Dear Abby: When my 9-month-old grandson, “Eli,” comes to visit, I become frustrated to the point of leaving the room, if not my house. Not only must we put away things he shouldn’t get into, we must tape shut every drawer and cabinet, block access behind couches and chairs to keep Eli from electrical cords, then constantly be on guard for the “unexpected.”
Eli is never restricted in any way, and would never be confined to an “inhumane” playpen for even a few minutes. At the slightest whimper, he is picked up. He’s walked to sleep (or taken on car rides to “soothe” him), and his parents literally run to him whenever he awakens.
I’m reluctant to criticize because I know they’ll be offended, but I’m aching to suggest they teach the child about limits and restrictions and correct him when he misbehaves. Let him experience being in his playpen or even allow him to whine a little before jumping at his every whim. We’re not allowed to say “no-no” — the preferred response being to distract Eli and let him go about doing as he pleases. By the way, both parents are professional psycho-babble people.
Am I unreasonable to think my grandson is capable of learning limits with a simple “no-no” and, perhaps, a little smack on his hand? Or should I keep my mouth shut?
Dear Grandpa: Well-meaning as you are, I doubt that you will be able to convince two “professional psycho-babble people” that by not giving their little one limits, they’re creating a monster. Rather than allow his visits to upset you, I suggest you visit this family in their OWN home.
Dear Abby: I am shocked at the rude treatment I see many older mothers receive from their children. I spend considerable time at various doctor appointments. Fortunately, I can drive myself, but many senior women must depend on their caregivers — often their daughters — who treat them badly. I can’t help but wonder how they treat their mothers in private since they are so insensitive in public.
I’m grateful to have a daughter who puts up with my occasional crankiness and complaints. She loves me unconditionally and takes wonderful care of me when needed.
I’d like to ask sons and daughters to be kinder and more patient with their elderly moms. They won’t be around forever.
Dear Grateful: I wish you had described more clearly the interactions you observed. What you saw may not have been a lack of devotion to their mothers, but signs of caregiver stress or burnout.
Daughters (and sons) caught in the sandwich generation — earning a living and caring for their children as well as their aged parents — are not always at their best. However, you are correct. These frail, elderly parents need compassion and patience because they won’t be around forever.
Dear Abby: A question was recently raised at a family gathering. If the patriarch of a family is deceased and a man wants to marry his daughter, should he ask permission from her mother?
Dear Curious: It would be a lovely, respectful gesture if he did. But first he should be 100 percent certain that the daughter would like to marry him.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.