DEAR AMY: I have a concern about whether our babysitter is paying close enough attention to my infant. Twice this week I noticed small scratches on my daughter's body, one on her foot and then two on her leg. My daughter is 10 months old and quite mobile. She crawls and walks with support.
In addition to the scratches, as the babysitter was walking out the door today, I noticed that she had a book with her! I was taken aback but didn't say anything. A reasonable conclusion is that she is reading when she is with the baby.
The babysitter is the 18-year-old daughter of a co-worker, and about to start college. Until this week, I had thought she was doing a good job, and I am pretty sure I still would like her to still watch the baby, but I feel I need to say something to get her attention in a way that will foster goodwill (and not hard feelings) between us.
Most importantly I would like her to take better care of our daughter. Suggestions?
— Worried Mom
DEAR MOM: The things you mention probably wouldn't worry me in the slightest, but I'm not the mom. You are.
You should never hesitate to ask a reasonable question or state your standards when it comes to your daughter's care. And so you can say, "I've noticed these scratches on the baby's legs. Can you tell me how she got them?"
This presents an opportunity to remind or refresh any instructions you have for the sitter. You tell her, "Don't forget: The baby is very vulnerable because she is pulling herself up on everything. Don't leave her for a second. If she takes a bigger tumble, make sure to let me know, OK?"
I can't imagine objecting to someone reading while your daughter is napping, but again, it is up to you to clarify your expectations and standards.
DEAR AMY: I have been hosting dinners at my home for many years. Recently, I have encountered situations when guests have special dietary requests. Most of the time, I can make adjustments, but now I have a new request.
An invited guest has stated that she can eat only organic food purchased at a specific specialty store. This can be very expensive and I'm not prepared to do it. How should I handle this situation?
DEAR UNSURE: In our increasingly gluten-free, wheat-averse, vegan-friendly, food-sensitive world, it can be genuinely challenging to serve a meal everyone can eat. You can only do your best, and after that guests are responsible for their own nutrition.
It is unreasonable to request that a host serve food purchased from a specific place. You'll have to tell her, "I'm sorry, but I'm really all set as far as the food is concerned. We'll miss you, but maybe we can see you another time."
DEAR AMY: "Betrayed" wrote to you, worried because she and her long-time boyfriend had divorced parents who had started to date each other.
My husband and I met after our parents were married, when my then "stepbrother" was discharged from the Navy. We were both 26.
When we are asked how we met, we love telling people about our "love at first sight" moment, when we were introduced to each other by our married parents!
We have been married for 37 years and still laugh about it. My advice to "Betrayed" is to lighten up. Be happy that your being together gave your parents a real chance to bring happiness into their own lives!
— Loved our Parents
DEAR LOVED: As I advised "Betrayed," when stepsiblings get together they have a unique opportunity to double up on parents and in-laws. I love your story.
DEAR AMY: "Rudderless Father" was wondering how to meet people even with young twins in tow. This dad should check out meetup.com. It's an excellent place to find groups of people with similar interests.
If there are no "single dads" group in his area, "Rudderless" could form a Meetup group of his own.
DEAR CINDY: This is an excellent suggestion. Thank you.
Send questions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Amy Dickinson's memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.