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Parents refuse to keep boy under control

DEAR ABBY: I host holiday meals for my out-of-town family. During the last one, my cousin’s 5-year-old son ran up and down the upstairs hallway pretty much nonstop the entire time. The floor is ceramic tile, so when he did this, it made a huge racket and shook the house. The pounding frayed my and my husband’s nerves, but we didn’t say anything because I was afraid it wouldn’t go over well.

In the future, I asked if he can be told we have a house rule of no running inside. I also asked if there is a game or something I can buy to keep him entertained or redirect him if he starts doing it again. I was then informed that “this is just what children his age do and it is impossible to get them not to run.” Trying to compromise, I asked if it could be limited to the three-season room, the outside or the basement, and was told they probably won’t come then.

My mother was just diagnosed with a serious illness, and I would hate to not have part of the family here this year because of this. Was my request out of line? Is there another solution? My cousin and her family say their homes are too small to host, and no one wants to go to a restaurant. – Unnerved in the Midwest

DEAR UNNERVED: If this is “just what children his age do,” then one or both of the child’s parents should take their son outside so he can burn off some of that energy. (It’s not unlike what some pet owners do out of respect for their hosts’ house rules.) I have seen parents do this in restaurants when their child becomes disruptive, so it’s not unheard of.

If your cousin considers this too much of a burden, then please accept that she has chosen to be absent, and do not let it diminish your good time when the next holiday rolls around.

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have two kids – a 3-year-old who has see-through pale skin and blond curls, and a 4-month-old with an olive complexion and straight brown hair. When we are out together, people often ask me if my kids have the same father. Is this a polite question? The potential answer could involve sharing intimate details of my relationship history or our fertility. No one is entitled to any of those answers in casual conversation, so why do they ask?

This happens so often that our preschooler has started to wonder aloud who her brother belongs to, if not her daddy. It makes me crazy. I have plenty of answers lined up for the impertinent question, but how do I keep people from asking in the first place? – Mom of Beauties in Puerto Rico

DEAR MOM: There is no end to the nosy, rude and sometimes stupid questions people ask. Your answer should be, “If you will forgive me for not answering you, I’ll forgive you for asking me that.” However, there is no way to stop a stranger from asking a question in front of your children, short of carrying cotton candy and stuffing it in their mouth. (Note that I’m not suggesting you use a dirty diaper.) Be sure to explain – and repeat as needed – to your preschooler that not all siblings look alike, and her sibling absolutely belongs to her daddy and to her.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.