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Carolyn Hax: Housing brother’s neglected kids, and their bedbugs

Washington Post

Dear Carolyn: My brother and his estranged wife have three children. I love all of them. They live out of state and send the kids to us for summers. There have always been hygiene issues, like not washing after wet beds, leaving faint urine smells on the kids.

Three summers ago, the kids came to my partner’s and my home and on the third day, I noticed a bug crawling out of the 10-year-old’s hair, which is how I discovered they had lice. By that time it had spread, and I had to spend substantial money eradicating it. The parents never told us.

The next year the kids were sent again, and again I spotted a full-grown louse crawling out of the hair. When I inquired this time, I was told the parents don’t like using chemicals on the hair.

This year they are beginning to plan for the summer visit. I heard they have bedbugs. There is NO WAY they will be clean come visit time. They are flying out, planning to stay in three different homes and take a two-week cruise. I think they will end up infesting all of them along the way.

My brother is skirting my calls, so everything is texting.

What on earth should I do? The kids are going to be devastated, but I don’t want them in my home this summer! I can’t afford the treatments, and I hate that I’m in this position. – H.

This is all kinds of terrible, and wow do I feel for those kids. Abuse and neglect can take so many different forms.

I feel for you, too, in having to face this dilemma every summer.

But I don’t agree that turning these kids away is your only or even a decent option, your financial strain notwithstanding.

Bedbugs bring a nightmare of treatment once they settle into a home, but on guests – as long as you follow protocols – they’re mostly a matter of laundry. (And bagging what can’t be washed.) It involves hassle, not cash, and for kids you love and who plainly need some care, you can do hassle.

Read up online or get specific instructions from your EPA regional office; see, “Regional bed bug contacts,”

And Childhelp, 1-800-4-A-CHILD, to help you navigate the delicate needs of these kids.

Dear Carolyn: My son and his girlfriend and my mother-in-law won’t stop asking, pleading and guilt-tripping about bringing dogs on visits at my home. They have even chosen to miss out on family events because they couldn’t bring their dogs. Their dog is “perfectly behaved,” “he would never … ,” etc.

We’ve had damage done by previous “perfect” dogs. Our policy is no dogs, period. We have one dog and that is enough! He has lots of rules to follow – kennel trained, and furniture is off-limits.

Even the friends that know our pet policy continue to hint around that they would like to bring their perfect dog. I’m at a loss. – W.

A loss to understand, perhaps, which I understand in turn – I agree the persistence is mystifying. And irritating.

But you aren’t at a loss when it comes to addressing it, because you’ve done exactly the right thing: Hold your line. No apologies. I’m sorry your people aren’t as well-behaved as your dog.

Email Carolyn at, follow her on Facebook at or chat with her online at 9 a.m. each Friday at

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