DEAR AMY: We have new neighbors. Our 5-year-old twin daughters and the neighbors’ older (of two) daughters are best friends from school. We really like them, but lately they seem to be making themselves too comfortable in our home. They will drop by while we are having dinner, sometimes walking right into our house, and when their daughter looks at the dinner my girls are eating, she will naturally say that she wants some. Then the friend will start eating off of their plates, while the parents stand there! Another time they came over and when I took my girls to use the bathroom, I came back to find that the three pieces of chicken I had left on my counter on a covered plate were being eaten by the mother and her two girls — with no apology, and certainly no asking beforehand! The father opens our cupboard to help himself to whatever snacks he or his kids want. When we are at their house, their pantry is off-limits. Amy, we aren’t strapped for money and while we don’t mind sharing, we don’t like this behavior. We don’t think they have issues with money either, it just seems to be them looking to take advantage. We have tried making humor-based comments that this isn’t acceptable, hoping the parents would catch the hint — to no avail. We have installed a camera doorbell so we can pre-emptively stop them from walking in at dinnertime. Do we need to install locks on our pantry? What do we say to set boundaries without compromising this friendship?
At a Loss
DEAR AT A LOSS: When I was a kid, my mother came down the stairs one morning to find a neighbor, uninvited, drinking coffee at the kitchen table. This person had just entered the house and was helping themselves. I’m not certain how my mother reacted — but she made sure it was a one-time occurrence. In your case, merely reacting naturally might have delivered the message you are struggling with now. For instance, you are surprised by your neighbors scarfing your chicken. You say, “Oh no — are you really eating the chicken I left on the counter? That was for our dinner tomorrow!”
At this point, you will have to say (to the parents), “I’ve tried hinting about it and joking about it, but now I’ll just have to tell you: I really don’t like it when you guys help yourselves to our food without asking. I would never do that at your house, and I’m teaching the girls to respect these boundaries, too.”
Some people don’t mind having an “open door” — where people sashay in. You do mind it (I do, too), and so you will have to be clear about it.
DEAR AMY: Our daughter is 25 years old and lives at home. She rarely speaks to her father or me, and stays in her room whenever she is home. She’ll eat dinner without dialogue, staying glued to her phone, watching videos or texting her friends in front of me. We’ve offered $1,500/month toward an apartment to give her SOME incentive. She doesn’t work. She has fibromyalgia and claims she can’t work, but has taken six vacations in six months, and seems to have energy for that. We feel she’s using us and is lazy, but my husband said we’ll not see her again if we push her to move out. I now experience anxiety over this, and my husband doesn’t understand.
At My Wits End
DEAR WITS END: Your husband worries that you won’t see your daughter if she moves out, but according to you, she lives with you and you still don’t see her.
You have created and tolerated this lifestyle; please don’t blame your daughter now for behaving as you have taught her to behave.
You and your husband need professional guidance to sort out your role in your daughter’s life. She won’t lead a healthy lifestyle until she receives the right balance of incentive/reward.
I don’t think throwing money at her to move out provides any incentive to behave differently, but giving her a firm deadline to move out without your money might.
DEAR AMY: “No Church for Me” reported feeling pressured to attend her boyfriend’s mom’s church because the mother kept inviting them to services. This mom might just want for the couple to meet her church friends, not pressure them into being religious.
Church for Me
DEAR CHURCH: If this is the case, the mother should try to make some of these introductions outside of church.