Neigh­bors drop in, head for the food

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - LIFE + STYLE SUNDAY - By Amy Dick­in­son [email protected]­dick­in­son.com Twit­ter @ask­ingamy

Dear Amy: We have new neigh­bors. Our 5-year-old twin daugh­ters and the neigh­bors’ older (of two) daugh­ters are best friends from school. We re­ally like them, but lately they seem to be mak­ing them­selves too com­fort­able in our home.

They will drop by while we are hav­ing din­ner, some­times walk­ing right into our house, and when their daugh­ter looks at the din­ner my girls are eat­ing, she will nat­u­rally say that she wants some. Then the friend will start eat­ing off of their plates, while the par­ents stand there!

An­other time they came over and when I took my girls to use the bath­room, I came back to find that the three pieces of chicken I had left on my counter on a cov­ered plate were be­ing eaten by the mother and her two girls — with no apol­ogy, and cer­tainly no ask­ing be­fore­hand! The father opens our cup­board to help him­self to what­ever snacks he or his kids want. When we are at their house, their pantry is off-lim­its.

Amy, we aren’t strapped for money and while we don’t mind shar­ing, we don’t like this be­hav­ior. We don’t think they have is­sues with money, ei­ther; it seems to be them look­ing to take ad­van­tage.

We have tried mak­ing hu­mor-based com­ments that this isn’t ac­cept­able, hop­ing the par­ents would catch the hint — to no avail. We have in­stalled a cam­era door­bell so we can pre-emp­tively stop them from walk­ing in at din­ner­time. Do we need to in­stall locks on our pantry? What do we say to set bound­aries with­out com­pro­mis­ing this friend­ship?

— At a Loss

Dear At a Loss: When I was a kid, my mother came down the stairs one morn­ing to find a neigh­bor, un­in­vited, drink­ing cof­fee at the kitchen ta­ble. I’m not cer­tain how my mother re­acted, but she made sure it was a one-time oc­cur­rence.

In your case, merely re­act­ing nat­u­rally might have de­liv­ered the mes­sage you are strug­gling with now. For in­stance, you are sur­prised by your neigh­bors scarf­ing your chicken. You say, “Are you re­ally eat­ing the chicken I left on the counter? That was for our din­ner to­mor­row!”

At this point, you will have to say (to the par­ents), “I’ve tried hint­ing about it and jok­ing about it, but now I’ll just have to tell you: I re­ally don’t like when you guys help your­selves to our food with­out ask­ing. I would never do that at your house, and I’m teach­ing the girls to re­spect th­ese bound­aries, too.”

Some peo­ple don’t mind hav­ing an “open door.” You do mind it (I do, too), and so you will have to be clear about it.

Dear Amy: Our daugh­ter is 25 and lives at home. She rarely speaks to her father or me and stays in her room when she is home. She’ll eat din­ner with­out di­a­logue, stay­ing glued to her phone, watch­ing videos or tex­ting her friends.

We’ve of­fered $1,500/month to­ward an apart­ment to give her SOME in­cen­tive.

She doesn’t work. She has fi­bromyal­gia and claims she can’t, but she has taken six va­ca­tions in six months. We feel she’s us­ing us and is lazy, but my hus­band said we’ll not see her again if we push her to move out. I ex­pe­ri­ence anx­i­ety over this, and my hus­band doesn’t un­der­stand.

— At My Wits’ End

Dear Wits’ End: Your hus­band wor­ries that you won’t see your daugh­ter if she moves out, but ac­cord­ing to you, she lives with you and you still don’t see her.

You have cre­ated this life­style; please don’t blame your daugh­ter now for be­hav­ing as you have taught her to be­have.

You and your hus­band need pro­fes­sional guid­ance to sort out your role in your daugh­ter’s life. She won’t lead a healthy life­style un­til she re­ceives the right bal­ance of in­cen­tive/re­ward.

I don’t think throw­ing money at her to move out pro­vides any in­cen­tive to be­have dif­fer­ently, but giv­ing her a dead­line to move out with­out your money might.

Dear Amy: “No Church for Me” re­ported feel­ing pres­sured to at­tend her boyfriend’s mom’s church be­cause the mom kept invit­ing them. She might just want for the cou­ple to meet her church friends, not pres­sure them into be­ing re­li­gious.

— Church for Me

Dear Church: If this is the case, the mother should try to make some of th­ese in­tro­duc­tions out­side of church.

To con­tact Life + Style: Ques­tions? Ideas? Com­ments? Send what’s on your mind to life­and­[email protected]­bune.com

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