DEAR ABBY: I'm recently divorced. We have two wonderful children ages 6 and 11. I try to spend as much time with them as possible because it's important to me, even if it means spending time with my ex-wife.

The woman I am dating is also divorced. She has a bad relationship with her ex and doesn't think I should spend any time with my ex, even if it's for the sake of the kids. An example: My daughter's birthday is coming up, and it is my ex's day with the kids. However, we will be going out for a birthday dinner, and my girlfriend doesn't think I should go.

I'm not torn about going to dinner. I am torn about how to deal with the new girlfriend regarding my relationship with my kids and ex-wife. Any suggestions? — JEFF IN MICHIGAN

DEAR JEFF: Yes, and I sincerely hope you will take this to heart. What you have described is a huge red flag. Lose this girlfriend now. She appears to be both selfish and insecure, and she will worsen your relationship with your ex and destroy your relationship with your children if she can.

 

DEAR ABBY: My partner and I have a long, loving relationship. But there's always been this one little problem. When we're out in public, I ask him to "please pull up your pants" and "please not put your hand down your pants." He gets upset that I call him out on it, but it's embarrassing for me, and I feel like it should be for him, too. How can I stop him from letting his pants be a problem? (They are nice slacks with button, zipper and belt!) — JANE DOE IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR JANE DOE: Buy your partner a pair of suspenders and insist that he wear them when he's out in public with you. (It should lessen his need to put his hand down his pants, a habit that should have been "discouraged" before he entered kindergarten.)

 

DEAR ABBY: My wife and I are expecting. We were both raised Catholic, but neither of us feels any affinity for the church or its teachings anymore. We had a Catholic wedding more for others (primarily family) than for ourselves.

The question is, do we have our baby baptized? Neither of us really wants to, but we're afraid of the reaction from our families. We would just go along with it, but if we do, it means getting involved with a religious group we care little for, and worse, lying about it. What do we do? — DO WE OR DON'T WE

DEAR DO WE OR DON'T WE: You and your wife are both adults. How you choose to raise your child should not be dictated by anyone but yourselves. If you choose not to baptize your offspring in the Catholic religion, then "to thine own selves be true." If your child later decides to adopt a Christian religion, he or she can be baptized then.

 

DEAR ABBY: I have a friend who lived in my home most of the time for about six years. During that period, she rented out rooms in her house. She paid her bills, and I paid mine, but I covered her living off me. At the time, it didn't bother me much because I could afford it, although I would have preferred to save that money.

I have since sold that house and bought my dream retirement home in another state. Now, I stay with her, and her renters have moved out. It's unpleasant sometimes because when she gets drunk she accuses me of using her. (It's true, I am.) Is it OK to use her by staying in her home without really liking her much? I feel it's my turn to leech, and I'd like to stick it out until I retire in about a year. — WAITING TO MOVE

DEAR WAITING: It's OK with me as long as it's OK with you. But don't kid yourself. You're not living there rent-free. Tolerating an unpleasant drunk is the price you're paying, and only you can determine whether it's worth it.

 

DEAR ABBY: I'm originally from another country and have been living in the U.S. for about a decade. Is there a rule of etiquette for kids' play dates?

Quite often, I have invited my child's school friends or the neighbor children to my home for play dates, but their parents never return the courtesy. If my child wants to keep having play dates with those children, should I continue inviting them?

I sometimes feel I could be making the parents uncomfortable, but I feel my child's socialization is more important than what the other parents might think. Am I setting myself up for abuse from those other parents by sending the message that I don't mind always being the host? — CONFUSED MOTHER

DEAR CONFUSED: Kudos to you for helping your child to socialize and inviting the children into your home. However, not all parents feel as comfortable as you do about having children over, or are as able to do so. Whether or not you are being taken advantage of, I can't say. But perhaps it's better that you have the children in your home where you can observe and supervise what's going on than they be someplace where you can't.

 

DEAR ABBY: Ten months ago, I searched for my birth mother and made contact. We corresponded via letters. She was terminally ill and preferred to keep me a secret from her children. I understood her feelings and respected her wishes.

She passed away last month, and her husband sent a letter notifying me. My question is: How long should I wait before reaching out to my siblings? — REACHING OUT IN MAINE

DEAR REACHING OUT: Do so at any time you wish, but be prepared for them to be shocked and possibly disbelieving. It would have been better had your birth mother prepared them before her death, but since she didn't, I see no reason why you should remain a guilty secret.