Dear Bel

I hope you can offer advice on what’s become a huge issue in our family.

I have three adult kids and four grandchildren. The oldest of them is nearly 12. I love my family, and my children’s partners. But as a healthcare worker I simply cannot watch what’s going on with my eldest granddaughter any longer. But I fear arguments if you speak.

We did everything to support my son, his unexpectedly pregnant partner. We took care of the baby one-day a week so the parents could get out of work, and we also helped them financially. They had a second child and got married.

My granddaughter has been eating pasta almost every day for the past ten year. When she was around one, pasta was the only thing that she could eat after a stomach virus. It’s now turned into a psychological issue.

She eats pasta, cheese, bread and cucumber. I am worried about her future health.

As I still cook her dinner once a week, I find myself making her pasta with my ‘magic sauce’, which has very neutral coloured veg in it whizzed up into the cheese sauce. This is all she can eat. My daughter-in-law took her to see the doctor years ago. She said that she wasn’t growing and there was nothing to be concerned about. So, the issue is relegated.

When they come to dinner, I always make sure there’s pasta for her. I don’t want to cause her any more anxiety around food.

The parents often promise food but forget to bring it. This causes panic in the child and can lead to a host of other problems. She then withdraws from social interaction.

The parents then get defensive and say to her: ‘You’ll have to eat what’s there — you’ll have to learn.’ But how can she learn without the right tools and support?

Her younger sister is more healthy than her: she eats chicken, lamb, potatoes, broccoli, and potatoes. As she gets older, I have no doubt that her diet will change.

My son once said that he needed to take his older daughter to private care, but it was too costly. I’d pay, but how should I approach it without upsetting anyone?

Do I keep quiet or offer support? Please tell me I’m an interfering old Nan who should stop worrying and that everything will be OK and that one day she’ll eat a variety of foods.


This week Bel answers a question from a woman who asks whether she should fuss and nag over her picky grandchild’s eating habits

This week Bel answers a question from a woman who asks whether she should fuss and nag over her picky grandchild’s eating habits

Your letter is a reminder to us all that we share similar experiences and may be able help one another by sharing our stories.

Two of our grandchildren visited us a couple of weeks back. Because I’m also cooking for my mother these days, I decided on meals that would surely suit everybody: yummy chicken casserole with mash and, next day, my special, delicious shepherd’s pie.

Thought of the Day 

If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility. 

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, U.S. poet 1807-1882

Let’s cut to the chase: mealtimes were terrible. Tears. Refusal. Painful picking at good food like it was poison. ‘How did they get to be so fussy?’ I wailed, ‘When I was little we ate everything put in front of us and my own two were the same.’

I was frustrated, disappointed and tired.

You recognise that whole scenario, don’t you? When my grandson refused to even look at the chicken, I ran off to make him macaroni and butter with grated cheese. So he ‘won’.

We see food as a battlefield and it doesn’t do us any good. In fact — as we know from the statistics showing how many young people have food disorders — it can do terrible harm.

Your knowledge of healthy eating is expert, mine is common sense. But surely we would both be wise to take a step back?

Professional advice regarding diet and related problems is available to you. There’s also an interesting video on the MIND website: information-support/types-of- mental-health-problems/eating- problems/about-eating-problems.

My suggestion is to use that energy to stop worrying. It can be difficult to be a loving grandparent, especially if your parents make mistakes. But, it is possible to stop worrying and just express your opinion.

The person who’d suffer most from arguments would be the child. That’s why I would keep my counsel and see how the situation develops. Children are influenced by their peers and perhaps she’ll have a new best friend she wishes to please on sleepovers. (‘Fish fingers? Great!’) We can also remember that generations of Italian children are brought up eating simple pasta and cheese.

Of course, you long for your granddaughter to eat a good, varied diet with vegetables and fruit — and it may come. I hope it happens for our fussy eaters.

You should not do anything to make things worse. I won’t call you ‘an interfering old Nan’, but I will advise you to watch, wait and stop other family members from turning this into a ‘huge issue’.

Your son or daughter in law can ask for advice. They know there is an issue and they try to be as relaxed as possible. I’ll be making it a point to make them feel at ease the next time they visit. . . pasta.

I long for my teenage sweetheart

Dear Bel

A few weeks ago, you published a letter from ‘Alan’ who was in torment thinking about a girl he knew 50 years ago. This resonated with me.

I was raised in a safe environment and left home when I turned 18. When I’d been in my job for a few weeks, a new chap started. After a while he asked me out, and we began to enjoy going to the theatre, concerts, and cinemas together.

I believe he liked me, and I know he loved me, but I was too shy for that to be true. This went on 18 months. He wanted more than I (with zero experience with men) was capable of giving.

My boyfriend wanted me to leave so I went abroad and got a job.

I discovered that he was seeing someone else. But I had made my plans so what could I do?

After a year abroad, I got married. My wedding day was my first. I knew it was a mistake but I went ahead with it. We had two sons after six years of marriage. He was a terrible husband and father.

I was back in this country, and we divorced. Life was hard, I raised our sons on my own, my ex wasn’t bothered. My greatest achievements are my sons who are hard-working, good fathers.

After being a single parent for three year, I met my partner. We’ve been together a long time but have nothing in common and I don’t love him. Separate bedrooms for many years. He hasn’t always treated me well and I’ve asked him to leave many times, but he won’t go.

I’m now getting old and can’t sleep thinking about the chap I once knew and wish I’d told him how I really felt. I hope he’s happy. Is it normal to think about someone after 50 years?


Naturally, I looked back to that letter from ‘Alan’ — published on August 14 — and the first thing I notice is that your stories are far from similar.


More from Bel Mooney in the Daily Mail…

Both ‘first loves’ lasted 18 months, but the key difference is that Alan wrote: ‘I have been married for more than 50 years and have a wonderful wife . . .’ but you describe one failed marriage and now the feeling of being stuck in a long, unloving relationship you wish would end.

I suggested that Alan was mourning his lost youth, but with you I sense a desperate yearning for a ‘lost love’ who (in truth) barely figured at the time. Young people in love desire to be together all the times. But you wanted to travel and he found someone else.

You ask if such feelings of loss are ‘normal’ and my broad-brush answer is surely ‘Yes’. There’s nothing unusual about remembering, with deep nostalgia, a time when our dreams and loves and hopes seemed as lithe and tireless as our young limbs. It was a time when there were many choices.

You make the point in your longer letter that having been brought up in a ‘sheltered’ way, you wanted ‘more’ and no boyfriend would be allowed to get in your way. This was determined and brave of a girl with little experience of life — and had your first marriage worked, I suspect you might never have thought about that boy again.

Your entire letter should be seen in the light your unhappiness with your man.

In the same postbag I had a letter from a woman called R, who says: ‘I’m trapped in a loveless relationship and don’t know what to do. We’ve been together 32 years but haven’t shared a bedroom for at least five or six years.

‘I don’t want to try counselling or anything like that, I don’t believe our “relationship” is worth saving and just want to move on with my life.’

Glynis, does this describe your situation? I don’t know how old you are, but it’s never too late to make changes in life. It’s important that you and R realise that an organisation like Relate does offer counselling to those who don’t necessarily wish to save their relationship, but need help to pick their way through possible actions towards some kind of resolution.

I’d advise trying that rather than stagnating. You should think about the lost love and realize that you must retake control of your life.

Finally… Finally…

Last week’s letter from a lady who is already dreading Christmas (not because she is alone, but because she is somehow always disappointed) struck an unexpected chord.

Contact Bel 

Each week Bel answers readers’ questions about relationship and emotional problems.

Write to Bel Mooney, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT, or email

To protect identities, names are changed.

Bel reads all mail, but regrets not being able to respond to personal correspondence.

Many readers suggested that Christmas is a good time to donate to charity.

A big ‘Yes’ to that thought. In the past I’ve sent virtual gifts through the charity Send A Cow (, which means like-minded friends know I’m thinking of them but want my money to be useful to those in real need — £33 buys a goat!

Pam wrote to let you know that her husband and she stopped sending cards and giving gifts and enjoyed their favourite lasagne last December Day. That wouldn’t please me, because I like sending cards, giving presents and eating the traditional roast.

But good for Pam for celebrating ‘our chosen way to enjoy Christmas. We went for a bike ride on the afternoon of last year. We are both a young 70 now and after years of trying to keep everyone else happy, we are now keeping ourselves happy’.

It touched me deeply that more than one reader was thoughtful enough to mention my father’s death.

Here, for example, is Sandra: ‘My heart goes out to you as you face your first Christmas without your beloved father, but I know that you will draw your family around you, and remember him with love . . .

‘And with all the terrible events at the moment, it is going to be a hard time for everyone without their loved ones. I so love Christmas, with all the traditions, especially special family ones handed down over the years, but I don’t care if all we can get is cheese on toast for Christmas lunch, the main thing is to have my loved ones with me!’

Of course, not everyone has dear friends/family to share the day with, but Sandra’s loving nature shines from those words. And as soon as I recover from this horrible cold, I’m starting on my Christmas lists.