Jane, via e-mail
Aunty Ag: Run, don't walk, to the nearest shop where you can buy something by Ghost or a similar designer. These are lovely and floaty and you can wear them when both podgy and svelte. For further advice why not get in touch with my dear colleague Annie (page 6)? And don't think of all those naughty clothes as sneering and mocking; think of them as silently encouraging you to lose a few pounds and take them out again.
Uncle Ony: Stop stuffing yourself and get down to the gym. This kind of self-pity about an issue that it is perfectly within your power to resolve will do you no good. Set yourself a target: back in a size 12 by December 25, for example, and give yourself the incentive that if you don't make it you'll donate all your Christmas presents to charity.
I recently had an old friend to stay for a long weekend, with her husband and four-year-old daughter. It would have been lovely except that the child was a fiend; selfish, demanding and rude. She stayed up late every single night as well, so I felt that I hardly saw anything of my friend. We hardly managed a single chat without being interrupted and she threw tantrums if she wasn't the centre of attention. I tried to ignore it, but my weekend was ruined. Should I have said something? If so, what? Is it OK to intimate to friends that their offspring are the spawn of the devil, or should I turn a blind eye?
Marsha, via e-mail
Aunty Ag: Your friend has probably not even noticed that her child is a monster. Mothers don't (at least not until the child starts on actual criminal damage and the police are called in). Your friend has had four years to gradually get used to this kind of horror, while you experienced the full effect over just a few days. Mothers are bizarrely impervious to screaming, smashing things up, throwing things, extraordinary rudeness etc that they would not put up with for one second in an adult. Sadly, pointing this out will not help. Your friend will be outraged on her gruesome daughter's behalf. Typical mother-excuses for this kind of ratbaggery typically include "My child is difficult with strangers/highly strung/sensitive/nervous" but they never say "You're right, my child is an out-of-control horror who needs a good slapping". The only thing to do is keep your head down, prepare to drink a lot when they visit, and hope the brat will improve some time over the next decade or so.
Uncle Ony: Of course four-year-old children are demanding; you were probably demanding yourself when you were four. They are constantly testing the boundaries of parental discipline, and it is a valuable, if not vital, learning process for them. Perhaps you could intimate to your friend that her particular discipline boundaries are set a little far out, but ultimately parenting is the responsibility of the parent.
I want lots of Pokemon for Christmas but my mum says I can't have any because they are horrible. She says I am not allowed to play with them. All my friends are getting loads for Christmas. I think my mum is mean.
Richard (aged nine), Southampton
Aunty Ag: Tough luck, kiddo. Better start saving up for some Poketmoney Pokemon.
Uncle Ony: Why does your mother think these toys are horrible? Ask her to explain to you why she doesn't want you to have them. I'm sure that if you understand her concerns about their lack of educational value and general undesirability you will feel better about not getting any in your Christmas stocking.
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