Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: I am a teenager and I am adopted. I was raised knowing that I’m adopted, but not knowing the full identity of my birth mother. My birth mother wrote letters for a while when I was younger and some birthday presents were sent my way, but I never knew her full name or anything about her. I had one picture of her and only knew her first name. After years of searching on social media I finally found her. But when I tried to contact her, she didn’t write back. I know she has seen the message that I sent her, but she has apparently chosen to ignore it. I even wrote her another letter, but still nothing. Why would she ignore me after sending me letters for years? Does she not want to get to know me anymore? If you were in her shoes, what would you do?

Wondering Carolina Teen

DEAR WONDERING: I’m more comfortable wearing your shoes than your birth mother’s. I know the feeling of emptiness and the questions when you are searching for an absent parent, only to face more rejection and disappointment once you find them. This becomes part of your story, but it doesn’t have to defeat you. Your birth mother might have surrendered you to try to protect you and give you a better life than she could provide. She may be avoiding you now for the same reason.

One question all teenagers are supposed to ask themselves is — who am I? What you are doing now is completely normal and appropriate for an adopted person, and I hope you find some comfort in knowing that.

I also hope that — like me — you have a great parent (or parents) who are raising you. Perhaps you are trying to protect them from the hurt you feel, but you should try to be open with them about this — and they should try to help you now.

A great book for your family to read is “Adopted: The Ultimate Teen Guide (It Happened to Me)” by Suzanne Buckingham Slade (2013, Scarecrow Press). Ask your folks to order it, so you can read it together and talk about it.

DEAR AMY: My neighbors asked me to watch their dog while they went on vacation. Initially, it was just one dog, and a fellow neighbor would also help. As their departure date neared, I learned that my fellow neighbor wouldn’t be helping and I’d be watching both of their dogs, including a puppy that was not house-trained. The puppy had diarrhea the first three days they were gone. I went to their house three to four times a day for the 10 days they were gone, walking each dog (separately) once a day — all while balancing stay-at-home-mom duties to my young children. Every time I went over, there was a mess. I spent $50 on cleaning supplies. In hindsight, I realize my mistake was not getting payment arranged and in writing before they left. They brought back about $25 worth of gifts for my sons, but it has been three months and I’ve yet to see any money. My husband and I have given a few friendly verbal reminders, but now we are both irked. I feel disrespected and angry. Do you have any suggestion as to what I can say or do to again attempt to get some money?

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Respectfully, Doggone Mad

DEAR DOGGONE: You are a very nice person who has handled an awkward transaction badly. You continue to be vague on what compensation you expect and your neighbors are poor mind readers, as well as irresponsible dog owners. You should present them a bill for the cleaning supplies and a bill for your dog sitting. You might see some reimbursement for the supplies.

Obviously, they have lost a dog sitter, but I hope you can continue to be neighborly.

DEAR AMY: My heart goes out to “At a Loss,” who expressed grief and confusion about the absence of her divorced husband in their daughters’ lives. When my wife divorced me, despite my ongoing attempts to be sincerely involved with our small children, it became impossible for me to truly have a role in their everyday lives. When they became teenagers and developed busy schedules of their own, the circumstances only became worse. This is a common plight for divorced dads. It was and continues to be heart-breaking for me.

Uncle Dad

DEAR DAD: Parenting is directly proportional to time spent with children. Noncustodial parents face tremendous obstacles in this regard.