Visits by critical mother destroy self-esteem

Dear Annie: My mother is scheduled to visit me in a few months. Mom always feels the need to rearrange my closets and cabinets and scrub my floors. After her last visit, she told my ex-husband that my house is “disgusting.” She regularly points out my flaws, such as weight gain and blotchy skin, and says my children are rude and irresponsible.

I have told Mom that I appreciate her help and advice, but such comments hurt me. I am aware of my weaknesses — after all, I am 41, with a full-time job and three children, so my house is not spotless and I’ve gained a little weight. But my children are very well-behaved and have great manners. And I particularly don’t like her having discussions about me with my abusive ex-husband.

Before I see my mother, I am confident and secure, but after, I feel defeated and unsure about my parenting skills. My parents were divorced when I was an infant, and my father raised me. Mom is now happily married to a wonderful man, and I have suggested to her that she limit her obsessive behavior to her own life. Am I too sensitive? Should I get a hotel room for Mom when she visits, since my house is too filthy for her? Is she just too overbearing and controlling?

The one good thing that comes from Mom’s behavior is that I am learning how not to treat my adult children. Learning a Lesson in Minnesota

Dear Learning: This isn’t about your flaws. It’s about your mother’s fear that she was an inadequate parent because your father raised you. She’s trying to cover her insecurities by being demanding and overly critical in those areas where she worries she should have done a better job. Of course, this doesn’t excuse her domineering behavior. Ignore as much of her criticism as you can, suggest she get counseling, and if you’d prefer she stay in a hotel, that works, too.

Dear Annie: Many of the neighborhood teenagers come to our street to play. They believe every single yard is their playground. They throw trash all over the place and destroy flowers and gardens. Several of us have dogs, and they drive the animals crazy.

I’ve asked them nicely to find somewhere else to play and they ignore me. Their parents are nowhere in sight. In fact, we don’t know who the parents are. Also, bicycles and several other items have been disappearing lately. We can’t even buy lawn furniture for fear it, too, will disappear. What can I do besides call the police every time they step foot in our yard? Garden Snakes in Pennsylvania

Dear Garden: If you have a neighborhood watch, homeowners association or other community organization, report the problem. Also consider putting up a fence around your yard or a lock on an existing gate, so it is less accessible. And by all means, let the teens know you will call the police each and every time. It may be the only way to deter these adolescent vandals.

Dear Annie: You gave “Still In the Closet” the worst advice ever. If he were having a heterosexual affair, you would say, “Get counseling.” How about telling him to stand up, be a good man and honor his commitments. Deny your infatuation with this passing fling and trust real love — the love of a wife and family, which, may I say, he is extremely fortunate to have, given his tendencies. Being gay is not his “real self.” It is his selfishness taking over and it is not attractive. His kids need someone they can respect. Family Friendly in Pennsylvania

Dear Family Friendly: We’re not suggesting the man abandon his responsibilities. We simply believe he should be honest. And although the truth may cause some pain to his family, in the long run, they will have more respect for him if he stops living a lie.

X E-mail your questions to or write to: Annie’s Mailbox‚Ñ¢, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611.

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