Amy: She wants to help misfit granddaughter

  • Article by: AMY DICKINSON
  • December 17, 2012 - 2:21 PM

Dear Amy: I feel helpless about what to do regarding my 10-year-old granddaughter's situation. She is obese and dresses poorly in T-shirts.

She does not fit in, according to school personnel, and is not liked by the fellow students, even though she excels in academics. Her parents have been advised to help her lose weight and dress better.

They are loving, caring and supportive parents to their child. I do not dare broach the subject because I know they will be angry with me.

Must I and the rest of the family stand aside and just accept what cannot be changed? Help me. What is my role?

Amy says: Your role is to be your granddaughter's tenderhearted buddy and champion. You should not take it upon yourself to "improve" her. I assure you, even at the age of 10, the world is already telling her all that's "wrong" with her.

Can you love her abundantly exactly as she is? Can you celebrate her brains and her talent and overlook the sloppy T-shirts? Engage her on her level-- talking about science or books or pop music -- and try to see her as the perfect work in progress that she is.

Assist her parents with ideas and advice if they ask. If she wants to dress differently, you could help her find clothes that she thinks she looks awesome in. But for this child, her relationship with you should be a refuge, not more of the same.

Personal experience: I had a grandmother who hung a virtual "needs improvement" sign on each of her grandchildren.

Santa question

Dear Amy: My boyfriend and I recently attended a Christmas party where a 5-year-old was asking adults if they believed in Santa. My boyfriend was the only one to say "no," which made the boy visibly sad (though he did not question further).

I believe that it was not our place to tell someone else's child our true opinions about Santa, but my boyfriend maintains that he did not want to lie to the boy because he was angry when he found out his parents had lied to him about Santa.

What is the proper etiquette in this situation?

Amy says: It's always a good idea to try to leave a 5-year-old pretty much as you found him. Unless the child has a close relationship with you, it is not your job to disabuse, confuse or make him sad.

On the other hand, this is a surprising question from a 5-year-old. It supposes that there is such a thing as "believing" (or not believing) in Santa.

The socially smooth way to handle such a straightforward question of belief or faith is to understand at the outset that the question itself contains a trap. And so one says, "Hmmm. Good question. What do you think?"

Not home for holidays

Dear Amy: I'm sad because I've just learned my son won't make it home for the holidays because his military leave has been postponed. I just wanted to extend a special wish for a peaceful and happy holiday to all our troops.

Amy says: I share your special wish. Thank you.

Send questions via e-mail to Amy Dickinson at

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