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Dear John: Single Dad - How Do I Handle Daughter’s Adolescence?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


What’s your problem? Write to John at [email protected].

Dear John,

I am a single dad with a wonderful daughter who is on the verge of entering puberty. Her mom, the greatest woman I’ve ever known, passed away several years ago. I feel a little overwhelmed at the thought of my girl having a lot of questions and undergoing so many physical and emotional changes without having a woman in her life to guide her through it. We live in the middle of nowhere and I don’t have any close female friends or relatives nearby. And a lot of it I know in theory but don’t have any inkling of how it works in the real world. I’m at a bit of a loss. Any words of advice?

Good Dad, Not So Good Mom

Dear Good Dad,

As hard as I’m sure it is at times, you mustn’t give your daughter the idea that this is something she needs a mom to help her deal with and that you’re a poor substitute who will just have to muddle through. She will take her cues about this entirely from you, so if you convey to her that you feel overwhelmed (even though that’s completely understandable), she’ll probably feel anxious, but if you treat it matter-of-factly as something you’ll figure out together, she’ll think Dad has it under control.

The first thing you have to do is get very, very comfortable (if you’re not already) talking to your daughter about her body. She will undoubtedly cringe at first, but the more you do it, the easier it will be. Tell her that you’re a man (duh) so you haven’t actually experienced for yourself the changes that puberty brings for a girl, but you know what they are and this is what will happen. (I’m assuming you know these things. If not, it’s all online for you to read about. You have to be able to talk to her in a way that reassures her that you know what you’re talking about.) When you’re done talking with her about how her body will change, let her know that these changes will necessitate some things you’ve just never had to know, like how to use a tampon or how to wear a bra, but you’re going to learn these things together. Then you’re going to have to be creative. Hopefully, your daughter has a doctor she sees regularly, so he or she (or a physician assistant or nurse) can talk with her (and you) about how to use tampons. Perhaps a sympathetic saleswoman in a nearby department store can talk to you both about fitting her for a bra. You don’t have to know all this stuff; she just has to see that you’re not daunted by it and you have a plan to find out the things you don’t know. A lot of being a parent is creating the illusion for our kids that we know what we’re doing. If they only knew!

Dear John,
I am a senior in college. I have a couple of roommates who are good friends – this is the third year we’ve lived together. We’re all women.
A couple of weeks ago the parents of one of my roommates were visiting. I’ve met them briefly before and they seemed nice. I know my roommate gets along with them very well. Well, on this visit, her father hit on me. It was nothing explicitly sexual, but there was no ambiguity in the message either. He didn’t leave himself any room to claim it was a misunderstanding. I was shocked, flustered, stammered something, and left the room.
I was really upset about this at first, but now I’m just angry. He is a very successful and charismatic man, and I imagine he’s used to getting his way. My roommate kind of idolizes him and I feel so bad for her that this guy she thinks is so great is such a jerk. Should I tell her what happened? I am so sick of guys like him thinking they can just do whatever they want and have whatever they want with no one calling them on it or making them own up to their behavior.

Dear Disgusted,
As appalling as your roommate’s father sounds, I don’t think telling her about this will strike a blow against obnoxious narcissists everywhere. More likely, it will just undermine, and possibly destroy, your friendship. Given the choice between believing you and believing Dad’s explanation that you must have misunderstood something he said and maybe his little girl is living with someone who’s a just a wee bit crazy, who do you think she’ll believe? I agree that it’s galling these selfish, self-absorbed men feel like they can get away with anything (because they so often do), but the most I would advise you to do is let him know exactly how you feel about him should he have the temerity to hit on you again.
Dear John,
What do you do when you know a colleague could use some support or encouragement, but you only know because there’s no privacy in the workplace? I work in an open office environment where everyone can hear everyone else’s phone calls because we’re all in cubes or even just sitting together at tables. There’s one woman I don’t really know but she seems nice and I feel sorry for her. She frequently takes phone calls that consist of her trying to mollify or reason with someone who sounds just awful. Her half of the conversation usually consists of her apologizing or listening for long stretches to what I assume is some kind of rant. More than once, she’s hung up with tears in her eyes. I don’t want to butt in or make her uncomfortable with the thought that everyone is eavesdropping, but I want to let her know that I couldn’t help but overhear her and ask her if there’s anything I can do to help. Is that too nosy, though?
Couldn’t Help But Overhear

Dear C.H.B.O.,
There’s a lot here you don’t know: maybe she’s talking to an abusive partner; maybe she’s dealing with a mentally ill parent; maybe she has a sibling or child who takes advantage of her. One thing you do know, though, is that these conversations are upsetting for her. So why not start just by getting to know her a little better? Go out to lunch or go for a walk and give her a chance to open up. As you get to know her, she can decide if she wants to confide in you or not. There’s a chance that these conversations are upsetting while they’re happening, but she doesn’t want to think or talk about them when they’re over. Spending some time with her will let her decide how much she wants to share.

John is a middle-aged family man from Providence, Rhode Island. If you learn from your mistakes, he’s brilliant. Write to him at [email protected].


Related Slideshow: Spring and Summer Music Festivals

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Boston Calling Music Festival


May 23-25

City Hall Plaza

Boston, MA

Boston Calling Music Festival is a three-day, two-stage festival featuring some of the biggest and best acts in live music. The event will be one big party with easy access to both stages, food, services and more. All ages are welcome and children under 10 are free.

Lineup Features:

Jack Johnson

Modest Mouse

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

The Decembrists


Death Cab for Cutie

Tegan & Sara

Brand New

The Neighborhood

Built to Spill

Magic Man

Maximo Park

Walk Off The Earth

The Districts


Kurt Vile and the Violators

Jenny Lewis

Plus More...

Prev Next

Strange Creek Campout


May 23-26

Camp Kee-Wanee

Greenfield, MA

Presented by the Wormtown Trading Company, the Strange Creek Campout features live music, on-site camping, disc golf, yoga, a holistic village, and the Strangers Helping Strangers Food Drive.

Lineup Features:

Rusted Root

Max Creek (2 Shows)

Zach Deputy (2 Shows)

Donna the Buffalo

Ryan Montbleau



Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band

Fungus Amungus

Consider the Source

Plus more…

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Roots on the River


June 5-8

Bellows Falls, VT

Roots on the River is an annual roots music festival featuring 23 sets, 7 shows, 6 venues over 4 days.

Lineup Features:

James McMurtry

Curtis McMurtry

Mary Gauthier

Carolyn Wonderland

JD McPherson

Sean Rowe

Poor Old Shine

Heather Maloney Band

Caitlyn Canty

Hayley Reardon

The Meadows Brothers

Prev Next

Leominster Starburst Festival


June 14 (Rain Date June 15)

Various Locations

Leominster, MA

For a free music festival in Central Massachusetts, check out Leominster’s Starburst, hosted by the Leominster Cultural Council. Everyone in your family will enjoy this day of music and fun, topped off with a firework show in the evening.

Prev Next

Paulie's New Orleans Jazz & Blues Festival 


June 20-22

Canal District

Worcester, MA

Now entering its seventh year, the mission of Paulie's New Orleans Jazz & Blues Festival is to provide quality New Orleans & Louisiana jazz, blues, country, funk & zydeco music & food within an urban setting.

Lineup Features:

Roomful of Blues

Honey Island Swamp Band

Marcia Ball

Little Freddie King

Mem Shannon & The Membership

Bobby Patlauf Band

Big Al Carson & The Blues Masters

Eric Lindell & The Sunliners

Plus more…

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New Bedford Folk Festival


July 5-6

New Bedford Whaling National Park

New Bedford, MA

The New Bedford Folk Festival brings together over 70 renowned and emerging folk performers and 90 juried arts and crafts vendors in New Bedford's authentic historic district during the first weekend in July.

Lineup Features:

Chris Smither

Christine Lavin with Don White

John Gorka

Poor Old Shine

Jonathan Edwards


Vance Gilbert

Bill Harley

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Green River Festival


July 12-13

Greenfield Community College

Greenfield, MA

The Green River Festival is a premier Pioneer Valley Music event that takes place every July. The event attracts national talent, the great local food and fine crafts, and even hot air balloons.

Lineup Features:

Puss'N'Boots Featuring Norah Jones

Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue

Hurray for the Riff Raff

Trampled by Turtles


Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin & The Guilty Ones

The Lone Bellow

Ana Tijoux

James Hunter Six

The Iguanas

Poor Old Shine


The Dirty Dozen Brass Band

Plus More...

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North Atlantic Blues Festival


July 12-13

Public Landing

Rockland, ME

The North Atlantic Blues Festival is an annual two-day blues music festival featuring national blues performers and considered one of the most prestigious on the East Coast.

Lineup Features:

Mr. Sipp

Joe Louis Walker

Jarkeus Singleton

Teeny Tucker

Joanna Connor

Victor Wainwright

Melvin Taylor

C.J. Chener

Jimmy Thackery

In Layman Terms

The Mannish Boys

The Golden State lone Star Review

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Lowell Folk Festival


July 25-27

Various Locations

Lowell, MA

One of the largest free folk festivals in the country, the Lowell Folk Festival attracts thousands of people over three days. The event features traditional music, food, crafts and good vibes.

The Pine Leaf Boys – Cajun

Bud Hundenski & the Corsairs – Polka

James Kelly, Donna Long, & Sean Keane – Irish

Kevin Doyle – Irish Step Dance

Marquise Knox – Blues

Seichi Tanaka & the San Francisco Taiko Dojo – Taiko Dojo Drums

Nikki D & the Browns – Sacred Steel Gospel

Sonny Burgess & the Legendary Pacers – Rockabilly

Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers – Bluegrass

Samba Mapangala & Orchestre Virunga – East African Rumba

E.U. – Go Go

Hassan Hakmoun – Moroccan Gnawa

Seizmos Band – Greek

Thomas Maupin, Daniel Rothwell, & Overall Creek with Kory Posey – Appalchian Buck

Plus More...

Prev Next

Gathering of the Vibes


July 31 - August 3

Seaside Park

Bridgeport, CT

Gathering of the Vibes is an annual music, arts and camping festival now in its 19th year. Vibes has grown into a four-day festival that has featured such world-class talent as Crosby, Stills and Nash; all original members of the Grateful Dead; the Allman Brothers Band; Jane's Addiction; James Brown; the Black Crowes; Buddy Guy; Elvis Costello; George Clinton and P-Funk; Bruce Hornsby; Les Claypool; and many, many more big names, while continuing to showcase extraordinarily talented, young, up-and-coming bands to the 20 thousand people who attend each year.


Lineup Features:

John Fogerty

Rodrigo y Gabriela

Rusted Root

Widespread Panic

Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros


Slightly Stoopid

Maceo Parker

Deep Banana Blackout

Plus more…

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Newport Folk Festival


July 25- 27

Fort Adams State Park

Newport, RI

Folk music has been a presence in Newport since 1959, when the Newport Folk Festival was founded by George Wein. Backed by board members Pete Seeger, Theodore Bikel, Oscar Brand, and Albert Grossman, the Festival became renowned for introducing a number of performers who went on to become major stars, most notably Joan Baez (who appeared as an unannounced guest of Bob Gibson in 1959), and Bob Dylan, whose first Newport appearance, as a guest of Joan Baez in 1963, is generally regarded as his premiere national performance.

Lineup Features:

Deer Tick

Ryan Adams

Nickel Creek

Rodrigo y Gabriela

Jimmy Cliff

Mavis Staples

Band of Horses

Jeff Tweedy

Kurt Vile and the Violators

Conor Oberst

Sun Kill Moon

The Devil Makes Three

Puss N Boots

Plus more...

Prev Next

Newport Jazz Festival


August 1-3

Fort Adams State Park

Newport, RI

Established in 1954, the Newport Jazz Festival begins its 60th year this August, one week after its sister event, the Newport Folk Festival, takes place. The first event was originally billed as "First Annual American Jazz Festival" and featured many notable jazz musicians, including Billie Holiday.

Lineup Features:

Bobby McFerrin

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis

Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue

David Sanborn & Joey DeFrancesco

George Wein & Newport All-Stars

Dee Dee Bridgewater - To Billie With Love

Dave Holland

Dr. John

Gregory Porter

Gary Burton

Robert Glasper

Vijay Iyer

SFJAZZ Collective

Danilo Pérez

Ravi Coltrane

Plus more...

Prev Next

Peacham Acoustic Music Festival


August 15-16

Various Locations

Peacham, VT

The Peacham Acoustic Music Festival is also a blend of the old and the new - roots music from the Celtic traditions, old time fiddle tunes, and a touch of blues and bluegrass - not to mention The Dance. Smoke and alcohol free.

Lineup Features:

Jonathan Edwards

Bob Amos & Catamount Crossing

Carl Jones

Alan Greenleaf & The Doctor

The Bayley-Hazen Boys

Plus many more to be announced…

Prev Next

The White Mountain Boogie & Blues Festival


August 15-17

Sugar Shack Campground

Thornton, NH

Entering it's 18th year, the Boogie and Blues Festival features award-winning blues artists, food vendors, craft vendors, a climbing wall, and many fun activities for children --including Saturday night fireworks.

Lineup Features:

Brandon Santini

Moreland & Arbuckle

Southern Hospitality

Samantha Fish

Jeremiah Johnson

Gracie Curran

Plus many more to be announced…

Prev Next

Rhythm&Roots Festival


August 29-31

Ninigret Park

Charlestown, RI

The 17th Annual Rythym&Roots Festival features award-winning roots music artists on the Main Stage and at two big tented dance floors, plus intimate one-of-a-kind workshops and kids activities.

Featuring The Duhks as the featured host band

2014 Artist Lineup Announcements Coming Soon


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