Dear Annie: I have four daughters under the age of 10. We live on a quiet suburban cul-de-sac, which we value as a safe place to raise our family. Last year, a new family moved in and they have slightly older kids. We've become friends with the entire family. My children love to play at their house.

The problem is, last week the "Smiths" announced they are putting in a swimming pool. I'm now terrified for the safety of my two youngest children. When I asked what measures they are taking to protect the neighborhood children, Mrs. Smith became defensive and made it clear that adding locks to their gate and buying a pool cover would be adequate. (Her gate is often open throughout the day.) She said my desire to see extra measures was offensive. She made it clear that my children's safety is my responsibility.

Now I feel like I have to lock my kids in our house or move to another neighborhood. What should I do? —Tossing and Turning in Utah

Dear Utah: To some extent, your neighbor is right — you are ultimately responsible for your children's safety, and if she is careless about access to her pool, you must be vigilant. We strongly urge you to teach your children to swim. You also should tell them not to go near the pool unless they are supervised by an adult (and only if they are invited). The Red Cross offers swimming lessons, CPR courses and safety tips. Find your local chapter in your phone book or through redcross.org.

Dear Annie: I read the letter from "Unhappy Housemate," whose boyfriend kept his late wife's picture in a prominent place.

The man I am seeing lost his wife five years ago. He still has all her clothes, makeup, perfume and pictures everywhere. We've been seeing each other for eight months and he has asked me to move in with him.

I don't want to hurt him by asking what he is planning to do with all of her things. How do I handle this? —Second Best

Dear Second: Many widowers find it difficult to dispose of their late wife's things. It feels like a permanent goodbye. And there is often some inertia about starting — it seems overwhelming. Ask your boyfriend if you can help him pack up the closets. If there are children, perhaps they would like to go through Mom's things and select some keepsakes. Be respectful and gentle, but if he cannot bear to part with anything, you might want to reconsider moving in.


Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to [email protected], or write to: Annie's Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611.


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