KATHY MITCHELL AND MARCY SUGAR \ Annie's Mailbox Bickering over brother's generosity toward Mom is fruitless
Dear Annie: My mother allows my 22-year-old brother, "Matt," to send her $150 every month. Mom is married, and although their money is budgeted, there is no problem paying bills.
I asked Mom why Matt is sending money, and she said it was to pay her back for all the years he lived in her house rent-free. I'm not sure what she means by that. Matt joined the Navy at 18 and hasn't lived at home since. Does she expect him to pay for those years he was a child in her house?
Mom uses the extra money for furniture and clothes. She told me Matt wants her to spend it on herself. I told Mom that taking money from your child as payback when you don't need it for any particular emergency was not the right thing to do. She says Matt is an adult and can spend his money however he wants.
I don't think Matt owes Mom a dime. Until he was 10 years old, he was brought up by an abusive father figure. After that, Mom had several dysfunctional boyfriends, and my brother's entire world revolved around her safety. Matt dropped out of high school to get a job so he could give money to Mom. When he didn't get along with her then-boyfriend, he joined the service.
My mother says it's none of my business, and I agree, but I have a hard time doing nothing about it. I don't want Matt to be sucked into this obligation for the rest of his life. Please help. Concerned Sister
Dear Concerned: Matt is not doing this because Mom needs the money. He is doing it because it makes him feel like he is protecting her. This is not uncommon for boys who grow up seeing their mothers abused. By providing her with money, he is letting her know she can rely on him. It would be nice if Mom would take this money and put it into a savings account for Matt's future, but she isn't going to do it, and it will serve no purpose for you to keep arguing with her about it. You and your brother both sound like very caring people. Stay close to each other.
Dear Annie: A friend of mine is breast-feeding her baby. I'm a new mother as well. Recently, when "Sonia" was at my home, I walked into the nursery and found her breast-feeding my baby. I was shocked but assumed it was a cultural thing. (Sonia is from South America.) However, I also witnessed her offering a breast to her 4-year-old. What's your take on this? Surprised in Florida
Dear Surprised: While some mothers don't mind sharing breast-feeding duties, one should never make that assumption, especially when there are health risks. HIV, for example, can be transmitted through breast milk. Sonia should have checked with you before nursing your baby. Mothers have the right to determine how and when their babies are fed, and by whom.
Tell Sonia that your milk supply is regulated by your baby's nursing and it is important that you are the one to feed him. As for the 4-year-old, that's a personal choice between the parents, the child and the pediatrician.
Dear Annie: This is for the woman whose 6-year-old is adopted and looks different from other family members. People often make rude comments about the child's features.
My husband and I were the foster parents of a boy who is multiracial. We are about as WASPy-looking as you can get, so we would get these questions all the time. When people asked me, "What does his daddy look like?" I would smile and say sweetly, "I don't know, I didn't get a good look at him." Then I would just stare at the clod who asked. The reactions were priceless. Foster Mom
Dear Foster Mom: A sense of humor always makes such rudeness more tolerable. Thanks for writing.
XE-mail questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write Annie's Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611.