Annie's Mailbox: Parents shocked by situation with sons

Dear Annie: I have two adult sons, one married, one divorced. We always had a good relationship, but I hadn't heard from either of them in a while even though they live nearby. I finally phoned and asked what was going on, but they wouldn't tell me. When their father called, however, they came over.

The married one said he has "low self-esteem" and it's my fault. He has a master's degree and a terrific job, he has been married 20 years and he lives in an expensive home. The other one constantly sought and received our help while going through his divorce, but now he says we've "done nothing" for him.

We also have five grandchildren, but only one calls us. Longtime friends are flabbergasted at this situation. Most of them knew us while our kids were growing up. We have no relatives to talk to. What can we do?

- A Hurt Mom and Gran

Dear Hurt: Some children never mature sufficiently to take responsibility for their own lives. It is easier to blame Mom and Dad for whatever problems or unhappiness they have. A child with an expensive home and good job can still have low self-esteem, and self-absorbed children assume their parents never do enough for them. We also can tell you that when siblings get together, the "blame game" can intensify. Parents are not perfect, but still, at this age, it is a form of denial to make you the fall guy. Offer to go with them for counseling to see if you can work through this. In the meantime, occupy your time and your thoughts with other activities that will bring you contentment.

Dear Annie: I love to send out Christmas cards, especially to out-of-town friends and family I rarely see. I think this is the main function of the cards, to check in and say that though we don't see each other often, I still think of them warmly.

However, a surprising number of my friends argue that if I never see these people and only hear from them at Christmas, it's a waste of time to send them cards. The implication is that whether they wanted to stay in touch, they would do so during the rest of the year.

I used to laugh off such comments as Scrooge-like, but I wonder. Does it make sense to send cards and catch-up notes to those I never see?

- Lake City Mark

Dear Mark: We think you are a thoughtful, nice fellow and hope you will continue to send Christmas cards and notes to people you rarely see, provided you enjoy doing so and they enjoy receiving them. You are not obligated to send cards to those who never respond, but you are correct that one of the objectives is to stay in touch, particularly with older relatives who may find it difficult to reciprocate. Bless you for caring enough to do so.

Dear Annie: I felt compelled to respond to the letter from "Missing Mom in Missouri," who worries her recently widowed father may be entering the dating scene too soon.

I was a widow at age 34. I did most of my grieving while my husband was dying of cancer, not after. In fact, we grieved together. This is an intimate aspect to a marriage that children cannot appreciate.

When my husband died, I had been grieving for six months. It shocked my family and friends when I moved on while they had just started mourning. Some thought I must not have loved my husband, but I know he wanted me to continue with my life. After being surrounded by death for six months, I was exhausted and needed someone to care for me. I also struggled with my own mortality.

I hope that daughter will be supportive. Her father has grieved far more than she knows.

-Happily Remarried in Connecticut

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