Dear Annie: I'm a 44-year-old woman, twice-divorced and an only child. I live next door to my father, a widower in his late 70s.
The problem is, I have no private life because of Dad's constant intrusion. He no longer drives, although I'm sure he could if he wanted, so I provide all his taxi services, most of his shopping and whatever else I can to help him.
That's only part of it. Dad thinks it's appropriate for him to pass judgment on the men I'm seeing, and he becomes very angry if he thinks I'm dating someone he doesn't approve of -- and that means everybody. Neither of my husbands were in his good graces, which led to lots of stress for me and certainly contributed to the demise of my second marriage.
Short of selling my home and moving away, leaving Dad to fend for himself, what can I do? Almost Like Living at Home
Dear Almost: You are giving Dad a great deal of influence over your life, and obviously, you resent it. So why do you pay so much attention to his opinions? You are not going to change his bossy attitude. It's admirable that you want to be nearby so you can be of assistance to him, but you must learn to let his comments roll off your back or you will never have a social life. Dad doesn't need to be introduced to casual dates, and if he dislikes a boyfriend, tell him, "Sorry you don't approve, Dad, but it's not your decision," and mean it.
Dear Annie: I have an 8-year-old neighbor who makes herself right at home in our house. "Latrice" comes over first thing in the morning and stays through dinner. She follows us when we run errands. She is nosy about what vitamins I take and stands over my shoulder when I send e-mails.
Latrice's parents both work a lot and she's home with her two older siblings, so I know she's lonely. She's a good role model for my kids and does help out. I also feel like we've been a benefit to her -- taking her to church and to the library for the first time, and going on bike rides together.
My husband is off work only one day a week, and we like to spend that day with him. When I tell Latrice we need some family time, she asks about our plans. I have to tell fibs in order to get her to go home, and sometimes I feel obligated to actually get in the car and leave so she won't know I was lying.
Latrice's parents are very laid back and tell her she can stay at our place as long as we'll have her. We are planning to sell our house, and now I find myself in an extreme hurry to get out of this neighborhood. I know we need to set limits, but how can we do that without hurting her feelings? Feeling Squished
Dear Squished: Think of it this way -- you would be doing Latrice a huge favor if you could make her understand that it's possible to overstay your welcome. Gently explain that your husband's day off is "family-only time" and she will have to go home. Period. If she comes over anyway, say, "Sorry, Latrice. It's family-only day. See you tomorrow." Smile warmly, and close the door.
Dear Annie: Would you please stop using the terms "elderly" and "older folks"? When you replied to "Getting Ready To Blow My Top in the Midwest," why didn't you just say children should help their parents with home upkeep if the parents are unable to do it themselves instead of saying "elderly parents"?
Don't assume all people of a certain age are helpless. I am 63 and clean my own gutters. My dad did his own heavy work until he was in his late 80s. Stop with the age stereotypes, please. No Senior Citizen
Dear No Senior Citizen: Sorry we offended you. "Elderly" is a common adjective for those in their 80s or older, and is not intended to be insulting or an indication of helplessness. We'll keep your objections in mind, however.
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