Dear Annie: We are perplexed as to the actions of our grown children. We were not perfect parents, but consider ourselves to have been pretty good. Our kids grew up in a nice home where friends were welcome, and they were involved in church and extracurricular activities. Now that they have their own homes, my wife and I continue to help by babysitting and lending a hand when needed.
But as we find ourselves aging and occasionally needing help from them, no help is forthcoming. Why? What makes adult children tune out the needs of aging parents? We feel hurt by their lack of caring. — Confused Mom and Dad
Dear Mom and Dad: Have you asked your children for specific help? Sometimes parents expect the children to know what they need, but the kids can be oblivious, assuming their parents are as competent and capable as they always have been. Also, some parents expect grown children with family obligations of their own to do chores that would consume every weekend, when the parents are perfectly able to hire someone to do these jobs. Kids resent this.
Otherwise, please be direct. Say, “We are finding it difficult to change the light bulbs in our house because we are unsteady on the stepladder. Could you come by one day this week and take care of that for us? We’d truly appreciate it.” Most kids will step up when asked.
Dear Annie: My 77-year-old grandmother is an incredibly caring and loving woman, and she expresses this through cooking. Granny cooks large meals every day, and if you’re around, there’s no chance to escape without eating at least one plateful.
Dropping hints or saying you just ate, are on a diet or aren’t hungry doesn’t work. She says, “Eat it while it’s hot!” or “It’s not that filling,” and suddenly two more scoops of potato salad have appeared on your dish.
I feel trapped. I don’t want to hurt her feelings, because I know she does it out of love and because when she was growing up there wasn’t always food in the house. But it’s no good gorging until I feel sick. It feels like she’s trying to feed me to death. Help! — Stuffed in Pennsylvania
Dear Stuffed: You are right that Granny shows love through food, and it also gives her pleasure to see you gorge. But no matter how much food Granny puts on your plate, you are not obligated to finish it. Practice saying “no” sweetly but more convincingly. Spend some time taking one bite and pushing food around on your plate, and then sit back and say, “I’m stuffed! I can’t eat one more thing.” She’ll insist. You’ll repeat. She’ll cajole. You’ll repeat. She’ll act hurt. You’ll repeat. Ask whether you could take the food home (where you can do with it whatever you like). Tell her you love her. Ask her to talk to you about her day. But under no circumstances do you have to eat everything she puts in front of you.
Dear Annie: This is for “Mother in Iowa,” whose daughter falsely accused her of physical abuse. What a child interprets as physical abuse may be different from what Mom recognizes.
My mother thought it was OK to pull down my panties and spank me with a paddle in front of my father. I am sure neither she nor my father considered that physical or sexual abuse, but I do. She also bit my finger so hard one time that the teeth marks lasted for days.
While I bear the scars, I do not think of her as an abuser, because I am sure she felt her behavior was sanctioned by the Bible and by society. “Mother in Iowa” may think what she did was normal, while her daughter may view it differently. — Mostly Over It in Vermont
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.