having fundraisers.
Dear Annie: Please find space for my letter since school will begin in the next few weeks and my son's emotional well-being hangs in the balance.
Dear Community: This letter is to ask for your understanding and your patience. My son has Tourette's syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes unusual and repetitive movements and noises. There is no cure, and medication is limited in its effectiveness. My son is no different from any other child his age, except for his inability to control his motor and vocal tics.
We enjoy going to the same places as you, but it can be extremely hurtful when people stare at us, give harsh looks and assume that my child is a behavior problem. He does not mean to disturb you, and he would stop if he could. You may see me smile or put my arm around my son when he does these things. I am sending you a silent message, that my son is not being intentionally disruptive.
My son will be starting school soon. Please talk to your children, read them this letter, and help them to have some compassion for my son's plight. If you would like to learn more about this disorder, please log on the Tourette Syndrome Association website (tsa-usa.org). Thank you for reading this and for changing how you view my child. — A Grateful Mother in Modesto, Calif.
Dear Mother: We could all show a little more compassion for those around us. You never know what obstacles someone else is dealing with. Thank you for writing.
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.