Posted: Wednesday, September 9, 2009 8:01 pm
Dear Annie: I’m the mother of 11-year-old twins, “Jack” and “Jill.” Jill is quite a tomboy. She’s always been more interested in her brother’s trucks than dolls, and I have given up trying to put a dress on her.
Jack and Jill spent last week with my husband’s parents in Florida. Jill is their only granddaughter, and Grandma makes no secret that girls are “little princesses.” My husband always defends our childrearing to his mother, but she refuses to accept our authority. Within minutes of their arrival, Grandma called to criticize me about Jill’s boyish haircut. A few hours later, she called again about Jill’s lack of a “proper” swimsuit. (We allow her to be shirtless whenever her brother is, especially since Gran’s pool is enclosed and Jill is still undeveloped.)
I told Jill to placate her grandmother and wear a T-shirt. Grandma bought her a swimsuit that Jill hates and almost assuredly won’t wear at home. Later, we heard about the lack of pajamas. Jill prefers to sleep in boxers like her brother. They still share a room at home.
I know Gran reads your column because she’s always quoting your advice. Would you please tell her we don’t live in Victorian England? Jill will adopt feminine ways when she’s ready, and we don’t appreciate Grandma’s interference. It confuses Jill to have Grandma tell her what bad parents we are. — Mother of a Tomboy
Dear Mom: Grandma is overstepping her authority a bit, and under no circumstances should she badmouth you to the children. Although we admire the flexible attitude you have toward childrearing, Grandma’s concern is not without merit. Jill may be undeveloped, but it won’t be for long. It’s time she understood that a certain amount of modesty is necessary. No one, including Grandma, should be pushing her to be “feminine,” but Jill should not be topless, and soon enough, she will require more privacy at home. It would be best if you anticipated some of her needs before she has to ask.
Dear Annie: My husband wants to purchase a youth-sized ATV for our responsible 10-year-old daughter. He claims it will teach her to be a better driver, and that it will be safe because she will be driving in the country and wearing a helmet.
Even though I have fond memories of driving one myself as a child, I say absolutely NOT. Am I being overprotective? Help us make the best decision for our little girl (who is totally on board with her dad). — No ATVs, Please
Dear No: While we are not in favor of young children riding motorized vehicles, most youth-sized ATVs will not go over 20 mph and some can be set as low as 5 mph. You and your husband should agree on a low set speed, and she must wear a helmet at all times, stay away from areas where there is traffic and not ride more than a specified amount of time per day under close supervision. We also recommend she take a training class specially geared for children. If she is reckless or careless, her privileges will be immediately revoked.
Dear Annie: I’m so glad you brought up the end-of-life plan dilemma faced by “Aunt Thelma, Uncle John and Marie.” I am a doctor, and my patients have universally embraced my own end-of-life plan as follows:
“If you can fix me, please do. If you can’t fix me, please help me avoid pain, fear, lack of air, hunger, nausea, thirst, loss of dignity and prolonging the dying process. I understand it might take a few days to figure out whether you can fix me or not.”
This format helps facilitate conversation between generations without the feeling of abandonment. Most of us old folks don’t fear death as much as the process of dying or prolonged disability. — John R. Dykers Jr., M.D.
Dear Dr. Dykers: Thank you for an excellent starting point for our readers.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. 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.
Published in The Messenger 9.9.09