DEAR AMY: At what age do you think children can be unsupervised in their grandparents' home?
My son is almost 4. My four nieces and nephews are between 4 and 7 years old. My husband helps me keep an eye on our son, but we are met with some disdain for this, as if we are neurotic, helicoptering parents. Somehow the 7-year-old is expected to supervise the other four kids. I find this notion a little bit crazy. My mother-in-law has menageries of breakable things literally everywhere in her home.
I can almost see letting the two older children hang out on their own for a while, watching a movie or playing quietly, but the three preschoolers roam free too. I assume that since the other parents don't watch their kids that they will be fine if one gets hurt or breaks something or starts an inappropriate game of "doctor." I think the adult brothers feel comfortable there because they grew up in the house, but I still think it's not safe or appropriate. My father-in-law has told me the kids are fine on their own.
I wouldn't hire a 7-year-old baby sitter, so why should I expect my niece to watch all these kids? So far we shrug off the comments and eye rolls from the grandparents and other parents. Are we being overly protective or neurotic?
DEAR FRUSTRATED: I don't think it's necessary for an adult to minutely supervise and direct a child's play in a family home, but I do think it's absolutely necessary for an adult to be close by and paying attention. Sometimes when there is a family gathering all of the parents "check out" and the kids run amok and create a danger to themselves or someone else. The best situation would be for one or two adults to be in the area with the children (this way the adults can visit with each other) and then to trade off with other parents.
No two family members are alike when it comes to how "careful" they are about their children; my own family comprises the entire spectrum, from "Honey, you're 4 now; you can raise yourself," to "You'll put your eye out!" The less careful might be too neglectful; the more careful might be overreaching. Let your child have some freedom at this family home but definitely "guard the perimeter."
DEAR AMY: I am a bisexual man. I love both men and women. I work with a really handsome guy. I have some feelings for him. I am taking him out to dinner tonight.
My question is, how do I express my true feelings for him without either of us getting hurt? He is married and has two kids. I am assuming his sexual orientation is straight, but I have been involved with other men in the past who were also married and had families.
— Bisexual Buddy
DEAR BUDDY: You should not interfere with someone else's marriage, regardless of your (or his) sexual orientation. According to you, however, this is basically how you roll, and it is extremely regrettable.
The very least of the worst things that could happen here is that you are putting yourself in a very vulnerable professional position. The worst of the worst things that can happen would be for you to contract or spread an STD to your married partners who see you on the down low — who would then pass it to their wives.
So I'm going to take a pass on advising you about how to express your true feelings. Find a sexual partner who isn't married.
DEAR AMY: Your answer to "Kissed Consultant" was way off the mark. This consultant was kissed by a client, and you want her to notify the board of directors? What if he misread her signals, or what if he is from another culture and didn't know any better?
DEAR APPALLED: This man should already know better than to pull a business associate close and kiss her full on the lips after their first meeting. One way to educate him would be for the board of directors to let him know what is and is not acceptable professional conduct.
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.