Ask Amy

Tuesday, June 26, 2012 at 12:11am

DEAR AMY: My 20-something daughter has a chronic illness that makes her feel miserable all day.

Her dad and I recently bought a small house that we are renting to her (which she pays for out of her meager disability money) to allow her to be more independent.

When she moved in, she requested that we respect that this is now her house and that we not invite people over without her express consent for two reasons: She wants control over her own environment, and she often feels too sick to interact.

My husband took his middle-age daughter from a previous marriage to the house twice when he was painting it — without consulting our daughter (this older daughter does not have a relationship with the younger daughter).

Our daughter has tried two times to explain her displeasure to him, and she did so in a respectful way.

Both times my husband agreed he would not do this again.

This week it happened again.

She is upset with his lack of regard for her wishes, and he is furious that she is "making a big deal" about this.

All I have been able to suggest is a third-party opinion.

What is your read, Amy?

— Wondering Mom

DEAR MOM: Your husband may be trying in his clunky way to forge a relationship between his two daughters, but ignoring a respectful directive that he has repeatedly agreed to is not the way to do it.

Additionally, you are dealing with the perennial issue of the "pop in."

I fall into the camp that believes it's always best to call to ask if it's a convenient time to "pop in" — certainly if you know that the person living there is unwell.

You and your husband are your daughter's landlords (as well as parents).

A good landlord gives a tenant a heads up when he will be working on the property. So should a good dad.

DEAR AMY: My oldest son will be turning five next month.

We are planning a party at a local park with simple games and food.

My problem is, I don't want guests to bring presents.

He is not spoiled, but he does receive nice items from his grandparents and my husband and me.

He has lots of toys, and I feel our house is overrun with them!

However, I don't want him to be hurt with the expectation of opening presents. Please help!

— Present Tense Mom

DEAR PRESENT TENSE: At your son's age, giving and receiving gifts is important, not because of the stuff you get, but because of the social exchange — that of generosity and gratitude — that children demonstrate as they celebrate birthdays.

One way to balance the number of toys your son has is to ask him to choose one older toy to put in a basket for each new toy he receives. You will then recycle these "basket toys" (eventually) by giving them to another family member, donating them to a local charity or shelter, or by having a yard sale.

Additionally, if your son does receive gifts, you should sit with him and help him write personal thank-you notes (you will transcribe what he tells you to write, and he should sign the note himself) before he plays with or consumes any new gift.

Otherwise, you can certainly ask that children not bring gifts, but I can tell you from my own experience that some will comply with your directive, some will not and overall many will be confused.

DEAR AMY: "Former Friend" wanted to know how to "break up" with a friend.

I agree with your advice to tell the person when you're breaking up.

My wife and I had some old friends from college whom we considered among our best friends.

They mentioned that they had adopted a "no contact" policy when they "broke up" with friends.

One day, we apparently entered that group, having received no explanation or notice. This is immature and cowardly. In addition, it leaves the eternal question of, "What did we do?"

— Also Former

DEAR FORMER: Without the benefit of an explanation, you are forced to blame the other party.

Send questions via email to askamy@tribune.com. Amy Dickinson's memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.

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