Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: My twin 13-year-old daughters earn a few extra dollars baby-sitting neighborhood children. After my daughters completed the daylong Red Cross baby-sitting class last summer, I sent an email to a few moms who live close by, advertising my daughters' services. I set their hourly rates at $8 an hour for one baby-sitter, or $12 an hour for both girls to baby-sit. My husband and I both feel these are appropriate wages for their age(s) and services. The girls only baby-sit a few times per month because homework, sports and social activities are greater priorities. After baby-sitting fewer than 15 times (for no more than two children at a time, ages 4 and older) they are complaining because their peers are making $12 an hour (which is true). Since the age of 6 my daughters have received an age-appropriate weekly allowance for doing a short list of chores. The amount grows each year with age and responsibility. I urge them to save a few dollars each week. Every so often, we make a trip to the bank, and they deposit their savings. I don't badger them to do their chores, and some weeks they earn little or nothing. I'm not sure what to do about the discrepancy between what my daughters and their friends are earning for baby-sitting. In our affluent area, I know that $12 is the going rate, but I wish it weren't. Should my daughters negotiate with their clients for higher wages? Should I set some parameters if they earn more money? What is the right thing to do in this situation?

-- Perplexed in Suburbia

DEAR PERPLEXED: You have done a good job of managing your daughters' training and baby-sitting business, and marketing their services to the neighborhood.

Now it's their turn. On the one hand, they should realize that they may actually get more jobs (more work equals more income) because of their reduced rate. On the other, they have a right to negotiate a higher rate -- and experience the real consequences (positive or negative) for setting a higher price.

You should expect your daughters to continue to save a percentage of their earnings, but otherwise leave the negotiation up to them.

DEAR AMY: My mother's second husband was sexually abusive to me when I was a child. When I was a young woman I finally had the courage to tell her. Fortunately I did more than survive -- I flourished. I have a healthy relationship, beautiful children and a wonderful crew of friends. I am happy. I would like to ask my mother why she would stay with this man for 30 years after learning what he did. We do not have much of a relationship and she hardly knows her grandchildren. I would like a sincere apology. Is it possible to rebuild this relationship before it is too late? Should I just let it go? I feel I would regret not asking.

-- Unsure and Hurting

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DEAR UNSURE: You are in the ideal position to confront your mother about this: You are healthy, happy and productive. Your relationship with her is distant enough to cushion you from any possible retaliation.

I suggest writing this out. Take a lot of time and care with how you pose your questions. An open-ended query, "Can you tell me what you were thinking?" might yield better results than, "How could you?" Seek insight, and keep your tone as neutral as you can.

It is possible to rebuild the relationship with your mother. But you are going to have to be brave enough to face her extreme limitations as a parent and as a person. You will have to forgive her, even if you never come to terms with her behavior.

Keep your expectations very modest.

DEAR AMY: You pointed out to "Lady with Baby Blues" how silly it is to ask a toddler if he wants a sibling. When I asked my 4-year-old son if he wanted another baby brother or sister, he looked at his younger sister, thought a while and said, "No, let's keep her."

-- Mom

DEAR MOM: So. Cute.