Dear Amy: I have a 3-year-old child. During the pregnancy it became very clear I would be a single parent. My ex is not able to provide a stable environment for our daughter. He drinks heavily and involves himself with people who do illegal activities.
He often claims he loves our daughter but says he feels undeserving because he can't support her, and he says this is the reason he doesn't see her. However, he has done nothing to better himself or disconnect from bad influences.
His family seems to believe that I have ousted him from our lives.
How do I correct this idea with his family without crossing any lines or being disrespectful?
— Single mom
Dear Mom: You should tell these family members the truth as you see it. You say, "I'm doing the best I can. I'm sorry my ex is having such a hard time, and I hope he'll get it together someday. He knows I want the best for him."
Mainly, this is for your own satisfaction, because these family members will believe what they want to believe. You should never criticize your ex to your child or to his family. Let his actions speak for him, and continue to advocate for your daughter to have peaceful, loving relationships.
Dear Amy: I live on a wonderful street with my husband and two children.
Our next-door neighbors have a privacy fence surrounding a portion of their backyard. The bottom half of one of the panels is broken off, and it's big enough for my daughter or the neighbors' children to kneel on the ground and put their face up to the fence.
Sounds crazy, but this has become an intrusive problem. We have had company over, dinners outside, and a lot of playtime interrupted by their children. Either they stare at us while we're playing or eating, or they call my daughter to the fence constantly and order her around.
What should we do?
— Frustrated in my backyard
Dear Frustrated: Life must otherwise be very tranquil for this to qualify as an unsolvable problem.
Here's the first thing you do (use your "outside voice"): "Kids — KNOCK IT OFF. Get away from the fence, please. You're driving us bonkers." The second thing you do is to say to the parents: "Could you do us a favor and repair your fence in the back? The kids are playing Tom Sawyer back there and driving us crazy. I'd be happy to repair it myself, if you want."