Dear Annie: I have always been a generous person. I have allowed my brother, niece, nephew and now mother-in-law to live with me on a temporary basis in order to get their lives together. This hasn't been easy, and I have tried to deal with them in the calmest possible way, but somehow they always resent it when I ask what their future plans are.
My 72-year-old mother-in-law currently lives with us and, for the most part, keeps to herself in her room. My wife and I agreed to let her move in because her other daughters kept taking advantage of her and using her small apartment for themselves. We thought it would be a good temporary change. We never expected her to stay here for the rest of her life.
Mom does annoying things that drive the rest of us completely insane. I tell her, politely, but it continues. I want to tell her to move out, but I feel extremely guilty. My wife agrees that Mom's presence is creating problems, but she, too, is reluctant to ask her to leave. Mom's retirement income is sufficient to afford her own place. She also has two sisters she visits on the weekends who have offered to let her move in. How do we break the news without looking like the bad guys?
— In-Law Crazy in California
Dear California: When Mom moved in, did you tell her it was temporary and give her a time limit, or did you just assume she would know? If you don't make these things crystal clear at the outset, there are bound to be surprises and hurt feelings. There's no pleasant way to tell someone they have overstayed their welcome. Your wife should talk to her mother. Mom might be happier and have a more active social life if she lived in a community of her peers. You both can offer to go with Mom to look at some senior communities or check out the services near her sisters.
Dear Annie: My husband has a 32-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. She lives nearby, but only visits when I invite her family for dinner. I make sure to serve foods I know they all enjoy.
In the 10 years that we've been married, she has invited us to dinner at her home three times. Each time, she served only dishes that contain tomatoes, which she knows I am allergic to.
My husband does not think she is being inconsiderate. He says if she invites us again, I should bring my own food. I think I should stay home and eat. My husband thinks this would be rude. I think she acts like she was raised by wolves. Is this acceptable behavior nowadays?
— Hungry and Old Fashioned in Baton Rouge, La.
Dear Hungry: If your stepdaughter is deliberately making foods you cannot eat, it is both rude and inconsiderate. However, it is in your best interests to get along with her, so we recommend you ignore this. Take your husband's advice and bring your own food. Say as sweetly as you can, "I have allergies and sometimes cannot eat what others prepare."
Dear Annie: I had to reply to "Annoyed," who has a shy 12-year-old niece. I have a 12-year-old daughter with learning disabilities. It was particularly hard for her to talk on the phone. Not having the benefit of seeing the person for visual clues was just too stressful for her. After three years of work with a therapist and special ed teachers, she was finally able to carry on a phone conversation with trusted people.
My daughter has come a long way. But she avoids those who are as insensitive and pushy as "Annoyed." And I certainly wouldn't force her to change her behavior to accommodate them.
— Mother of a Terrific "Shy" Daughter
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