Annie's Mailbox for April 13, 2011: Feel like I've lost my daughter

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Dear Annie: I'm a 47-year-old father of four kids. My oldest, "Janet," is 24 and lives on her own. I adopted Janet when she was 2. Her mother made it clear that Janet is to never know that she is not my biological child. Janet's mother and I are now divorced, and I have moved on to a happier life.

I have always treated Janet the same as my other kids. I co-signed for her car and covered when she missed payments. When she needed money, I was there for her. When she graduated from college, I forgave the $4,000 she owed me for her tuition. Janet's mother never offered a dime to help.

Unfortunately, Janet has inherited her mother's tendency to drink and take advantage of people. She appreciates nothing I've done for her. I finally couldn't take it anymore and stopped trying to help. That was 18 months ago, and we haven't spoken since. This is causing problems with my other kids. They want me to forgive everything. But I need Janet to admit she is out of control. She hasn't responded to any of my past letters, so why should I keep trying to make her see that she needs to grow up and stop hurting herself and her family?

Janet still owes me more than $21,000 in school loans and refuses to repay any of it. Now I am thinking of suing her. I'm a firm believer in being responsible for your actions. I also think it is time to tell Janet about her biological father. It may help her understand why she is so different from her siblings. I'm hoping it will also demonstrate that I'm the only one who has been there for her. I feel I have lost a daughter. What should I do?

— At a Crossroad with a Broken Heart

Dear Crossroad: Many biological parents have these same issues with irresponsible adult children. It's up to you whether or not to sue Janet, but she is not likely to repay the $21,000 either way. However, we agree that she should know about her biological origins — not because she will appreciate you more (not likely), but because she deserves to have her medical history. First consult a counselor who deals with adopted children so you can present it properly, and then warn your ex-wife.

Dear Annie: In the expression, "Watch your P's and Q's," what do the letters "P" and "Q" stand for?

— Always Wondered in Ohio

Dear Ohio: The most accepted explanation is that the expression comes from old printing presses where the letters "p" and "q" could easily be transposed when setting the type and workers should be careful. Another account is that it originated in English pubs where bartenders kept a tally of pints and quarts. Our favorite, however, is that "p" is short for "please" and "q" is a contraction of "thank you," and the saying was used by parents to teach their children to be polite.

Dear Annie: You recently printed a letter from a woman whose husband "claims" he is bipolar. He is also abusive.

I have known I was bipolar since I was 46, back when it was still called manic depression. I get so tired of the media misrepresenting this condition. One cannot automatically assume that all bipolar people are violent or have such tendencies. I have never been violent in my 69 years and would never consider it. I know I am one of the lucky ones whose disease is completely controlled by the right medication, and I am diligent about following my psychiatrist's advice.

I am a successful and happy person. I wish people would not always assume that all bipolar individuals are hopeless, unemployed and dysfunctional. It's simply not the case. Thank you.

— Stigmatized in California

Dear Stigmatized: Bipolar symptoms are different depending upon the individual, and those who are diligent about their medication fare quite well. Thanks for the reminder.

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