DEAR ABBY: I'm a gay man in my late 40s who has worked for 10 years in the public school system with young adults and kids with special needs. I have done everything from changing preschoolers' diapers, to tutoring, travel training and teaching life skills to older children. In the process, I have encountered my share of cooperation, defiance, failure and success.
When speaking with family, friends or strangers about their parenting, I sometimes share my experiences. This is usually accepted and even encouraged, but occasionally I am put in my place by a parent who feels I must be told that what I've done "isn't the same as being a parent." Some even go so far as to imply that I should remain silent, as I have nothing of a parenting nature to offer.
I would think that making everyone feel included would be more important than official parent status, especially when discussing similar experiences. So what's the best way to handle this? I have no kids of my own; my students are all I have to share stories about. Should I just dummy up? -- SORT OF CHILDLESS IN SAN FRANCISCO
DEAR SORT OF CHILDLESS: No, but recognize that whatever you offered clearly made someone defensive. When people are in that mode, they aren't receptive to your opinion.
Remember the phrase "casting pearls before swine"? It means offering something valuable to those who don't understand that it's precious. You and I, and most parents, understand that you are rich in experience. Don't let the others get under your skin.
DEAR ABBY: My boyfriend, "Richard," is 15 years my senior, and the more he is involved in my life, the more overprotective he is becoming. Some of his concerns are legitimate, but it seems like he considers me more like a child or "little woman" than his equal partner.
He isn't comfortable with me walking two blocks from my house to a friend's house at night without an escort. I recently obtained my motorcycle license, and he doesn't want me riding at night. The latest issue is that he doesn't want me to walk him to his car because he would "rather me be locked safely in the house."
I think I'm capable enough to cross my front lawn at night without being attacked. How do I differentiate between legitimate concern and overprotective paranoia? -- OVERPROTECTED
DEAR OVERPROTECTED: If your neighborhood is safe, then this may be a question of how your boyfriend is presenting his concerns to you. If he is suggesting that he would prefer you be more cautious after dark, that's one thing. However, if he's insisting, then it's something else, and it could be a tip-off that he's not only "parental," but controlling.
To order "How to Write Letters for All Occasions," send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. Shipping and handling are included in the price.