Annie's Mailbox: In-law’s mothball use stressful

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Dear Annie: My mother-in-law is coming to stay with us for a weeklong visit.

We get along OK for the most part. The problem is that she packs all of her belongings in mothballs — every last item.

She keeps mothballs in her closets, her dresser drawers, her bathrooms and bedrooms. She even keeps a big box of them in the hallway of her home.

When Mom comes to visit, the stench of the mothballs gives me such a bad headache that I often have to make excuses to leave the house. The mothballs also have caused my daughters to have bad allergic reactions when their grandmother is around.

The last time she was here, my baby got an eye infection from rubbing her eyes so much while Grandma was carrying her.

After her last visit, the linens, the bed and my sofa reeked for months, even after being cleaned.

My husband will not say anything to her about this for fear of insulting her. His answer is to book her a room at a nearby hotel and ignore the issue.

The smell doesn’t bother him as much because he grew up with it. But I worry about my children’s health. What should I do?

— Daughter-in-Law in Hawaii

Dear Hawaii: No one should be overly exposed to the chemicals in mothballs, including Mom.

Because she uses them so much, she has probably desensitized herself to the smell. It would be best to explain, lovingly and diplomatically, that a strong scent of mothballs clings to her clothing and is unhealthy not only for your children, but for her.

Dear Annie: My brother and his two sons live 100 miles away.

When visiting me, they will knock on the door while they are actually entering the house. Sometimes I’m not appropriately dressed, or I’m eating or on the phone.

My nephews are adults, and they don’t visit often, but I’d like to know the correct etiquette. Should they knock and wait until told to come in? Should I tell my brother and his sons how I feel about their manners?

I think they are being disrespectful, but I’m sure it is not intentional. I want to be able to tell them to stop without hurting their feelings. They are from a small town and may not know any better.

— Raised Differently

Dear Raised: Yes, anyone who visits should knock or ring the bell and wait for the door to be opened. But this is why people have locks on their doors. That, of course, would be the simplest solution to your problem.

However, if you insist on leaving your door open and prefer to say something to your nephews, try this: “I am so happy that you are visiting, but I would truly appreciate it if you could wait until I open the door. Sometimes I’m not dressed.”

Dear Annie: I don’t agree with your advice to “California,” whose grown son acquired a car from his grandfather and didn’t tell Mom.

You said he doesn’t need to tell her these things.

No matter if the son is in his 20s or 30s or more, he certainly should have shared his joy with his mother at receiving a vehicle (big-ticket item) from his grandfather — or at the very least mentioned the gift.

She said they are in constant contact, and after all, the person who gave him the car is her father.

I think the son’s oversight was extremely thoughtless.

Of course her feelings were hurt. A close relationship means respect and courtesy, and it should go both ways. The son should understand that his lack of communication was rude.

— Mother of Two Grown Sons

Dear Mom: Respect is indeed a two-way street. Sonny Boy is an independent adult who is not obligated to tell his mother everything.

He did not intend to hurt her feelings, nor was he rude. He was exercising his right to privacy. Our advice stands.

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