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Annie's Mailbox, April 9

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Dear Annie: I am a 32-year-old single mother of two young children. I work full time and also attend school. My parents are a tremendous help, and I really am grateful that they watch my children so I do not have to pay for day care.

My problem is, whenever my mother comes over, she always has a comment on how I keep my house. It is never clean enough or decorated right or kept the way she thinks it should be. I will admit my house is not as meticulous as my mother's, but it is certainly clean and welcoming. My friends are always commenting on how orderly and tidy my house is.

I spend entire weekends cleaning and doing laundry, yet my mother says my house is disgusting and she would never let people come and see it. She has even told my kids that I am lazy and a slob, that they shouldn't have to live in filth, and that I am not a good mother if I don't keep a spotless house. Whenever Mom watches my children, she cleans all day, reorganizes everything and then proceeds to tell me how I should run the place.

It has reached the point where I do not want my mother to come to my house, even to visit. How can I get through to her that I don't have enough hours in the day to clean like that? Her comments are really causing hard feelings. — Losing Patience

Dear Losing Patience: Cleaning is the only thing over which your mother has complete control, and she is using it to control you. She has no business telling the children that you are lazy, a slob and not a good mother. This is emotionally destructive.

You need to have a no-nonsense conversation with Mom and lay down the law. Tell her you are an adult and how you choose to clean your house is your business. Make it quite clear that she is not to criticize you in front of the children, period. If she refuses to abide by these rules, start looking for low-cost day care options before your relationship with her is damaged beyond repair.

Dear Annie: My daughter, "Tandy," was very young when her father and I divorced, and I later married an older man with grown children.

We tried very hard to make a blended family, but my stepchildren made it clear that Tandy and I were intruders. Tandy tried for years to include them in her life, but she finally gave up.

Now Tandy is getting married, and she refuses to invite her stepsiblings to her wedding. She dearly loves her stepfather, and he is the one who is hurt by this. The other problem is that Tandy's natural father is disabled and unable to walk her down the aisle, and although her stepfather would be honored to do so, Tandy believes it would be disrespectful to her natural father.

I vowed never to be one of those bossy mothers-of-the-bride, so I'm asking you, what do you think? — Hurt in Oregon

Dear Hurt: We're going to side with Tandy, mostly because it's her wedding. Yes, it would be nice if your husband could walk her down the aisle, and gracious to invite the stepsiblings, but it would be a tremendous hassle to push Tandy into doing either, and the stress levels would soar. She knows how you feel. That's enough.

Dear Annie: You recently said that excessive tickling can be abusive. My mother read that and is very concerned. My boyfriend tickles my 9-year-old daughter a lot. My daughter laughs and tries to tickle him back. I asked my daughter if the tickling was too much, and she said no.

Please define "excessive" so my mother can see it. — Frustrated Daughter

Dear Daughter: It is excessive if the ticklee asks the tickler to stop, complains that it hurts, gasps for air or cries. Your daughter seems fine to us.

Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to anniesmailbox@comcast.net, 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.

COPYRIGHT 2006 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.



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