Dear Annie: My brother-in-law, "Matt," moved in with us a year ago, after splitting with his wife. Since then, his divorce has been finalized and he has his two kids here every other weekend. My house is not big, and although it gets quite crowded during these weekends, we manage. Matt has been a big help watching our children on the nights that my husband and I work. In exchange, we do not charge him rent or any part of the utility bills, and Matt gives us some money to cover his grocery bills.
Here is what's getting to me. Matt seems to have a problem putting silverware in the dishwasher. He doesn't pick up anything off the floor that doesn't belong to him. Most nights when I come home from work, my living room is trashed, and in the morning when I am getting my kids ready for school, I have no clean spoons to give them for their cereal. Matt's room is a mess, and all he does is sit at the computer playing games or watch TV.
What can I do without offending him? The Sister-in-Law
Dear Sister-in-Law: You are doing Matt a tremendous favor by allowing him to live in your home, rent-free. Don't worry about offending him. Tell Matt, with a smile, that he now is a full-fledged member of your immediate family and you expect him to do his share around the house. Make a list of chores for everyone, and insist that each person follow it. Remind them when necessary.
Dear Annie: My husband and I struggled for several years while trying to conceive a child. After many visits to fertility specialists, we decided to adopt a wonderful daughter. Shortly after she became part of our family, I miraculously became pregnant. Our son was born a year later, and another daughter three years after that. We feel blessed.
Our oldest daughter has different coloring than the rest of our family. Perfect strangers are rude enough to comment on this fact. One woman said, "That one is definitely the mailman's child." Today, an elderly man asked my daughter, now 6, "What happened to your hair?"
Although we have always talked openly about her adoption, I'm not sure my daughter has truly grasped the meaning of all these comments. I thought printing this in your column may help people realize such comments are hurtful to children who already may feel different. How do we handle this? Loving Mom in Connecticut
Dear Mom: Some people don't put their brains into gear before inserting their foot in their mouths, but they mean no harm. The correct response to such rude, nunofyerbiznez-type questions is, "Thank you. We think she's simply beautiful." Then smile and walk away.
Dear Annie: If you can stand one more piece of advice about nail-biting, I have the cure. I bit my nails until I was 13 years old. One day in my science class, the instructor asked us to take a scraping from under our fingernails and look at it under the microscope. When I saw the wiggly, worm-like stuff moving around, I decided I would never put my fingers in my mouth again. I still get chills up my spine when I think of where I had been putting those microbes all that time. Yuck
Dear Yuck: This is why most of us choose not to look too closely at such things, but we're glad it helped you kick that nasty habit. Kudos to your science teacher for making class both educational and practical (and a little disgusting).
Dear Readers: We wish all our Muslim readers a Happy Eid.
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