Dear Amy: I have always tried to raise my two children, now 17 and 18, to be independent. They were allowed to make a lot of their own decisions – for better or for worse (although I, of course, gave them guidance when they needed it).
Guess what? It worked! Now they don’t need me or choose to be with me for more than 10 minutes a day, in general. Eating dinner only takes seven minutes, apparently. Then, “I have homework to do.”
The older one is in college and hacking her way through life’s challenges in ways that befuddle me but still seem to keep her on the general path toward adulthood.
The younger one is a great student, responsible and trustworthy, but basically a roommate who forages in the kitchen at midnight.
I know they love me; they tell me reasonably often, and I get hugs now and then.
I am an active person, always with a little project or taking a walk. They NEVER want to do anything with my husband or me unless it involves food or some unusual activity like going to a comedy club.
Museums, movies, TV series, hikes? No way. They are in their rooms, at work or off with friends. I worry about their socialization and lack of activity, even though they’re physically just fine.
They are going to be gone for good before I know it, so my question is this: Do I let them continue to live their own lives for better or for worse, or do I occasionally force them to do things with us and ignore the complaining?
It’s obviously easier for me – and frankly more enjoyable – to just do what I like without having to force others along and listen to their complaining, but I also feel like I’m just giving up and not parenting well.
What do you think?
Dear Befuddled: I think that you should occasionally force your kids to do “family things.” This demonstrates that there are times when they should, in fact, engage in relationship-building activities just because other people want them to.
The place to start this campaign might be during your seven-minute dinners.
Your children should in fact be forced to stay at the table and converse – or wait patiently with their phones elsewhere – until everyone is done eating. Then, unless they have cooked the meal, they should clear the table and clean the dishes. This is basic life skills 101.
And yes, occasionally you should force-march them through a family hike or into a museum with you and their father, simply because you are all in a family together. They should also be forced to attend celebrations or memorial services for family members, even if they have other plans. And yes, you should ignore the complaining. And yes, they will still love you.
Dear Amy: I love my significant other, but when we have issues she stonewalls me.
She has gone through things in her past and they make her shut down when we have problems.
I don’t know how to get through to her. I want to stick around, I want her to get better, but nothing I say is the right thing and nothing I do is the right thing.
I love her so much, but my heart literally breaks every day when she shuts me out.
I don’t want her to go through all this alone, but I am losing myself.
I’m late for work. I neglect school. I don’t get sleep. How can I be a good person to someone who doesn’t want my help and who can’t accept it?
Dear Upset: You can’t be the good person you want to be if you neglect your own health and well-being trying to serve the needs of someone who rejects your efforts.
The first step toward emotional healing and wellness for her would be to learn how to generously love the person who loves her. If she isn’t willing to at least try to communicate, then you should consider leaving the relationship, for your own sake.
Dear Amy: “Dreading” was very concerned about how to behave around his brother, who had recently come out as gay. Instead of offering him support, you used your answer to promote yourself and your liberal views. Shame on you.
Dear Unhappy: “Dreading’s” brother’s sexuality is not up for debate. Treating this gay brother simply like a brother instead of some sort of gay problem would have been a good place to start.
Email Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org.