Son might be afraid to leave nest

The Commercial Appeal - - Sports -

I need your ad­vice. My very mu­si­cally gifted high school se­nior ap­pears to want to go to col­lege and ma­jor in mu­sic per­for­mance. But he is re­fus­ing to visit col­leges. He won’t dis­cuss why; he just gets very bel­liger­ent when the sub­ject comes up and won’t ex­pand on any rea­sons. Should I let it be or make the con­tacts for him and force him to go?

It’s pos­si­ble that your son is afraid to leave home — which would show his in­tel­li­gence; it’s a big scary world out there. Courage arises not when we sup­press our fears but when we find some­thing so worth­while we tem­po­rar­ily for­get them. So do what you can to help him find ex­cit­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties.

There are many amaz­ing col­leges that spe­cial­ize in mu­sic, which you can re­search to­gether. See whether any schools within a short driv­ing dis­tance have solid mu­sic pro­grams. In the end, though, this is his search process, and he should take the lead. It’s the first step he’ll take as an in­de­pen­dent adult, and it’s healthy for him to take own­er­ship of the de­ci­sion.

I read your ad­vice col­umn ev­ery day and love it. I am 64 years old and have been very hap­pily mar­ried for 45 years.

I read about the grumpy old dad whom “Hurt Daugh­ter in New Hamp­shire” has to deal with. I am part of a lo­cal as­so­ci­a­tion mostly made up of older men. We tend to be grumpy. Why? We hurt. We have health is­sues. We see changes in the world around us that we don’t ap­pre­ci­ate.

We didn’t re­al­ize that re­tire­ment was go­ing to make us feel un­needed. We are not at­trac­tive any­more. Many have been hurt from pre­vi­ous failed mar­riages and re­la­tion­ships, so they don’t trust any­one any­more.

This is what I have learned about how to stop a grumpy old man in his tracks and, if not change, at least re­al­ize how he’s act­ing. I first em­pathize, telling him I feel his pain, and then I en­cour­age him to not take his pain out on other peo­ple. That friend­li­ness and kind­ness breeds more of the same. But grumpi­ness and mean­ness will only make things worse.

When that doesn’t work (and it usu­ally doesn’t), then I go at him by con­fronting his hypocrisy: “You are an­gry with ev­ery­one else for all kinds of things, but by be­ing that way, you are act­ing like a spoiled brat who needs dis­ci­pline. Get over it! You are a grown man who knows how to act ma­turely and friendly. Show love even if you don’t feel it. Change or get used to be­ing re­jected.”

This works for most guys. It’s the lan­guage they un­der­stand. They will prob­a­bly dis­like the one who says it to them, but ev­ery­one else around them will be­gin to see the change and ap­pre­ci­ate it. I do not let my pain and dis­cour­age­ment af­fect my ac­tions. Em­pa­thy and hon­esty are great virtues and use­ful tools. Thank you for your tips.

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