Dear Annie: My father has hurt our family with drug use, alcoholism and lies, and we haven’t spoken in more than a year.
Recently, he has been attempting to contact me. He’s sent voicemails, letters and a few emails. We emailed a little bit in the past week, but I told him I wasn’t ready to talk. I’m not sure what to do.
At some level, I realize the only reason I’m in touch is to express how much anger I have toward him.
After seriously thinking it over, I’ve decided I don’t really want a relationship. It’s not fair to me to go through this pattern one more time, and I can’t take being hurt again. But I feel guilty.
Maybe this time he’s genuine about wanting to change and it’s wrong of me not to give him another chance. But every time this has happened in the past, I only end up getting hurt. Please help. — Still Hurting
Dear Still: It’s understandable that you keep hoping your father will straighten out and be the person you want him to be.
You don’t have to keep in touch if you don’t want to, but if you decide not to give up on him, you will need to protect yourself emotionally.
Accept the fact that he may never change and you might be able to continue an email correspondence. It will allow you to stay in touch, keep track of whatever progress he might make and let him feel part of your life, while maintaining enough emotional distance that you won’t be kicking yourself later. Keep your expectations low, and do not allow him to make additional inroads unless you are prepared for any negative consequences.
Dear Annie: I have two sons, ages two and four. They get invited to many birthday parties together. I understand the cost is greater for the host to have both of my boys, and at this age, parents are typically invited to stay, as well.
I will either give the birthday child one US$20 gift from both or two $10 presents.
However, when my boys have birthday parties, regardless of how far in advance I send out invitations, family members seem to be the only ones who attend. The few times friends have shown up, siblings have only given one gift, even from multiple children, and it is something extremely inexpensive.
I don’t really care what kind of gifts my children receive, but I am wondering whether I’m overdoing it. Could this be why friends don’t come to my children’s parties? Do they think I expect them to spend as much as I do? — Unopened Goodie Bags
Dear Goodie: Maybe. You are not doing anything wrong, but that doesn’t mean other parents aren’t intimidated. It’s also possible they have other objections. If you are particularly close with one of the parents, it wouldn’t hurt to inquire. But some of this will resolve itself as your children get older and they and their friends are invited individually, without parents, to one another’s parties.
Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Worried in Pennsylvania,” whose fiance’s disrespectful 17-year-old daughter gets suspended from school and wrecks cars.
We had a teenager like that. Through the advice of friends, we had him checked by a psychiatrist, who wound up treating him for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
ADHD was fairly new then, and a lot of people still have mixed feelings about it, but after being put on medication, the positive changes in our son’s behavior were almost immediate.
“Worried” should do whatever she can to get this girl to a psychiatrist or neurologist who is experienced in dealing with ADHD to see whether that’s the cause of her behavior. — Former Pennsylvanian in California
Dear Former: Thank you for pointing out that there can be many reasons for reckless behavior in teens and it is always a good idea to see whether there are medical causes behind it.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 5777 W. Century Blvd., Ste. 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045.