Dear Annie: My grandchildren are 6 and 3. My brother has a step-grandson, also age 6.
Two years ago, at my eldest grandchild’s birthday party, my brother and his wife brought this step-grandson along. He was not invited because he is an unruly child. He has a mild form of autism. Then his grandmother became upset when my daughter didn’t provide a goody bag for him. My daughter had made enough only for those kids who were invited. My brother’s wife then said, “Make sure to have enough for next year.”
The following year, my daughter, a kind person, prepared an extra goody bag, even though the boy was not invited. He showed up anyway. This year, when my granddaughter had her birthday party, she did not invite any extended family members in order to avoid having this boy in attendance.
The younger child’s birthday is coming up. Is there any way to stop my brother and his wife from bringing this 6-year-old with them? We know the boy has problems, and we’ve tried the “open arms” approach, but it always backfires. The boy acts out and ruins the party for the rest of the children. Any advice?
-- Not Unsympathetic
Dear Not: We understand that you don’t want a disruptive child coming to these parties uninvited. But a 6-year-old boy on the autism spectrum can be a handful, and his grandmother undoubtedly doesn’t want him excluded from family functions. The boy is 6. It will take some time before he can learn to socialize in a more acceptable manner. We know it’s asking a lot for you to be accommodating, but please try.
Perhaps your daughter would consider having a party for her child’s friends, followed later by a cake-and-ice-cream celebration for family members. The family will tolerate the boy’s behavior better, and the schedule of events will allow the boy to arrive after the other children have left.
Dear Annie: My parents have decided that for their 40th wedding anniversary, they should have a professional photo taken of all of their children and grandchildren. That’s fine. But Mom also insists that we all wear blue jeans and white sweatshirts. I said no. I’d be happy to wear a suit and tie, but no white sweatshirt. I do not look good in white.
Mom is begging, badgering and asking why I can’t “just grin and bear it.” My father moans about how families do things to make each other happy. My parents and I have always had a stormy relationship. I am 30 years old and don’t want to take orders from them. If I tell them to give up, they will be disappointed. How do I get them to leave me alone?
-- Unwilling Son
Dear Unwilling: Your parents have a point about going along for the sake of family harmony. After all, it’s their 40th anniversary, and this is a gift to them. You all sound amazingly pigheaded, but there is no reason for such a fuss over a white sweatshirt. Be conciliatory rather than stubborn. Enlist the help of a sibling. Ask your folks to work with you on a compromise. Maybe a beige sweatshirt would do the trick. Or you could all wear holiday scarves to add color. See what you can come up with.
Dear Annie: This is in response to “Need Help,” the 16-year-old who has mood swings, painful headaches and often feels weak. Please advise her to get tested for Lyme disease. This disease can easily go undetected, as the symptoms can be attributed to other causes. The good news is, it can be treated.
-- Concerned Reader
Dear Annie: I was compelled to write after reading the sad letter from “Florida,” but this is for anyone of retirement age looking to fill their days.
Most school districts are happy to have volunteers to work with children who need a little extra help or in the lunchroom. High schools often use volunteers with art and music programs or homework clinics. It’s a great way to do something valuable, and it feels wonderful to help out a child.
A local animal shelter may also be looking for volunteers to walk dogs or play with the cats. Not only will it help the animals be more sociable and, therefore, more likely to be adopted, but it is therapeutic for the volunteer, too.
Exercise is also a great way to get those good endorphins flowing and help relieve sadness. Water aerobics is low impact and easy on the joints, but even a nice walk around the neighborhood helps, and you might meet a friend along the way.
My heart goes out to people of any age who are longing for companionship or activities to fill empty hours. Keep looking, keep positive and keep the faith.
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org