DEAR MISS LONELYHEARTS: I'm so mad at my cousin for racking up my phone bill. He hasn't got a cent to pay me. He's been couch-surfing at my house and calling his friends in B.C. when he's drinking and staying on the phone for long periods of time -- 47 minutes for one call. And now he wants money for a bus ticket to Kenora to see other relatives (and leech off of them) but I said I'm not giving him another cent! He's also eating me out of house and home and he always wants to use my car. I'm sick of seeing him on my couch sleeping in the morning while I go to work, but he's my cousin and I can't throw him out. I can't stand him, but I still love him deep down, if you know what I mean. He used to be a good guy. -- City Cousin, Winnipeg
Dear Cousin: Getting stubborn about bus ticket money is a mistake. Spend another $40 to buy him a one-way ticket to Kenora and bus fare to the depot, so he can stay with other relatives. Think about it. It's a great deal for you. Then you wave goodbye to the extra grocery money, the gas for the car, the wear and tear on your sofa -- and your nerves. Once he's safely in Kenora, let him know you wish him the best, but he's not coming back as a visitor. If you think he's taken a key with him, spend a little more money to change the locks. Unless he gets a job there and becomes independent, the relatives will tire of him quickly, and he may try to come back to live at your place. Parasites are impossible to get rid of if they can find a way in.
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: My kid just came home and said he wants to quit regular school and be home-schooled. He said this all last year, too. I am a former teacher and could do this, I guess, but really don't want to. I have a home business and I like having my own space in the daytime. Selfish? Maybe. I have told him he can transfer schools but he doesn't want to go to another school. He says they all "stink." He's a very intelligent boy with a high IQ and he's a free thinker. He doesn't have a lot of kids smart enough to keep up with him at school. He is mostly "bored crazy" (as he calls it) at school. I'm worried if he quits regular school about his lack of social life and that he'll veg out on the computer, get fatter, and be lonely and unhealthy. I was wondering if some of your readers might have home-schooled their kids and how it worked out. -- Unenthusiastic Mom, Winnipeg
Dear Mom: Regular school isn't for everybody. I used to be a teacher, and I can honestly say that. Sit down with your son and ask him to list specifically everything he hates about school. Don't argue with anything. Keep saying in an encouraging voice, "What else?" Then take the list and say, "I'll give all this careful study and thought, and get back to you with some ideas." Be sure to ask him outright if he's being teased or physically threatened or hurt at school. Ask him about friends and teachers and classmates. Get the whole picture before you say no to his request. You may want to find him an alternative school, or tutors, or online school or a combination. (It doesn't necessarily mean you have to do all the teaching.) If he's as intelligent as you say, he may happily work his way through a couple of grades in one year. Keep your mind and your heart open. Talk to guidance counsellors, research all the alternatives. Other sources of friends can be found in sports or clubs that reflect his interests if he's home-schooled. You will rest easy when your son is in a learning situation he really enjoys. This is the crossroads -- the time of his life when you can really help and make a difference. I encourage readers to write in with their experiences for you.
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