Dear Annie: My daughter was recently ordered by the court to have her 5-year-old son visit his biological father and grandparents every other weekend. They live 200 miles away.
The boy has always lived with his mother, because the biological father felt he was not ready to be a dad and deserted them. He and his parents cut off contact for five years, and now they have decided they want to spend time with the boy.
Here's the disturbing part. When at their house, my grandson is not permitted to eat at the family table. He eats at a small table in the corner. He's only permitted to eat or drink at certain times, he cannot phone his mother when he wants, he sleeps in a room in the basement, he must call the grandparents by specific names or they won't speak to him, and most recently, he came home with so many mosquito bites that he required medical attention. Once, the biological father brought him home so sick that he missed a week of school.
Over the summer, his biological father tried to teach him to use the lawn mower, but the child refused because his mother told him (rightfully) that it is too dangerous and he is too little. As a result, he was sent to his room in the basement.
My gut tells me they are trying to injure the child, and I have serious doubts about their sincerity in wanting a relationship. My daughter's lawyer has been contacted, but is there anything we can do in the interim to protect the boy from such horrible abuse? - Worried Grandma
Dear Worried: Based on your information, we're not certain this qualifies as "horrible abuse." It seems more like neglect combined with incompetent parenting skills. The biological father and his parents have no clue how to properly treat or raise a 5-year-old boy. The lawyer should go to the judge immediately with whatever documentation he has and ask for supervised visitation, and possibly mandate that the biological father take parenting classes. If you believe the boy is truly being abused, contact the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453.
Dear Annie: Thank you for printing the letter about celiac disease. I hope you have space for a letter about children who are severely food allergic.
Food allergies were not part of our world in 1999. That is when our baby developed hives after eating mixed cereal. The pediatrician said, "Maybe he's allergic to the wheat in the cereal. Give him Benadryl." We didn't know that "allergic to wheat" was serious or that wheat was in almost everything in our pantry, from BBQ sauce to root beer, cereals, potato chips, candy, hand cream, shampoo and sunblock. The early reactions were just hives. There was no thought of converting our kitchen or segregating him at school.
The first anaphylactic reaction came at age 4. The ER doctors explained cross-contamination. We were told to read all food labels and always carry EpiPens. At age 13, our son now cautiously sits at the school lunch table with his friends and goes to ballgames, overnight camp and select restaurants. We continue to be vigilant. One crumb of wheat in his mouth would lead us to the ER. We are hopeful that somewhere in the universe someone will find a cure for this life-threatening and life-altering allergy.
We would like to share some resources about food allergies with your readers. Please suggest they contact:
Mothers of Children Having Allergies (mochallergies.org); Food Allergy Research and Education (foodallergy.org) (this is a merger of the Food Allergy Initiative and Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network); the Stanford Alliance for Food Allergy Research (foodallergies.stanford.edu); the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/allergies/food-allergies.aspx). - B. in Chicago
Dear B.: Thank you so much for this excellent information on food allergies. We hope our readers will take advantage of these resources.
Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.