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June 2012
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Clinging in-laws need to learn boundaries

Staff report

Dear Annie: My problem is my in-laws. They do not have any friends or hobbies, so they choose to cling to us. They insist on doing everything we do, going everywhere we go.

Our children are active in sports and often play on the weekends. That means we spend every weekend with my in-laws. They talk to their son the whole time about nonsense, not even caring that they are distracting him and everyone around who is trying to watch the kids' activities. My husband and I don't get to spend much time together, and there's no opportunity to do it at our kids' games because the in-laws stand between us and take over any conversation.

My husband won't say anything, but it's driving me nuts. I've tried not giving them the kids' schedules, but that doesn't help. They invite us for dinner at least once a month and get their feelings hurt when we can't go. They believe we should come for every holiday. They don't ever consider that we might want to be alone with our kids or that there is family on my side whom we might want to see.

My in-laws are nice people, but I want to be able to do stuff with my husband and kids without them being there every time. This has been causing problems between my husband and me. Please, grandparents, find a hobby. - Smothered in California

Dear Smothered: This is an issue of boundaries. Dinner once a month with the in-laws is not excessive if the encounters are nontoxic. And they should be able to attend their grandchildren's sporting events for a few hours on a weekend. However, you are right that they seem to intrude on a great deal of your family time, and their expectations are out of line. It's OK to tell them "no" politely but firmly. Please discuss this with your husband so you are in agreement. His parents will learn to live with the disappointment, but your husband must back you up.

Dear Annie: I am raising my two granddaughters because their parents are in jail. I love them, but I never get a break unless I can pay a babysitter, and it is a bit much. No one ever offers to take them, including the other grandparents, my siblings and my friends.

I understand that people have their own problems, but it is discouraging to see that no one cares enough to offer even a little help, and it would mean so much. I know I am doing what's best for my grandchildren, which makes it worthwhile regardless, but I am an - Exhausted Grandmother

Dear Grandmother: Have you asked these people directly to give you a breather? If not, please do so. You are obviously a loving grandmother, but there's no reason to be a martyr, waiting for others to offer assistance. Tell the other grandparents that you would like them to take the children next weekend. If they refuse, tell them to choose the weekend they prefer. Ask your siblings to spend a few hours with the kids on a Saturday. And contact AARP (aarp.org) for information on grandparents raising grandchildren and resources for respite care.

Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar. Please email your questions to anniesmailbox@comcast.net, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

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