DEAR ABBY: I am a mother of four. My oldest son, "Jeff," is from a previous marriage. My ex was convicted of child molestation, involving his daughter from a previous relationship.
Jeff is now 11. He has had very few unsupervised visitations with his dad over the last few years and is always talking about how great a guy he is. I have tried to explain that his father has done "inappropriate things" that got him in trouble with the law, which is why he can't have contact with his sister.
Instead of trusting my judgment for having moved several states away, Jeff always tells me about how he wants to go live with his dad when he's 18. Being "Big Bad Mama" is no fun. The once-a-year gifts from his father trump any nice things my husband or I provide for Jeff. How can I explain to my son that I am only looking out for his best interests, and that he will never live with his dad? -- BIG BAD MAMA IN GEORGIA
DEAR MAMA: I don't know how mature your son is, but most 11-year-old boys idolize their fathers. Jeff has his father on a pedestal because he sees him only rarely, and has no concept of what the reality of living with him would be.
At some point your son will need to know exactly what his father did that got him into trouble -- without your glossing over it using the vague description of "inappropriate behavior." When that conversation happens, he should already understand the concept of boundaries and what taking advantage of a child really means.
If I were in your position, I would consult a licensed psychotherapist or social worker for input before trying to explain this to Jeff, because the news is going to be shocking. However, if your son still wants to live with his birth father when he's 18, I don't think there is anything you can do to prevent it.
DEAR ABBY: I raised my children to stay with me when we were in a store. They didn't touch things displayed on the shelves because the items were not theirs and we weren't going to purchase them. We didn't have cellphones when my children grew up. However, even now I never remove mine from my purse while I'm in a store.
Is there a nice way to tell other shoppers to put their phones away and pay attention to their children while shopping, and suggest that it might not be safe for their kids to run through the aisles or roll canned goods down them? I am not sure about their children's safety, but I'm positive it isn't safe for me when their children are acting this way. -- MEME IN THE WEST
DEAR MEME: No, I don't think there is. You appear to be part of a generation that had the time (or took the time) to teach these things to their kids.
I agree that children should be taught to respect the property of others and to ask before touching it. I also agree that leaving items in an aisle could be dangerous to shoppers whose attention may be fixed on the store shelves instead of the floor.
But because so many parents today seem to have "forgotten" to convey these important lessons, then caveat emptor -- but in this case, let the shopper beware.
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