Dear Annie: My parents are in their 80s. My father has been having strokes, and his right side is mostly paralyzed. He is usually in a wheelchair.
Whenever I visit, Mom cries that Dad is having an affair with a woman who lives in the same apartment complex, and that this woman has stolen things when Mom is not at home. Mom claims the woman has taken paper towels, silverware, plates, food, etc.
My 57-year-old sister, who is Dad’s caregiver, is tired of hearing my mother complain that items are missing. My sister told me that Mom misplaces things all the time, no one is stealing anything and Dad is not having an affair.
We’ve tried telling Mom that Dad has enough trouble, that she is misplacing these things herself and nothing is going on with another woman, but then she becomes upset because we don’t believe her. How do we resolve this? — Salem, Ore.
Dear Salem: Has your mother seen her doctor recently? Her complaints indicate some paranoia and irrational thinking, which are indicative of Alzheimer’s. Claims of theft are particularly common. Please take her for a complete examination and ask for an evaluation of her mental functioning.
Dear Annie: I was surprised to read your response to “Molly’s Aunt,” whose 11-year-old home-schooled niece could neither read nor count to 100. However well-intended her parents may be, they are guilty of educational neglect, a classification that is a violation of child welfare statutes in most states. This aunt can call the child welfare hotline in her state to report this, as well as the state agency that licenses these programs. In either case, the parents will be held to a higher level of accountability than the word of another mother with no obvious standards. — Concerned in Kansas
Dear Concerned: Our readers were plenty hot under the collar about these parents. Read on for more:
From Ohio: Perhaps Molly’s niece is dyslexic and her parents don’t talk about her problems to others. My smart 11-year-old granddaughter reads very little because she is dyslexic. Her father taught himself to read after he graduated from high school.
Boston: Right now I’m about to hyperventilate about the 11-year-old who cannot read. That simple skill could save her life. It IS the aunt’s business. We are our brother’s keeper. I’d call social services. I’d say more, but I’m sputtering.
New Hampshire: Bravo for your answer to “Molly’s Aunt.” It truly is none of her business. My wife and I follow a child-directed curriculum for our children, ages eight and 11, and have every confidence in their ability to pursue the things that interest them, including basic skills like reading, writing and arithmetic. Molly’s aunt should worry more about the millions of children locked in classrooms for 12 years of their lives, where the lesson learned is that knowledge is meant only for instant regurgitation on demand.
Pennsylvania: As a teacher I was shocked by your answer. In my state, a fifth grader is expected to have a firm command of arithmetic. Teachers are expected to act “in loco parentis.” Conversely, parents who home-school take on the responsibilities of the teacher. Those parents have been derelict in their duties.
New Jersey: My four siblings and I were home-schooled. All five of us were late readers — particularly my older brother, who did not read until he was 13. My parents followed the philosophy that one retains information about subjects in which one is truly interested, which encourages us to master skills when we are ready. As a tutor at Rutgers University, I know that illiteracy affects people of all backgrounds. I’ve never met an adult home-schooler who couldn’t read. My brother graduated this May from Columbia University with honors. There are many different ways to receive an education. When Molly is ready, she will learn to read unencumbered of the anxiety about what we’ve decided is normal. And with support from her aunt, she will be even better suited to thrive.