Steel Advice: Mom looks for summer trade-offs

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DEAR MARY ANN: I am slightly embarrassed to admit this, but with the school year coming to an end all my young daughter's activities are coming to an end and I couldn't be happier! I'm glad she got to do so many fun things and she loved each one more than the next, but I am so excited to not have somewhere to drive to every day! The problem is, all her friends are now signing up for the summer camps, and I just want to enjoy the summer -- scheduled activity free. My problem is, I don't want her to feel left out. We have a lot going on this summer, but there is definitely time for her to do at least one activity. So my decision to not sign her up would be purely selfish. I am trying to justify this by saying that it is good for her to take some time off, but at the end of the day I feel guilty. Should I bite the bullet and "keep up with the Joneses' activities," or selfishly enjoy the next couple of months of not rushing around?


DEAR READY: Structured activities and summer camps are meant to complement and enhance your daughter's life but not at the expense of making your life miserable. It can be a hassle when a child is participating in an activity or sport every day, but many parents feel this is a better alternative than TV and video games. Multiple activities give a young child an opportunity to socialize while trying a hand at different sports and the arts. Having sampled tennis, swimming, dance, baseball (the list goes on) as younger children, older kids seem to focus on the skills they most enjoy. Signing up for one structured activity might be an option for you to reconsider.

Explain to your daughter that you have a lot going on this summer but you will still be able to help her choose an activity that she can enjoy with her friends. If you are enthusiastic about your family's summer plans your daughter may surprise you and be agreeable to spend this summer doing special projects or going on outings with you instead of being part of an organized group.

Be confident in your decisions about knowing what is right for your family. Don't run like a gerbil on a wheel just because "everyone is doing it."

DEAR MARY ANN: Last month we adopted two cute 6-month-old puppies from the local animal shelter. They are litter mates and very bonded to each other. For example, if we take one out, the other one yelps and cries. If we try to pet one, the other jumps in to get petted, too. Training is slow because they are always looking to each other for what to do next. They are pretty much housebroken now, but the shier one recently started peeing when it is time to go in her crate for bed. Their cute playful wrestling and nipping has gotten a little worse in the past month and there are some growls and slightly more aggressive sparring. Now, we know another family that is very willing to take one of our dogs if we decide it is too much to handle. This would make life for us easier but also give the puppies some separation anxiety. We're having trouble with this decision. Are we giving up too soon if we give one of the puppies to the other family? Are we being selfish if we decide to keep both? Will they ever more fully bond with us or always be more bonded to each other? What about recently emerging bad behaviors? Help!


DEAR LOST IN PUPPY CHAOS: Two is not better than one. Puppies raised together bond together and often never fully develop a relationship with their owner. The issues you are experiencing are classic examples of this behavior. One of the major joys of dog ownership is the creation of an emotional attachment between the dog and the owner. In your case the canine-human attachment is diminished because the dogs are bonding with each other rather than with you.

If you want to have multiple dogs, you should space the timing of their arrivals. Introduce a new dog to the household after the first dog is fully bonded to you. You want to be the Alpha dog. You may begin to resent all of the work raising a puppy entails if you don't share a special relationship with your dog. With multiple puppies a dog's personality may never fully develop and your role becomes a caretaker who feeds the dogs and cleans up poop.

You are not giving up too soon if you give one of the puppies to the other family. "Re-homing" is a good decision. Showering each puppy with attention, treats and exercise when it is the solo dog will help ease its separation anxiety. Your family as well as the new family will begin to experience the fun a puppy can bring to a household.

Need some Steel Advice? Email questions to: or write to Mary Ann Wellener, Steel Advice Column, c/o Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Follow Mary Ann on Twitter at @PGSteelAdvice. First Published May 21, 2013 4:00 AM


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