DEAR AMY: I want some advice on how to help my son and daughter-in-law without hurting their feelings.
When we visit, the dog smell and dog hair in their home bother us.
The dishwasher is broken and the carpets are not clean because of their dogs.
Should we get someone to come in and clean before we visit or buy them a dishwasher?
Should we hire someone to help get my daughter-in-law organized and my son motivated — or does that take the responsibility away from them?
We don't live in the same state.
Their children are 1 and 4.
— Concerned Mother
DEAR CONCERNED: It's hard to tell from your letter how bad conditions are in this home, but you should definitely not hire anyone or purchase a major appliance without your son and daughter-in-law's permission.
You can express your interest in helping them out by telling them you understand they have a lot to deal with and say you'd like to assist in any way you can.
Say, "We noticed your dishwasher is broken; we'd be happy to pay for its repair — or we'd like to purchase a new one for you if you'd agree."
Tell your son you're worried they might be overwhelmed. Tell him you were young once with a young family and understand how challenging it is to keep up with everything.
If you are able to afford it and think your son might be receptive, you could offer to hire a cleaner for them for a finite period to help them get caught up.
Having someone come to the home on a regular schedule can inspire and motivate people to maintain a healthier environment.
DEAR AMY: I am in a relationship with a guy who is still very close to his ex-wife. Their split was completely amicable.
He speaks to her over the phone and he sees her about every three to four weeks.
He says that he will never go back to her, but I just don't understand why he needs to stay in contact with her, especially since they don't have any children.
Am I overreacting?
— Wondering Girlfriend
DEAR WONDERING: People in romantic relationships can maintain other friendships — including with their exes. Many ex-spouses stay friends with each other.
Because you have unanswered questions about this friendship, your boyfriend could clear it up by introducing you to his ex and letting you get to know her.
You should express an interest in meeting his ex-wife. His response will reveal more about how he feels about her — and also about you.
DEAR AMY: I've been following the discussion in your column about having baby showers for unwed mothers.
Recently, "Having My Say" expressed her disdain for "rewarding" unwed mothers with baby gifts.
Personally, I think every baby deserves the best that can be given them, and I make extra efforts to welcome babies that are not born into "perfect" circumstances.
Of course, I might be biased because 30 years ago I was an unwed mother.
I went on to marry the child's father and we have been happily married for 30 years.
I went back to college to become a registered nurse and raised two boys who are now wonderful young men.
All of my friends who started out married have since divorced, and some have raised very troubled children.
Having My Say might want to rethink her prejudices. She may be missing out on some wonderful relationships.
— Grateful Mom
DEAR GRATEFUL: I have heard from several unwed mothers who, like you, were grateful for their baby showers hosted by non-judgmental friends and family.
DEAR AMY: I am responding to "Vintage, Not Antique," who complained about being offered a senior discount.
I am a 63-year-old school crossing guard.
Every year I ask my kids (kindergarten through 5th grade) how old they think I am. The oldest guess was that I was 35.
I walk home with much more bounce in my step after having the kids guess my age.
— Not-So-Old George
DEAR GEORGE: Ah — to be 35 in someone's eyes ...!
Send questions to email@example.com