Dear Annie: I am 40 years old and have been married to "Rick" for 19 years. We have four beautiful daughters.
For years, Rick wanted a son. I thought he had accepted that it wasn't going to happen, so I didn't protest when he formed a friendship with a 10-year-old fatherless neighbor boy. "Drew" is now 13, and he's a great kid - kind, respectful and helpful.
Rick and Drew are always doing things together - going to ballgames, riding bikes, playing basketball. At first, I thought it was great, but now I have some major concerns. About a year ago, Drew started stopping by on his way to school to get his "morning hug" from Rick. I used to think it was cute, but now it's just annoying. Then Rick insisted on including Drew in every family outing. When he wanted to invite him along on our vacation this summer, I put my foot down. Rick sulked for a week.
But here is the real problem: Two weeks ago, our oldest daughter said that she and her sisters believe Dad loves Drew more than he loves them. She said she's been spying on her father, and he is always hugging Drew and kissing him on the mouth, and that sometimes when I'm not home, they go into our bedroom and lock the door.
I confronted Rick, and he admitted to the hugging and kissing, but said Drew is just very affectionate. He even confessed to taking Drew into the bedroom and locking the door, but insists they were only talking.
Frankly, I don't know what to think. Something is not right. Is it possible that my husband and this boy are having sex? - Worried Wife
Dear Worried: It is more than possible. It is likely. Even if they aren't sexually involved, this is a worrisome situation and not healthy for anyone. You must insist that Rick and Drew separate physically, as well as emotionally. No more morning kisses, no more outings alone, no more trips to the bedroom. The two of them cannot be left alone, even for one second. This may be traumatizing for Drew, so Rick can explain, in your presence, that he needs to spend more time with his daughters.
You also could contact Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (bbbs.org) so Drew can find a more appropriate father figure to fill the gap.
If Rick refuses to cooperate, are you willing to turn him in to the authorities as a suspected pedophile and let them investigate? (You can do this anonymously.) Would Rick be willing to get counseling as a condition of remaining in the marriage? (We'd insist on that.)
We know such a reality is hard to face, but please act on this immediately. You may be the only person who can protect that boy.
Dear Annie: When I go out to eat for breakfast, the restaurants always have artificial sweetener for your coffee and often nondairy creamer. What I do not find is a nondairy substitute for butter. Many of us would rather not eat butter.
Please spread this message so stores and restaurants will see it and offer this item. - Nondairy in Wisconsin
Dear Nondairy: Most places will provide margarine if you request it. If you want something else (soy butter, et al), you will have a harder time. If you patronize the same places often and ask each time, they may begin to offer these items. Try it.
Dear Annie: When I was growing up, good table manners were a necessity. As my children became older, sometimes they would regress, and I found a foolproof method that worked for us. I bought a small standup mirror and put it in front of them at the table.
One day my daughter came home from school and commented on a girl at her lunch table who ate with her mouth open. They still have beautiful manners. - Kentucky Great-Grandmother
Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Email questions to email@example.com, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.