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A child’s safety comes first

Posted: March 4, 2011 5:18 p.m.
Updated: March 7, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Dear Annie: When I was 5, my mother married an abusive man. He talked down to us and often resorted to slapping and name calling. On at least three occasions, he was physically abusive -- punching, throwing and beating us. On the other hand, he adopted us and often did nice things, too.

When I had my first child, my husband and I moved away. We have maintained limited contact with my parents, although they can visit as often as they like. I prefer not to go to their home, where my stepfather is in charge.

Recently, I explained to my mother that our children could not visit her without additional adult supervision. She became angry, saying it’s time I put the past behind me. She says I should remember the good things. She insists her husband would never hurt my children. But she also denies that he was abusive, saying he “lost control” only once.

While I am upset with my mother for not protecting us, I feel guilty for denying her the pleasure of being the grandmother she wants to be. Without him, she would be a good one. How can I be a responsible mother and stop feeling like a bad daughter? -- Unsettled in the West

Dear Unsettled: Many abusers can be charming and loving when they are so inclined. Your mother, like many women in these situations, is in denial about the way her husband treated his family. Reasoning with her apparently has no effect. Being a good daughter does not mean subjecting your children to potential abuse, physical or emotional. You see your parents regularly, and they are welcome to visit whenever they wish. There is no reason to feel guilty.

Dear Annie: Our new neighbor is a young professional with a boy the same age as mine. We like her and look forward to our sons growing up together.

The problem is, she will pop in several times a day for half an hour or more. She doesn’t seem to realize that her intrusions are interrupting our valuable family time. We have tried not answering the door, but she will then phone us or return and knock again. She can see our cars in the driveway, so she knows when we’re in.

We have tried telling her that family time is important to us, but instead of getting the hint, she compliments us on our family dynamic. We don’t want to hurt her feelings, but I’m freaking out about what will happen when summer comes and we are both home all day with our kids. Please give me a polite way to get her to back off without ruining any future relationship. -- Had Enough

Dear Had: Some people need explicit boundaries. When your neighbor knocks during family time, go to the door, tell her this is “not a good time” and suggest a better one, even if it’s the next day. Smile and close the door. Repeat as needed.

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, c/o Creators Syndicate, 5777 W. Century Blvd., Ste. 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045. 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.

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