IAM A 19- YEAR-OLD COLLEGE STUDENT AND AM THE ONLY CHILD of my parents. I know that my parents love me, but, though I have never discussed the matter with them, I have instinctively known for a long time, that my parents would have liked to have had one more child. I do not think that they would have been particular that the second child be a boy, but they would have wanted that child to be more their type, and more able to fulfil more of their dreams than I ever can.
This is because while both my parents are always laughing, are popular with everybody and are ready- foranything dare-devil types, I am a boring, shy, book-reading person whose presence in their midst of, not just their friends, but even my parents themselves, often forget. My parents are not just fun company, they are also interesting people with a wide range of interests and knowledge of the world. In short, they are very special people and I am in no way fit to be their daughter.
Perhaps things would have been better if I had been an outstanding student or outstanding in something! But unfortunately, I am outstanding in nothing!
Add to this, the fact that both my parents are tall, slim and beautiful while I am short, dark and rather ugly – and you have a picture of the complete misfit I am in their lives. Looking back, I can see that I instinctively realised all this even when I was young and that this realisation grew on me as I grew older. The result is that today I hate myself and totally lack confidence.
And now I have messed up my life even further – if that is actually possible! Somehow I have got involved with a man six years my senior. He has just completed his PHD and has got a job in China of all places! He is very intelligent but is not smart and I know that he will look a simpleton in front of my parents. Their friends, who I am sure already wonder how my parents have a daughter like me, are bound to gossip about how my poor parents are now saddled with a son-in-law who can’t even talk smartly and is going to be stuck in China!
In fact, my boyfriend embarrasses me so much that I have almost decided to break up with him and never get married! Won’t that be the best thing for a useless person like me to do? Please advise.
Before you think of anything else, you must get yourself sorted out. Your smart and attractive parents have obviously given you an enormous complex right from childhood because of the kind of people they are, if for no other reason. As parents, they should however have been aware of what you were going through and of your complexes. In fact, the fact that they did not, shows a surprising level of self-absorption in both of them. But more important than analysing how things went so wrong for you and who was to blame for this, is for you to get the treatment that you need for your complexes. So either speak to your parents about your problems or ask them for money and go and consult a psychiatrist or a therapist yourself – you are old enough to do so yourself or you could take your boyfriend along with you. He may not be smart, but you say that he is very intelligent and so he has probably already understood your problem. At some stage or the other, your parents have to enter the picture. And the chances are that, once they do, they will come out of their preoccupation with themselves and deal with your problem and do what needs to be done for you.
This is no time for you to think of how inferior you are to your parents. You are you and you deserve the understanding of your parents. They should have given it to you right from childhood, but they were so selfabsorbed that they didn’t give it to you. And now it is up to you to see that you force this from them.
And give your boyfriend a chance because he may be just the man for you. And going away to China for at least some time, will give you a chance to come out of the shadow cast by your parents.
Your parents have let you down from the time you were born. They were bad parents. None of what has happened to you has been your fault and none of it proves that you were lacking in any way.
IAM A 60- YEAR-OLD WOMAN. MY HUSBAND AND I HAD ONLY one child, a son, and quite naturally, we doted on him from the day he was born. So, it was but natural that he grew up to be very spoilt. But since he was also a very good student, we put up with his spoilt nature, thinking that as he grew up and got more and more involved in his studies, he would mature and his behaviour would improve. But this did not happen and he continued to be a very intelligent but spoilt boy who had to have his way in everything.
As he grew up, it soon became difficult for even us, his parents, to deal with him. As for his classmates, it soon became clear to us that he had no friends – in fact, he stopped having parties for his birthday because he had no friends who would accept his invitation to a party.
The attitude of his teachers also slowly changed. For a long time, they only sang his praises, but towards his last years in school, his class teachers began to make comments like “although he is outstanding in his studies, he needs to improve his social skills and make friends”.
Though our son never talked about his social isolation, he grew more and more silent and engrossed in his studies. His father and I understood his problem but we did not talk to him about it because he was doing amazingly well in his studies – for instance, he topped the country in his school final exams – and secondly, he was growing more and more short- tempered and we were nervous of upsetting him.
Our son entered college and we hoped that the freer atmosphere of the university would bring about a change in him. Yes, he did flower in the freedom of the intellectual atmosphere of the university, but socially no change came about in him. While he soon became an admired student and began to shine as a speaker and debater, he made no friends and had none of the fun associated with college.
Just before he completed college, my husband died, but the death of his father barely caused a ripple in my son’s life. The years passed quickly and my son went abroad to America , got his PHD and also got an excellent job in a top university there.
But from what his calls and letters conveyed, he still had no friends and no social life there. He never came back to see me either. I was very upset about this, but I never showed him my hurt feelings.
And then suddenly I got a call from my son that a friend of his would call me! I was stunned and waited impatiently for this mysterious call on the day my son had mentioned. Finally, an American woman called me. From the way she spoke it was obvious that she was not very educated, but as she talked to me, I realised that she was very much in love with my son. She told me that she had met my son some years earlier, that he had proposed to her recently and that she too wanted to marry him. But, she said, she would do so only if I agreed.
She then told me that she had been married twice earlier and that she had a mentally retarded son and then asked if, in these circumstances, I would accept her.
I was stunned and told her that I needed some time to think and that she should call me in a week. Now I do not know what to do. My son has not talked to me, or told me his feelings for this woman.
What should I do? A not- very- educated American woman for my son? Will they be happy together?
Your account of your relationship with your son is full of silences and your present predicament is again full of the same. But there is one big difference. Your son has fallen in love with a woman and also seems to want to mend fences with you. And it is very likely that this change in him has been brought about in him by this unlikely woman.
While there is no need to go into the past, you must be aware that both your relationship with your son and his relationship with other people, has not been what can be called normal. But his relationship with this woman and his desire that she talk to you and get your acceptance of his marriage, is a huge step in the direction of normalising both. So at once write and tell him that you liked the woman he is going to marry very much and that you would like to attend his wedding if that is possible.
Whether you attend his wedding or not, keep in touch with this woman who has changed your son’s life.
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