DEAR ABBY: Nine months ago, my 30-year-old daughter, "Natalie," who lives on the West Coast, announced that she wished to be married in July in our East Coast waterfront home. I told her I'd be happy to host her wedding.
Last Christmas, she wrote our East Coast family members (who number over 60) asking them to save the date. On Natalie's trips home since the announcement, we have worked together to procure a minister, a band, and a tent for the reception. I put down a payment on the beach area of our community for the reception. I was even able to find private homes for guests to stay to reduce their expenses.
Out of the blue, last week Natalie called me and announced that she has changed her mind. She now intends to be married in August on the West Coast.
I don't want to put a damper on my daughter's wedding plans, but should I just humbly accept this last-minute change? Perhaps my vision of a wedding as the joining of the bride and groom -- as well as their two families -- is an outmoded concept. (Our large East Coast family will NOT be able to make the trek west.)
My Natalie is a hypersensitive child, and I am reluctant to tell her how disappointed and saddened I am by her sudden change of plans. Tell me, should I just MYOB? -- IN SHOCK IN SEVERNA PARK, MD.
DEAR IN SHOCK: Your daughter may be hypersensitive, but she would have to suffer from amnesia not to be aware of all the plans that you and the rest of her East Coast family have made. Tell her how you feel.
I believe a bride should have the wedding of her dreams -- but it doesn't give her the right to ride roughshod over the feelings of others.
Now: Contact the minister, the band, the homeowners, the tent supplier, etc., and ask them to return all or a portion of any deposits you have made. I wish you the best of luck, because I foresee a migraine in your near future.
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I live in a small neighborhood. We are one of about five families who have a swimming pool. Over the years we have told our next-door neighbors they are welcome to use our pool during the summer and while we are on vacation. They have two children, ages 6 and 12. We are not close friends, but have had them to our home on occasion. They have never reciprocated.
Last summer, after we returned from vacation, our neighbors "laughingly" informed us that they had invited two other couples (and their extended families) to OUR home for a pool party. We were shocked speechless.
We are entering "pool season" again. These neighbors are now waving and becoming friendlier. My husband and I are in firm agreement that we will NOT offer the pool for their family to use again this summer. Of course, this doesn't mean that while we are gone they will not invite themselves over anyway.
What do you think of their behavior? How would you handle this? -- NOT FEELING NEIGHBORLY IN TENNESSEE
DEAR NOT FEELING: Hospitality is supposed to be a two-way street. Your neighbors were not only rude, they were presumptuous. If their guests had been injured on your property, the liability would have been yours.
Waste no time in telling these people that you can no longer accommodate them because of the potential liability. Were I in your position, I would fence the pool and install key locks on the gates. Your swimming pool should be fenced anyway -- for your protection and the safety of small children in the neighborhood.
DEAR ABBY: I am 15 years old. My mother and father are divorced. Dad remarried a woman with three kids. I have a younger sister and brother. We live with my dad.
Last week, I heard my stepmother talking on the phone to a friend about my brother, sister and me. She said, "I didn't bargain for them." She is always complaining to Dad about us. Our mother wasn't very good to us either, and she gave us to Dad.
Whenever my brother, sister or I gets sick, my stepmother complains if she has to take us to the doctor. We don't eat dinner until 7 or 8 at night. She dishes out our food. We're not allowed to serve ourselves. If we don't like what she gives us, she yells at us. Her kids wait until she leaves the room to throw their food in the trash can. If she sees it, she blames us and doesn't believe we didn't do it. Her kids sit and watch TV while we get in trouble for not picking up after ourselves. We try. She and her mother are always saying bad things about Daddy behind his back.
My grandma says I should tell Daddy. If I do, I know he'll get mad at me. He yells a lot, too, and believes everything my stepmother tells him.
After my mother gave us to him, I heard him say to her, "This wasn't in the plan."
If you print this, Abby, I would like to tell my dad: Please believe us. We don't lie to you. Give us a hug now and then. Tell us you love us. See that we are trying. Please stop yelling at us. How can we be good when all you see is bad? Daddy, can't you see how sad everyone is?
And to my stepmother, I'd like to say: We try to be good so you'll like us. You say you raised your kids right. Teach us the right way, too. Please stop yelling. I want to love you if you will give me a chance. We just need someone to love us in our house. - NO NAME, NO ADDRESS, NO PHONE
P.S. I'm sorry this letter is a mess. I had to write it at school. Abby, if you print this so my dad will see it, please, please, please don't reveal where it came from.
DEAR NO NAME: It saddens me to say this, but you are not alone in your plight. Please read on:
DEAR ABBY: My boyfriend's little sister is being abused by her stepfather. He threw her into a closet door. She has a noticeable black-and-blue mark on her arm. I don't know what to do. I'm not sure how often this has happened before.
Part of me is screaming to tell. Another part of me warns me not to for fear that he will do something bad to me. I'm so confused. I don't know what to do. - NO NAME, NO ADDRESS, NO PHONE
DEAR NO NAME, NO ADDRESS, NO PHONE I & II: I understand why neither of you felt comfortable revealing your personal information. I have received many similar letters over the years, and I always feel frustrated that I cannot personally contact you.
I'm printing your letters as a reminder to all young people who find themselves in similar situations to speak to a school counselor, a trusted relative, family friend, neighbor or member of the clergy, AND TELL THEM WHAT IS GOING ON.
Also, there are several toll-free hotlines to call, including The Childhelp USA National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453. Also, there is Boys Town National Hotline for boys and girls at 1-800-448-3000. All calls are confidential.
Adults who suspect a child is being physically or emotionally abused should call local child protective agencies, local law enforcement or the above hotlines. Help IS available.
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