DEAR ABBY: My children are 10 and 12. When my wife and I suggest that we all do something together, they whine and moan. We have to force them to go, or end up getting upset with them and staying home.
We live five minutes from the beach, but the kids say they "don't like" going to the beach. The bay is down the road, and we used to fish there all the time, have picnics, visit the local zoo and other outdoor activities. But we rarely go anymore. It seems that unless it involves spending money -- like going on boardwalk rides or trips to the arcade -- the children don't want to go. They would rather play on the computer, watch TV, or ride their bikes up and down the street.
Should we ease up and let them do their own thing since they are getting older, or continue to try to do family things together? -- DISAPPOINTED DAD, NORTH CAPE MAY, N.J.
DEAR DAD: You and your wife are the parents in your family, and your wishes should be respected. Yes, your children are getting older, but doing something as a family twice a month isn't a punishment.
Perhaps you should ask them what THEY would like to do as a family. Another thought: Allow them both to include a friend in these activities. It could turn out to be more fun for all concerned. Give it a try.
DEAR ABBY: My girlfriend, "Cindy," recently moved in with me. We have a history of fighting, often to exhaustion. I have been trying hard to improve my communication skills.
Something that troubles me is a tactic of hers that forces me to stay in the conversation when I need to take a break from it. Cindy literally stands in front of me when I'm trying to go outside to calm down. She will position herself in front of me without actually touching me, so I have to make physical contact in order to get out the door. Then she claims that I am abusive because of the extreme physical contact needed to get by her. If I give up and stay in the house, her verbal abuse will continue.
I feel trapped. I either endure her verbal abuse until she runs out of steam, or fall into her trap and become someone who physically abuses his girlfriend. I am twice Cindy's size, so I don't think authorities will buy my story of feeling trapped should she show them any marks I leave while trying to push through the door. What's the answer? -- HELD HOSTAGE IN MICHIGAN
DEAR HELD HOSTAGE: Recognize that you and Cindy are too combustible a combination to have a healthy relationship and end it now. And when you do, be sure to have witnesses present who can help her pack her things.
DEAR ABBY: I am a 17-year-old girl who can't swing up on a horse. Hard as I try, I just get laughed at by the people in my riding club. I keep practicing, but nothing works. What can I do? I need help, even my friends say so. -- HOPELESS IN UTAH
DEAR HOPELESS: Try this. Go to a gym and have a trainer prescribe some exercises to increase the strength in your arms and legs. If you follow my advice, I predict that in a few months you will be the person getting the last laugh. (If that doesn't work, you may need a shorter horse.)
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