Ask Amy

Thursday, October 1, 2009 at 1:04am

DEAR AMY: I'm a female elementary school teacher, age 59, and I have a real problem with how the parents of my students dress. I dress very modestly, but I don't think I'm a prude.

Although this has always made me feel uncomfortable, the past several years have been the worst. I'm talking about mothers who come to their parent conference dressed as if they're going to a nightclub!

I find it offensive to have to view their half-exposed breasts and cleavage "down to there."

Would it be appropriate to write a general note, asking parents to dress discreetly for the conference?

I'd even be willing to add that it's not because the school has a dress code for parents, but because it would make me feel more comfortable.

What do you think?

— Pat

DEAR PAT: I'm giving your plan a C-, though you might want to run this idea past your school administrator.

Parents should show you the utmost respect when they attend a teacher conference, but you shouldn't pay too much attention to how they dress. As a teacher, you know that the most important thing is not how people look, but how they behave.

Are these parents listening to you attentively? Are they asking questions and showing a willingness to be active partners in their child's education? If they are, then their cleavage issues should be immaterial.

Mainly, this is a matter of taste, and sometimes you just have to remember that, just as Jennifer Lopez's barely there Versace look now seems "very 1999," fashion fads tend to change. Pull your cardigan close, and be patient.

DEAR AMY: My daughter is celebrating Grandparents Day at school.

She invited my parents, who are divorced. My dad's girlfriend also wants to go.

I do not want her at this event because she is not a grandparent.

I invite her to everything else — birthday parties, Christmas, etc. She keeps my children for overnight visits with my dad occasionally, although she has not had too much to do with this particular child.

This child also does not want her to come, so what can I tell her that won't be to offensive?

— Wondering Mom

DEAR MOM: Schools often tag these events as "Grandparents and Special Friends" days because not all children have grandparents — and some grandparents have their own "special friends."

If your father's significant other is close enough to your family that you include her in family events and allow your kids to spend the night with her, then she should perhaps make the relationship leap to "partner" status, and you should think about including her.

All the same, this will be up to you. If you don't want her to attend this event, then you'll have to say, "I'm sorry, but let's just have Grandma and Grandpa come to the school this year. Once the kids get to know you better, we'll rethink it, but for now I'd like to confine this to my mom and dad."

Don't involve the child in your angst over this, and settle it quickly.

DEAR AMY: I like to respond to your answer to the 15-year-old girl whose friend was sexually active, and she wondered if she should tell the girl's mother, who she said was also a friend.

I am a mother of a 15-year-old daughter, and I know many of her friends very well, but I don't consider them my "friends."

I would feel very uncomfortable having them tell me my daughter was sexually active. Instead, I would hope that her friends would encourage her to tell me herself, or offer to support her in telling me.

My daughter and I have always talked about anything, even though I realize her friends will probably know first!

— Proud Mom

DEAR PROUD: Your advice is great, but I didn't think it would work with this particular trio, mainly because the mother seemed like a bit of a teenager herself.

I agree that it's best for friends to urge one another to be honest and handle their problems themselves, while friends play a supportive role.

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