Dear Annie: I am an 11-year-old girl, and my parents are going through a divorce. Dad has a restraining order for the next two years. The judge said I can't even call him. I'm supposed to see him every other weekend, in supervised visits.
My dad doesn't like this arrangement, so he refuses to see my brother and me. I have seen him only once in the last five months. It makes me think he is not exactly the father I thought he was and that if he were a good father, he would try to see us every chance he could. It makes me horribly sad to know he's not willing to go to a visitation center.
I don't know what to do, which is odd for me because I am known to be very mature and a good advice giver. My dad might not know I feel this way. He expects me to be tough. Sad, Confused and Angry in Hawaii
Dear Sad: Being "tough" has nothing to do with it. This man is your father, and he has an obligation to act like one. We don't know what he did to deserve a restraining order, but he should be willing to follow the judge's instructions regardless. Two years is a long time for you to lose touch, and he should make every effort to see you, even under these limited circumstances. Once the restraining order is lifted, it will be too late to undo the damage he has caused.
Ask your mother to get a message to Dad from you, saying it hurts you deeply that he cannot swallow his pride for your sake. If he still refuses, we hope you (and your brother) will discuss your feelings with someone. You should be in family counseling, but if not, please discuss this with your school counselor, favorite teacher or a trusted adult relative. You should not have to deal with this on your own.
Dear Annie: As a retired educator, I currently am working as a substitute teacher in several schools. I see a practice that, although not intentional, subjects students to germs that could cause illness.
When students go to the washroom, they take a wooden bathroom pass. Where do the students put these passes when they go to the bathroom? Enough said.
Knowing your column is read by many teachers and parents, I felt writing you would be a fast way to help eliminate this unsanitary and dangerous practice. Concerned Sub
Dear Sub: You now have alarmed every teacher, as well as every person who takes a wooden key chain because the doctor's office bathroom is locked. You cannot protect students from every germ they encounter, nor should you. But if this particular practice worries anyone, we recommend having passes made from plastic or laminated cardboard, which can be sprayed with a disinfectant after use.
Dear Annie: How do I tell my sister-in-law that an invitation to my son's wedding does not automatically extend to her children, their spouses and their children? My son is not close to any of his cousins and will not be inviting them. Auntie thinks if she's invited, she should be able to bring the whole family. We're not talking youngsters here. The "kids" are all in their early 30s and have their own families. They all live within blocks of one another and have never completely cut the apron strings.
When my daughter married a few years ago, Auntie and Uncle brought four people we weren't expecting, and Auntie was completely oblivious (or indifferent) to the extra hassle.
How can I prevent unwanted guests without saying so on the invitation? Please help. Stuck in the Middle Again
Dear Stuck: Since Auntie has done this before, it merits a personal phone call to say, "We're so sorry we cannot invite all the cousins, but we have a limited guest list and will not be able to accommodate your children and their families."
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