04/10/2004DEAR ABBY: My ex-husband, "Robert," is a police officer. We have two children together. I am now remarried.
When my children visited Robert last weekend, my 8-year-old son, "Danny," got into a fight with his stepsister. They started calling each other names. This happened at Robert's friend's home, and the friend suggested the children drink vinegar as a punishment.
They taunted Danny, asking what color shot glass he wanted his vinegar in. He cried and begged his dad not to make him drink it. He said he wanted to come home to me. Robert screamed at Danny until he drank it.
When I picked my children up on Sunday night, Danny was distraught. He can't seem to get over that incident.
I called my lawyer, who said that it is borderline abuse. He said to tell Robert if it happens again, we will file a petition for supervised visitation.
Robert thinks I'm being unreasonable. He can't believe I would go that far, since he's a police officer and it might hurt his job. I think he should know better because he is a police officer.
I failed to mention that Danny has Tourette syndrome. Stress makes it worse. He is a good boy, and I don't feel he deserved this type of punishment. Am I being unreasonable? -- DISTRAUGHT
DEAR DISTRAUGHT: I don't know what the children called each other that sent your ex off the deep end, but the punishment didn't fit the crime. In light of the fact that Danny has Tourette syndrome, there are better ways to discipline him -- i.e., write 100 times "I will not name-call," or write his stepsister a letter of apology.
Perhaps it is unfair to hold a law enforcement officer to a higher standard, but as an adult he should have known better. He could benefit from talking to Danny's doctor or the Tourette Syndrome Association Inc. (888-486-8738) about reasonable expectations. Or he could visit the Web site: www.tsa-usa.org. However, if it happens again, listen to your lawyer.
DEAR ABBY: My wife has allowed my 19-year-old stepdaughter, "Jana," to move her boyfriend into our home. They are both college students who earn excellent grades and work part-time. Many of their classes are the same and they study together. Jana sleeps upstairs and her boyfriend sleeps downstairs.
I do not agree with this arrangement. I believe it will lead to them living together when they go off to complete their educations. I simply cannot support this, but my wife wants to avoid conflict by allowing it. What do you think? -- CONCERNED STEPDAD IN FLORIDA
DEAR STEPDAD: Since they earn excellent grades, have part-time jobs, sleep on different floors and are focused on completing their educations, I think your concern about what might happen down the road is premature.
DEAR ABBY: I am 17. My girlfriend, "Becky," is 15. Six months ago, we were alone in her house. Becky's father came home earlier than expected and caught us in the act in their bedroom. He called my parents and said we had to get married. I refused. I haven't talked to Becky since.
Abby, was I wrong? Should I have married Becky? -- CONFUSED IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR CONFUSED: Not under those circumstances. Neither of you is old enough or mature enough to take on the responsibilities of marriage.
Perhaps when Becky's father made that call, he was trying to show his daughter that serious responsibilities go along with having sex.
P.S. That you haven't spoken to her since says it all.
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.
For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)