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Annie's Mailbox

Ask Amy column

Q. I am a 27-year-old single mom. I’ve never been small, but I am a healthy, strong, well-proportioned size 12.

My problem is with my mother. She’s extremely fat-phobic, and starts to freak out and call herself horrible fat names when she gets over a size 6.

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She also makes nasty comments about my weight going back to childhood, such as, “I’d kill myself if I had to wear a size 12.”

I’ve learned to accept that. What I can’t and won’t accept is when she makes fat comments about my daughter. My baby is 14 months old. Her pediatrician says she is the picture of a healthy toddler — with no weight concerns.

My mom continually expresses concern about my daughter’s weight.

Recently the three of us went to lunch. My daughter refused to eat much of her meal and my mom very proudly declared, “I think she just doesn’t like to eat in front of me because she knows I’m counting every calorie she eats!”

This attitude is so far beyond not healthy, I don’t even know what to say to her. It’s not good that my mom has passed her unhealthy relationship with food down to me, but I refuse to let this get put on my daughter’s shoulders as well!

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A. The trick for you will be to balance a healthy portion of tolerance for someone you can’t change, along with the ability to remain relatively unruffled when you decide you’ve had enough.

Your mother’s self-loathing and eating issues are unfortunate.

Tell her you’ve decided that because she cannot control herself, she may not discuss food/weight in front of your daughter. Ever. This may sound like an overreaction, but you will have to overreact in order to get her attention.

You respond to violations by saying: “Oops. Look at the time. We’re going to have to go.” And you pack up and leave. Do not negotiate or discuss this in front of your child.

Your mother may express her hurt and outrage later. Remember when she does this that she is acting out, the way a toddler does when she has been corrected.

Q. My son and his wife (a stay-at-home mom) live several hours away and have three young children. We see them five or six times a year.

We have been very generous to them and send gifts, checks, or gift cards for holidays or special events.

It bothers me that they fail to acknowledge receipt of many of these gifts. If I ask if they have gotten them, the response is usually: “Oh! Yeah. Thanks.”

I sent them $1,000 for their fifth anniversary last year . . . same response! I recently sent $175 in gift cards for my daughter-in-law’s birthday, but have not heard that she even received them.

Should I grit my teeth and continue the gifts or just forget these special occasions?

A. Your daughter-in-law is obviously partly to blame, but your son is a partner to this gratitude crime.

I assure you, if I sent $1,000 to someone and he didn’t acknowledge it, I would never do that again. Tell them both that you are disappointed.

I suggest you dial your giving way back regarding these parents. Concentrate on the kiddies and try to mentor them toward gratitude and acknowledgment.

Send questions by e-mail to askamy@tribune.com or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 North Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.

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