Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Make sure trip free of electronics

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DEAR MISS LONELYHEARTS: I'm an old-fashioned kind of guy, age 38, emailing you an SOS from a hotel on the vacation road trip from hell. I thought it would be like it was with my parents. I thought we would bounce down the secondary roads, wind in our hair, singing songs, eating salmon sandwiches and rice crispy cake, doing puzzles, talking to each other and taking side trips to see interesting things that pop up. Instead we are driving along a highway in silence except for the click-click-click of texting and electronic games belonging to my kids, 10 and 12. My wife is wearing earphones like the kids and is zoned out doing Suduko. It is dead quiet. No one wants to talk, ever. I'd just like to drive to the nearest airport and fly home. Help! -- Miserable Dad on Vacation, near Regina

Dear Miserable: An old-fashioned dad would not take this lying down. He'd make a plan of action, not fly home. Tonight, quietly confiscate all the electronic equipment and lock it in the trunk. As the big tough dad, you will put up with howls and whining for five minutes and then deliver a lecture about how things are going to be different and you are going to show them a real road trip holiday. Be the unashamed alpha dog and show them who is the fun boss of them. Of course, that requires some smart planning and surprises for the day ahead, researched once they're asleep. They'll be tired from fishing, swimming and camping by different lakes, interspersed with the occasional hotel/motel with a pool. Go to real movie houses when it's hot, followed by eating ice creams and blowing off family style fireworks. Start driving early and stop often with time to do daytime cool tourist stuff all along the way. A little computer time before bed is enough to keep in touch. Then it's back in the trunk case after they go to sleep.

Dear Miss Lonelyheats; My wife and I broke up in February but here it is summer and there's only one cabin between us. She has claimed the cabin for all of July because she has primary custody of the kids. She also wants the last week in August. I want to come down to the cabin for the three weeks prior and have made plans with my new girlfriend to do so. The kids told my wife about this and now she's screaming the girlfriend will not be "allowed" in our cabin. Can she do this? We don't have a divorce yet and we only wrote out the separation agreement on a piece of paper. -- Summer Wrecked Already, River Heights

Dear Wrecked: Why are you trying to share a cabin when you're no longer an intact couple? Accept right now that this idea is never going to work -- not this year, not ever. It's also not good for the kids heads to have you bringing a new girlfriend to "their cabin" when your wife is grieving and ranting. You are not yet divorced. By splitting up, you're no longer in the business of sharing anything but the kids and legally splitting the assets. The cabin should go to one of you. So phone a good domestic lawyer today and set up an appointment to negotiate a legal separation and a divorce settlement logically and legally. You two need lawyers because you're toxic exes without a plan, and everybody's suffering because of it.

Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: I know my boss is often golfing when he pretends to be out calling on a client. Yesterday the big boss asked me where my boss was, and I hesitated. He said "Is he golfing/?" and I said, "He didn't tell me that," and my face turned red. What should I do?" -- Rock and a Hard Place, The Maples

Dear Rock: Your immediate boss hasn't chosen to tell you he's golfing, so it's not your fault if the blush gets him in trouble. Do tell him what transpired with the big cheese ASAP and that you blushed because you do know he "sometimes takes clients to the course to do business."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 17, 2010 C10

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