Dear Annie: My sister-in-law, "Ilene," works for the airlines and gets to fly for free. Consequently, she has been visiting us a lot. She stays with us (she doesn't ask), never rents a car (so we are burdened with entertaining and transporting her), and gives little notice (sometimes we learn about it the day before).
Ilene's father lives near us, and he is getting older, so she wants to see him. The problem is that we have busy lives. We are taking care of Dad. We also have young children whose lives involve a great deal of our time and energy. My husband is often out of town, and sometimes it's just me juggling my kids and my father-in-law -- and then Ilene shows up, expecting to be entertained.
She never stays with her dad, even though he has more space than we do, and she has never once offered to cook a meal or pick up the tab at a restaurant. She visits Dad an hour per day and doesn't help with any of his care.
Ilene is very sweet, and I can't understand how she can be so oblivious. My husband agrees that she has become a thorn in our side, but he doesn't like conflict. How do I let Ilene know she has become a burden without hurting her feelings? Feeling Used and Abused
Dear Used: Tell her sweetly, "Ilene, we love seeing you, but I'm afraid the children's schedules make it impossible for me to drive you around as much as I'd like. If you need transportation, here's a list of car rental places and the bus schedule. Also, it would be wonderful if you could stay with Dad for a few days during your visit, not only to help care for him, but because he would so enjoy your company."
Do not rearrange your schedule to accommodate her. If she has to tag along while you run carpool and pick up groceries, she may get the picture.
Dear Annie: My sister and I are identical twins. We are bothered every day by ignorant people who do not know how to act around us. They gawk, stare and sometimes point. They enjoy asking us dumb questions, such as, "Do you read each other's minds?" or "Can you tell each other apart?"
It is tiresome to be treated like a circus sideshow. We have been dealing with this for 21 years. Are there any witty, quick ways to get someone to understand that we are people, too, and not just identical freaks? Two Identical Individuals
Dear Twins: Many identical twins revel in their alikeness, and it's unfortunate that you find it so irritating. If any of our twin readers would like to respond, we'll be happy to print their comments.
Dear Annie: This is in response to "Mother of Disappointed Children," whose ex-husband left nothing to their children when he died.
My husband's children have had very little to do with him over the last 16 years. Last Christmas, we spent hundreds of dollars on gifts, and they didn't even bother to pick them up. My husband said, "I've had enough!" and took the gifts back to the store. He also wrote the children out of his will.
I encouraged him to leave at least half his estate to the children, but he refused. Now I dread having to deal with the repercussions if he dies before I do. He has been a great father to these kids, but they have been poisoned by the nasty attitude of their mother and have brought this on themselves. Stepmother in Canada
Dear Canada: We hate to see the noncustodial parent blame the children for what the ex-spouse has done. Yes, at some point, children are responsible for their own behavior, but years of acrimony can skew the picture for them, especially if the noncustodial parent has been only marginally involved in the children's daily lives. It's terribly sad.
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