Neighbors drop in, head for the food
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.
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