Dear Annie: My wife and I have two boys, 10 and 12. For years, my wife has been either brushing their teeth herself — long past when it was appropriate — or hovering over them nightly to ensure they are doing it the “right” way.

Every night she asks them, “Did you do all the things? Pre-rinse? Brush? Floss? Use fluoride?” The kids HATE it. Whether she is doing the brushing or the hovering, it always leads to yelling and screaming, largely in defiance.

In her defense, the hygienist did say that sometimes it’s OK for parents to step in like this since kids don’t have the ability to get those hard-to-reach places, but the hygienist is not in our home to witness the anxiety and frustration this causes everyone.

I have tried for years to reason with her that this sort of helicoptering has run its course and is now doing more harm than good, even if that means they get a cavity here or there, or need braces (both of which I argue will likely happen regardless!). I think it boils down to the old “no one can get the teeth as clean as me” approach.

I love my wife, but this has become a major bone of contention. Help! — Gritting My Teeth

Dear Gritting: At ages 10 and 12, excessive vigilance is not necessary, and it certainly is not worth having nightly fights over. Your boys will be aware of their smiles, especially around girls, in the next few years. If there is any complaining at that time, don’t be surprised if they ask you why you didn’t allow Mom to brush their teeth more.

It sounds like you have a close family, and this situation requires compromise. Ask your wife to back off some, so that you can both grit your teeth — you, because she will still be reading off her checklist, and she, because you will openly side with the boys in not taking each dental hygiene step so seriously.

Of course, no matter what, they should keep brushing their teeth. (c) Annie Lane @

Oh my. Annie Lane has given some bad advice here.

Whether she is doing the brushing or the hovering, it always leads to yelling and screaming.

“Whether she’s doing the brushing,”? Okay, so this woman is physically restraining her kids and force-brushing their teeth?! What the freak?

In her defense, the hygienist did say that sometimes it’s OK for parents to step in like this since kids don’t have the ability to get those hard-to-reach places.

No, that’s not what the hygienist meant. The hygienist probably meant to monitor young tooth brushers and make sure they’re reaching all their teeth. I mean, there’s supervision, and then there’s rampant interference. The hygienist probably envisioned the mom saying, “Ronald, try pushing the brush back further on the top right. You need to reach all your molars.”

I have tried for years to reason with her!

I hear ya, buddy. I’m not sure Annie Lane hears you:

Ask your wife to back off some.

[Facepalm.] Annie Lane! He’s spent years trying to accomplish that!

I think Annie Lane sees her role here as expressing the benefits of compromise and the actual necessity for good dental hygiene. But the letter writer didn’t need an opinion as much as a way to actually get through to his wife.

And if he were to show her this column, she’d probably shrug it off, since Annie Lane’s advice was far too tepid. Not to mention idiotic!

If there is any complaining [when they become teenagers], don’t be surprised if they ask you why you didn’t allow Mom to brush their teeth more.

What the holy freak! Has Annie Lane ever known any teenagers?

I don’t know what the solution is here, but the letter writer could try videotaping these disasters and sharing the video with their pediatrician, who might be able to recommend some sort of parenting resources, as well as giving affirmation to the letter writer that his wife’s behavior is wrong. (I don’t feel Annie Lane even succeeded at doing that, because she sounds so blasé about it with her talk of compromise!)

Or he could share the video with a licensed counselor and ask for advice. I think calling CPS would be overkill, so I’m trying to think of how they can get parenting resources or parental direction without going that far. Similarly, he could show the video to his kids’ guidance counselor, who might be able to advise him or steer him in the right direction.

It might be as simple as someone strong-arming her into not being the parent who supervises the dental hygiene. She needs to be “fired” from that task, and then she needs to trust either her husband to supervise them, or just to trust her sons themselves. (We can hope she hasn’t turned them off of brushing for life!)

But the only way I see that coming to pass is if outside influences are brought in. The husband’s spent years already trying to reason with her, and that got him nowhere. It’s time to get outside interference. None of that compromising stuff from Annie Lane! Geez!

Let’s see what Dear Abby is up to!

DEAR ABBY: My spouse and I had our first child early this year during the pandemic. It was a difficult time because we couldn’t have any family with us during the delivery. We live in the same town as my in-laws, and this is their first grandchild.

Abby, their behavior toward this child has become possessive and intrusive. My spouse and I have tried to set boundaries, to no avail. We tried explaining that we are new parents in a very difficult time in this world right now, and there is more stress than there would normally be. They listen and acknowledge what we are saying, but their behavior doesn’t change. This is causing us more anxiety in an already anxious time. We would never want to restrict access to their grandchild, but every day is too much. Other than moving, what are our options? — NEW MOMMY IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR NEW MOMMY: Another option would be for you and your spouse to set specific times when the in-laws are welcome to visit. If they pop in when they are not expected, do not let them in. Explain firmly that they need to adhere to the schedule you have set because your stress level is already above where it should be. They may not like it, but if the alternative is you moving, it would be less expensive and disruptive for you. (c) DEAR ABBY

Wow. I got stuck at this part:

It was a difficult time because we couldn’t have any family with us during the delivery.

Seriously? If I’m naked with my legs in stirrups while waves of pain shoot through me just so I can create the miracle that is human life, I wouldn’t even want the door to my hospital room to remain unlocked, much less wide open. Like, if you want to come in, I can’t guarantee your safety. And if I’m hungry or otherwise depraved, I might lunge for you. Don’t put it past me. I can’t imagine anything worse than that scenario. (Good thing I don’t want to have kids!)

“During the delivery,” she says. Not after the delivery. Not before the delivery. During the delivery. Okay. And we’re supposed to feel sorry for her over this? That she was FORCED by the coronavirus to have privacy while she birthed her child, with only her husband present? You’ve got to be kidding! How is that a hardship?

I’ve always had this fear of being in the hospital for some physical reason when a visitor comes to see me and enters the room right while I’m doing something indecent, like urinating, or whatever. After all, hospital doors don’t clearly state, “Don’t enter just yet.” Is this all left up to our guardian angels? Because it shouldn’t be! But I’m honestly not sure how it works (if any of you know, feel free to comment) because I’ve never been admitted to a hospital for physical-health reasons. (In the mental hospital, you wear normal clothes, after they confiscate belts and shoelaces, etc.)

But it worries me! Ugh. Wow, this letter really set me off! Ugh. Oh well. Yeah, let’s all stare as I give birth! [Facepalm.]

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