Separated mom wants more control over teen daughter
Dear Annie: I caught my husband engaging in Internet porn activities. We had a huge fight and he kicked me out of the house.
Our 14-year-old daughter, “Lori,” still lives with him because he gives her all the freedom she wants. Her sisters live with me, but Lori rarely comes to visit. My daughter is a good kid, but a 14year-old still needs a lot of guidance and support.
My husband says he is being supportive by allowing Lori to make her own decisions. Is this rational and safe? Can a parent who engages in immoral behaviour such as porn, infidelity and lying be a good father? I want to take Lori away from him, but I am reluctant to force her. She says I have too many rules and restrictions. I don’t want to make things worse.
Can you give me any suggestions? — Lost in Hawaii
Dear Lost: Your husband is not being “supportive.” He is being lazy. A 14-year-old should not be making all her own decisions, and it requires a lot of parental oversight to make sure she is protected while she matures. Lori needs rules. Kids feel more secure when they understand what the boundaries are. A parent who allows a young teen to do whatever she likes is telling her he doesn’t care about her welfare. You don’t have to force Lori to move in with you, but you should definitely talk to a lawyer about regular visitation so she spends at least half of her time in your company. She needs at least one responsible parent in her life.
Dear Annie: My 94-year-old father recently died. Because I was born fewer than nine months after they married in 1935, he never believed I was his child. When I was five years old, they divorced. I saw him from time to time throughout the years.
Two years ago, Dad called and asked me to take a DNA test. It turned out positive, proving I was indeed his child. His response? He said, “I’ve been without kids this far and don’t intend to start now.” He walked out, and I never saw him again.
My wife and I went to the church the day of his funeral and were told by my stepmother to leave because I would disrupt the service. We left. I have three sons and three grandsons, each carrying his last name. My stepmother buried all of us that day. I don’t know how to cope. Please help me. — Buried Alive in N.H.
Dear N.H.: How sad that your father’s misplaced bitterness deprived both of you of a loving relationship. There’s no point blaming your stepmother. While she could have been kinder, she no doubt felt she was honoring her husband’s wishes. You have spent a lifetime being rejected by your father, only to have him die before you had time to reconcile. Please get some counselling. It will help you come to terms with your grief and accept that there was nothing you could have done to change the outcome. Our condolences.
Dear Annie: This is to “Ready to Quit,” whose families tell her she’s a terrible person: Get away from those toxic people.
I lived through the same nightmare, spearheaded by a jealous mother who considered me her competition. She broke up my marriage because she wanted my husband. My relatives believed every word she told them. I also considered suicide, but realized that would only give them the satisfaction of saying, “See, we knew she was crazy.”
I was filled with self-loathing until I returned to school, got a degree and walked away from my tormentors. I discovered I’m a good person, and now I have many good friends who love me. I only regret that it took so long to escape their judgmental comments.
You hang in there and know there is nothing wrong with you. By the way, Mom chased my ex for 35 years, and then he found someone else. She did all that for nothing. — Better Without Them HALIFAX — The anti-gay slurs were tossed around Marion Miller’s classroom in rural Nova Scotia as casually as paper airplanes.
“People would be in class just throwing out death threats about, like, the two people who had ever dared to come out,” recalls Miller, a college student now living in Montreal who describes herself as queer.
“People would say things like, ‘My cousin, I don’t talk to him anymore since he came out’ and ‘There’s not any gay people at this school because we would have rounded them up already.”’
When the disparagement was too much, Miller would slip quietly outside her classroom in Pomquet, an Acadian hamlet some 2 1/2 hours northeast of Halifax.
Miller was around 14 and had only just come out to herself, close friends and family. Her classmates, she figured, wouldn’t accept her.
“I was shaken. It was really scary,” says Miller, now 18. “I was like, ‘Wow, does this mean I could never come out? Is this what faces me in the world, these kinds of people?”’
For young people who identify as LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer), being out and proud in small-town Canada isn’t necessarily easy.
Last year, in the rural New Brunswick community of Woodstock, a high school women’s hockey team made headlines for banding together in support of two gay teammates. The girls were being harassed on the ice by some members of rival teams.The Woodstock Lady Thunder’s simple, rainbow-theme button campaign earned the team a New Brunswick Human Rights Award and a Grace Under Pressure award from the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport.
Without visible support, one expert says growing up gay in a small town can be an exercise in waiting and loneliness.
“Lots of young people that we talk to really feel like they need to keep their head down, get through the teenage years and finish school,” says Jennifer Fodden, executive director of a Toronto-based helpline for LGBTQ youth.
Some 6,000 Ontarians contact the Lesbian Gay Bi Trans Youth Line each year and chat with peers aged 15 to 26 who’ve shared many of the same questions, concerns and experiences.
Fodden, 36, says the promise of pride parades and support groups in big cities can lure youths from their rural homes before they’re financially ready. Some wind up on the street as a result.
LGBTQ youth face challenges in larger centres, too, but there’s generally more support and resources are handy, says Fodden, a Toronto native who came out as a lesbian at 21.
“I had more options,” she says of her coming out experience. “It was a less personally excruciating process of trying to figure out who I was, for sure.”
Miller, who says she’s dated women but hasn’t closed the door on dating men, transferred from Pomquet to a school in nearby Antigonish in Grade 11.
The switch to Antigonish — a small university town of about 4,200 people — was partly to take different courses and partly to escape what had become a hostile environment. But it wasn’t a seamless transition. Miller says she fought, and failed, to form a gaystraight alliance at her new high school. When she came out publicly in her graduation year, there were some negative comments. But there was also a local support group for gay youth known as Rainbow Warriors.
In September, Miller moved to Montreal to study arts at a CEGEP campus and seek out “diversity and openness and big ideas.”
Ironically, she’s discovered that being out and accepted means focusing on more than being young and queer.
“I always used to feel like when I would bring it up in Antigonish, it would be ‘Oh, there’s the gay one going on about her agenda again,”’ Miller says.
“Here, it’s like I don’t have to bring up my so-called agenda because people get it.”