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Published November 05, 2010, 12:00 AM

Annie's Mailbox: Maintain contact or ties may be broken

Dear Annie: I’ve known my 26-year-old stepdaughter, “Monica,” since she was 5.

By: Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, INFORUM

Dear Annie: I’ve known my 26-year-old stepdaughter, “Monica,” since she was 5. She never spent much time with her father, but when the first grandchild was born, she came by more often because she wanted a baby sitter. Her dad and I were together 21 years before he passed away six months ago.

Now when I hear from Monica, all she wants to do is rehash everything that happened at the end of her father’s life. She harangues me about difficult choices I had to make, even though my husband and I discussed those things in advance.

I still have two children at home and work full time, and I am trying to deal with my own grief. Monica’s attitude makes it hard to stay in contact. I know she is grieving, too, but I think she feels guilty for not spending more time with her dad before it was too late. She hurt him a great deal over the years.

I’m sure Monica is angry that I haven’t called lately, but I just can’t deal with her. I do love her and our grandchild, but am I wrong to want some distance right now? – Still Grieving

Dear Still: We understand that you want to avoid being assaulted by Monica. But please know that these things can take on a life of their own, and the relationship may not recover – even when you are ready. Because you love her and the grandchild, we recommend instead that you maintain minimal contact (as much as you can handle at a time) and urge Monica to get grief counseling. You might even offer to go with her.

Dear Annie: Your advice to “Shirley” regarding a 5-month-old, 12-pound baby whose mother kept him wrapped in a blanket most of the time was off the mark.

Having worked as a child abuse/neglect investigator, I can tell you that if Shirley had contacted Child Protective Services, we would have opened an investigation based on Petey’s size alone. Keeping the baby wrapped tightly and napping most of the time also sets off alarm bells. If Petey is not given enough attention and stimulation, not to mention food, he could suffer lasting developmental delays or even starve to death.

Petey is likely the victim of physical neglect. Shirley should immediately report Petey’s situation to her local Child Protective Services office. Whether or not the child is being neglected, CPS will likely offer Petey’s mother some assistance and monitor the family until the situation improves. – Concerned Social Worker

Dear Social Worker: Depending on the child’s birth weight, 12 pounds is not unreasonably low at five months. And Shirley is only guessing the actual weight. Petey sees the pediatrician regularly, and if he were failing to thrive, it would be noticed. We do agree, however, that the situation bears watching.

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to anniesmailbox@comcast.net or write to Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 5777 W. Century Blvd., Suite 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045.