Dear Annie: My widowed mother-in-law has five grown children. One, "Pat," is 42 and still single, and has lived the life of Riley because of great looks and the ability to cultivate friends with money who almost wholly support her.
Mom spends practically every waking moment with Pat. She calls her several times a day when they aren't physically together, travels extensively with her and entertains Pat's friends to the exclusion of her other children. Whenever we do have the opportunity to be around my mother-in-law, she talks and brags incessantly about Pat. On her last birthday, we gave Mom a gift certificate to her favorite store. She immediately went to a drawer and pulled out a certificate for the same store but for a larger amount and announced, "Here's the one Pat gave me, and it's for more!"
Honestly, we love Pat, but my wife and I would like to share time with Mom. Before joining us, Mom always has to check to see what Pat has going on. People have told me they were not even aware that my mother-in-law had any other children because she rarely speaks about them.
How can I help my wife accept the treatment she gets from this woman? There's no point in asking Pat for help because it's in her best interests for Mom to be alienated from her other children. Then she will get the entire inheritance. The house is already in Pat's name. Any ideas?
—Husband of NOT Mother's Favorite
Dear Husband: Mom is overly close to Pat because her daughter has become her spousal equivalent — she is always available to do things as a couple. Mom's other children, married with families of their own, cannot compete, nor should they beat themselves up trying. The best thing you can do for your wife is help her lower her expectations about her relationship with her mother and be glad that Pat is willing to be a companion to her. Mom no doubt loves all her children, but she is dependent on Pat and that is the difference.
Dear Annie: I have been married to my husband for 19 years. When the phone rings at our house and I answer it, he always asks me who it was and what they wanted. Most phone calls are from my friends or family. Even if my cell phone rings, he asks me who called. Like an obedient wife, I always answer him because I have nothing to hide, but it annoys me. I have never given him any reason to mistrust me. I do not inquire about his phone calls.
Am I being unreasonable? If not, what can I say, tactfully, so he understands that my calls are none of his business?
Dear Wife: It's perfectly natural for your husband to want to know who called, although we understand why the frequent questioning irritates you. But we think it's a small concession on your part to make him feel secure by keeping him informed. Let it go.
Dear Annie: You recently printed a letter from "Perplexed Single Mom," who asked how to "toughen up" her sensitive 12-year-old son. Your advice not to push him into learning aggressive behavior was right on.
She also was looking for a male role model for him. The Boy Scouts of America is the perfect organization for her son to check out. The Scouting program has three specific objectives, commonly referred to as the "Aims of Scouting." They are character development, citizenship training and personal fitness. Scouting is a boy-led organization. As the boys mature and develop more skills, they take on increasing leadership responsibilities. Troops are supervised by male leaders who act as role models and advisers, ensuring overall safety.
For more information about the Boy Scouts of America and how to find a local troop, go to www.scouting.org.
—Blaine Peet, assistant scoutmaster, Troop 10
Dear Blaine Peet: We have no excuse for not recommending this wonderful organization, and our readers (including Kathy's sister) were quick to remind us.
Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to anniesmailboxcomcast.net, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611.
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