Dear Annie: I recently remarried, and my husband and I are in the process of moving our families into a beautiful new home.
I have an eight-year-old daughter, and “Brett” has two sons, 10 and 16, who live with him full time.
We have spent two years getting to know one another. Brett is a great guy, but he and his boys have been living a bachelor lifestyle.
They basically do whatever they want in the house and the yard, which leads to destruction on a large scale (fires in the yard, melted wax on the deck, shower heads ripped off, spills on the carpet).
We jointly decided on rules for the new house.
We have given the boys areas where they are free to have fun.
However, they aren’t following the rules, and the damage is already piling up.
I don’t want to be the evil stepmother, but they are making me nervous and I’m afraid some resentment is building.
Brett and I both work, but I am the one who purchased the house with my life’s savings.
And I work 10 hours a day plus a three-hour commute to a job I don’t love, while Brett is a teacher with summers off.
I also worry because Brett is partial to his younger son, who had a rough childhood with his mother. This boy does not hesitate to lie and take things without permission. No amount of talking seems to help, and Brett would never punish him. How do I make things better? — Not the Brady Bunch
Dear Not: You and Brett must approach these issues with a united front. Once rules have been established, he cannot permit his children to undermine your authority.
The level of commotion around boys can make unaccustomed people nervous, but Brett should insist they limit their rowdier activities to the places you designate.
He also should get his younger son into counselling before the lying and stealing escalate. For assistance and resources, contact the National Stepfamily Resource Center (stepfamilies.info) at Dept. of Human Development and Family Studies, 203 Spidle Hall, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849.
Dear Annie: Here is a problem I have not seen in your column, but it drives me crazy. My wife picks her nose all the time. She says it is a habit and she does not even realize she is doing it.
She has her finger up her nose in front of the TV, when we have guests, out in public and at work.
I have talked with her about breaking this habit, but it is getting worse. She is an intelligent, hardworking, well-respected person in our community, but this grosses me out and turns other people away.
She is a beautiful woman, but this habit makes her very unattractive. Since talking to her does not help, maybe if she reads this, she will get the message more clearly. — Totally Grossed Out
Dear Grossed Out: Your wife has moved beyond “bad habit” to obsessive-compulsive behavior. Obsessive nose picking is known as rhinotillexomania. Generally, it is an anxiety disorder, but it can lead to infections in the nose, which is close enough to the brain to be dangerous. Your wife may need therapy and/or medication to control it. Contact the Obsessive Compulsive Foundation (ocfoundation.org), P.O. Box 961029, Boston, MA 02196, for information and assistance.
Dear Annie: “Remember Back When” commented on the way expectant mothers dress. I am a 29-year-old mother of one and a supervisor of 30 employees, two of whom are very pregnant.
One of the girls wears blue jeans that sit below her expanding waistline and shirts that do not cover the difference.
There is a time and a place for appropriate dress, and there is a reason maternity pants exist. Pregnancy is wonderful, but please save the belly exposure for home. — Michigan
Dear Michigan: Belly exposure is inappropriate in the workplace, pregnant or not. Thanks for saying so.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611.