Q. "When I grew up my mother was never around. She insisted on living with her parents and worked by choice. My grandmother took care of the home. My mother's priorities were her father, her mother, her brothers and their families, and then my brother, my father and me.
"After I married she only visited me in group-type situations. After four years of marriage and two children we moved. The next 16 years we spent begging and pleading with her to visit us. She couldn't be bothered. My father visited us alone until his death 12 years ago.
"My mother never arranged to have a day off when we visited, after traveling two days by auto. We stayed in motels and ate out. She always bragged that she never baby-sat with our children or even arranged to spend time with them.
"Mother retired two years ago and is living with a widowed brother. She still has her brothers and son near her.
"When my children were going away to college last September she wrote me a letter. In it was a long scenario about how lonely I must be now that my children were gone.
"I wrote that I was very pleased with my children as individuals and with their growth, that they still would be home five months a year and that I now would be able to go to school and re-enter the job market.
"I have received another letter indicting how lonely I must be. She is hinting that she wants to live with us and that it's a daughter's duty to care for her mother (she's in perfect health and has lots of financial security).
"How do I respond to her?"
A. Unless you can take your mother in with good cheer she's much better off where she is and so are you. Every day her presence would remind you of all the hurts you have stuffed in your gullet.
Although you might get rid of some anger if you talked it over with a counselor -- and so you probably should -- nothing you do is going to turn your mother into a giving person. In fact, the only thing she seems to give you is a feeling of guilt. It's not a present you have to take, and you won't when you realize that her immaturity has nothing to do with you. She wasn't ready to grow up when she got married, or when she had children and she's not ready yet. That's why she still wants someone to take care of her. Don't let it be you.
Write, of course, and answer her hints with a few of your own. Tell her how good it feels to be so free and how happy you are to be able to work like she did. Send gifts too, as occasions demand, and if she gets sick, by all means help your brother arrange her care. And if she should ask you directly? mYou'll say no just as directly, with as little or as much detail as you care to give.
She may say she's amazed at your attitude (and she probably will be) but if you refuse to negotiate, she can't move in.
Children have to accept the consequences of their actions -- and so do mothers.
Q. "My problem concerns the education of my 2-year-old daughter in the correct use of the English language."
"We spend at least one Sunday a month in the company of my husband's family. They are wonderful people but with the exception of my husband, they have had very little formal education. The expression 'ain't' is continuous, as is 'he don't', etc.
"I am aware that children should be corrected for grammatical errors in private and in this case, correction in front of the others would be uncharitable. I am troubled as to the best way to handle this matter. I do not feel free even to bring the subject up with my husband because he is so close to his family."
A. Your daughter is a lot more resilient than you think. A child can switch from one dialect to another, or one language to another, much easier than she can change her clothes and she will be that much richer for having known two cultures.
The child who lives, day-in and day-out, with good English can handle a Sunday full of 'ain'ts' with no trouble at all. She will try them out at home, of course, and be corrected. She even may say, "But Grandma talks that way," and you'll say "But Mommy and Daddy don't" and after a few more tryouts -- that needn't be corrected at all -- she will talk like you and your husband when she's with you and probably use some 'ain'ts' when she's with them. It only would be a problem if you made a big issue of it, for the dearest child will use whatever weapon annoys a parent most -- a tantrum, a messy room or an ain't -- when she wants to rebel.
It may be embarrassing to you when she uses poor English, but the way we talk is only a superficial sign of our background. If we were to list the marks of a good education, in order of their importance, grammar would come far, far down the line.
When you visit your in-laws your daughter is learning about values, about loving, about solidarity -- all the things our first letter writer missed so much in her mother.
A little bad grammar is a small price to pay for so much enrichment.