CAROLYN HAX

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Life - Email Carolyn at [email protected]­post.com

DEAR CAROLYN: I’m a 70-year-old mom of a 35-year-old, newly mar­ried son, my only child. What are your thoughts about his telling me that if I visit them, I need to stay in a ho­tel? I would only visit if in­vited of course. I vis­ited him be­fore and stayed in his apart­ment. Prior to that, he lived in a dif­fer­ent city, and said if I vis­ited, I needed to stay in a ho­tel. I didn’t visit him there.

As ex­pla­na­tion or sup­port he writes only that all his friends have their fam­i­lies stay in ho­tels. Just a by-the-way: I know lots of his friends and this isn’t true. My son and his wife host their out-of-town friends in their sec­ond bed­room with a comfy sofa bed.

I’ve emailed back that I, like the rest of my fam­ily and ev­ery­one else I know, aren’t peo­ple who stay in ho­tels on short fam­ily vis­its. I think I also wrote that such a visit would en­gen­der not-good mem­o­ries for me.

I don’t know his wife well. We haven’t chat­ted or spent time to­gether just us two. She has a warm per­son­al­ity, many friends and writes me friendly thank-you notes for gifts I send her. It’s been that way since we met and I don’t have a judg­ment or opin­ion about what our lack of close­ness is about.

I 100 per­cent get that other fam­i­lies hap­pily do stay in ho­tels for ex­cel­lent rea­sons. I may change my thoughts, like if my son has chil­dren or what­ever (though par­ents I know and par­ents of his friends stay with their chil­dren and grand­chil­dren on vis­its).

– “Jane”

DEAR JANE: If you in­deed “aren’t peo­ple who stay in ho­tels on short fam­ily vis­its,” then you aren’t peo­ple who will ever visit your son. Done. Your choice. For the record, I can think of about a dozen more help­ful peo­ple not to be. You can not be peo­ple who:

Pre­sume to tell your hosts how to host you. Be­cause do­ing that is so in­cred­i­bly rude – and, when you do it at a time you’re hop­ing to en­dear your­self to a child-in-law, it’s also self-de­feat­ing to a de­gree that leaves me agape.

Rum­mage around in a son’s other re­la­tion­ships for proof of how jus­ti­fied you are to feel wronged by him. “[T]hough par­ents I know and par­ents of his friends stay with their chil­dren and grand­chil­dren on vis­its”?! Just, stop. You are not a child; take un­wel­come news with some grace.

Ex­pect grown chil­dren to fol­low your blue­print for what “fam­ily” does or doesn’t do. They’re old enough now to have their own vi­sion of “fam­ily” – and you owe them and their choices the same re­spect you’d show any other adult (in those “other fam­i­lies” you “100 per­cent get”).

Shift blame onto the most vul­ner­a­ble tar­get. You say your­self that your son made the ho­tel re­quest once be­fore, pre­mar­riage. So quit the side­eye at the wife. Your son wants this. Pe­riod.

Refuse to be an agree­able or flex­i­ble guest, and then marvel when you’re in­vited only un­der cer­tain terms and con­di­tions. Just for ex­am­ple.

I re­al­ize none of this is wel­come ad­vice for some­one who is, at heart, just feel­ing hurt to be kept at arm’s length. (Right?) I also un­der­stand the un­der­ly­ing fear – that you’re los­ing your son to the new fam­ily he and his wife have cre­ated.

I urge you to look in­ward now be­cause ev­ery­thing I’ve listed is an alien­at­ing be­hav­ior that you’ve em­ployed – each one on its own an ef­fec­tive method at push­ing peo­ple away. They all fit into a cy­cle of de­fen­sive­ness, which no doubt this an­swer risks per­pet­u­at­ing, but which I also hope you over­ride long enough to say to your son: “I’m sorry. I over­stepped when I emailed you. I strug­gle with change, but I will adapt. I owe you and [wife] that.”

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