Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Young Daughter's Observation Shocks Mom

DEAR HARRIETTE: I had an uncomfortable conversation with my 9-year-old daughter the other day. We were talking about intimacy, about hugging and touching. We were hugging each other and then clarified that not everyone gets to touch your body. She then said that she is the only one who gets to hug and touch me, because I don't like having my husband touch me. Yikes. She is right -- he and I haven't gotten along intimately for a long time. But I was shocked by her comment and not sure how to react. I want my daughter to know what a healthy marriage looks like. I know that it includes some kind of intimacy, at least hand-holding. But what happens with my husband and me is never that. He immediately goes to groping, which I cannot stand. What do I say? What do I do? -- Not Intimate, Denver

DEAR NOT INTIMATE: Your daughter called you on something that you and your husband must address. Rather than saying anything to her right now, you need to talk to your husband. Share what happened. Talk about your thoughts and feelings about the lack of intimacy between the two of you. If you can, recall times when you were closer. What did you enjoy about each other back then? Talk about how you might find your way back to intimacy now.

Your daughter takes her cues based on your behavior. You and your husband need to fortify your bond. That includes breaking down the barricade to intimacy. Since it sounds like the fires haven't been burning for some time, you may want to seek professional help to talk through your challenges, your interests and your desires for the future.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My son has started presenting his Christmas list to us, and he has really gone overboard. Yes, he goes to a fancy private school, but I thought we were instilling solid values in him. We have always given modest gifts for the holidays, but this year his list has every new electronic gadget on it. I know that many of the kids in his school come from wealthy families, so it's no big deal for them to buy anything their kids want. But that's not the point for me. I want my son to understand that just because others get everything, that doesn't make it right, and he isn't "less than" if he gets fewer gifts. -- Drawing the Line, Chicago

DEAR DRAWING THE LINE: Your job as a parent is to constantly teach your son what your values are. Of course, since you placed him in a school where wealth prevails, the lessons must include how to be in that environment and not be envious. One thing that you may consider is giving your son one of his luxurious desires rather than the lot of them. If you can afford one item, you should be able to satisfy his desire without going overboard. If not, get your son what you can afford and teach him that every family does what it can to celebrate.