Dear Amy: Six years ago, my two grandchildren were playing "family" in a makeshift fort with blankets hung for walls. These two cousins were both 6 years old at the time.
Sometime during their play, clothes were removed and my grandson kissed his female cousin’s bottom.
Since then, my daughter-in-law sees her daughter as a victim and her nephew as a sexual predator.
The kids are now 12, and have never been allowed any time without adult supervision.
We have a large family. We rarely have get-togethers that include those two families (my only two sons) at the same time.
My daughter-in-law asked me how I felt about this some time ago, and I told her that I felt the kids were young and innocent and that it was a natural curiosity and maybe we shouldn’t make such a big deal of it. I said I would never ostracize any of my children or grandchildren.
She has discussed this with my daughters as well, once when she was drunk, and it got pretty ugly.
We all love her. She’s a very good mom, but I just feel she’s a little over the top on this.
Do you see any way out of this?
Dear Gramma: I agree that this episode, between two children of the same age, doesn’t seem serious. This sort of behavior is common and provides parents with teachable moments concerning curiosity, privacy and bodily autonomy.
If the play seemed lighthearted, fun, mutual and spontaneous, then the reaction should be proportional.
When adults encountered this, they could have asked, "Tiffany, did Charles doing this bother you?" She might say that it was scary, yucky, gross, or — "Well, we were just playing and I kissed his bottom, too."
If you discerned that it scared or bothered her, you would turn to Charles: "Tiffany says she did not like this, so you need to apologize to her and not do this again."
To both children, the adult should also say, "You’re getting older now, and so you need to keep your clothes on. When you were babies, you two used to splash in the wading pool naked, but you’re not babies anymore, so let’s keep the clothes on."
If the kissing child had been substantially older or more powerful, or if there was evidence of more extensive sexual play, I would have a different reaction.
As it is, this vigilant mom has created a victim and a perpetrator from this one incident. This is potentially life-altering for both children, and I wonder how these two are expected to mature into balanced, sexually-healthy people with these challenging labels attached to them.
Yes, you should respond to your daughter-in-law that you love her — but that you disagree with the way she has framed this.
She should seek the neutral advice of her daughter’s pediatrician or a child psychologist, versus family members.
Dear Amy: I just wanted to congratulate your thoughtful reply to "Fair Tipper," regarding tipping hotel cleaners.
Most people’s entire perception of a hotel is the state and condition of their room — and yet they give no thought whatsoever to the cleaners.
When I was 10 years old, I worked helping my mom clean hotel rooms. She was paid per room, and bringing me along helped her make more money.
We never could have afforded to stay in such a place, but we worked hard ensuring the place was as clean as possible.
Occasionally, we came across acts of thoughtfulness that made our whole afternoon brighter; it was seemingly little things, like towels gathered in one spot, the garbage bag tied and sitting outside, and on very rare occasions a couple dollars in an envelope labeled "Housekeeper."
We never knew who these angels were, but now that I am an adult and significantly better off than I was in childhood, I cannot vacation without remembering those days when my family worked on the other side of tourism and these memories cause me to fold my dirty linen, take out the trash and leave a tip.
— Life Lesson Learned
Dear Lesson Learned: Thank you for these commonsense tips for ways hotel guests can be more considerate toward the unseen people who clean up after them.
Dear Amy: "Damned if I Do — Or Don’t" wrote to you about pursuing a Ph.D. after quitting a previous program. Your basic advice was good, but Damned should seek out a specific professor working in her field as a possible mentor before even applying to a program.
Dear Academic: Great advice. Thank you.