Carolyn Hax is away. The following first appeared Aug. 2 and Sept. 20, 2009.
Dear Carolyn: A neighbor’s child, 12, spends tremendous amounts of time at my house with my child, including for snacks and meals. There is no reciprocation. They are well-off, so this is not the issue. The parents are otherwise extremely nice, but seem to be into themselves, leaving the child to fend for himself. When the mother gives lip service to thanking me, I would like to convey just how much he is here and how much he is “treated” to.
I realize I am not obligated to host/entertain/feed this child. I have had a tough time setting limits because he calls to come over every day, and I know that otherwise he will play video games all day. I suspect the mother just thinks her child is running around playing all day, when in fact he is being taken care of by us (and one other family that is similarly annoyed). I did begin to tell the child to bring money when we went places that cost something, and he does, but of course it is still free babysitting, transportation, meals, etc.