DEAR AMY: My husband and I recently decided to start a family. I'm extremely excited, but nervous at the same time. I've been thinking about how I would like to raise my children, and although I love my parents, I don't want to raise my children the way they raised me.
My parents always put their needs before mine, and I very much resent them. You always hear that no matter how much you try not to, you always end up like your parents. I'm really worried about this. I want to be the best mom I can be, and I don't want my children to have a childhood like mine.
I'm scared that when they reach my age, my kids will have the same terrible relationship that I have with my folks. I'd like some suggestions on how to prevent this.
— Wannabe Mommy
DEAR WANNABE: You are right to realize that how your parents raised you will influence your own choices. You are wrong to think that you are somehow destined to repeat their mistakes, however.
Being a thoughtful parent means that you will sometimes make choices based on your negative experiences and that you will deliberately establish a different way of being in a family.
Don't overthink this. Parenthood unfolds one day at a time. Each and every day you have the opportunity to make choices and then self-correct, if necessary, and your children will help to show you the way.
DEAR AMY: I am a 56-year-old empty nester. My next-door neighbor is a stay-at-home mom with an 11- and 16-year-old.
We have become good friends. She will ask for my help in walking her dogs or transporting her children if she has a doctor's appointment or if they're going away. I never say "no" because I am happy to help.
Recently she texted me and asked if I could walk the dogs at noon and then take her 16-year-old to basketball practice and then take her home after. She didn't say why she needed my help, and I didn't ask.
I have subsequently learned that she went to a 15-hour movie marathon. I am particularly upset that she chose sitting in a movie theater over leaving her younger child alone, after dark, for three hours while his sister was at basketball practice (dad was working late).
Am I being overly sensitive and unreasonable for feeling duped and used — or should I just forget about it?
DEAR PERPLEXED: Like most pinch-hitting caregivers, you assume that if you are being asked to fill in, the reason must be a "good" one. But I also assume that if your neighbor had said, "I know it sounds silly, but I really want to see 'Twilight 1-7' at the mall. Can you fill in while I do that?" you might have happily agreed.
It's a question of her taking advantage of your willingness to help, while not trusting you with her silly truth. You are probably also wondering if you have an actual friendship with someone who is treating you like "the nice doormat next door."
Your neighbor likely knows she's pushed it; that's why she didn't tell you the truth about where she was going. You should say to her, "I felt a little dumb carting the kids around while you were at a movie marathon, because I assumed it was more urgent. I wish you had told me what your plans were."
It's also OK for you to say "no."
DEAR AMY: In response to the letter from "Annoyed Hockey Player" about an obnoxious mom, most organized sports require parents and athletes to sign codes of conduct.
This mother's behavior, while sadly very common, flies in the face of appropriate behavior and breaches the code. It's a frustration to me and to other parents while we sit in the stands with these blowhards. Coaches coach. Spectators cheer. Refs need to throw the bums out.
— Soccer Mom
DEAR MOM: I'm reminded of Sarah Palin's priceless quote: "The difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick." I agree that coaches and refs should take a firm stand.
Send questions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Amy Dickinson's memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.