Abby: Find good company in solitude through an active imagination

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DEAR ABBY: My husband and I are expecting our first child (a boy) later this year. How do I teach my son to enjoy solitude and his own company?

I want my little one to have loving friends, but also periods of quiet, reflective fun time by himself. My husband and I grew up with siblings, but he hates solitude while I find lots of activities to do by myself. I am never lonely. What's the difference between solitude and loneliness? -- SOLITARY WOMAN IN OTTAWA, CANADA

DEAR SOLITARY WOMAN: The difference between solitude and loneliness depends on how an individual handles being alone. Some people find silence threatening, while others -- like yourself -- need it to recharge their batteries.

For your son to be at ease when he's alone, ration his television time. Read to him so he'll learn to appreciate the entertainment books provide. Give him items to play with that foster creativity, such as clay, paints and paper, a cardboard box he can pretend is a playhouse or a spaceship. If he's encouraged to use it, his imagination will flourish.

DEAR ABBY: My father-in-law, "Earl," is an alcoholic and an avid gun enthusiast. He owns many weapons; I don't know the exact number. He has been accumulating ammunition at an accelerated rate because he's afraid that large clips will soon be banned. He drinks to excess and becomes belligerent when drunk. He takes pride in the fact that his guns are kept loaded, as "what good is an unloaded gun?" On two separate occasions, I know for a fact that a loaded gun was found unsecured in his home.

When my husband and I travel with our children, ages 7, 5 and 4, to visit his family, we stay in Earl's home. I feel the combination of alcohol and loaded, unsecure guns is not safe for my children. I have suggested to my husband that we stay in a hotel during our visits. The problem is, my husband is unable to stand up to his father. He told me that when he tried talking to him, Earl called him a "wimp." Please tell me how to get through to my husband. -- GUN-SHY IN SOUTH CAROLINA

DEAR GUN-SHY: I'm sorry to say that your father-in-law may have your husband pegged accurately. A man who would allow his small children to stay in the home of an alcoholic who keeps unsecured, loaded weapons around IS a wimp. Your husband doesn't have to "stand up" to his father. All he has to do is make a hotel reservation and be sure the children spend no unsupervised time with Grandpa. To do anything less is child endangerment.

Because your husband is unwilling to be the strong one, the responsibility for your children's lives now falls to you.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more sociable person, order "How to Be Popular." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

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