DEAR AMY: I have a 6-year-old granddaughter whose parents are not together. In a couple of months, when she goes to visit her dad (my son), she may be in proximity to a man who was incarcerated for molestation. This man is the brother of my son’s girlfriend, and the two siblings live together in their parents’ home. I am very anxious about this.
I plan to tell my son that it would be best for his daughter’s safety and security if he would change the visitation location. I have spoken to my granddaughter (when she visits me) about speaking up strongly and loudly if anyone makes physical overtures toward her. However, I am concerned about whether I spoke appropriately and specifically enough. I usually spoke to her when giving her a bath and used the correct terminology for the body parts.
Where can I get some information and training on how to raise awareness and educate my granddaughter on protecting herself? -- Anxious Grandma
DEAR GRANDMA: I appreciate your desire to teach your granddaughter to “protect herself,” but a 6-year-old cannot protect herself from a pedophile, and your training puts the burden on her to somehow fend off molestation. Body awareness, age-appropriate information and confidence-boosting encouragement is all good; this might help the girl in all sorts of ways. But a 6-year-old cannot realistically protect herself from an adult predator.
The person you need to “train” is your son. His daughter is not safe in any proximity to a sex offender. You don’t say where the child’s mother is, but she should be informed.
If you believe your son will take his daughter anywhere near the household where the sex offender lives, or if he allows the offender any contact at all with the child in another environment, you should call the police or child protective services, and (in my opinion) the whole crew should be charged with child endangerment. And if you know this contact might happen and don’t do everything in your power to prevent it, then you are culpable too.
In addition to the child’s safety, the terms of the offender’s legal status might mean that if he comes in any contact with a child (even unintended), he could be rearrested.
Your son’s visitation with his daughter should take place at your home, which sounds like a safe environment for everyone. A straightforward book on this tough topic is “Predators and Child Molesters: What Every Parent Needs to Know to Keep Kids Safe,” by former sex crimes prosecutor Robin Sax (2009, Prometheus Books).
DEAR AMY: When dining out recently with my wife, her phone rang. She abruptly got up from the table and left the food and went to another part of the restaurant and talked and talked and talked. I eventually finished my meal, paid the bill and left the restaurant and waited in the car while she was still talking somewhere else in the restaurant.
Do you have any suggestions for this husband, who is feeling very neglected? -- The Engineer
DEAR ENGINEER: If your wife explained her phone call, saying, “Honey, I am so sorry, we had a flood at the hospital where I work, and I was directing the evacuation of the pediatrics wing,” then I would give her a pass this time. Otherwise, what she did was incredibly rude and hurtful, and you should tell her so.
When you talk to her about this, it might help to abandon what I imagine to be your analytical engineer’s reserve and speak from the heart, using “I’’ statements: “I felt embarrassed, neglected and alone when you did that. Honestly, it really hurt my feelings.”
You might not be the kind of person who discusses feelings often, but you should try because you have them, and your wife doesn’t seem to realize it.
DEAR AMY: What’s the difference between a reason and an excuse? -- Wendy
DEAR WENDY: A reason is a plausible explanation for someone’s behavior.
An excuse is offered when a person doesn’t have an actual reason to justify behavior and its consequences. An excuse is usually given as a substitute for personal responsibility.