DR. WALLACE: I live with my parents, my grandmother and two younger brothers. Whenever I do something my grandmother disapproves of, she always tells my mother: "You should blame Janet. She's the oldest child and older children are self-centered and usually brats." It's like she thinks I'm doing things just because I'm the oldest child. To be perfectly honest, my two younger brothers are much, much bigger brats than I am, and they prove this on a daily basis around our house.
Please tell me that firstborns are not always brats. I want to show my giggling granny your answer. Personally, I think my grandmother is fonder of guys than girls. I think this because she seems to always "cover" for my little brothers and never thinks their behavior is too bad, even when they are truly out of control. When I ask granny why she's never upset with these little brats, she just giggles and says " Well, they don't bother me, so why are you so bothered?" Ugh! — Janet, Springfield, Missouri
JANET: "Brats" are distributed equally throughout sibling birth order and gender. But what you really need to tell your grandmother is that "brat" is very much a subjective — and often unfair — term. One family's brat could be another family's marvelous little independent thinker! And as to Granny's giggling? Try to remember the next good clean joke you hear at school and tell it to granny when you get home. Her giggling will be easier to take when you're in control of it!
I DOUBT THAT HE IS SERIOUS
DR. WALLACE: I'm 19 and a high school graduate, and I have a job working for an insurance company. I am dating a guy in the office who is quite a bit older than I am. He is the first guy I have fallen in love with. He is my true love, and I would like to have a "serious" relationship with him that could lead to us getting married. But he said that marriage is out of the question because he has been married and divorced twice and he won't get married again. But he says that he loves me and wants to keep our relationship strong. He also said that there might come a time when we can live together.
I'm not positive if he loves me or if he's just using me. We are very sexually active. I'm confused and don't know what to do. There are times I feel like I should look elsewhere for love, and there are times I think I could change his mind regarding marriage. Your advice will be appreciated. — Anonymous, Summerlin, Nevada
ANONYMOUS: I honestly believe this guy is using you and will do anything possible, short of marriage, to keep you for his satisfaction.
End the relationship and continue looking for your true love. This guy says that he loves you, but I doubt that he is serious.
THANKS FOR SHARING
DR. WALLACE: One last word on forced music lessons — parents often insist, even when a child doesn't enjoy the experience. I have three daughters, and the one in the middle is now a music teacher. In the fourth grade, she signed herself up for piano lessons at school and came home with a cardboard keyboard.
Soon, my husband and I rented a piano to see if she was indeed serious about her music. She was, so we then purchased the piano and found an excellent piano teacher. Our middle daughter flourished. Music has always played an important role in her life and always will.
Her two well-adjusted and happy sisters had, and still have, no interest in the piano (even though they have had the same opportunities), and I doubt seriously that they ever will.
Should parents demand that their children take music lessons? The answer is a resounding yes — but only if the desire and talent is evident. If not, forget it. — Musical Mother, Stillwater, Oklahoma
MUSICAL MOTHER: You are a very wise parent. Thanks for sharing your views with our teen readers and all who follow this column. Your firsthand experience provides a good template for other parents (and teens) to consider.
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.