Grandmother wants to round off square peg

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Dear Amy: I feel helpless about what to do regarding my 10-year-old granddaughter's situation. She is obese and dresses poorly in T-shirts.

She does not fit in, according to school personnel, and is not liked by the fellow students, even though she excels in academics. Her parents have been made aware of the problem and have been advised to help her lose weight and dress better, but they get defensive when this situation is brought to their attention.

They are loving, caring and supportive parents to their child. I do not dare broach the subject because I know they will be angry with me.

Must I and the rest of the family stand aside and watch, understanding that one must have the courage to accept what cannot be changed? Help me. What is my role?

— Granny's Conundrum

Dear Granny: Your role is to be your granddaughter's tenderhearted buddy and champion. You should not take it upon yourself to "improve" her. I assure you, even at the age of 10, the world is already telling her all that's "wrong" with her.

Can you love her abundantly exactly as she is? Can you celebrate her brains and her talent and overlook the extra pounds and sloppy T-shirts? Engage her on her level — talking about science or books or pop music — and try to see her as the perfect work in progress that she is.

By all means assist these parents with ideas and advice if they ask. If your granddaughter wants to dress differently, you could help her find clothes that she thinks she looks awesome in. But for this child, her relationship with you should be a refuge, not more of the same.

My point of view comes from experience. I had one grandmother who hung a virtual "needs improvement" sign on each of her grandchildren.

Dear Amy: I have been married for 25 years and have enjoyed an ever-evolving relationship with my father-in-law that has progressed steadily over the years. The relationship was grounded in respect, and we were careful concerning our political differences. Next we began moving into friendly toleration and finally to a solid friendship based on genuine, mutual admiration.

We like sharing our common interests and the pleasure we find just being together.

My father-in-law turned 80 this year, and he is in relatively good health. He has a very nice wristwatch. It is not extremely valuable, and I own a comparable one myself. He may outlive me, but if not, I would treasure receiving this watch, which I would honor in memory of him. He has one other son-in-law, no living sons and five grandsons who are in their teens.

What is a good way, if any, to let him know of my desire to be the holder of his watch for the rest of my life?

— Son-in-law

Dear Son-in-law: There is no "good" way to overtly ask for an inheritance. You obviously treasure your father-in-law — and his watch — but I suggest treasuring the former more and the latter far, far less.

Imagine the position you put this older man in by making your material interests known. First of all, any bequest is predicated on his death. Depending on his personality, he may not care to contemplate this to satisfy you. He has another son-in-law and many grandsons (not to mention daughters), all of whom might be eager and worthy recipients of this watch.

If your father-in-law is reviewing his possessions with you and/or your wife, you or she can indicate that you would value, keep and wear this watch if he cared to pass it along to you. Otherwise, remember that where your heart is, there your (true) treasure will be.

Dear Amy: I love your annual campaign to publicize "worst ever" gifts.

Mine was a taxidermied python given to me by my grad students. I still don't know what to think. My boss said, "They really don't like you!"

— Michael

Dear Michael: A surprising number of "worst gifts" are taxidermied. But let us laugh and make merry about these and future worst gifts.

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