A Sensitive Problem

By Dr. Robert Wallace

January 4, 2021 5 min read

DR. WALLACE: I have a sensitive problem. I received a Christmas gift, and I don't like it at all! I really want to take it back and exchange it for something more useful to me, but I don't want to hurt my mom's feelings (she's the one who gave it to me). What was the gift? My mom got me a book, and I'm not the least bit interested in reading it.

I want to take back the book and get something different, like a new pair of hiking shoes. Ever since the pandemic hit our nation, there has not been much for us teens to do anymore. We can't see live music shows; we can't go to school dances; we can hardly socialize at all anymore. This truly makes life a drag for my closest friends and me.

Now everyone on television and in the media says it's not safe indoors and that we should spend more time outdoors. So, that's how we decided to get our exercise! We've researched the internet and found all of the good hiking trails in and around our city. We love getting outdoors and hiking together to tell one another stories and have a few laughs while we also get some safe exercise, since our local gym is also still closed.

Do you think it's OK if I take the book back and get some useful hiking shoes? — Practical Teen, via email

PRACTICAL TEEN: The missing element for me is the topic of the book your mother gave you. It may have had sentimental value to her (or potentially you!), and in such a case, it would not be wise to ask to return it. It could also have been on a topic your mother, as a diligent parent, might feel is relevant and important to you and your life right now, so this would be another instance I would lean on the side of keeping — and reading — the book. I think you should keep the gift your mother gave you and read the book.

If, however, the book was simply on a general topic that had no emotional or practical ties like I outlined above, then I would agree trading in the book for some hiking shoes would make sense.

In this instance, you'll have to think about why your mother gave you this particular book and make your decision accordingly.

I do agree you would benefit from some hiking shoes in either case. If you have an allowance or an opportunity for a part-time job, perhaps you could ask for an advance on your allowance or permission to work somewhere to earn enough money to buy the hiking shoes. I trust your mother will help you find a way to get some hiking shoes, even if you keep and read that book.


DR. WALLACE: I'm a good kid. At least, I was a good kid for a long time growing up. A while back, I started making things up right off of the top of my head in order to become popular at school. They started out as little lies, like that I had been to places that I had never been to before or that I'd met famous people that I never met before. Unfortunately, now it is second nature for me to lie about anything and everything when I want attention. I don't know why I keep doing it anymore, since I've already made friends with many popular kids who now think I'm cool.

Stopping these lies is now my resolution for the new year of 2021. I want to stop lying and go back to the person I was before all of the lying washed over me and soaked seemingly every conversation I have nowadays. I'm hoping maybe you could tell me how to best make this change? — Too Many Lies, via email

TOO MANY LIES: Writing to me here is a good start. You've taken the important first step, and I encourage you to build upon this momentum in order to stop lying entirely.

Be honest with yourself, and take things one day at a time. Keep a journal, a log or even a small calendar, and check off each day that you avoid telling any lies. Once you get on a streak of such days, I believe you'll feel pride start to come back into your mind. You said you were a good kid at one time, and underneath it all, you absolutely still are a good kid.

Set an initial goal of going three full days without telling a single lie. Once you achieve that, aim for a full week, then two weeks and then a month. Do set these future goals, but stay in the moment each day, and guard your newly recovered integrity at all costs. If you do this, I trust you'll soon feel much better about yourself and your life will be much easier and enjoyable each day.

Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: StockSnap at Pixabay

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