DEAR AMY: My brother and his soon to be ex-wife have been married for 19 years. They have twin girls who are almost 7 and live in another state. They are going through a nasty divorce in which my sister-in-law has pressed child molestation charges against my brother.
There is no question he is innocent. This is about my sister-in-law not wanting to share custody.
My brother was coerced into signing an order of protection and cannot be anywhere near his children until the case wends its way through the court system.
My daughters, 11 and 9, are very close to the twins. We are traveling to see my brother and lend him support.
My daughters want to spend time with their cousins, so I wrote to my sister-in-law asking if we could get the children together.
She said she'll have nothing to do with me (I'm now an "outlaw") but that my girls are welcome to visit her house without me.
I suggested a public place where we could both be present, but she said no because she's afraid my brother will show up.
My daughters know very little about the divorce. The twins have been coached by their mother, and examined and interviewed by social services.
Should I let my daughters go to their house, play with them, be around their mom and be exposed to the details of the divorce — not to mention what negative ideas my sister-in-law might feed them about their uncle?
It's either their house, where I cannot see or hear what's going on, or nothing at all. What do you think?
DEAR FRUSTRATED: There should be a special room in purgatory reserved for people who make false accusations involving children.
Your dilemma shows that the ripples of this situation extend well beyond a dispute between two parents.
Unless you are completely confident your sister-in-law would behave appropriately around your children, then you shouldn't leave them with her.
You will have to explain to your kids that they won't be able to visit with their cousins this time, but you'll make sure they see one another very soon. Spare the details.
The best way for you to support your brother would be to urge him to retain the best legal counsel he can find and fight this.
Family courts are aware that parents lodge false accusations; dragging children through multiple interviews and examinations and poisoning them against a parent is child abuse.
If your sister-in-law initiated this legal nightmare knowing the accusation is false, her own fitness as a parent will come into play. No matter how this works out, the kids will bear a heavy burden.
DEAR AMY: My mother and I have recurring arguments. She is always signing me up for tennis clinics and camps without my consent, and when I tell her that I do not desire to do these expensive clinics, she tells me she has already paid and therefore I cannot get out of it.
I think this money would be better spent somewhere else or saved for college.
I am 16 and have been doing the same tennis clinic for four years. All of the kids are younger than I am, and it's embarrassing.
I have told her many times that I don't want to play, and she tells me it is a "life skill." I feel she is living vicariously through me. Why else would she choose to make me do something I don't want to do?
— Served in New Jersey
DEAR SERVED: Tell your mother now that you won't be playing tennis next session. That way she won't waste her money paying for lessons.
I'm not aware that tennis is a necessary "life skill," but if your mother is concerned about your physical health and fitness, then you should propose substituting another sport for tennis.
DEAR AMY: Regarding the letter from the mother-of-the-bride who was frustrated because the mother-of-the groom bought the same dress she had, I have a solution — the MOB should pre-empt this by wearing the dress to the rehearsal dinner!
— A Reader
DEAR READER: Many readers proposed this solution. Thank you all.