DEAR ABBY: I'm turning 17 and live with my dad and his girlfriend. They have broken up four times, causing my dad and me to retreat to the basement, where we live the peaceful, happy life we did before he met her.
When they first started dating, she was very nice, and I liked her. However, because my mom is gone, she decided to assume the role of "mother" after they moved in together. I don't think she has the right to make decisions about me just because I no longer have a mother.
Dad has told me repeatedly that he doesn't want to continue a relationship with her, but she always manipulates him into getting back together. She treats him terribly, and it breaks my heart. I know he deserves better. His personality changes when he's with her. He gets mean and blames their problems on me because that's what she does.
I know I'm not responsible for this situation, but she makes me feel that way. I need stability, and I just want my dad back. What should I do?
- Teen in Turmoil
DEAR TEEN: What's going on is not your fault. You should not assume responsibility for their problems because you can't fix them.
Talk with your father about how you are being made to feel. That he and this woman have broken up four times should have given him a clue that his relationship with her isn't a healthy one - for him or for you. Your father is the adult in the family, and it is up to him to deal with this - not you. Hiding in the basement isn't the answer.
DEAR ABBY: I have been having boundary issues with my neighbors and their children. We have different parenting styles. They are hands-off, free-range parents. I keep an eye on my daughter. They're all around the age of 5.
Problem is, every time I take my daughter outside their two children immediately run over to play with her. I'm seven months pregnant, and I do not want to be the neighborhood baby sitter! If any of those kids runs toward the road, I can't chase them down. I don't want to send my daughter to their yard to play because they have a pool, my daughter doesn't know how to swim and no one watches these kids.
I feel like a prisoner in my own home. I'd like to enjoy the nice weather alone with my daughter once in a while. She loves playing with them, but they just want to play with her toys - not her - and it almost always ends up with her in tears. What can I do?
- Tears in Connecticut
DEAR TEARS: Talk to the parents! Explain that you would like to spend time outdoors with your little girl, and you are not prepared to watch their children. You should also mention that when their children run over to play, it's not with your daughter but with her toys, which hurts her feelings.
P.S. If your neighbors' pool is not fenced and any of the neighborhood children should fall in, the legal liability would be theirs. There is something known as an "attractive nuisance." An unsecured swimming pool would be an example.