Dear Margo: When You Don’t Owe A Child Free Rein

How can I get my teenage daughter to stop seeing an older man with a rap sheet? Margo Howard’s advice

When You Don’t Owe a Child Free Rein

Dear Margo: Our daughter got a job at a local pizza place when she was 16. She is now 17 and a senior in high school. While working there, she met a 29-year-old man we’ve come to find has been convicted on two drug charges, an assault charge and a theft charge. While lying to us about her relationship, as well as his age, we’ve now found out she had a sexual relationship with this person for a year and a half. I filed charges and had him arrested. Both admitted the inappropriate relationship to the police, and the trial is scheduled.

The problem I am having is that she is “in love” with this person and wants to have a relationship with him again. They made a “plan” to wait until she is 21 and almost finished with college to try it again. Until then, she is supposed to see other people so that she will know what she wants. I have told her that as long as her father and I are responsible for her, she will have nothing more to do with him, and I refuse to drop the charges. Her father is ready to kick her to the curb when she turns 18, but I cannot find it in me to turn her away. Am I doing the right thing? –Stressed to the Limit

Dear Stress: Encourage her “plan” to wait until she’s 21 and well into college life. In the next four years, if she can’t come up with a better love interest than someone who’s 13 years older with a rap sheet, then there’s nothing to be done. If she sticks to the bargain, things are in your favor — well, really in her favor. You and your husband would be doing the right thing by using tough love (the curb thing) if she doesn’t uphold her end of the bargain. –Margo, watchfully

Stinky “Friends”

Dear Margo: I am 47, the mother of three great kids, with a wonderful husband. Now that my kids are older, I’ve decided to pursue the career I always wanted: nursing. I was accepted into a nursing program, and it turned out that I was able to get financial aid to help pay for it. I couldn’t be happier that I have been given this amazing opportunity.

The problem? I had every intention of keeping my job as a teacher’s aide at a high school in another town, but after attending a few of the nursing classes and speaking with the career counselor, I realized the workload would be too much and I needed to choose one or the other. I chose nursing. I knew it was last minute, so I offered to work until a replacement was found, but they accepted my resignation “effective immediately.”

Now my former colleagues, who I thought were my friends, will not call me back. I have called and sent e-mails and Facebook messages asking how they are doing, but I have yet to receive an answer. Needless to say, I am heartbroken. My husband says there is nothing more I can do and I should just let it go, but I am struggling with this, feeling both guilty and sad. –Future Nurse

Dear Fu: I hope you can bag feeling guilty, because you have not only chosen a noble profession, but it was your dream. Being a teacher’s aide, in your situation, would not give you the satisfaction that nursing would. People are allowed to change jobs. The short notice is unfortunate, but there you are. The colleagues, alas, were not really friends, and your husband is correct. I find it rather unattractive that the people at school could not see the big picture and be happy for you. –Margo, fulfillingly


Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via e-mail to Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


Every Thursday and Friday, you can find “Dear Margo” and her latest words of wisdom on wowOwow

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115 comments so far.

  1. avatar blue tooth says:

    To LW1: I would add to Margo’s advice and find counseling for your daughter while you can still have her go. Far too often young girls fall madly in love with their older boyfriends, not realizing that their feelings are the result of their first real love experience and their first sexual experience. They have nothing to compare these emotions to and are overwhelmed.

    They don’t realize that all the things their older boyfriends told them are not true, and that the boyfriend actually approached them because they were young and innocent and easily manipulated. This older man is not a real boyfriend, he is a MAN, and a sexual predator.

    Your daughter won’t be able to hear that from you. She won’t believe you, because you of course don’t understand her feelings, and you don’t know the pure and powerful thing they have together. After all, to most teenagers, nothing makes a boyfriend (or girlfriend) more desirable than knowing your parents hate them.

    A trained therapist with a background in helping children and teens who are victims of sexual predators, will be able to help her see it more clearly. Until she sees that, she will most likely not be able to let go.

  2. avatar darlean washington says:

    The husband/father in the first letter sounds like a bastard.  I can’t imagine abandoning my child, even as a legal adult, just because she would date someone I didn’t like.  This type of discipline just doesn’t work.

    • avatar QuietGitl says:

      Agree.  It takes me back to the days of a wife can’t be raped, a whore can’t be raped, she asked for it, women are property.  But seeing Mom’s later letter, it might have been the ravings of a father who has discovered his little girl is growing up, far too fast for him.  As my mom says, even in anger count to 10, and then again.  Maybe then you can speak if you can speak without emotion.  Or as I like to say, get the facts first.  Go think, then speak.

  3. avatar Franny Burn says:

    I wonder, the defenders of this man, what would be your cut off point for ‘consensual’ sex with a minor? I’ve known 9 year olds who started to menstruate, and 11 year olds who could pass for 18. Their hormones are starting to take them in new directions as well as their curiosity. By the definitions I’ve seen here, a 29 year old shouldn’t have a problem looking at a developing 13 year old with sexual interest, and if consensual, shouldn’t be punished for acting on it. Makes me kinda sick to my stomach.

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      First of all, Franny, referring to anyone, especially myself, as defenders of This Man, is a misperception. If that is what you think is going on, you’ve entirely missed the point. Second, there is a world of difference between a mature 16-17 year old, a similarly mature 13 year old, and a 10 year old who is menstruating (I know, I was one of the last, and I also went from flat chested to a full B cup bra in about two months time). People keep claiming that they’ve seen 11 year olds who could pass for 18…frankly, I’ve seen a few give it a try, but none succeed…and I think if you are one who is fooled by these girls, the fault may well be in your perception. But there are quite definitely 16 year old girls who can pass for twenty-five, and do so regularly…and it isn’t a matter of dressing provocatively.
      Eighteen is not a magic number…it is just one that was arbitrarily assigned by the law, probably originally having to do with the Draft…not a woman’s legal age of adulthood. In most civilized, Western countries, 16 is the legal age of consent, and it also still the legal age of consent in some states, and considered legal with parental consent in others.
      As for what is meant by sexual maturity, when I speak of this, regarding normal, healthy men looking at females, I am talking about the appearance of sexual maturity. I am not talking about pedophiles, who desire children of either gender who look like prepubescent children, with absolutely no signs of sexual maturity (in fact, so lacking in these features that they are interchangeable gender-wise), or hebephiles, who usually prefer one gender over the other, and teens who look like teens, lacking in adult development (smaller breasts and narrower hips for girls, hairless, less muscular, narrow shouldered torsos for boys). I am also not talking about girls who dress in a provocative way.
      I am speaking of girls who physically appear to be grown, fully mature women. Some are 13, and some are 16. Yes, normal, healthy 29, 39, 49 and so year old men are going to look. That doesn’t make them perverts, or rapists, nor does it give them permission to touch, nor did I say it should. But there is a vast gulf of difference between 13 and sixteen, even if it is only three short years. The brain develops a lot, and for a lot of teens, responsibility becomes a reality. Is that a good thing? It depends a great deal on the individual, and circumstance. But saying that an adult male merely looking at a developed teenager is sickening indicates a problem with the person saying it.
      Most adult men wouldn’t want a relationship with a girl that young. They might find her sexy…but they wouldn’t see her as a partner, and that alone keeps them from acting. I think that any fully adult male who pursues 13 year old girls has more issues than simply a lech for women who are far too young…he might well suffer from social retardation, childish tendencies, and immaturity of his own, and be unable to relate to adults. It isn’t always manipulation, and no, it isn’t legal for a host of very good reasons. However, there are a surprising number of 17 and 18 year old girls who end up with men 10, 15, and even 20+ years their senior. That’s not just a defect in the men, there is something going on with a woman that young seeking a man that much older.

  4. avatar wendykh says:

    Oh my goodness no do not kick her to the curb! what an excellent way to turn it into ME AND MY MAN AGAINST THE WORLD! Instead introduce her to opportunities and situations to make him look a loser.
    And drop the charges. They do nothing more than make parents look like pathetic control freaks. She is hardly a baby, and enjoys sex. Get over it. imagine: 21 yr old men put out better than 19 year olds. Get her dating the local college republicans instead. Problem solved.

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      wendykh, you’re one of the few people on this thread with even a tiny bit of common sense or rationality. I did so enjoy your comment about predators. I do wonder what the fall-out from the situation will be based on the parental-based drama and their complete refusal to accept any accountability for the situation. Threatening a headstrong young woman with being exiled from her family, and total annihilation of her college plans (despite her having maintained her grades and a job, and not becoming diseased, addicted or pregnant during her transgression) because she successfully maintained a secret relationship with a man her parents see as an insult and a disgrace to their clean-cut family (I see much more hubris and fear of social repercussions than I do genuine concern about the daughter), makes me wonder at the sudden down-cast eyed capitulation of the young lady to her parental units’ every wish, including a squeaky clean new boyfriend.
      This is a very clever, very capable young woman. Why so few have recognized this (maybe people just have to see Young Ladies as compromised Vestal Virgins) I don’t know. I think she had her amusement, and now will continue to get what she wants, regardless of The Moronic Bad Man, or her It Isn’t In Any Way Our Fault parents.
      As for dropping the charges, they can’t. Daddy is a cop who failed to suss out the truth during eighteen months of his baby girl’s involvement with an ex-con, who was even fired then re-hired by the dubious pizza place for his poor behavior. Mommy is a Teacher, and it sounds like she has certain social obligations (We Aren’t Losers, you know…) that have been compromised. Someone simply must be punished, and the 29 year old doofus is the fall guy. Maybe then they can hold their heads high again, and the guys in the locker room will stop leaving little jokes in daddy’s locker (I’ve know a lot of police officers as very good friends), and the lady’s in mother’s luncheon group will stop being quite so o-so-careful about asking just how Darling Daughter’s plans are going.
      It sounds like they’re all Republicans (I am not partisan, but, my o my, that was funny) ’round those parts. Fine upstanding citizens all. O my word…

      • avatar Donna Sampson says:

        I’m not going to continue with you anymore so that you can continue your rant about a family you have no idea about. Your ideas about our family are wrong, and you seem to enjoy attacking us. You have your right to your opinion just as I do, but I also don’t have to continue this attack on my family.

  5. avatar Evil Betty says:

    One of my friends has a daughter in love with a loser like this.  They have a baby together.  He beat her up pretty badly, several times  – once hitting her when the baby was in her arms. 

    My friend rejoiced when loserman got caught robbing a check cashing store, and was put away for years.  However, the daughter remained in love with him, visited him often in prison, pined over him, etc.  That is until a nice man with a good job, a vehicle, his own place, and two nickels to rub together took an interest in her.  She’s seeing what a healthy relationship is like, and the loser in prison is near forgotten. 

    This too shall pass – she’ll come to her senses.  Meanwhile I’d make sure she was protected against unwanted pregnancy.