DEAR AMY: My wife and I came to this country from halfway around the world nearly 50 years ago. We are both professionals – hard-working people with Type A personalities.
With the utmost TLC we raised three children who are now in their early 40s, highly successful, and with their own lovely families. They live far away from us.
We are highly regarded, loved and respected – mainly because we have accumulated considerable knowledge and experience over the years and treat everyone with love and respect.
However, to our adult children, we don’t seem to do or say anything quite right, from tipping in a restaurant to purchasing a piece of property to driving a vehicle!
How should we respond to this fairly constant criticism from our children?
DEAR PARENTS: You describe yourselves as “Type A” personalities. I assume your children are too. Some of this need to offer “helpful” feedback might be more temperamental than judgmental.
Is any of this criticism helpful to you? If so, then accept it. Remember, too, that when you were the ages of your children you were (presumably) thousands of miles away from your own parents, and thus not able to offer them lots of condescending feedback. (Or perhaps your home culture forbids this sort of intergenerational interchange.)
This change in the parent/child dynamic is quite common and I have to confess doing this to my own mother, trying to weigh in on choices that had nothing to do with me.
My mother batted me down, quite gently – but perhaps you need to be a little more assertive with your offspring. Each time this starts, remind them: “We don’t criticize your choices and don’t appreciate you criticizing ours. We’ve been successfully tipping (driving, purchasing things, etc.) for a very long time. This critique has become habitual on your part and we don’t like it. So please – for the love of God – stop.”
One of my mother’s favorite responses was to say, with a sigh: “I hope I live long enough to watch you handle this with your own children.” Happily, she did.
DEAR AMY: My daughter is a senior in high school. She went back to school this fall with no close friends.
Her childhood friends of 10-plus years told her during junior year that they don’t like the boy she’s seeing (they broke up months later) and she is not as focused on her future as they think she should be.
They ambushed her and said they will be friends with her if she proves herself worthy.
Obviously they are not true friends, but this has damaged her deeply. She goes to therapy weekly but she can’t seem to move past the hurt.
She had been treated for depression and anxiety prior to this event. It has also affected my friendships with the girls’ mothers. The women feel bad and seem to think that our friendship shouldn’t be affected. We’ve been friends for years and they did nothing to help the situation. This has been a horrible year for me as I’ve seen my daughter suffer.
What can I say or do to let them know it’s too difficult to remain friends?
Hurting for My Daughter
DEAR HURTING: You can tell these adult friends that you feel they have had opportunities to be helpful – but they haven’t been, and you are disappointed. Other than conveying your honest feelings, you don’t need to make a pronouncement about the future of your friendship.
Concentrate on your daughter. Walk with her and treat her with tenderness through this challenging year.
Her experience is extremely painful – and quite common. A friendship breakup is a very tough abandonment to shoulder. You are experiencing it yourself. Prompt her to discuss this in therapy – and with you.
She has a golden opportunity to start over when she gets to college. Pull out the stops to help her get there.
DEAR AMY: The letter from “Elephant on the Couch” was frustrated by a hard-working son-in-law who sacked out on the couch in the midst of festivities after Thanksgiving dinner. You were sympathetic toward the letter writer. I had to laugh – napping IS how we celebrate Thanksgiving in our family.
She should cut him some slack.
Prone to Naps
DEAR PRONE: Many readers agreed with you.
Write Amy Dickinson at firstname.lastname@example.org.