Friend worries about her friends’ troubled kids
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
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.
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.