THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
DEAR MARGO

Home-schooled in ominous situation

February 9, 2010

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Q. I have a dual problem concerning my mom and my two younger teenage sisters. Mom has always been strict and overprotective, but is more so with my little sisters. They are home-schooled (as was I), but they get no social interaction at all - no friends, never been on a date, never even a sleepover. Mom treats them as if they are much younger than they are, so they act accordingly, being clingy and naive. They don’t do well in new situations and do not have the people skills to get by in the world. They’re not allowed to do the things I was - harmless stuff like dyeing their hair and getting pierced ears. When I asked why, Mom replied, “I learned my lesson with you.’’ I got into some minor trouble as a teen, but I have a college degree, a family and a good job.

My sisters also don’t take very good care of themselves. I think that’s because they aren’t around anyone besides family, so they don’t feel the need to bother. But I know they will be made fun of later and judged because of these things. They also show no desire to discover the world, and I am worried they’ll turn out like my older sister, who is in her 30s, lives at home and most likely will die a virgin. They’re both bright, sweet girls, and I want them to have full lives. What can I say to my mom so she’ll realize she’s not doing my sisters a favor by smothering and overprotecting them.

SUPPRESSED NO LONGER A. You are lucky, my dear, to have escaped. Considering how you turned out, your mother’s “learning her lesson’’ with you doesn’t hold water. She sounds selfish, if not disturbed, and I would start talking to your sisters about “the outside world.’’ You also need to have a sit-down with your mom and tell her that what is going on is not healthy or normal. If you get nowhere, you might check into child protective services to see whether your mother could get some counseling/guidance/instruction about socializing your sisters.

Q. I am a newlywed, married four months, and quite happy. We are both in our early 20s and plan to start a family in a couple of years. I’ve never met my husband’s father because he abandoned their family long ago. After rekindling their relationship a few years ago (before we met), he overdrew my husband’s bank account and took off again. He was not at our wedding; neither of us has any interest in including his father in our lives. (My parents live in the same town that we do, and we all get along fine.)

Recently, I asked my husband what he would tell our future children when they start asking about their grandfather. He simply shrugged and said, “Just that he’s dead.’’ I said I didn’t think that was a good idea because if his father ever shows up, it would make us look like the bad guys. What would you do in this situation?

PERPLEXED NEW WIFE A. I think saying that the other grandpa went away a long time ago would do the trick. For little children, that may imply being dead, but it will at least be accurate. I also have a hunch that any reappearance by this man who’s proved he’s not to be trusted will preclude any introductions to grandchildren.

All letters must be sent by e-mail to dearmargo@creators.com.