KATHY MITCHELL AND MARCY SUGAR \ Annie's Mailbox Forgetfulness is typical of teenager

Dear Annie: I have a pre-teen daughter, "Angel." She is developing into a classic stereotype of the blonde airhead. Just today, she went to get the mail, set it down in an unusual place and promptly forgot about it. When I asked her what happened to the mail, she had to search for five minutes before she found it. Last month, I had to turn the car around because Angel forgot a birthday present that she'd had in her hands 30 seconds before we got into the car.
Angel is smart, caring, friendly and witty, but I'm afraid this absentmindedness will be a major problem for her in the years to come. I teach high school, and I know how cruel kids can be and how quickly peers can reinforce such personality traits.
I've tried positive reinforcement. We've had long talks about awareness. We've even worked on reminders to help her remember glasses, homework, lunch money, etc. Nothing helps. I need help for my sanity a little, but mostly for Angel's self-esteem. I've already heard the "I'm so stupid" comment from her a couple of times, and it breaks my heart. Is there a 12-step program for this type of thing? Any suggestions? Airhead's Dad in Las Vegas
Dear Dad: This could be hormones run amuck. It is not unusual for pre-teens and teenagers to seem scatterbrained and forgetful. However, before making that assumption, please have her checked out by her pediatrician. There may be a physiological reason why Angel cannot focus.
In the meantime, please do not make a fuss over this, or you will be reinforcing the behavior, too, Dad. Negative attention is still attention, and when she knows she is disappointing you, she feels inadequate. Give her a calendar so she can keep track of her homework assignments and special dates, suggest she concentrate when she puts something down, set up specific places for keys, glasses, etc., and then let her deal with it. We think it will pass.
Dear Annie: I am 21 years old. Every five years, my grandparents take everyone in the family (about 20 people) on vacation. This year, my 25-year-old cousin asked if he could bring along his girlfriend of four years, and my grandparents agreed. My grandparents usually treat each grandchild equally, so I find it unusual that they didn't also invite my boyfriend of two years, "Brett."
Brett and I are studying abroad this semester and may live together over the summer. My grandparents know my cousin's girlfriend better than Brett, but it still doesn't seem fair that he gets to bring his girlfriend while I am alone.
Would it be selfish of me to ask if I can bring Brett? I realize my grandparents are being very generous, but I also know I wouldn't enjoy the trip as much without Brett. What should I do? Beach Bummed in New England
Dear Beach Bummed: Your grandparents should not have allowed your cousin's girlfriend to come along if they weren't willing to do the same for you. However, this is a gift, and the level of generosity is up to them. Try to enjoy yourself without Brett, and maybe they'll include him next time.
Dear Annie: A friend of mine recently married and received a large check from a friend of the groom's family. When she tried to cash it, the check bounced -- twice. Thus far, she has remained silent about it and hasn't told her in-laws. She asked for my advice, but I don't know what to tell her. Can you help? Girlfriend
Dear Girlfriend: We contacted Peggy Post of the Emily Post Institute, and this is what she said, "There is no need to say anything to the groom's family. Don't blow the whistle. Send a thank-you note for the generous gift, and leave it at that. The guests will know that the checked bounced, and hopefully, they will do the right thing and send another one."
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