Dear Amy:

My brother's wife, "Candy," has subtly asked me for some help with my brother. We have been e-mailing each other almost daily. It started out as a discussion about her moving back to her hometown. I was checking out homes for her. My brother is dragging his feet.

Both of my parents are deceased, and I am the oldest sibling. My brother does tend to listen to me.

She is really frustrated with him as a husband and father. She has been venting in her e-mails to me.

Raising four children, while working, and being the sole parent who takes them to all of the after-school activities is taking a toll on her and their marriage. She comes home and makes the dinner, cleans up afterward, reviews the homework with the kids, takes care of their baths and then drops into bed at night exhausted. My brother does not even start dinner if he comes home first.

I have never butted into family affairs. Not only do I not know how to start this conversation with my brother, but also I'm afraid that if I do have a serious conversation about his family affairs, he may resent me, or his wife for coming to me. I feel that my brother is going to eventually regret his lack of a relationship with his children, and he does not see this resentment that is building with his wife.

Should I Say Something?

Yes, you should say something -- to your sister-in-law. Here's how it goes: "Candy, this sounds very rough on you. I can tell how upset you are. What are you going to do to get my brother more involved with those wonderful kids?"

She might tell you that she wants for you to handle it. But this isn't something that you can fix. This isn't like the time your brother got in a fender bender with your parents' car. This is about priorities and values.

Your brother is a grown man. He might be a flawed, fumbling, lazy, less-than-adequate man, but his life -- his marriage and his parenting -- is his business. Your job is to be honest, steadfast and supportive. When he comes to you with questions about his abilities as a parent, you should answer him tactfully and truthfully. Otherwise, his wife needs to muster the strength to handle this, and perhaps you could help her do so. The two of them would benefit from marriage counseling -- not from you but from a trained professional.

You should suggest it.

Dear Amy:

My boyfriend and I disagree about something. Whenever we attend a social occasion where he knows many people and I don't know anyone, he does not feel that it is his duty to introduce me to the people he is talking to. He says it is awkward, unless he is having a long conversation with someone.

He says that it is my job to find people to talk to and that I should introduce myself. He says that maybe he just shouldn't invite me to these occasions if it is going to be awkward for me.

What do you think?

N

Perhaps your boyfriend shouldn't invite you -- that way you won't catch him being rude and inconsiderate.

Not only is it embarrassing for you to stand there, mutely, it is also embarrassing to others in the group. He should introduce you.

Dear Amy:

More on grandparent nicknames.

In my family, my mother wore a gold nugget on a chain around her neck. When my great-niece was small and my mother would hold her, my great-niece would ask her, "Where's nugget?"

Somehow this evolved into my great-niece calling my mother "Nugget," and the name stuck. Now all of the great-grandchildren that have come along call my mother this, and everyone loves it. It is a very special name for a very special person.

Cheryl from Columbia, Md.

Thank you so much for this very sweet "nugget."

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

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