Dear Amy: My son is graduating from high school.
I made him sign a note stating that if I helped him edit his college essays, he would practice his writing skills over the summer. (Many books recommend that parents, teachers and guidance counselors should help students edit their college essays, and that obtaining feedback is valuable.)
My child has now been accepted into two honors colleges – partly due to these submitted essays, and partly due to a relatively high SAT score, GPA and extracurricular activities.
These honors programs require advanced writing skills.
I know, however, that his writing skills are weak and I am afraid that he will do poorly.
He has a B in AP English, but mainly because of multiple-choice tests.
I believe he has the ability to write well, if he practices, but with less than three months to go before he leaves for college, and after finding no suitable practice books, how should I make him practice?
Needing Much Practice
Dear Needing: You seem to be claiming at least partial credit for getting your son into two college honors programs. At the same time, you slyly diminish his work and accomplishments.
By your estimation, he really should not have been admitted, because he cannot do the work. You, however, seem like a good candidate.
The contract you made your son sign says: “I’ll polish your work so you can get into a good school. But then you’ll have to guarantee that you’ll learn how to polish your own work.” You haven’t offered any tools for him to fulfill his part of the contract.
Your son should succeed in college – or not – on his own. Given the level of your involvement so far, he could face a shock when he gets to college. Many students do, but they rise to the occasion through developing study strategies, visiting the writing center or asking professors for help.
It can be very hard for an involved parent to disengage, and yet, you must. (When I was pushing one of my daughters to attend a specific university, she snapped: “If you like it so much, why don’t you go there?”)
Lower the heat on this exercise. If your local community college offers a summer English or writing course, encourage him to take it. Also encourage him to read, read, read.
Liberation from your anxious gaze and judgment could unleash this young writer – once he leaves home.
Dear Amy: My accomplished and gorgeous friend is going through her second divorce.
She has two small children.
Everyone who loves her supports her decision to divorce wholeheartedly, as her second husband was abusive and she stayed in the marriage much longer than was healthy.
However, during this difficult time she became involved with a married work supervisor. It was all predictable: He said his marriage was in name only; he was planning to divorce, etc.
Several months later, he is still married and living with his wife, and the only prospect he offers is that someday he will separate, but won’t ever divorce her legally because of all the property they share.
It has been painful to see my friend suffer due to false promises and an uncertain future.
I’m tired of listening and offering support because she goes back to idealizing this guy, who seems nothing but bad news to her (and her children). How do I support her but not alienate her? I am afraid this will happen, if I start saying that she should run as fast as she can?
Dear Friend: Your friend seems to have bounced from one abusive man to another.
You should suggest that she see a therapist to examine her own choices and to work through her current problems.
Your focus should always pivot back to her children: What is best for them? How do her choices affect them? Can she find ways to tamp down the emotional upheaval in her own life, for their sakes?
She needs to absorb this truism: “When you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”
Dear Amy: I was disappointed to see that in your response to “Confused,” you made a reference inferring that community colleges are not “full-time schools.” Community college is definitely full time. Students there take full course loads and work just as hard as other college students.
Dear Upset: I am so sorry I made this error. I should have written “four-year” instead of “full time,” and I apologize. I heartily support the mission and success of community colleges.
Email Amy at email@example.com.