DEAR MISS LONELYHEARTS: I'm in love with the babysitter. She's 15 and I'm 12 and I don't count myself as one of the kids. My mom still considers me too young to be on my own with the little kids all day. She says I should be free to go out and "play." I'm quite happy to stay home half the time, and cook. I will be a chef one day on TV and have been cooking since I was 10. I watch all the cooking shows.
When I get up, the babysitter has been with the little kids since 7:30 a.m. already, so I cook everybody a big lunch and go out for a while with my friends to skateboard. At 3 p.m. I come home to make dinner for everyone, and my mom gets home at 4 p.m. The babysitter and I talk and laugh a lot. She is short for her age and I am taller than her by a lot. I can tell she likes me. Do you think she might love me too, even though I'm younger? -- Old for My Age, West End
Dear Old: The best you can hope is she wishes you were older, but the gap between 12 and 15 is about three grades and way too big, especially from her side. Enjoy the rest of the summer with her in the house, but then let it go, and look for someone younger who is much like her in personality. You know what you like in a girl now.
When you are 18 and of age, you might look her up again, but not before. Even ages 17 and 20 don't work. For now, make it easier by not telling yourself you're "in love" but rather "having a crush" on her. Using the love word makes it more difficult to let it go.
Dear Readers: There was a barrage of mail in the last few weeks in response to the neighbour who wrote, concerned about the 13-year-old girl who is responsible for her younger siblings, including a baby, while the mother is away working. Here is the final letter on that subject and it is heartwarming.
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: I can relate, because when I was 12, my parents went through a very nasty split. My mom went from working part-time to working up to five, yes, five, part-time jobs to support us. For about two years, I spent every afternoon and early evening taking care of my six-year-old brother -- picking him up from school, making him a snack and keeping an eye on him until Mom came home.
Mom couldn't always be reached by phone, so she made sure we had neighbours and friends to contact in emergencies. They also helped out a lot by babysitting, taking us kids for outings and buying Mom groceries until she achieved financial stability. Thanks to their help -- and mine -- she was able to go back to school, get an entry-level job in a good company, and work her way up.
Mom is now remarried to a wonderful man, has an executive-level job and a fantastic life. The divorce is the best thing that ever happened to her. Her hard work inspired me and my brother, and we are both university-educated professionals. (And we do have a relationship with Dad).
My advice to the neighbour is help out, like our neighbours did, and offer to be there in case of emergency. Do not judge, because you don't know the circumstances. By helping out, this neighbour could be part of a great success story. -- Former Babysitter
Dear Former Babysitter: Thanks for taking the time to share your family and neighbourhood success story. Single parents can certainly do with help from neighbours and friends, if it's needed. What you did for your family was heroic and beautiful.
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Winnipeg, R2X 3B6.