More people should speak up when they see something wrong, family should not invite themselves on vacation

Published 9:34 pm Saturday, August 19, 2006

Dear Annie: Yesterday, standing in a cashier’s line, I noticed a young man holding a little girl. She looked about 2 years old. In front of them were, I assume, the child’s mother and grandmother.

Periodically, the little girl would cry out, softly, in pain. The man would then kiss her on the head and she would be quiet. Grandma asked Mom, “What is he doing to her?” Mom replied, “I don’t know,” and “I don’t think he is hurting her.” This went on for some time.

My history of 20 years working with the Welfare Administration leads me to think the man was either nipping her ear or pinching her thigh just enough to hurt. I no longer have any legal standing, and my instinct — to walk over, point my finger and say, “Quit hurting that child!” — probably would have started a fight with no positive result. I didn’t even know for sure what he was doing.

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What could I have done in this situation? — Concerned Patron

Dear Concerned: It can be dangerous to accuse someone of abuse, even in public, especially since you don’t know what he was actually doing. However, there is nothing wrong with saying, neutrally, “Your little girl seems to be in pain. I hope she’s OK.” This calls attention to his actions, lets him know he isn’t getting away with anything, and makes Mom and Grandma more aware. It takes nerve to do this, and you could be mistaken, but we wish more people had the courage to speak up when they see something wrong.

Dear Annie: Our annual vacation is coming up soon. We take our boat to a lake several hours away and are joined by my brother’s family for a week of boating and quiet times around the campfire. My brother also brings a boat.

The problem is our other brother, “Doug.” For the last two years, Doug and his family have invited themselves to come with us. They don’t have a boat, and expect the rest of us to share ours and all the accessories.

We enjoy their company at other family gatherings, but this is an invasion. Crowding into our tents and our boats detracts from my family’s chance to have time alone. How do we stop these visits without causing a family argument and hurt feelings? — Not My Brother’s Vacation Guide

Dear Vacation Guide: You can reschedule your vacation at another time and not inform Doug, but we opt for a more direct approach. Tell Doug you like having him around, but the accommodations are too crowded. Insist that he bring his own tent and other accessories. Obviously, a boat is expensive and yours may need to be shared, but we think you can put up with it once a year for the sake of family peace.

Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Need to Get Away,” whose husband was reluctant to travel due to his colostomy. I can sympathize with that husband.

I had colostomy surgery in 1999. When I travel, I use a closed-end colostomy pouch that is disposable. I carry an extra pouch inside a small plastic bag in my pocket. When I need to change, I remove the old bag, place it in the plastic bag for disposal, and attach the new bag. I have done this in airplane restrooms and many other places throughout the U.S. and Europe. It is simple and discreet.

Until I was told about the closed-end pouches and how well they worked, I did not travel either. This information changed my life. — Living a Normal Life in Spite of a Problem

Dear Living: Thank you for providing this information. We hope others with the same problem will try your suggestion.

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at