Dear Annie: Every summer, my husband and I go away to our beach house for several weeks. My husband leaves the key to our suburban home with a neighbor in case of an emergency. The problem is, when we arrive back home after our vacation, I find things not the way I left them. I would never go out of town and leave spills on the kitchen floor and a mess in my oven.
My husband denies it, but I’m pretty sure the neighbor is letting my mother-in-law use the key. I suspect Mom and her friends come in and make themselves right at home. (My mother-in-law always refers to our home as “my son’s house.”)
I feel my privacy has been violated, and worse, that my husband is betraying me by being loyal to his mother at my expense. I’m not sure what to do aside from changing the lock and giving the key to one of my friends with instructions not to give it out to anyone. We have had many arguments over this, and he is losing all credibility with me. Please help. — Frustrated in the Northeast
Dear Frustrated: What are you waiting for? Get that key away from your unreliable neighbor and give it to someone you trust. Leave your mother-in-law out of the problem. Obviously someone has been in your house, and that’s reason enough to let the neighbor know you want your key back. If you think there is a copy floating around, change the locks.
Dear Annie: I don’t want to open up the great spanking debate. I don’t think spanking is always child abuse, but I firmly believe parents can spare the rod and not spoil the child. Never hitting your child should be a goal for all parents.
That said, I have two nieces, ages 6 and 7, who often are left in the care of their grandmother — who hits them with a fly swatter. This strikes me as wrong, especially considering the frequency with which it occurs. The children’s mother thinks Granny’s behavior is fine, and although their father doesn’t like it, he says nothing.
I would offer to baby-sit my nieces, but I live 400 miles away. Is this child abuse? What can I do? — Too Far from Stockton, Calif.
Dear Stockton: If a parent chooses to spank a child (and we are not in favor of this), a weapon should never be used. A fly swatter may seem harmless, but applied with sufficient force, it can scratch the skin and cause bruising and welts. Is there physical damage from this form of discipline? If so, it may constitute child abuse.
We assume you are the father’s sister. Please talk to your brother and see how serious this is. Also, if he is not in favor of Granny’s behavior, he should have the gumption to speak up and say so.
Dear Annie: My mother will be 90 next month, and I want to have a small get-together for family and friends. We will serve coffee and Italian cookies.
I don’t know how to address the invitations to let people know that we’d like them to stop in and say hello, have a snack, and then leave. Too much company wears Mom out. We’d like people to stay long enough to share a few memories, but that’s it. How do we word that?
Thanks for the advice. I read your column every day in the upstate New York Leader-Herald. — D.
Dear D.: The way to keep people from staying too long is to make the duration of the party short. “Please join us for coffee and memories to celebrate our mother’s 90th birthday. Time: 2-3:30 p.m.” At 3:30, promptly stand up, tell your guests how lovely it was to see them, but Mom needs her rest, and you are looking forward to having them visit again another time. Then usher them to the door.
“Annie’s Mailbox” is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar. This column was originally published in 2016. To find out more about Classic Annie’s Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at www.creators.com.