DEAR STEEL ADVICE: I live in a suburban neighborhood that is about 15 years old. Many residents moved in when their children were toddlers and now are in high school or college. There have been some relocations or others that have moved, but many are the original owners.
We recently have had one family that the father has gone "off the deep end." This family has twin boys that are about 4 years old. The family lives next to the baseball/soccer field in our development. The father has approached teenagers (including my son) at night -- 9-10 p.m. -- and has questioned them about why they are outside and even grabbed two of the teenage boys' shirts, telling them that his sons are trying to sleep. The teenagers were not making noise or doing anything to cause trouble.
My husband and I have considered approaching this person, however, we do not want to escalate the situation. He should be so lucky to have such nice young teenage boys when his sons reach this age. Do you think we are missing something?
-- CONCERNED PARENT
DEAR PARENT: Come on, Mom. You are missing a curfew for your teenager. Community fields and parks close at sundown. The twins' dad was totally out of line when he overreacted and grabbed the boys' shirts. When the teen's voices carried over to his house, he may have thought the boys were at the field to get into trouble and not to catch fireflies.
You and your husband should talk with the man about the incident. Let him know the teens are good kids. Give this neighbor your phone number and tell him to call you if he ever has a problem with your son. Instruct your son and his teen friends that from now on night ventures at the ball field are out of bounds and off base.
DEAR STEEL ADVICE: My sister, "Maggie," has been in an on-again, off-again relationship for the past nine years. She has tried living with him twice, and both times were a complete failure. She moved out after the lease was up. I think Maggie should have moved on long ago. Now she is one of those people who looks back on those tumultuous years and says she does not want to think she has wasted nine years of her life. Hence, she stays. When it falls apart, Maggie comes to me to commiserate. She pretends to listen to my advice and then goes right back to doing what she has always done. I no longer care what she does. I just want the nightly gab sessions to stop. I have a child in elementary school and don't have time to ride the merry-go-round that is her life. How do I tell her I'm over it (even if she isn't)?
-- STOP THE RIDE. I WANNA GET OFF!
DEAR SISTER: Maggie enjoys hearing her own story. The long-winded phone conversations will stop if you refuse to be a sympathetic sounding board. When she calls to complain and rehash the turmoil of her relationship, you should change the subject. You control how much time you are willing to spend on the phone. Don't cajole yourself into thinking your wise answers will help your sister. Maggie is playing a game. Asking for advice with no intention of following it is a ploy to continue being the center of attention. Your sister will find another ear to listen to her woes if you are not so readily available.
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