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by Abigail Van Buren

Father's Authority Wanes as Son's Popularity Grows

DEAR ABBY: My youngest son, "Trent," is 17. At a very early age it became apparent that he was a gifted athlete. Years of stellar performance in baseball and other sports have elevated him to a high social status -- and it has created a rift between us.

Trent has become unmanageable. He regards my influence, direction and discipline to be nothing more than a daily hindrance. Somewhere in the sports mania, I lost control as a father.

As his only parent (and support), I wonder how many other parents are really aware of the crushing burden and peer pressure these young people experience in the quest for athletic perfection. I have and always will support my son's goals, but I see a disassociation with reality while he revels in his status. A college scholarship is a given.

Is my issue unique? Do you have any advice for me? -- SPORTS DAD DOWN SOUTH

DEAR SPORTS DAD: As a single parent, watching his last child getting ready to leave the nest, your situation is far from unique. You have devoted the last 17 years to your son's welfare, and now that he is nearing adulthood you feel him slipping away.

There comes a point when parents have to start trusting that the values they have instilled in their offspring are deeply rooted enough to guide them in the right direction in the coming years. You cannot supervise and influence your son much more than you already have. So my advice is to keep the lines of communication open and to start letting go. Life will teach him lessons that will bring him back down to earth eventually.