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Make most of time with son

Dear Carolyn: My son is only 4 1/2 , but he spends every morning at school plus 40 percent of his other time with his dad (we're split). I'm starting to feel like I don't know him anymore, and I don't even know how to re-bond with him. He really just wants to play with friends and doesn't want his mother.

-- Anonymous

A: By my count, then, he spends 60 percent of his time out of school -- afternoons and weekends, right? -- with you. Which means that if proximity is knowledge, you still know him better than anyone else does.

Of course it's more complicated than that -- kids have preferences, after all. But they have developmental phases, too, so their preferences can change as they grow, as you change, as circumstances shift. Meanwhile, you can expect to be in this child-rearing gig full time for 18-plus years, and on an on-call basis in perpetuity after that. So any talk of "re-bonding" is premature.

You can bring two things to your relationship with your son that he can't: patience and perspective. Be with him, listen to him, take pleasure in him and give your fears a chance to resolve themselves.

Also, if that's really despair tinting your brief letter, versus just melodrama, then it's possible you're depressed -- which can disrupt bonding unlike any joint-custody agreement. Please consider getting screened.

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Go with the moment

Dear Carolyn: I'm 25.

And a virgin.

And I plan to stay a virgin until I'm married.

I'm not even entirely sure why. It just feels appropriate to me. I'm not religious so it's seemed pretty out-of-the-blue, according to some exes.

I don't want to introduce myself "Hi, I'm not gonna have sex with you." But I also don't want to lead people on.

When do I let people in on my decision? Third date, second base ?

-- Not a Tease (Really!)

A: Bigger question (isn't it always): When do you let the people you date in on who you are?

I'd say there are as many answers to this as there are people, but, really, it changes with every pairing. You feel more open with some dates than with others, right? Conversations have lives of their own.

And since your virginity seems to have a life of its own (I find it oddly refreshing, by the way, that you can't explain your own reasoning), I think scheduling your revelations in advance is a virtual guarantee of bad timing. So is letting your virginity define you.

You chose virginity by reading yourself. Now, choose to reveal it by reading the person and reading the moment. What you're looking for, of course, is something none of us reads with 100 percent accuracy: trust. We see it best, though, when we realize that's what we need.

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Hurt by Dad's comment

Dear Carolyn: A few weeks ago, in an email my dad didn't think I would see, he made a snarky comment about my unmarried status (he didn't know if he'd ever get to plan a daughter's wedding ). When he saw I had received it, he sent a quick "I didn't mean it!" email. He was out of the country, so I said no big deal.

But it is. It was mean and uncalled for. Now I feel like all the to-my-face talk of being really proud of me and knowing I shouldn't settle, etc., is a sham, and all he thinks when he looks at me is: "There's my unmarried 29-year-old daughter." Now I just got dumped and have to go to my 21-year-old cousin's wedding, solo, with my parents. I don't know if I should say something, let it roll off or what.

-- Washington

A: It hasn't rolled off, so don't pretend it has. When a moment presents itself, tell Dad exactly what you said so well here: You're not only hurt, but also questioning his sincerity.

As for the cousin's wedding, feh. Single and 29 is hardly an exotic bird. Your dad may not believe it himself, but he was right that you shouldn't settle.