Dear Amy:

I am a single mom taking care of my 15-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son.

I work full time and take care of my house and yard.

A 63-year-old couple live down the street. They pay my son to do their lawn work.

This couple is semi-retired. The wife is a homemaker, and the husband a college teacher.

They are adopting a 12-year-old boy who lives in a foster home. He has been at their home for a few weekends.

This couple has recently become extremely friendly with my family and me. Over a recent school vacation, my children and I went away. The day we got back, the wife sent the adoptive boy over to my house to play with my son.

The wife said to me, "We have had this boy all week!" She said they needed "a break," that she can't relax in her own home, and that she was so glad we were back because we could help her with the boy.

This week she called and told me that she wanted to work out a deal with me. After the adoptive son's move-in, he would be taking care of the lawn work, so she wanted to change my son's lawn work to baby-sitting. They have a wedding to attend two days after he moves in, and every month they have dinner and book-club meetings and activities, and they need my son or daughter to baby-sit at my home.

She wants to work out a schedule with me; they would pay my children to baby-sit, and she would need me to be around to make sure everything is going okay. I told her that I will not allow my children to baby-sit, and that I am a single mom and don't have the time to fit their needs into my schedule. This couple didn't take it well. Any suggestions?

Worried Single Mom

My main concern is for this young boy, who deserves better than to be placed with people who clearly are in over their heads as prospective parents. What can they (and the agency placing the boy) possibly be thinking?

Surely you share these concerns. As a parent, you know how challenging adolescent boys can be, and I can imagine that this particular boy needs tons of love, attention and support from people who are completely committed to him. Also, as he grows into his teen years, he is going to challenge this couple in ways they cannot even imagine. They just do not get it -- on a grand scale.

They have identified you as a responsible, experienced parent, so if they come back with more "baby-sitting" schemes, you should share your view that they aren't prepared to be full-time parents. You should suggest that they speak with their social worker to explore "respite" options; their social worker might also set them up with other adoptive parents who can mentor them through this transition period. I'm sure they won't take that well, but they need to reconsider their ability to be parents to this boy.

Dear Amy:

I am 14. A few days ago my friend, who is also 14, asked me to go to the mall with her and a group of girls we are both close with. There would be no adult supervision.

I asked my mom and dad if I could go. They said no, and I was devastated. They said that they trusted me but don't trust other people. I say, "Yeah, right."

I wish I could go.

Do you have any tips on how to persuade my parents to let me go to the mall without them?

Mature at the Mall

If you were my daughter, I'd want for you to have plenty of practice handling yourself before I dropped you off for an unsupervised group activity.

You can see if your folks will agree to a movie drop-off outing with your friends. If that goes well, ask if they will take you and your friends to the mall and let you hang out together while they shop or do errands, with a definite pickup time.

Your parents might feel more comfortable if you host these events with them involved, even at a distance. This way they will see that you can be responsible and they won't have to worry about trusting strangers.

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