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Wanting things to get serious

Dear Carolyn: I've been dating a guy for about four months now. He is the single dad of a gaggle of children; his ex-wife died about a year ago. It's been hard finding time to get together, since he feels he should be there for dinner and putting them to bed every night. I think it's great he's devoted, but sometimes I think it's a way to keep things from getting more serious.

I would like to suggest getting together somewhere with his kids. But I am not a parent, and I need another perspective to know if this is unreasonable.

-- Dating a dad

A: I suppose it's reasonable to want more time with him and to see including the kids as the means to that end. But it's way more reasonable for this father to use his devotion as a sturdy set of brakes on getting more serious. The kids are reason enough for him to move glacially, but their mother's fairly recent death screams for added caution.

Girlfriends come and go, and breakups can strain even kids who aren't already grieving. Maybe you are there to stay, but you can't possibly know that yet, nor can he. And he doesn't just need to like and trust you enough to get serious; he needs to see whether he can trust you to be good for his kids (i.e., make them your priorities). You're already balking, after your first audition.

So. Please either embrace the pace or rethink the guy. It isn't about you, can't be, and won't be for years. It's not wrong to want to be a man's priority; it's just wrong to stay with this guy if that's what you want from him.

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Camping trip is stressful

Dear Carolyn: Every year for the past 15 years, my extended family has gone on a camping trip. My mother is the organizer and loves this trip. Since it's a rustic site, lots of work goes into the trip that my parents handle.

Every year, some new family member wants to come. It never fails that these new visitors rely on my parents to help them bring their stuff to the site, cook their food, clean up their dishes, watch their kids/dogs, etc. This makes the trip stressful for my mom, and every year, she asks me what to tell people who announce their intentions to come. She has a hard time saying no. I am OK with telling people they aren't invited but am worried her siblings will get upset.

-- Anonymous

A: Since you're ready to vote these people off the island, why not try going halfway first and raise the bar to entry?

"Great, we'd love to have you there! I'll send you the manifesto so you can get started on your plans."

Said manifesto will cover what is expected of everyone. Newcomers can decide for themselves: Arrive informed or think better of coming along. Encourage Mom to stick to it, too.

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