DEAR ABBY: My wife and I are in our early 30s, with a 2-year-old daughter and a baby on the way. Both of our parents live eight to 10 hours away by car, so there is limited exposure to both sets of grandparents.
The problem is my father. Dad is very physically affectionate, even against the will of our daughter. For example, if she walks past him, he'll grab her and squeeze her and kiss her while she struggles to break free. It's all in the spirit of a playful hug, but it bothers my wife and me to hear and see our little daughter say "No!" and struggle to get away while he says things like, "No, I'm not going to let you get away. This is what a granddad does."
My father imposes the same behavior on me, coming up behind me and forcibly hugging me while I cook, wash dishes or some other task. When I say this makes me uncomfortable, he either acts offended or makes fun of me. His aggressive demand for physical affection is becoming an issue with us. But when we say things like, "Let her go" or "Respect her boundaries," my parents make light of the situation. In fact, my mother said on her last visit, "Your daughter HAS no boundaries!"
What can we do to protect ourselves and our kids from my father's aggression without hurting his feelings or starting a fight? -- ANXIOUS DAD IN OHIO
DEAR ANXIOUS DAD: Perhaps back in the day when your parents were raising you, children didn't have boundaries, but times and circumstances have changed. Today, parents teach children to assert themselves if someone's touch makes them uncomfortable so they will be less submissive if an adult tries to take advantage of them.
There may not be a way to protect yourselves and your children from your father without "hurting his feelings" or "starting an argument." People as insensitive to the feelings of others as he appears to be are usually hypersensitive when it comes to their own.
Because your father (and mother) refuse to accept YOUR boundaries when you ask him to let your daughter go, recognize that his time with your children should be severely curtailed until they're old enough to fight him off. And the next time he grabs you from behind, don't "suggest" that it makes you uncomfortable; INSIST that he let you go.
DEAR ABBY: My husband is a general contractor and recently did some work for a couple I'll call Bob and Jane, who have grown fond of him, as well as we have them.
Today when my husband went to tie up some loose ends at their home, he found out that Bob's father is dying of cancer and they are just waiting for the call to go to the hospital when he passes.
We want to do something nice for Bob and Jane to let them know we are thinking about them, but is it "tacky" to send flowers with a note saying they are in our thoughts, or can you offer us any other suggestions? Thanks in advance. -- MINDY IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR MINDY: There is nothing "tacky" about sending flowers and a note to Bob and Jane, offering moral support. After Bob's father passes away, making a donation to the American Cancer Society in his memory would be a thoughtful gesture. The money can be put to use for research to fight the disease, and I'm sure your generosity will be appreciated.
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