Dear Annie: Last weekend, my youngest daughter got her driver's license. She is now able to take herself places, thus dissolving the role of our nanny, "Maria."
Maria has been part of our family for 20 years, since my oldest child was 3 months old. My youngest daughter has known her for her entire life. Maria has picked up my daughter from school every day, taken her to sports and activities, organized the house, started dinner and cleaned once a week for additional money.
Both Maria and my daughter have known that this day was coming, but I can tell that my daughter is upset and sad. Maria has had a tough life. Her husband was killed right in front of her. She had to leave her four children and come to this country for work. She never learned a great deal of English, but my daughter understands her perfectly.
Obviously, this whole thing makes me very emotional. Maria is now 60 and has spent a third of her life looking after my children. We would love for her to stay, but my daughter clearly doesn't need anyone watching over her and we cannot justify the cost of keeping Maria with us. I know nothing is forever, but can you help with this? -- Missing Her
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Dear Missing: All children eventually outgrow the need for a nanny, and over time, her absence will be easier to bear. If Maria is ready to return to her family, her "retirement" may be comforting for all of you. But if Maria is looking for another job, you can help by extolling her virtues to neighborhood families with young children, or posting a recommendation on a nanny employment site or community bulletin board. You also don't have to lose touch. Your daughters would probably love to have Maria visit occasionally, perhaps for a birthday party or family dinner. And please do something special for her last day, along with presenting her a farewell gift.
Dear Annie: I had to write after reading the letter from Sabrina Ray Olaes about the anti-smoking Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
I smoked from the age of 13 until I was 40. (I also gave up drinking around the same time, so it was really hard on me.) I made it, one day at a time. And sometimes just minutes at a time. Smoking was a killer for me. I was driving four hours to pick my kids up, then turned around and drove home another four hours. In that eight-hour span, I would smoke at least two packs.
I realized that I only smoked one pack a day when I wasn't driving such long distances. I found that if I kept my fingers busy, I didn't smoke. So along with the nicotine patches, I'd find things to play with -- rocks, pencils, nuts, whatever -- while I was driving or watching TV. I'd keep these little things in the ashtray that I used to use for the butts.
It's been 24 years since I had a cigarette. It's still a fight, but it's not as difficult now. And I certainly don't miss the burn holes in my shirts. -- Charles
Dear Charles: Kudos to you for finding something that worked. And your children undoubtedly appreciated not being subjected to secondhand smoke for the four-hour trip back home.
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