DEAR ABBY: When my husband and I recently hosted a week-long family reunion for 40 relatives at our lakeside cottage, one family arrived with toys that included slingshots and a bow with rubber-tipped arrows.
To my horror, their 7-year-old son, "Andy," shot an arrow directly into a group of his cousins. I screamed his name, and he stopped and didn't shoot the other arrows. I explained that he could hurt someone and he should never shoot into a crowd, etc. Andy's father was annoyed with me for shouting at his son and kept muttering that a rubber-tipped arrow could never hurt anyone.
The next morning, I saw Andy aim his bow and arrow at another cousin only a few feet away. Horrified, I shouted, "Andy!" and the closest adult removed the bow and arrow from his hands. Andy then started crying and threw himself on his mother's lap, where he sobbed and wailed for one solid hour. Someone told me I had "humiliated" the boy. I was very disturbed and could not understand the parents' nonchalance about the possible danger.
The next morning I apologized to Andy and his parents for "humiliating" him. I explained I was concerned that someone would get hurt. Andy smiled and nodded yes in agreement, that he understood. His mother also smiled at me and gave me a "thumbs up." All appeared to be forgiven and forgotten.
In the middle of the afternoon, Andy's father announced they were leaving, that they couldn't wait to say goodbye to their grandfather, who was hiking with other family members. The family left without saying another word to me.
I have had many sleepless nights since, wondering if I was wrong to object to the child shooting arrows into groups of people. Did I make a mountain out of a molehill? Are rubber-tipped arrows harmless? Although two fathers told me not to let it bother me, I am still a ... VERY CONCERNED GRANDMA
DEAR GRANDMA: I vote with the two fathers who told you not to let it bother you. Andy's parents were, in my opinion, guilty of reckless endangerment for allowing their child to play so irresponsibly with a toy he was not mature enough to handle. All he needed was one "lucky shot" and the arrow could have hit one of the other children in the eye, with lifelong repercussions. Andy's sobbing fit wasn't because he was humiliated; it was because he didn't get his own way.
Since you're having trouble sleeping, try a glass of warm milk at bedtime. You not only did not do anything wrong, you did exactly the right thing. Andy's parents should be ashamed at their lack of parental responsibility.
DEAR ABBY: My sister, after a valiant two-year battle, is losing to cancer. When I talk about it, every single person asks, "How old is she?"
What difference does it make if she's 10 or 100? How should I respond to those people? -- ALREADY GRIEVING IN MINNESOTA
DEAR ALREADY GRIEVING: Please accept my sympathy. The subject of death makes many people uncomfortable. The asker may be curious, or anxious, when you bring up the subject. If your sister is older, then the questioner might respond, "Well, she lived a long life," in a clumsy attempt to make you feel better. If your sister is young, then the questioner is brought face-to-face with his or her own mortality, thinking "Oh, my, she's my age -- or younger!"
If the question makes you uncomfortable, just say, "Why do you ask?"
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