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Annie's Mailbox

Ask Amy column

Q. I’m a divorced dad in my late 30s and have two beautiful daughters, ages 5 and 7.

I’ve been divorced for four years now. Two years ago, my ex-wife decided she wanted to relocate out of state.

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After a legal battle that took a serious financial and emotional toll on me, my family, and especially my young daughters, I decided that I could no longer continue the battle, and so I allowed my ex-wife to relocate.

I’m torn about the decision, but in my heart I know I did the right thing for my daughters. Now they live 1,000 miles away, and I get to see them on Skype, talk on the phone, and they travel back home every school break and every summer.

I also fly to visit them when time and money allow it.

Any advice on how I can be the best “long-distance dad” I can be?

A. I applaud your intentions and determination. This might be tough to hear, but the biggest single impact you can have on your daughters at this stage is to maintain a positive relationship with their mother. Realistically, she controls access to them in very basic ways.

I can only hope that now that she has gotten what she wanted, she will actively promote access — because this is best for everyone — especially the girls.

Skype is great for maintaining face-to-face contact. In addition to spontaneous calls, setting up a scheduled call each week would give the kids something to look forward to. Additionally I suggest creating a photo book for each girl with pictures of you going about your daily routine — and lots of photos of them. Kids love to leaf through photos and read warm and funny captions.

Send them postcards. This is easy and quick. Getting mail is fun for kids, and it’s a great way to connect.

During your visits with them, do your best to establish a routine. Include their friends as much as possible. Don’t express too much sadness about your long-distance separation — this is the reality of all of your lives, and staying positive will help them (and you) to cope.

Q. Last evening my wonderful husband took me out to a lovely dinner for my 66th birthday. We went to an expensive restaurant and sat in an intimate room. One other couple dined in it.

The woman had recently hired the man for a sales position in an insurance company. They proceeded to speak in loud voices during the entire dinner about the company and the job, other employees, her mother, his wife, etc. He even described a client he was bringing to the company by name — including his assets and other details.

As attorneys, we were appalled about that and also the fact that our romantic dinner was compromised.

We could hear every word they said, loud and clear! What can my husband or I do in situations like this?

A. A room with only one other party dining is worse (for noise) than a crowded one with lots of ambient noise.

When this happens, you can say, respectfully, “Would you mind lowering your voices a little? We don’t want to accidentally eavesdrop on your conversation.” You can also ask the manager to help you change tables.

Otherwise, I share your frustration. People seem to have no awareness of the amount of possibly confidential and proprietary (and definitely personal and uninteresting) information they shout out to the world.

I’ll run suggestions from readers.

Send questions by e-mail to askamy@tribune.com or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 North Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.

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