Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Granting Forgiveness Doesn't Mean Forgetting the Past

DEAR HARRIETTE: My mother and I had a huge argument about how I raise my children. I have not spoken to her in about five years. My husband and I live only 5 miles from my parents' home. I talk to my dad every day, and we actually go to my parents' house to visit with them every other weekend. Mother and I refuse to talk to each other, and I would like to make peace with her. My mother was not around when I was child, and I have a hard time listening to suggestions about raising children from someone who was not there for her own child. -- Brittle, Chicago

DEAR BRITTLE: What you must do in order to heal is forgive your mother. Reach out and tell her that you want to build a relationship with her. Tell her that you forgive her for not being there when you were a child. Thank her for welcoming your family to her home so frequently. Ask her if she is willing to start over with you. Be crystal clear that you do not want her to parent your children; you want her to be your mother.

DEAR HARRIETTE: It occurs to me that the "stalker" in Queens, N.Y., may be interested in becoming "friends" with the gentleman's niece rather than the man himself. In light of the recent discoveries in Cleveland, I think he should definitely report this person to the police. He sounds dangerous to me, or at least unbalanced. It's also possible that he is a child molester, or worse. -- Concerned Great-grandma, Bossier City, La.

DEAR CONCERNED GREAT-GRANDMA: As I wrote earlier, I completely agree with you that he should report this "stalker" to the police. You never know what he is capable of. It is possible that he is simply lonely and desiring a friend. But, as you point out, in these days and times, especially considering the tragic story of the three young women who were kidnapped and held hostage for more than 10 years, we must be vigilant when it comes to protecting children's safety.

We need to reignite the sense of community that existed a generation or so ago. I remember when I was growing up, my mother used to always say that she had eyes in the back of her head. I realized at some point that those eyes belonged to the neighbors, teachers, shop owners -- all the people who touched our lives in one way or another. We all looked out for one another. When my sisters or I did something wrong, we were guaranteed to hear about it, not just from our parents, but also from others who had either witnessed or heard of the incident. Plus, they would call ahead and let my mother know. Same went for safety. Parents looked out for the children in the neighborhood, not just their own children.

We desperately need to re-establish that sense of community to help turn the tide against violent crimes and nurture and protect those vulnerable members of our communities who most need to be taken under someone's wing.