Friend wor­ries about her friends’ trou­bled kids

The Morning Journal (Lorain, OH) - - YOUR DAILY BREAK - Amy Dick­in­son

DEAR AMY >>

How should I re­spond to par­ents of trou­bled off­spring? These not-soy­oung adults seem set on de­stroy­ing them­selves or go­ing to jail. Some have com­mit­ted un­speak­able acts and en­dan­gered oth­ers.

These par­ents and their sons and daugh­ters have been my friends for many years. I saw noth­ing but love in their homes. I am not a par­ent, so I don’t trust my feel­ings here.

In some cases, I am so fu­ri­ous with the of­fend­ers that I don’t think I can be in a room with them with­out go­ing into a rage. They don’t seem to re­al­ize how much their ac­tions im­pact the lives of the peo­ple around them.

When I have a catch-up with my par­ent friends, I wait to see if they men­tion their way­ward prog­eny.

I’m afraid to ask, and yet I feel it seems like I don’t care if I don’t ask. I’m re­luc­tant to make a con­nec­tion for fear they think I’m be­ing snoopy. I just want to hang out with my old bud­dies! Can you guide me? — Miss My Friends

DEAR MISS MY FRIENDS >>

The way you present this, you are sur­rounded — or feel sur­rounded — by friends and their felo­nious off­spring. I truly hope this is not the case.

Your ques­tion is whether you should ask your friends about their adult chil­dren, in the po­lite way that peo­ple do. The an­swer is “yes.”

It doesn’t seem like snoop­ing if you sim­ply ask, “How is ‘Marta’ do­ing right now?” The friend can ei­ther an­swer in de­tail, or give you a non­com­mit­tal brush back. If you sense ten­sion, you can say, “Are you OK with me ask­ing? I don’t want to up­set you, but I want you to know that I care.”

There is no need for you to spend time with of­fend­ers, if it makes you un­com­fort­able or fills you with rage. But when com­mu­ni­cat­ing with these par­ents, leave your harsh judg­ment be­hind. Re­gard­less of how you may feel, you should as­sume that they con­tinue to love and care about their chil­dren.

DEAR AMY >>

My wife and I have a blended fam­ily. We both have adult chil­dren from pre­vi­ous mar­riages, and these chil­dren have chil­dren of their own.

Food seems to be our only is­sue. The chil­dren have mixed nu­tri­tional wants: One won’t eat meat, an­other fish, one is vege­tar­ian and an­other fam­ily is ve­gan. Their chil­dren seem to be om­ni­vores. Dur­ing fam­ily gath­er­ings at our home, we try and ac­com­mo­date every­one’s pref­er­ence, but it can be dif­fi­cult, as no one is will­ing to budge off their own diet.

How­ever, when we visit their homes, they serve only what they eat and do not take into con­sid­er­a­tion our pref­er­ences. If they are ve­gan, we eat ve­gan.

It seems to be a one-way food street, with us try­ing to go in both di­rec­tions. It can get frus­trat­ing, to say the least.

I’d like to say some­thing to every­one in­volved, but I don’t know how with­out caus­ing dis­cord. Do you have any sug­ges­tions on how to keep every­one happy? Or, is this not pos­si­ble?

— Not Quite Nour­ished

DEAR NOT QUITE NOUR­ISHED >>

Con­fronting this shouldn’t be an in­sur­mount­able chal­lenge, ex­cept that you are go­ing to have to aban­don the idea of keep­ing every­one happy. These adults are re­spon­si­ble for their own hap­pi­ness. You only need to rus­tle up some chow.

The sim­plest so­lu­tion is for you to of­fer a ve­gan meal to all dur­ing these group meals. This is the most re­stric­tive diet, and every­one can eat ve­gan food (cer­tainly for one meal).

Oth­er­wise, as­sign dishes. Send an email to all of the off­spring: “We’re hav­ing trou­ble keep­ing up with every­one’s di­ets. So we’ll pro­vide meat (and/or fish), roasted po­ta­toes, and bev­er­ages. Can­dace, can you bring a ve­gan dish and a fruit salad to share? Vic­to­ria, can you bring a vege­tar­ian or ve­gan casse­role? Bradley, please bring dessert?”

And then yes, when you are at their house, you should eat what they serve. If you need or want to eat meat at the ve­gan or vege­tar­ian fam­ily’s house, then you can bring a dish to sup­ple­ment what they are of­fer­ing.

DEAR AMY >>

My son is get­ting mar­ried in a few weeks. We are Jewish (although not re­li­gious), and my son is mar­ry­ing a lovely Chris­tian girl (also not that re­li­gious).

They are hav­ing a Jewish cer­e­mony with a re­formed rabbi as their clergy.

We par­ents are very happy and proud.

My nephew on my hus­band’s side (his brother old­est son), RSVP’d to the wed­ding that he was not com­ing “with re­grets.”

My brother-in-law told my hus­band that his son wasn’t com­ing to the wed­ding be­cause the son is an Ortho­dox rabbi (although cur­rently not a prac­tic­ing rabbi) and he couldn’t pos­si­bly go to a wed­ding of mixed faith.

He sent no card, no well wishes, noth­ing. And the RSVP card came a week

late.

So ba­si­cally, he chooses his re­li­gious be­liefs over fam­ily, and is snub­bing us.

How would you han­dle this? Should we never speak to our nephew?

Should we refuse to at­tend any fu­ture event that he might in­vite us to? We would like your opin­ion.

— Ex­cluded

There are am­ple ex­am­ples of peo­ple of all faiths re­fus­ing to at­tend wed­dings or other re­li­gious cer­e­monies, for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons. The list jus­ti­fy­ing this ex­clu­sion for Catholics is sev­eral items long. And even if there are ac­tual re­li­gious rea­sons or jus­ti­fi­ca­tions for re­fus­ing to wit­ness this mar­riage, declar­ing this seems less about liv­ing out one’s val­ues, and more about shun­ning peo­ple.

This be­hav­ior is al­ways about the per­son do­ing the ex­clud­ing, and not about the peo­ple be­ing ex­cluded.

It would have been very easy for your hus­band’s nephew to sim­ply send his re­grets re­gard­ing this wed­ding cer­e­mony. In­stead, he put the word out that he is ac­tu­ally re­ject­ing their mar­riage.

There are nat­u­ral con­se­quences to ex­clud­ing fam­ily mem­bers. One con­se­quence is for fam­ily mem­bers to want to re­tal­i­ate, or be­have as he has. But should you? No.

You should be hon­est: “We heard from your fa­ther why you re­fused to at­tend your cousin’s wed­ding, and we want you to know that we are up­set.” That’s it. There is some like­li­hood that he won’t care in the slight­est how you feel.

My mom has known her best friend “Max­ine” for over 30 years. Even though Mom and Max­ine work sim­i­lar jobs with sim­i­lar pay, Max­ine is fi­nan­cially com­fort­able due to a fam­ily in­her­i­tance, while Mom strug­gles to make ends meet be­cause of poor fi­nan­cial de­ci­sions and no plan­ning.

When­ever the two of them go out to eat or to a movie, Mom al­ways ex­pects Max­ine to pay for the both of them. Mom says this is be­cause, since Max­ine is the one with plenty of money, she should be the one who gen­er­ously pays for ev­ery­thing. Max­ine usu­ally does pay, and Mom never re­turns the fa­vor.

I’ve told Mom that it’s not right to ex­pect Max­ine to al­ways pay. Mom says that I just don’t un­der­stand how it works. I dis­agree.

Of course, Max­ine can be gen­er­ous with her money if she likes, but I think it’s pre­sump­tu­ous and rude of Mom to treat Max­ine like an ATM just be­cause she has more money. What do you think?

— Dis­tressed Daugh­ter

I think your prob­lem with your mother runs deeper than her re­la­tion­ship with “Max­ine.” You ob­vi­ously be­lieve that she has squan­dered her own earn­ings; I as­sume you are wor­ried about her fi­nan­cial fu­ture.

Your mother’s re­la­tion­ship with her friend is her own busi­ness. Pros­per­ous friends are some­times quite happy to pick up the check with no hard feel­ings, fi­nan­cial re­cip­ro­ca­tion or strings at­tached.

If you are wor­ried that your mom will turn to you as her own per­sonal ATM post-re­tire­ment, then this is an im­por­tant is­sue, and in this case, your mother’s choices be­come your busi­ness. If you want to weigh in on her busi­ness, this should be your fo­cus. Max­ine might not be there for­ever.

Con­tact Amy Dick­in­son via email at askamy@ amy­dick­in­son.com.

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