DEAR MARY ANN: We are the blessed parents of a 2-year-old. Our son is the first and only grandchild for both sides of our families. We love our family but find it difficult to find time to spend with our son without other family members present. We work full time and our son goes to bed early so during the week there is little time together. Then we get consistent weeknight visits from certain relatives. The weekends are flooded with other obligations and constant invitations from other family members who haven't seen our son "in a whole week!!!" How do we politely tell our families that we love them and want our son to see them but we also need time for OUR family? Or after two years are we too late to break this habit?
-- WANT MORE TIME WITH INFANT SON
DEAR LUCKY PARENTS OF INFANT SON: People are not mind readers, but they do learn to accept new patterns of behavior. Start the change to solo activities with baby steps. Plan some events with other young couples and their children. Let your extended families know you won't be available on those dates. Often first-time grandparents are competing with each other for the grandchild's affection. Your relatives may be relieved to get back to some of their own interests if you do not include them in everything you do. Lengthen the times you enjoy with your son and spouse as you reinforce your own family bonds. Certainly continue to spend quality time with both of your families. As your son matures he will be exposed to a rich network of relatives who love him and think he is the most remarkable child in town.
DEAR MARY ANN: My 14-year-old daughter wants to go on a mission trip to Panama with our church without my husband or [me]. She has been there two times, first time with my husband, second time with me. Should we let her go again so soon? And if so, should we allow her to go without one of us?
-- WARY PARENTS
DEAR WARY PARENTS: Your daughter's missionary trips are helping her develop compassion, a social sense and global awareness. Visiting Panama with her church group is an excellent opportunity for her to be exposed to another culture and will help her gain a world view. Traveling on such a trip without her parents could be the beginning of a foundation for a life of international understanding and service.
Fourteen is an impressionable age, and your daughter's activities, interests and friendships should be kept in balance. An annual pilgrimage with the church is within reason. Semiannual trips to a foreign mission may be considered out of balance for a very young teen. You indicate your daughter made the trip this year with you. So next year when she is 15, you should feel comfortable permitting her to travel to Panama without you or your husband.
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