Dear Annie: My sister, "Helen," and her first husband never had children. He died eight years ago. Helen has since remarried a wonderful man, a widower with two sons, a daughter and several grandchildren. He wants my sister to be a real grandmother to them.
Helen is an extremely buttoned-up person. The daughter recently phoned to say she was coming over with her kids. Helen said the kids were out of control. One colored on newly painted walls, so she told her husband that they were not allowed to return.
I realize that Helen has never dealt with children, but I think her banishment goes too far. Her husband once commented that he didn't think Helen liked kids at all. He may be right. This is the second time in three years that this thing about children has come up. I have tried to explain to Helen that her husband needs to spend time with his kids and grandkids, whether she likes it or not.
I don't want to hurt my sister. My family accepts her, faults and all, but it won't be so easy for these grown children to do the same. Helen has asked me to meet her for dinner to talk about the situation. I feel that I have already been quite plainspoken about it. What should I do now? — Loving Sister
Dear Sister: Whether or not Helen likes kids is beside the point. She needs to tolerate them for her husband's sake. Drawing on the walls is an issue of discipline, not banishment. It's OK to set rules, but kicking them out permanently is a sure way to earn the kids' resentment and her husband's unhappiness.
The likelihood of Helen becoming a "real grandmother" is slim. Instead, please suggest that she be unfailingly polite and kind, while encouraging her husband to visit the kids in their homes, spending plenty of time with them. He will be grateful, the kids will appreciate it, and she doesn't have to go with him. And if she could develop a sense of humor, it would help enormously.
Dear Annie: The letter from "Exhausted After 10 Months," who offered tips for people to help ill or injured friends contained many great ideas. I would like to add one more thought.
Before someone brings food to the ill person and their family, please call to ask about food restrictions or allergies. My mother was in hospice for four months and many people brought delicious meals that contained high levels of sodium and sugar. We graciously accepted the food, but much of it could not be eaten.
To bring food in this situation is so kind and such a help for the family. However, a short inquiry about medical, religious or ethical restrictions could make it so much better. — New York
Dear New York: Thank you for pointing out that, although meals are always appreciated, some folks have allergies, some have religious restrictions, others are vegan, etc. It doesn't hurt to call first and find out. It is such a kindness to bring a dish to someone who is ill or injured, but how much better to make it something that will serve the purpose for which it is intended.
Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of This Classic Annie's Mailbox column was originally published in 2015. 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.