DEAR ABBY: My youngest son, “Trent,” is 17. At a very early age it became apparent that he was a gifted athlete. Years of stellar performance in baseball and other sports have elevated him to a high social status – and it has created a rift between us.

Trent has become unmanageable. He regards my influence, direction and discipline to be nothing more than a daily hindrance. Somewhere in the sports mania, I lost control as a father.

As his only parent (and support), I wonder how many other parents are really aware of the crushing burden and peer pressure these young people experience in the quest for athletic perfection. I have and always will support my son’s goals, but I see a disassociation with reality while he revels in his status. A college scholarship is a given.

Is my issue unique? Do you have any advice for me? – SPORTS DAD DOWN SOUTH

As a single parent, watching his last child getting ready to leave the nest, your situation is far from unique. You have devoted the last 17 years to your son’s welfare, and now that he is nearing adulthood you feel him slipping away. There comes a point when parents have to start trusting that the values they have instilled in their offspring are deeply rooted enough to guide them in the right direction in the coming years.

You cannot supervise and influence your son much more than you already have. So my advice is to keep the lines of communication open and to start letting go. Life will teach him lessons that will bring him back down to earth eventually.

DEAR ABBY: I’m 29, and my girlfriend, “Mia,” is 25. We have been in a committed relationship for 10 months. A few weeks into our relationship I noticed that every time Mia was relaxing or riding in the car, she would suck her thumb. When she spends the night with me, she brings her baby blanket.

Mia used to be discreet about the thumb-sucking, but now she openly does it in front of my parents and our friends. She also sucks her thumb in front of her parents. From time to time they try to correct her, but when they do, she yells at them to “get off her back.” When I mention it, she becomes upset and defensive and says she sees no reason to stop.

I care about Mia and don’t want to hurt her, but friends and family have asked me about her habit. Is this just a bad habit or a sign of something else? – LEFT WONDERING IN SEATTLE

Mia’s thumb-sucking may be her way of relieving stress, or it could be a symptom of an underlying emotional disorder. However, if this is the way your girlfriend talks to her parents, you should recognize that it is also a sign of what you may have to look forward to in the future – so be warned.

DEAR ABBY: I have a friend who leaves full bottles of liquor on her kitchen table for days at a time. She has an 8-year-old son who eats at the table. Is this good for the boy, or can it affect him in any way? I need to know if I should say something. – RUTH IN DAYTONA BEACH

DEAR RUTH: Unless you have reason to think that your friend’s son is sampling the booze, I see no reason for you to interfere. You did say they were FULL bottles of liquor, didn’t you?

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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