DEAR AMY: My son is a sweet 8-year-old boy, who enjoys giving to others. He loves giving gifts and even enjoys giving to charity. He has a friend, "Benji," who has multiple siblings and probably doesn't get a lot for himself. Benji is forever asking, sometimes begging, my son to give him things, including toys and special snacks. I think my son is uncomfortable because he always asks me if it's OK to give those things to Benji. I tell him "no," because it's never-ending and we talk over ways to address it at school the next day. I suggest saying that if Benji really likes it, we can get it for his birthday or that it's not fair to give something to Benji when he can't give whatever it is to each friend. But it's exhausting! We talk about Benji's case of the gimmes nearly every single day. I've recently learned that Benji does this to other kids. He has even stolen small items from other friends' houses! Benji is truly a great boy otherwise and my son adores him. I'm just wondering what we can do to make him stop harassing my son. Telling his mom feels awkward.
Gimme a Break!
DEAR GIMME: First of all, if this child is disadvantaged, you — the adult — could simply decide to be generous toward him in ways that might begin to meet his needs. You could pack an extra snack, for instance, for your son to offer to his friend.
I can imagine the pressure your generous 8-year-old feels when trying to cope with this daily barrage from "Benji." You've certainly tried to provide useful strategies for your son to react to this particular form of pressure. Good for you.
It is a shame that you are too intimidated by some "awkward" feelings to do the adult thing and contact Benji's mother to see what is going on with him. Benji seems to have poor impulse control; he has trouble reading social cues, empathizing, or perhaps even understanding how his behavior affects his friend. He may be "on the spectrum," or slightly immature — or reacting to a challenging situation at home.
It is not your responsibility to diagnose, treat or teach this child. But yes, you should at least attempt to notify his mother about what he is doing and how it is affecting the otherwise nice friendship between the two boys.
You should also speak with your son's teacher about this daily pressure. The boys' teacher is in a position to help and guide both children.
DEAR AMY: I'm single and in my mid-30s. Any advice for where to meet guys my age? I've tried speed-dating and online dating in the past but with poor results. A lot of the guys one meets online are not quality guys with good values and many of them smoke marijuana on a daily basis, which I do not. (I also live in a state where marijuana is illegal). Do you have any advice on where to meet guys my age that are educated and have good values?
Single in the Northeast
DEAR SINGLE: If you are lucky enough to live in a community with a cultural center, you could join organizations aligning with your values. Get involved with your library board, your local theater, and museums. This in-person approach to meeting people might be most comfortable for you.
However, the great thing about online matching is that meeting a suitable partner is in part a numbers game. The more people you can virtually "meet" and screen, the more likely you are to find a good match.
I disagree with your blanket judgment that men looking for a match online are (basically) a bunch of valueless potheads.
There are many online sources for meeting people, and so — just as you wouldn't hang out at a head shop (in real life) to meet a guy — if you generally don't match with the men you see on one site, find a different online matching site that dovetails with your values.
DEAR AMY: Your sweet response to the letter signed "Frozen" brought tears to my eyes. Yes, comforting a child who is hurt or distressed is what parenting is all about. And offering that child a cool washcloth is a tender and empowering bit of motherly medicine. Thank you so much for suggesting it!
DEAR FAN: A cool cloth and some parental comforting is the best painkiller I know.