09/11/2010DEAR ABBY: Like most 16-year-old girls, I have a cell phone. My father pays for it and I'm grateful that he does, even though I live with my mom and he's a two-hour drive away. He has been paying for it for a year and a half.
Every month when I visit him he demands to see my phone. Then he looks through my messages and photos. There's nothing "bad" on my phone, but I feel my personal space is being invaded. I brought it up to him a few times, but he just said, "Deal with it!" He said if I don't want him to see something, I should delete it.
What can I do to get my dad to respect my privacy? I feel he wants to control my life. I want my own space. -- GETTING GRIEF IN GRANTS PASS, ORE.
DEAR GETTING GRIEF: I'm sure your father means well, but his attempt at "supervision" when you visit him seems heavy-handed. The first thing you should do is discuss your feelings with your mother. Perhaps she can help him understand that you're mature enough to be trusted. But if that doesn't work, you will have to figure out a way to come up with the money to pay for your own cell phone.
DEAR ABBY: My father went to prison when I was 2 months old. My mother and maternal grandparents made sure I had a relationship with him through phone calls and letters. They told me early on what he did, and I have worked through it.
After 22 years and eight parole hearings, my father has been granted a parole. He will be home with my paternal grandparents in October. I'm happy and excited, but he's trying to make up for lost time. He has a son who wants nothing to do with any of us, so it's all left to me. He said, "Your mother had you for the first 22 holidays. I get the next 22," and he expects me to spend the entire first week he's home at my grandparents' house with him.
I am very close to my mom and younger siblings. I love our holiday traditions and don't want to give any of that up. Furthermore, I'm not comfortable staying at my grandparents' home. I don't know them well, and I don't sleep well in strange places.
I work full-time, go to school and have my own house with my fiance. I think my father wants more than I am ready to give right now. What do I do? -- FEELING ANXIOUS IN MICHIGAN
DEAR ANXIOUS: Your father is starved for family, which is understandable, but he has overlooked the fact that rebuilding a relationship can't be done on a seven-day timetable. What you need to do is tell him that he is demanding more than you are ready, able and comfortable giving -- and you would prefer to get to know him at your own pace. And stand by that, or he may devour you as he tries to make up for all the years he has wasted because of his mistakes. Frankly, I think his demand is presumptuous, and I'm glad you wrote.
DEAR ABBY: I have two large dogs. They are very sweet, but they are young and can be hyperactive. On more than one occasion guests have requested that I put my dogs outside so they can be more comfortable.
I feel it's rude to ask such a thing when it is the dogs' home. They knew about my dogs prior to the visit. Am I wrong for not catering to my guests? Or are my guests wrong for even asking? -- BARKING UP THE WRONG TREE IN ARIZONA
DEAR BARKING: It is your responsibility as a pet owner to control your dogs and teach them good manners. If the presence of guests on the premises so overstimulates the dogs that they can't control themselves, then as a gracious host, you should remove them so they can calm down -- or not entertain at your home.
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