DEAR AMY: Our lovely suburban neighborhood has new neighbors who are causing laughter with their large and unattractive yard decorations.
After neighbors expressed animosity about dead trees left by the contractor, I approached them about the problem and they were very nice about it.
Their property was "spruced up" with whimsical concrete figures on tree stumps, a miniature wishing well and an arched bridge to nowhere. This does not fit with the tasteful, well-groomed or natural yards surrounding them. Now scattered, colorful, flashing neon Christmas lights with no theme give their home the appearance of a New Orleans strip club. Some feel this house's appearance lowers property values and prospective house sales.
They are nice people, but their professional and social affiliations are quite different from ours, and we haven't accepted their dinner invitations. My husband says to leave it alone because it is their property, but their decorating choices are alienating them from the community.
What is appropriate to help make them aware, accepted and welcomed?
— Across the Street
DEAR ACROSS: You and your neighbors sound so snippy that you have me rooting for the New Orleans strip club in your midst.
Your husband is right. Leave these people alone. Unless you have community rules dictating this sort of thing, it is their property and they can do whatever they like with it.
If you want to make your neighbors feel accepted and welcome, then actually welcome and accept them, without judgment and correction.
DEAR AMY: During a holiday visit, I noticed my daughter and 11-year-old granddaughter were so attached to each other that there was no time or space for anyone else.
One day, my daughter had the day off from work and allowed her daughter to stay home from school. They giggled in mom's room for a while and spent two hours cuddling on the sofa watching a child's movie. After the movie, they sang carols and then sat on the floor cutting out snowflakes.
Sounds innocent, but it seemed odd to me since this was the pattern the whole time I was visiting: Daughter went to work, picked up granddaughter at the end of the day and the evening was spent baking, cuddling, singing, laughing and swapping clothes.
I know I sound as if I'm jealous of my granddaughter, but isn't this smothering? My daughter's husband seems fine with it. My granddaughter has friends and is very close to other grandparents. She has some after-school activities, but mommy is her whole world. Tell me if I'm wrong, but it seems as if my daughter is putting herself in a position for a huge letdown in a year or two.
— Puzzled Granny
DEAR GRANNY: What, exactly, would this anticipated "letdown" in your daughter's life consist of? The absence of cutting snowflakes together when your granddaughter grows too old for this activity?
If your granddaughter is close to other family members, has friends and activities outside the home, and (aside from missing a day) does well in school, then mommy is not her whole world. Everything you mention is appropriate for an 11-year-old.
The way these two interact might be quite different from what you remember from your time as a mother, when adults might have been less child-oriented, but this change is due partly to the dynamic created when mothers work outside the home. This can make home time very precious, and it sounds as if your daughter is making the most of it.
She should not neglect you or her husband. She will do best if she also has a balance of friends and activities outside of her daughter's orbit, but she is making choices that seem (mostly) benign.
DEAR AMY: "Granny's Conundrum" concerned the role of a grandmother in her granddaughter's life. The granddaughter was obese and dressed poorly. You advocated that she try to love this child "as she is."
I think to not intervene when a young child is obese is akin to child abuse. This is a health matter that should be dealt with.
DEAR GRANDPARENT: I agree that the obesity should be dealt with but feel it is the parents' job.
Send questions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Amy Dickinson's memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.