Ask Amy

Thursday, March 11, 2010 at 11:45pm

DEAR AMY: I'm a senior in high school and am very busy trying to get into a good college. I have many activities at school.

I have been baby-sitting for a family since I was in middle school. They have two children and I enjoy being with them. We do lots of fun things together.

Lately, however, the parents are putting a lot of pressure on me to baby-sit more and more. They seem to think of me as an older daughter and sister to the kids.

I am honored to be so close to these girls, but I am too overwhelmed with school and college to focus on playing with them every available moment.

The parents pay well, but at this point I do not care about the money.

I have started to say no and have been courteous, but the parents always ask me when I am free to come baby-sit, putting me in a position to come over even when I know I will regret it later.

The parents have confronted me many times about why I am unable to come over and why I am so busy.

I have told them repeatedly that colleges continue to ask for my semester grades, as well as the continual participation of school and community activities.

They say I need to relax more (I guess by coming over to baby-sit their children?).

The parents are nice people, but are in their own little world.

I am at the point where I would baby-sit for free for a whole Saturday just for them to not call me back for a couple of weeks.

— Already Preoccupied Senior

DEAR SENIOR: You are supposed to be in charge of your own life — and that means you will have to be firm with people who don't respect your situation or explanations.

Do not offer to baby-sit for free for this family. If you really feel this relationship has become toxic, perhaps you shouldn't baby-sit for them at all.

Otherwise, you should establish a firm schedule. Tell them that from now until the end of school, you will only be available on certain days and times (list these days and specific time periods on a sheet of paper and give it to them to stick on the refrigerator).

You don't have to offer any reasons or excuses about why you can't baby-sit — just say, "I'm sorry, I'm not available."


DEAR AMY: What do you say to strangers who make oblique references to your age?

I am a 57-year-old woman who works hard to maintain my health and appearance. I dress in an age-appropriate manner.

I am uncomfortable when people who appear to be nearly a generation older than me include me in their age group.

I would never refer to someone in their early 40s as "people of our age."

How can I gently address this situation?

— Bonnie

DEAR BONNIE: Not every oblique reference or assumption needs to be challenged — even gently.

However, if people are making cultural references to Benny Goodman or Betty Grable that you don't understand, you can respond by saying, "I'm more in the Beatles generation than the big band generation, but I think I know what you're getting at."


DEAR AMY: You missed the mark on your reply to "Ready to Repair."

Ready admitted to a history of hurtful behavior toward her colleagues, and a single apology doesn't erase that — especially one watered down by an "explanation."

Bringing in a treat for her office mates can undo a single incident, but a pattern of bad behavior must be countered by a pattern of good; this person's got to walk the walk.

I suggest she focus on her own actions rather than the co-workers' response. Trust and regard can be earned back, but it takes time and effort.

— Been There

DEAR BEEN THERE: You are so right. I suggested that "Ready" bring an office treat as a way to break the ice with her colleagues and show her intent.

I agree with you that Ready needs to establish a history of behaving well.

Send questions via e-mail to askamy@tribune.com

Filed under: Lifestyles