Ask Amy

Sunday, September 23, 2012 at 10:05pm

DEAR AMY: I am 13 and have recently begun to work at my mom's furniture store along with my brother.

My mom told us that we would get paid as long as we document our hours, so I opened up a Google spreadsheet and recorded the number of hours I worked, the date I worked and what I did (building a floor model, filling a water bed, etc.)

However, my brother hasn't bothered to do any of this. When he wants to get paid, he guesses what his hours were and my mom doesn't question him.

When I bring this up, my mom dismisses it by saying, "You have made more money than he has." Well, this is true, but I have also worked more. Most of the time he is on the second floor watching TV. Should I be annoyed by this?

— Confused

DEAR CONFUSED: Of course you should be annoyed by your brother's behavior. But here's the hard part: You have to let this annoyance happen and keep on working hard, documenting your hours and saving money.

Your mother knows your brother isn't pulling his weight. In your long, long work life (which will be very successful, I predict), you will be faced with many situations in which co-workers and even bosses are lazy or incompetent.

You may have to accept this until you are the boss, or the parent, yourself. And your brother? Well, his success is up to him.

DEAR AMY: My daughter is turning 5 next month, and she has asked for a big party with her friends.

We're concerned about gifts. Specifically, we're worried about people giving Barbies or worse, those Bratz or Monster High dolls. We don't have Barbies in the house for all the usual reasons, and the Bratz/Monster High dolls are simply disturbing.

At a recent party for one of her friends (also turning 5), almost every gift was a Barbie, Bratz or some other "fashion" doll. What? Girls don't like books, nature, space, coloring, crafts, puzzles?

Is there any way to let people know that we don't want "fashion" dolls in the house? We could say no gifts at all, but around here, people bring gifts anyway.

The norm is to invite all the kids in her class. If we do nothing, most of her gifts will be Barbies or worse. We won't allow her to keep them, and that's not a great outcome either.

So, our choices seem to be either 1) cancel the party or 2) be "inappropriate" and include a small note on the invitation saying "No fashion dolls, please." What do you think we should do?

— Concerned Parents

DEAR CONCERNED: You could try to control the gifts coming into your house by having a "theme" party, asking parents to help their youngsters give an "outer space" related book or toy, or to bring something related to bugs, horses or NASCAR.

However, ultimately you cannot control other parents (or kids). And so you must do the challenging work of educating your daughter about the messages conveyed through these fashion dolls and about your own values regarding them.

When my daughter was your girl's age, I said (regarding Barbie), "I think this doll is too grown-up looking for you to have." Later on, I relaxed my boundaries but continued to talk about it. For instance, "How on earth does Barbie balance on those itty-bitty pointed feet with her giant head (and other body parts)?" I'd ask — and she'd laugh.

I don't believe these dolls are dangerous, but vulgar and silly.

DEAR AMY: "Anxious Wife" wrote to you, concerned because her husband was "jealous" of their 7-year-old son and didn't treat him well. I am living proof of how terrible it can be to live in that environment. My father always told me he was jealous of me. His treatment has led to a lifetime of emotional challenges for me. I hope that mother takes the child and leaves.

— Voice of Experience

DEAR VOICE: As I said to "Anxious Wife," this treatment will create a terrible legacy.

Send questions via e-mail to askamy@tribune.com. Amy Dickinson's memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.

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