DEAR AMY: My wife and I think it might be a good idea to let our 10-year-old son explore the city in which we live. What do you think of this? Is it even legal? If it is, how far can he stray?*
— Daring Dad
DEAR DAD: It depends on where you live. When you ask how far your son can stray, the answer is, he can stray very, very far. And that presents challenges.
Many 10-year-olds and their classmates take public transportation to and from school. They confidently ride the subway; walk home from the bus stop; run out to the corner store to get a loaf of bread.
But should you let your 10-year-old "explore the city"?
No, certainly, if he has no experience navigating short distances on his own.
This is best handled in stages. First you send him on a little errand down the block. Tell him you'll meet him in an hour at a predetermined place.
Run various scenarios with him as you walk with him through town. Let him take you on an exploratory trip during which he makes all of the choices and handles all of the transactions without your help.
When my daughter was young and we lived in Washington, D.C., we got to know many of the shopkeepers on our block. By the time she was 10, she could go on her own down the block. This is a great way to build confidence and problem-solving skills. By age 12, she was riding public transportation on her own.
Raising an adventurous, confident and savvy child can be nerve-wracking at times, but parents should foster independence. I wish more parents would let their children off the leash earlier in life.
I enjoy the writing on the website freerangekids.com, where parents communicate about this sort of issue. You should check it out.
DEAR AMY: My boyfriend and I have been together for almost four years. He moved into my home two years ago. His two grown children still do not greet me when we meet or include me in conversations. I have had them to my home countless times, but they still leave me in the kitchen by myself. I understand they want to visit with their dad, but there is no small talk with me unless I initiate it, and then I get one-word answers.
I have given his two grandchildren gifts for birthdays and holidays, and I have never received even a verbal thank-you from the parents.
His closest buddy does the same thing to me. We see him fairly frequently — not once has he greeted me.
I always say "hello" and use his name. He will pointedly ignore me. He has also been to my home for dinner and treats me the same there. It's not because he is shy with women; he has quite a number of female friends.
When this happens, I start seething inside, wondering why my boyfriend doesn't see this and try to include me.
Are these people just rude? I can't speak to my boyfriend about this because he will become angry and defend his family and good friend, saying that I am just imagining it.
— Alone in a Group
DEAR ALONE: These people are rude. And your boyfriend is the leader of the pack. No one who loved you would stand by while others ignored you or basically negated your very existence. No one who loved you would intimidate you into staying silent about something that bothered you.
It's a good thing that your guy has so many loyal friends and family members — perhaps they will take him in when you ask him to move on.
DEAR AMY: I am responding to the letter from "Wanting to Move On." The writer's mother tried to insert herself into their decision to terminate a pregnancy for medical reasons.
You said that the mother's position was a "matter of conscience." Using one's religious or moral beliefs to guide one's own decisions is a matter of conscience. Using one's religious or moral beliefs to try to make someone else's decisions is just bullying.
— Zero Tolerance for Bullies
DEAR ZERO: I agree.
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.