Dear Annie: My sister and I live on opposite coasts, and I visit her once a year at Christmas. For the past two years, she has used my visit as an opportunity for me to do work on her house. Last time, I painted her bedroom and shampooed her carpets.
My sister definitely has the money to pay people to do this work. She is much better off financially than I am, so this makes me feel used, especially because there’s no reason she can’t do the work herself. When I suggested she hire someone, she told me she doesn’t want to spend the money. I also resent that my limited vacation time is spent doing drudgework rather than relaxing.
My sister is a nice person but a little controlling. We are single, childless and in our 60s. I want to know how to end this trend before it becomes too ingrained, but I also don’t want to hurt her feelings. I have offered to hire a handyman as my Christmas gift, but she said no. Any ideas?
— Dreading Christmas Visit
Dear Dreading: No one can take advantage of you without your permission. You are allowing your sister to tell you what to do on your vacation, and you also are allowing her to tell you what kind of gift you can get for her. Stop. Say no. Hire a handyman if you wish, and if she doesn’t like it, tell her she can “return it,” but you aren’t doing the work. When she realizes you will not cave, she will adjust.
Dear Annie: I am a senior man of sound mind and body who loves his family. My wife of 55 years and I have several children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. We try to get together two or three times a year.
At our last reunion, which happened to be a holiday for which we showered them all with gifts, an incident occurred that has been bothering me for months. As we were saying our goodbyes, I tried to give my 5-year-old great-granddaughter a hug, and she spit at me. Of course, you have to forgive this childishness, but I find myself unable to forget about it and fear that it is causing me to resent someone I should adore.
Her well-educated parents, who have her enrolled in a Christian preschool and employ a nanny for her, do not seem to share my degree of concern about the matter.
Do you have any suggestions on how I might handle this or similar such incidents in the future? Thank you.
— Concerned Paw Paw
Dear Concerned: We wouldn’t read too much into this. Little children spit. They also can be frightened or uncomfortable around grandparents and great- grandparents whom they see infrequently.
It is the job of the parents to teach their child appropriate behavior, and they should have had her apologize to you at the time. But we recommend you allow your great-granddaughter to get to know you better during the year. Send her silly pictures of you or, better yet, a video. Call her on the phone, and say you can’t wait to see her again. Mail her a colorful picture of her favorite TV character. Let her think of you often enough that she’s looking forward to the next visit. We hope it goes better.
Dear Annie: Here’s my suggestion for “Lonely for Life,” the teenager who doesn’t have a lot of friends: Volunteer! Call the United Way, Gilda’s Club or any number of local organizations and offer your time. Tell an adult you want to meet other teens. You’ll be doing something invaluable with your time while learning social skills and meeting others.
Dear K.B.: Great idea. We hope she follows through.