Fathers (6/15/05)

Dear Zelda,

My question concerns my dad. When he was in high school he played football, basketball, and baseball and he was a star. My problem is that I'm not athletic, a fact he often points out to me in a negative way. When he introduces me he says, "This is my son. He's not an athlete, but he's smart." Then he laughs. This embarrasses me and makes me feel so bad that now I avoid him and close myself in my room when I come home from school. I want to please him but fear I will never be able to. Any ideas on how I can make him proud of me?

Not A Jock

Dear Not a Jock,

Your dad needs to get out of the clone zone. If he really wanted a Mini Me he should have stayed in the laboratory ­ with Dr. Frankenstein!
People keep trying to clone animals. Can you blame them for wanting a world full of Zeldas? But your mom and dad brought you to life as a brand-new creation. You are your own person, with your own strengths and talents, even your own smile. You are an original.

Parents often project onto their children, wanting to see their kids relive their own past glories while becoming "childaholics" in the process. They may be well-meaning, but it is kind of selfish. After all, it's your life and it sounds to me like you've got your own glories ahead, but in the classroom, not on the playing field. I can relate. "Fetch" isn't even a game I can qualify for, let alone play. However I've found my own game... in front of a camera. Find something you're good at and go for it.

Also, I think it might be a good idea to talk with your mom about this. You need someone to go to bat for you. (That's language your dad will understand!) Ask her or a trusted adult friend to talk to your dad about your feelings. I hope that soon he'll be saying, "This is my son. He's terrific and smart and I couldn't be prouder!"

Zelda

Dear Zelda,

My sweet wonderful father is in his 80's and this past year has been in, and was the cause of, two car accidents. I've suggested that he shouldn't be driving any more, but he won't give up his keys. My big concern is that he may seriously injure someone including himself. What can I do?

Driven to Distraction

Dear Driven,

Your question takes me back to the first time I romped (okay, waddled) with other pups at my local dog park, a fenced area where dogs can play. No leash, no owner on my heels - it was pure freedom! That's what your darling dad feels behind the wheel of his car. Driving gives him independence and freedom. When you talk to him about taking that away, it's scary for him.

If he refuses to give up the keys, change your conversation. Stop talking about ending his driving days and instead mention ways he can make driving safer, for him and for others on the road. For starters, he can stop driving at night. Staying off the freeway is a good idea, too. Persuade him to drive only to familiar locations close to home, preferably with a passenger (a second set of eyes!). For places farther away, encourage him to take the bus or a cab. Check out AARP's web site (www.aarp.org) for their driver safety programs. Perhaps he'll consent to a refresher course to sharpen his skills.

If all else fails and you still fear for his safety, call your department of motor vehicles and explain the situation. Considering your dad's accidents, they just might revoke his license. That will solve that problem. Then all you'll have to do is convince him of the beauty of busing or of the time saving advantages of a taxi! He can still have his freedom while leaving the driving to someone else.


Zelda

Dear Zelda,

My female Labrador had a litter of 5 puppies. I decided to keep one of the male puppies. Now he is six months old and his mother is about to go into heat. Do I need to worry about him accidentally becoming the dad of her next litter? What should I do?

Worried

Dear Worried,

Whoa baby!

Don't mess with mama.

I repeat, Never Let Your Male Pup Mess With Mom!

We dogs are pretty much ruled by instinct ­ especially the males! Since male dogs are fertile at the tender age of six months, even puppies don't think straight when a nearby female is in heat. Your little guy's going to feel a basic urge to do his instinctual thing and mate as soon as circumstance allows.

Your job is to keep that circumstance from happening. Keep the two dogs separated while she is in heat. Although she'll probably be fertile for only the second week of her 21-day estrus, better safe than sorry, so keep them far apart. And unless your puppy has a future as a stud dog, you might want to get him neutered.

In the "Life Ain't Fair" department, female dogs go into heat only two times a year, but starting from just six months, and sometimes a bit earlier, male dogs, maybe male anythings, are ready to mate any minute of the night or day. So, unless you're willing to chance an unwanted litter for your female, not to mention a major Oedipus complex for your puppy, get those two apart now!

Zelda