Dear Annie: I am a 12-year-old boy, and I hate my life. I am the youngest of five, but there is a huge age difference. My siblings are aged 29 to 35. My parents are in their mid-50s.
My parents didn't plan me and I'm tired of being constantly told that I am the family "mistake." It's like a big joke to them. People always think I am my parent's grandson. My mom seems happy to tell them, "No, he's our son and obviously he was a mistake." It makes me feel small and embarrassed.
I think I'm a good kid. I get straight A's and I always help around the house. I have told my parents that it hurts my feelings, but they laugh it off and say it's just an expression and I am too sensitive. Most of my siblings are worse. They like to bully and make fun of me. My oldest sister blames me whenever Mom or Dad have a health issue, saying it's hard on them to deal with a young child at their age.
The only sibling I have who likes me is my single 29-year-old brother. He always defends me and likes spending time with me. I have this fantasy that he will adopt me and let me move in with him, but I know that's unrealistic.
How I can get my family to stop being so mean to me? They don't seem to hear anything I say. -- The Family Mistake
Dear Family: No one likes to be constantly teased. But your parents were undoubtedly teased about the age gap of their children, and they responded by turning it into a joke. You believe it reflects poorly on you, when it's really about them. Surely your parents know that lots of people in their 50s have kids your age and they do just fine.
Your parents and siblings have fallen into a pattern of treating you poorly. If your brother cannot get your parents to rethink their behavior, please talk to your school counselor, favorite teacher or coach, your grandparents, aunts, uncles or a sympathetic family friend. You need an adult to advocate for you and talk to your parents on your behalf.
Dear Annie: I read the letter from "Stymied Husband" who wants to go for counseling with his wife in order to regain intimacy. She thinks it means he wants a divorce.
Counselors have gotten a bad rap. As with any professional, you should interview them and get references. It saddens me that society has made counseling a shameful thing, when really, it is just there to help you. To what degree depends on your willingness to accept your responsibility and do your part. My husband and I have been married 30 years and have been to counseling off and on for 25 of them. We consider it a tuneup.
Hopefully "Stymied" can get his wife to see a counselor as a "life coach" rather than a "divorce coach." -- Thankful for Our Life Coach
Dear Thankful: You are absolutely right. Readers often take us to task for recommending counseling, believing that we should be able to give a line or two of pithy advice to solve all problems. That may work for which way to hang the toilet paper, but it doesn't work for complicated issues involving intimacy and trust.
Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to anniesmailboxcreators.com, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. You can also find Annie on Facebook at Facebook.com/AskAnnies.