Neighbor's interest in sons worries her
DEAR AMY: Our single, older, male next-door neighbor has become very chummy with our 19- and 20-year-old boys, who are in college and living less than one hour away. He often invites them to join him for dinner, movies and bowling. We used to socialize with him occasionally but don't anymore. Our sons think he's a great and generous guy. We see someone who makes a lot of effort to see our sons often, and we are uncomfortable with it. He's been fairly close to our family, but because he's been way too generous (at times) with gifts in the past, I've asked that we stop exchanging gifts. All the same, he sneaks gifts to our sons and tells them not to tell us. I've mentioned boundaries, but it seems to make no difference to him what we think. We don't want our sons to see us as being negative. They see no boundary issues concerning him. This feels just a bit creepy to us, and he's not taking our cues at all. Help!Parents in a Quandary!
DEAR PARENTS: If you are creeped out and trying to protect your sons from inappropriate contact, then you shouldn't worry about seeming "negative." I can certainly understand an older individual having young friends. But the red flag is that this neighbor has asked your sons to keep secrets from you. No responsible and respectful adult would ask young people to lie to or deceive others.
You should be completely frank and honest with your sons. In the age of Jerry Sandusky and countless other stories of trusted adults "grooming" and then victimizing young people, if you "err" it should be on the side of transparency and honesty.
You should also tell this neighbor -- plainly and clearly -- that you do not feel comfortable with his overt focus on your sons. Beyond that, if you have further (and concrete) reason to suspect anything is going on, you should notify the police.