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Annie Lane: Call me by my name

Dear Annie: My daughter, “Connie,” left home when she was at 17 to join the army. I was going through a separation, and then divorce, from her father. Before leaving, she was very unruly and hard to handle. So her father and I decided to sign her up for the army since she was underage. I still had a 16-year-old son at home to raise as well.

This is the issue: Because of what I was dealing with (separation/divorce), I told her that, due to her behavior, signing her up for the military was all felt I could do. I also mentioned to her that her behavior was the cause of my marriage falling apart. Her father was having an affair and didn’t want her around.

Now, she has returned home with her husband and two beautiful teens. She has been verbally abusive to both kids, telling them at times she will kick them out if they misbehave. I know this stems from what I did to her. Nevertheless, I have apologized for sending her off to the military and accusing her of tearing my marriage apart, but I couldn’t handle her or the marital upheaval I was going through at that time.

One other thing is that she no longer wants to be called Connie (her middle name), but since her time in the army, she uses and wants to be called by her first name. I have not agreed to the name change and still call her Connie. She is now in her late 30s.

— Regretful

Dear Regretful: It’s time to let yourself off the hook. Beating yourself up over the decisions you made more than 15 years ago does not do anyone any good. It also keeps everyone focused on the past rather than the present. Have a heart-to-heart with your daughter and share with her what you were going through at the time. Do this, not to make excuses for your words and behavior, but to tell her that if you had known better at the time, then you would have done better. Now, you are here to share that wisdom with her.

The only way we learn not to repeat the same patterns as our parents is to be aware of them. By sharing your growth and regrets, she might begin to see how to change her own behavior. As a sign of moving forward and creating a new relationship with her, consider calling your daughter by whatever name she prefers. Using her name of choice is a sign of respect. Model the behavior you’d like to see from your daughter and your grandchildren.

“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com.