DEAR MISS LONELYHEARTS: Our situation is quite similar, yet very different to the single mom with three kids "left to their own devices" while mom works. (The 13-year-old looks after the younger children, and the baby is only one year old).
My stepdaughter's boyfriend lives with us while they both finish school. About a month ago, his ex-partner decided to move out west, and we "inherited" his five kids, ages four to 13. Was it a challenge? Yes, it was, and still is. Among other issues (there was zero discipline before they moved in here), the eldest was forced to parent the four younger kids. Now that she doesn't have that responsibility, she's lost for a purpose. She literally does not know how to be a teenager.
My wife and I were under no obligation at all to help out. These five children are not related to us in any way, shape or form, other than being the children of our potential son-in-law. My legal relationship is only with my wife.
But, how could we not help? The birth mother decided she was going west, and for whatever reason, decided not to take her kids. We went from a quiet, peaceful house of four adults to a madhouse of nine overnight.
And you know something? I wouldn't change it for all the tea in China. These kids now have everything they need, a stable home environment, and the ability to just be kids. -- Stepping Up, Winnipeg
Dear Stepping Up: I don't often get tears in my eyes reading my letters, but I am touched by your bravery. You and your wife deserve a medal. Best of luck to the nine of you.
Now, please see a lawyer (along with the kids' dad) to make the necessary moves to protect against the dropout mom from coming back on a whim and collecting the children she abandoned. They finally have a real home and family and should not be ripped away from that.
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: This is for the distressed woman whose dog waits to go back in the house to finish pooping. One mistake many people make when house-training is to either end the walk or go back inside immediately after the puppy defecates. The pup then associates having a BM with the "punishment" of having her fun end and will hold it in to stay outside as long as possible. The silly human gets frustrated with waiting while nothing happens and then takes puppy back in, where she ends up answering the call of nature. House-training would be much more successful if the completion of a "jobbie" was rewarded with an extra play session or another walk around the block. -- Helping Poopy Puppy, Winnipeg
Dear Helping: Thanks for the tip. House-training a puppy is psychological and this could be the key for our distressed new owner. Once the puppy is trained, the owner is happier and less uptight and that makes for a happier, more co-operative puppy when it's the right time to let loose.
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: I hate my nasty neighbour and have decided to build a fence. She said she won't pay half and that if my fence is one inch over her property she will sue me. What should I do? -- Grudge Fence, West End
Dear Grudge: Explain to the fence-builders that this is a grudge fence and what the special problem is with this woman. They will have seen this situation before and will know what to do. You and she need to agree on the property line ahead of time (you will need papers of proof). Get her to sign off on the agreed line so she can't come back on you. And then, you build a few inches in on your side, to make sure there's no problem. Inside the fence, you can even plant pyramidal cedars that block some of the sound and will grow higher than the fence. Bye-bye, bad neighbour.
Please send your questions or comments c/o firstname.lastname@example.org or mail letters to Miss Lonelyhearts c/o Winnipeg Free Press, 1355 Mountain Ave., Winnipeg, R2X 3B6.