Annie's Mailbox for April 19, 2011: Struggling with allowing schizophrenic mom around kids

Dear Annie: My mother is bipolar with schizophrenic tendencies. My childhood was difficult. Days consisted of her drinking, gambling, being promiscuous and inviting homeless people to live with us. Mom would have conversations with herself for hours and roam the yard naked. She tore down walls and did things that made no sense, like gathering twigs to make gifts for people.

Mom's condition has gotten worse over the years, and she can become physically violent. She is frequently taken by the police to the mental hospital, where doctors force her to take her meds. She then returns to normal society until she has another "spell." This has gone on my entire life.

None of the family has the heart to put her in a permanent facility, because she still has moments of normalcy. As soon as I turned 18, I ran 2,000 miles away because I could no longer handle being around her. The family nearby continues to suffer tremendously, including my sister, who recently had a miscarriage. No doubt the stress was a factor.

I have a toddler and another child on the way. The last time Mom came out to visit, she completely lost it. She took off and was later found living by a river. What do I tell my children about their grandmother? Living with her was traumatic when I was a child, and I don't want my children exposed to her. It terrifies me. Any advice?

— No Signature

Dear No: When you were a child, you didn't understand your mother's illness, so naturally, it frightened you. You are more aware now and can explain it to your children so they can be sympathetic from a safe distance. You should never leave them alone with her, but they can certainly see their grandmother in short, supervised visits, with whatever restrictions you deem necessary for their emotional health. Contact NAMI (nami.org) at 1-800-950-NAMI (1-800-950-6264) for suggestions and assistance.

Dear Annie: What do you think of a daughter who asks her 88-year-old mother to pay for room and board to live in her own house?

I gave my daughter my life savings of $10,000 to help buy the house, which was supposed to be my house, too. I paid $500 a month to her and her boyfriend. My daughter has a good job, and so does her boyfriend, who, by the way, is still married to someone else.

Nothing I said or did was right. When I couldn't drag a heavy hose around the big yard to water the plants, she accused me of letting the plants die. I endured her abuse for three long months, and then to her surprise, I moved out of "her" house and into a senior apartment retirement complex. What bliss! But I am heartsick that my daughter doesn't appreciate anything I have done for her. Where did I go wrong?

— Achy Breaky Heart

Dear Achy: Paying toward the expenses of a house in which you live is not unreasonable, although your daughter seems overly critical and less than generous. There are not always clear reasons why kids turn out the way they do. We're glad you have found better accommodations. You made the right choice.

Dear Annie: This is for "Proud Parent," the single dad who shares his bathroom with his teenage son. Before everyone lived in houses with multiple bedrooms and baths, people shared a single bathroom. And families got ready in the morning by sharing that one bathroom.

His family is incredibly narrow-minded and misinformed if they think he can make his son gay. They need something else to discuss at family get-togethers. Better to share an Easter ham between father and son than share a table with that bunch of turkeys.

— Mom in the John

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