DEAR ABBY: My wife and I disagree about how to handle a problem with our 6-year-old daughter, "Emily," who has not been practicing her piano lessons as diligently as we would like. After her last lesson, I told my wife that I didn't think Emily did very well.
My wife thinks we should deny Emily her bedtime snack. I disagree. I feel that practicing the piano is a responsibility, and Emily should not be punished. Failure to be responsible has its own consequences. What do you think? -– AT ODDS IN AUSTIN
DEAR AT ODDS: Piano practice should not be turned into a power struggle. Denying food to a child who is hungry is not, in my opinion, appropriate. What Emily may need is help from you and/or her mother to structure her schedule so there's enough time for music practice.
You should also have a talk with your daughter and ask her why she hasn't been practicing as she should. It's possible that she dislikes the piano and would prefer another instrument, or activity, if given the choice.
DEAR ABBY: Nine years ago I had reconstructive facial surgery to repair a botched nose job. It changed the way I look. My nose was fixed, but it left my upper lip very stiff, and when I talk it can be distracting to others. My children and my husband are fine with it, but my mother and brother have a hard time looking at and socializing with me.
Over the past nine years some hurtful things have happened. I was in church one Sunday and overheard my brother say laughingly, "I can't believe how she looks." Mom told him, "You'd better contain yourself." Once, when my sister-in-law was holding her year-old daughter, I was smiling and talking to the baby. My sister-in-law said to her, "You don't even know what you're looking at, do you?"
Abby, sometimes I catch my mother shaking her head in disbelief over my appearance. I asked my brother for the name of his doctor for my daughter, and he told me to use my own doctor. The incidents go on and on.
After many painful rejections I have finally decided to move on with my life without these family members. I have explained that I will no longer attend family functions because they do not accept me. My husband and kids support me in this. I will be there if my family needs me, but I want nothing more from them. Am I wrong for pushing them away? -- HURT IN NEW JERSEY
DEAR HURT: You are entitled to spend your time with people who love you, respect you and enjoy having you around. From what you have related, the dysfunction in your family may go beyond the circumstances of your unfortunate nose job and reconstructive surgery.
Your sister-in-law appears to be insensitive at best, and your brother is downright hostile. If it's painful to be around them, then by all means spend your time with people who will accept you as you are.
DEAR ABBY: I'm a 44-year-old man who has never married. Because of this, some of my family and friends think I'm gay. They never have asked me outright, but they occasionally allude to it as a "joke." How can I let them know that I'm not gay and put to rest their way of thinking? -- STRAIGHT IN SAN ANTONIO
DEAR STRAIGHT: The next time someone makes a joke about your sexual orientation, look the person in the eye and say, "That's funny. But, you know, I'm not gay -- just happy being single." It's the truth, and you're not alone. Many straight people of both sexes have never made it to the altar and plan to keep it that way.
What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)
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