DEAR AMY: We have a vacation home where we go sometimes on the weekends. Our neighbors seem to view our place as a public kids' camp. More than any other place, we seem to be a magnet for their unsupervised kids! We regularly end up with other kids in our water, playing with our toys, even asking us for refreshments or running through our house. I'll admit it is a little flattering to be viewed as fun, but we really need some boundaries. One time a parent asked if her child could play with ours. When we responded "of course" and assumed she would stay to observe, she proceeded to leave her child with us while she went out for the afternoon! But often it's just the kids who run over to our place on their own. We don't know if their parents know where they are. Honestly we don't understand the attraction because we offer nothing more than what they already have at their own place, except perhaps parental supervision! We've even tried to say, "we need some family time now," only to have them sit on the edge of the property and stare and wait to rejoin us. With the increased volume, the focused attention required with kids around water and the extra clean up, by the end of the day it's all so exhausting! How do we put a stop to being viewed as free daycare, free lifeguarding and free entertainment while not straining those relationships?
Exhausted from "Relaxing"
DEAR EXHAUSTED: Because these parents seem so neglectful -- or trusting -- you will have to define your personal and property boundaries very clearly. You -- and the children who show up at your house -- are vulnerable. You don't even seem to know the names of these children (and they seem quite young). And will they show up even if you're not home? Introduce yourself to each parent, give them your phone number and tell them that unless you personally respond to a call or text with permission, you will send their children home if they show up.
Some people use a flag system to notify children that the surf is up. If you want to welcome the thundering herds at specific times, train them very firmly that they must wait for the flag to fly.
DEAR AMY: I will be turning 50 soon, but I have little to celebrate. I felt that a birthday like this deserved something special, I was hoping to take a trip to Las Vegas for the weekend. I'm not a big gambler but I'd really like to see Vegas. I did some serious research and found that it was "doable" from a cost perspective, but when I broached this subject with my wife, she immediately said there was no way she was getting on an airplane (anxiety issues) and whatever enthusiasm I had was gone forever. I'm now committed to a dinner with my sister and mother (we share the same birthday) and while I love my family, this just seems like a tremendous letdown. Am I wrong to feel this way?
DEAR UNHAPPY: I'm so sorry this has happened. It is a terrible feeling to have your heart set on something specific and then to be let down.
Please remember that you will be 50 all year long. Could you take this trip with a friend at another time? If you took a few days off, would your wife drive out to Las Vegas with you? I want to encourage you to find ways to celebrate yourself, even if you're surrounded by party poopers.
DEAR AMY: I have a thought to consider for "Grossed Out," whose husband of 30 years comes home drunk and "highly sexed." She should videotape him in action, beginning with his entrance through the door after work, and his demands and rages. Videotape him again in the morning when he stumbles out the door, hung over. Let him watch this when he is in a sober state.
Turned off in Alaska
DEAR TURNED OFF: Several readers have suggested that recording this particular reality show might help to change him.
I'm not so sure.