DEAR HARRIETTE: I'm a firefighter in my town, and my daughter constantly calls me when she is in the middle of an “emergency.” These so-called emergencies have consisted of setting off the fire alarm when making popcorn, hearing something when she is home alone and getting pulled over for speeding. When I am on duty, I need to remain available to anyone in danger. Is the public more important in these moments than my daughter? She is a teenager, but I don't want to abandon her when she's unsure of what to do. -- Smoke Signals, Tarrytown, New York
DEAR SMOKE SIGNALS: It is time for you to sit down with your daughter and talk to her about the boy who cried wolf. While she may be learning how to be alone and more independent as a teenager, she sounds like she is being a bit manipulative in pulling you away from work for minor challenges. Explain to her how to handle minor household emergencies. Remind her about the importance of driving safely, and make it clear that she can lose her license and her ability to use the car if she is not responsible. Assure her that you love her and want to support her in every way that you can, but point out that your job is to save lives, and you have to be on call. While she can be free to ask you to talk her through a seeming emergency, make it clear that you cannot drop everything and come whenever she calls. You may also want to find a neighbor or some responsible adult who can look out for her when she is at home alone.