DEAR ABBY: The letter you printed (10/23) from "Anxious Dad in Ohio," who considers it a problem that his father is physically affectionate with his 2-year-old granddaughter, broke my heart. My dad was physically affectionate, too.
My brothers and sister and I didn't always appreciate the way he'd grab us and plant kisses on our necks or hug us tight. We'd wriggle and squirm and protest until he coaxed a smile out of us. Our dad worked long and hard to support us. Many's the time we'd walk away, rubbing at the whisker burn, but we'd always come back for a good roughhouse on the living room rug -- all of us little ones wiggling and giggling and riding on our tired, happy father as if he were made of iron.
Dad wasn't made of iron, though. He died before any of his four grandchildren were born. So I'll never have the pleasure of hearing half-hearted shrieks of "No, no!" turn into giggles and kisses. And my little ones will never know the joy of opening their hearts to Grandpa's rough love. -- PEG B., SEATTLE
DEAR PEG: Your father, I am sure, was a wonderful and loving parent. However, as I said in my reply to "Anxious Dad," today's parents teach their 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. Unfortunately, such lessons are a necessary and sad reality. Read on, and perhaps you'll understand why.
DEAR ABBY: I was alarmed at the behavior of the grandfather in "Anxious Dad's" letter. As a therapist who treats children who have been sexually abused, I agree with your response, which was right on target.
I would like to add that when a child perceives that a parent is unable to intervene with another adult who violates that child's boundaries, such as that grandfather's aggressive hugs, the child is less likely to tell the parents if someone violates their boundaries sexually.
In addition, children learn by observation. If the father in that letter is not able to enforce his own boundaries with the grandfather, this also makes the daughter less likely to discern appropriate boundaries from those which are not, and it places her at risk should someone violate her in a sexual way. -- TRACIE IN TENNESSEE
DEAR ABBY: I was the "little girl" in a similar situation 55 years ago. Although my grandfather only hugged and kissed me (raising whisker welts on my face), he restrained me and hugged me even harder as I struggled to break away, laughing at my pleas for him to stop. My parents did not want to offend him, and in my child's mind I interpreted that to mean they were more concerned about others' feelings than mine, and that they would not protect me. Consequently I was a fearful and anxious child, certain that my parents didn't want me. It took years of therapy for me to learn to trust others. -- PROTECT YOUR KIDS, SEASIDE, CALIF.
DEAR ABBY: My blood ran cold when I read that letter. That could be my story. I was molested for years by my "adoring" grandfather, and the only outward sign he showed in front of my parents was the forced hugging described in that letter.
I never told anyone the whole story. When I threatened him one time that I'd tell, he hit me so hard he fractured my upper jaw and I lost a tooth -- which he told my parents was an unfortunate accident with a slippery bathroom rug and the toilet.
My grandfather is long dead. My parents are in their 80s and still don't know the truth. I'm almost 50 now and have gone through years of counseling. Please share this with "Anxious Dad." -- FORMERLY ANXIOUS KID IN PENNSYLVANIA