DEAR ABBY: I’m a 15-year-old student who reads your column every day, and I hope you can help me.
I want to be closer to my parents. They yell at my siblings and me and call us names. It hurts me very much. If we make a mistake — even a little one — or forget our chores, we can expect to be insulted, yelled at, etc. I have learned to tune them out, but I don’t understand how such intelligent people like my parents can act this way.
Years ago, I decided to talk to them about it, but that was seen as an act of defiance. My parents, especially my father, can’t take constructive criticism and respond with more yelling.
Each of our arguments leaves me upset for days. But I still believe I need to do something. I want to be close to them before it’s too late, but I have lost so much respect and trust for them, and they probably feel the same.
Please, Abby, I don’t know what to do. I would greatly appreciate your advice, although I know you are very busy. Thank you for taking the time to read my letter. — HOPEFUL IN NEW YORK
DEAR HOPEFUL: You have my sympathy. Harsh words can leave wounds that last longer than physical bruises. Some parents develop hair-trigger tempers when they are under financial pressure. Others, without realizing it, model their behavior on the way their parents raised THEM and overreact when their children make mistakes.
Because you haven’t been able to get through to your father, talk to a trusted adult relative about the fact that you would like to be closer to your parents but don’t know how. If they hear it from another adult, they might be more open to the message.
DEAR ABBY: I am a 26-year-old mother of a 13-month-old daughter, “Lissa.” I am a “by-the-book” mom. I’m still breastfeeding and I am strict about what I allow my daughter to eat. She has just barely started to eat table food.
I don’t want my child to have bad eating habits, so I try to give her only healthy items at dinnertime. Her dad, on the other hand, thinks it’s funny to give her junk, including sugar. When she was only 2 months old, I caught him giving her licorice. The other day, it was soda and ice cream. I don’t agree with this, and it’s causing us a lot of fights.
When we sit down to dinner, I have Lissa’s meal set aside. But before I can sit down, her dad starts giving her things off his plate and then she won’t eat her dinner. I have told him I don’t like it, but he doesn’t understand that I want to teach her good eating habits.
Am I wrong in trying so hard? Or should I just give up and let her eat junk? — TRYING MY BEST IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR TRYING: Parenting is supposed to be a team sport and I’m more concerned about the fact that Lissa’s dad is undercutting you than what’s going into her mouth right now. If he continues, in another year or two, your little girl will regard him as a pushover and you as a big meanie.
You may need an impartial mediator to get through to Lissa’s father, and the perfect person to do that is your child’s pediatrician. Let the doctor tell Daddy that the more she is given sweets, the more she’ll crave them.
The only thing about your approach that might be of concern to me is your calling yourself a “by-the-book” mother. A conscientious parent not only goes by the book and is consistent, but she also uses her head and listens to her heart. I hope you will remember that.
DEAR ABBY: I have been in love with “Richard” for 14 years. We broke up after we dated for a while because my alcoholic mother kept interfering. She kept telling me how “bad” he was for me — and I, thinking my mother had my best interests at heart, believed her.
After a divorce on my part and a breakup on his, we are now in a long-distance relationship. We hope to make our relationship permanent after getting to know each other again.
My problem is, when Richard is unhappy or upset with someone else, he takes it out on me. It doesn’t seem to matter what happened, he’ll pick a fight over something inconsequential. It drives me crazy.
I know what he’s doing; I just don’t know how to stop it. The latest flare-up involved the fact that his dog was missing, so he picked a fight with me because I “always tell him how nice the weather is where I live.”
He refuses to get counseling. What do I do? — PULLING MY HAIR OUT
DEAR PULLING: Your problem isn’t that Richard uses you as a scapegoat for his frustrations; it’s that you tolerate it. It’s possible that because of your mother’s alcoholism and the unpredictable behavior you were subjected to during your formative years, you have accepted Richard’s behavior.
Because he refuses counseling, YOU should get some. What he’s doing is not acceptable. It is emotional abuse. From my perspective, the healthiest thing you could do for yourself besides break up with Richard would be to keep the romance long-distance.
DEAR ABBY: I am a retired woman, active in my community and troubled by a recent incident involving a longtime friend. This is the third time it has happened, and it left me feeling embarrassed.
When we’re out together meeting new people, she will introduce herself as being a secretary or a senior secretary and me as “just” a receptionist. The job title is true, but I hold a college degree. I have held other positions commanding greater respect. I am chair of the local Council on Aging, a Town Meeting member and on the Cultural Council. The last time it happened, I had brought her to a lunch at a very nice restaurant, and the people we were meeting were members of my community.
Why does this make me feel so demeaned? Am I being petty or vainly pretentious? Right now I no longer want to continue the friendship. Can you help me understand and form a game plan? I think I may be too close to the forest to see the trees. — MORE THAN A JOB TITLE IN NEW ENGLAND
DEAR MORE THAN A JOB TITLE: Your “friend” is insecure. That she describes you as “just” a receptionist is her attempt to make her own job designation appear more important. And THAT’S what is offensive.
You don’t need a “game plan” in dealing with her. “Just” tell her to cut it out or the friendship will be history. Whatever happens after that, your problem will be solved — one way or another.
DEAR ABBY: A good friend of mine gave me some books — books she didn’t like! My question: Why would you pass on something you did not enjoy reading? — THERESA IN SAN DIEGO
DEAR THERESA: Perhaps she thought you would like them. Because she didn’t care for the books didn’t mean you automatically wouldn’t. Or, having paid for them, she didn’t want the money she had spent to go to waste.
My thought: Give her the benefit of the doubt and stop looking a gift horse in the mouth.
DEAR ABBY is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.