Ask Amy: Welcome wagon should’ve stayed in the garage

Dear Amy: A new neighbor moved in. I left a welcome gift on their porch, like I do for everyone that moves in.

He got our number from a neighborhood directory and texted us a few times, inviting us to visit.

My husband and I went to their house and our children (ages 13 and 11) stayed home.

Upon entering, the husband said: “Let’s get the awkward part over and hug.” Hugs came in our direction, and we gave them both a hug.

During dinner he mentioned wanting to use our pool. After more texts from him, we invited them over on a Sunday evening.

The husband immediately went in to hug my son.

My son gave him an uncomfortable side hug.

My older son put out his hand for a handshake. The neighbor said, “Oh, a handshake, huh?”

I never thought they’d come in expecting to hug our children!

A few weeks later he texted, asking my son to feed their dog while they were away.

Our son had never been to their house before.

We weren’t comfortable sending him by himself because of the hugging.

The neighbor seemed surprised I was with my son. He came in to hug me, and I offered a side squeeze and my son stuck his hand out for a handshake.

Again, the neighbor commented that my son shook his hand instead of hugging him. I was proud of my son. And glad I didn’t send him alone.

While we were there, he asked my son for his cellphone number. I piped up: “You can call our landline number to ask our son to feed your dog.”

He seemed surprised that I didn’t readily give him my son’s cell.

I keep telling myself that these neighbors are just trying too hard, but we feel uncomfortable.

How can I be a kind neighbor but create space? My husband and I are jokingly telling each other we are ready to move.

We would love to hear your thoughts, even if you feel I’m wrong.

— No Hugs, Please!

Dear No Hugs: I’m not there. You are. And while my instincts tell me that this neighbor is a pushy boundary crosser and close-hugger who doesn’t have children and is not used to dealing with families, I might not see actual danger residing next door.

What concerns me is that you would rather submit to unwanted sidewinder hugs from your neighbor than deal with him by expressing — out loud — how you and your family operate.

You say, “Stan — I should have mentioned this before, but we’re not huggers. We and our children only hug family members. So this makes us uncomfortable. We also maintain boundaries regarding contact with our kids and we need you to respect these boundaries.”

Emphasize to your sons that if they are skeeved-out by this neighbor, they should keep their distance, not accept any offers or pressure to feed his dog, and tell you about any physical or virtual contact — or attempted contact.

Dear Amy: My wife and I have a niece, “Cassie,” who has a daughter named “Trina.”

Trina is absolutely fantastic — she is bright, energetic, kind, and beautiful.

We love Trina dearly and want to do what is best for her.

Trina’s birth father, “Thomas” was a married man with three children when he fathered her.

Thomas died by suicide very shortly after Trina’s birth.

My wife and I strongly believe that Thomas’ parents have the right to know of their wonderful grandchild’s existence, and she also deserves to know about them.

Cassie and her mother (my sister) disagree.

What should we do?

— Great Uncle and Aunt

Dear Great Uncle: I happen to agree with you about all parties’ right to know the truth about this parentage, but — depending on the age of the child — this decision should rest with the child’s mother.

Dear Amy: “Disappointed” wrote in about being served caffeinated coffee at church, even though she was told it was decaf.

She only lost a few hours of sleep.

I was served regular coffee at a benefit dinner, even though it was supposed to be decaf.

I ended up in cardiac intensive care.

People should know that caffeine can be a serious problem to someone whose heart can’t take it.

I now drink decaf at home but I only drink water when I’m out. It’s the only way to stay safe.

— Still Here

Dear Still Here: A few readers have reported experiencing very serious symptoms related to ingesting caffeine.

(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

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