Dear Annie: I am a male in my mid-30s and very successful. I've been divorced for several years and have joint custody of a wonderful 8-year-old son.
Every year, my son and I have gone on a family weekend with my mother, sister and, for the past three years, the woman I have been seriously dating. This year, however, my son spent two nights with just his grandmother. They seemed to have a good time, but when my son and I were alone, he said, "Grandma says that moms are the most important part of a family."
My mother knows about the problems I've had with my ex. When we returned from our vacation, I called Mom and asked if she said such a thing, and she admitted she did and also said she was right to say it. She says mothers are more important than fathers. I was totally dumbfounded. What on earth was she thinking?
I told her not to plan on spending any time with me or my son until her thinking changes dramatically and she keeps her opinions on child-rearing to herself. Annie, what could prompt a mother to say that about her son? She has badmouthed my ex since our divorce, and now she is telling my son that my ex is more important than I am? Dumbfounded Dad
Dear Dad: Your mother is wrong. Studies have shown that a father's presence is a major factor in the development of his child's self-confidence. The National Center for Educational Statistics reported that when fathers are involved in their children's education, the kids are more likely to get A's, enjoy school and participate in extracurricular activities. It's possible your mother is simply projecting her own insecurities onto the situation, so tell her to knock it off.
Dear Annie: Please advise parents to check their children's computer sites, including their instant messaging info section, MySpace and Facebook. Some children use these sites to ridicule others. They list their favorite friends and boast about their activities, while deliberately excluding others. Some have "secret codes" to make fun of others.
It is simple for a parent to check, and some childhood heartaches could be avoided if parents taught their children compassion in this area. Hoping To Raise a Kinder Generation
Dear Kinder: This is a form of bullying. Many parents think the opinions their child posts on the Internet are anonymous and irrelevant, but kids read and keep track of this stuff. It is just as hurtful to say mean things online as it is to say them in person. Please, parents, monitor your child's computer use -- not only for your child's safety, but also to be sure your child isn't using the computer to harm others.
Dear Annie: This letter is for those who, for whatever reason, have become "second-time parents." The numbers are rapidly rising in this country. Some statistics predict that, in a few years, one in 11 grandparents will be raising grandchildren. There are a variety of reasons for this: death, drugs and/or alcohol, incarceration, abuse and neglect, abandonment, etc.
The wonderful people who take on this challenge need to know they are not alone. AARP has a great Web site at aarp.org/families/grandparents/ with links to support groups and contacts. The Kincare Program in Idaho has a Web site, kincaregrandparents.org, which also has links to other sites. People in this unique position need to connect with others. Linda Dripps, Kincare Program Coordinator, CCOA, Chairperson-Idaho Kincare Coalition
Dear Linda Dripps: Today is Grandparents Day, and an appropriate time to let our readers know that these support sites exist. Those without Internet access can call AARP at (888) OUR-AARP (888-687-2277).
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