Dear Abby: I’m turning 17 and live with my dad and his girlfriend. They have broken up four times, causing my dad and me to retreat to the basement where we live the peaceful, happy life we did before he met her.

When they first started dating, she was very nice, and I liked her. However, because my mom is gone, she decided to assume the role of “mother” after they moved in together. I don’t think she has the right to make decisions about me just because I no longer have a mother.

Dad has told me repeatedly that he doesn’t want to continue a relationship with her, but she always manipulates him into getting back together. She treats him terribly, and it breaks my heart. I know he deserves better. His personality changes when he’s with her. He gets mean and blames their problems on me because that’s what she does.

I know I’m not responsible for this situation, but she makes me feel that way. I need stability, and I just want my dad back. What should I do?

— Teen in Turmoil

Dear Teen: What’s going on is not your fault. You should not assume responsibility for their problems because you can’t fix them.

Talk with your father about how you are being made to feel. That he and this woman have broken up four times should have given him a clue that his relationship with her isn’t a healthy one — for him or for you. Your father is the adult in the family, and it is up to him to deal with this — not you. Hiding in the basement isn’t the answer.

Camping Accommodations

Mirabel Park: 8400 River Road, Forestville. 15 grassy campsites with picnic tables and fire pits along Mark West Creek. Firewood $7 a bundle. Free hot-water showers. Crazy Dave’s jerky for sale at camp store. $31 night. No two-night minimum after Labor Day weekend. Make reservations several weeks ahead. Cash only, no credit cards. 887-2383.

Casini Ranch: 22855 Moscow Road, Duncans Mills. Look for camp sites 46B, 47, 45A and 46A along river at south end of ranch for easy entry and exit. You still have to beach boats on river rock and lug bags up to camp.

General store stocked w/beer, wine, ice, tchotchkes galore and plenty of firewood that will be delivered to your camp site. Tent sites starting at $60.86. 800-451-8400.

Burke’s Canoe Trips: 8600 River Road, Forestville. Burke’s also offers camping, but their main focus is on canoe and kayak rentals and providing camping for those renting customers. Kayakers passing through with their own boats should call well ahead. $12 night. 887-1222.

Willow Creek Environmental Campground: 25381 Steelhead Blvd., Duncans Mills. The drawback is it’s first-come, first-serve with no reservations. The bonus is you’re much more secluded than at the bigger private campgrounds. Of the 11 sites, #8, #9 and #11 have best access to the river. No running water, pit toilets. No dogs allowed. $25 night. Cash/check only. Search for “sonoma coast state park” at


-Keeping dry: Make sure you invest in waterproof dry bags for all storage AND you attach to your boat in case you tip over.

-Food storage: Bring a well-insulated soft cooler, like a Bison, that keeps ice and food chilled for days.

-Not for the novice: Be sure you’re a proficient paddler. “If you haven’t spent years paddling on rivers, don’t even think about camping,” says Russian Riverkeeper director Don McEnhill.

-Portage possibilities: River dams at Johnson’s Beach and south of Wohler Bridge are usually taken down after Labor Day, says McEnhill. If not, be prepared to portage — that’s where a tiny portable dolly comes in handy.

-Stay hydrated, happy: “Drink lots of water and bring a change of dry clothes and a great attitude,” says Mirabel camp’s Lora Meeks.

-Timing is everything: After kids go back to school, “September is really a heavenly time of year to be on the river,” says Linda Burke, owner of Burke’s Canoe Trips.