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Daily Columns Archives

 

 

December 12, 2000

 

 Too Much Information, Inappropriate Birthday Gift, and Adult Children and Divorce

 

Dear Mrs. Web,

My 7-year-old son plays with the neighborís child. He recently came home from their house with and told us the neighbors had told him all about a certain social issue in great detail. He was confused and overwhelmed. How do I manage this?

Call them up and voice your concern.  When you speak to them this word picture may help: A man and his son were sitting waiting for a train. The young boy tried to pick up his fatherís big, heavy suitcase. The father told his son that someday he too would be a big, strong adult and be able to carry the heavy luggage. In the meantime, Daddy would carry it for him.

Children shouldnít have to cope with adult issues. It is our responsibility to carry them.


Dear Mrs. Web,

I just received my birthday gift from my boyfriend. I was so embarrassed when I opened it. He gave me some things that are really sexual (clothing, books, cards) and I donít know what to do. I canít show them to my mother, she would lose it. We havenít been having sex or anything. Help!

Well, your boyfriend has certainly made his plans for your relationship clear. It almost sounds like he bought himself a birthday present.

He sounds crass and crude to me. I wouldnít waste anymore time on him. Lose him.


Dear Mrs. Web,

My wife and I told our three children we are filing for divorce. Our youngest started college this fall. I didnít expect the response we received. They refuse to even talk to me.

Our youngest, however, is not participating at school and is on the verge of failing. The school counseling office has called twice about their concern and her mother is flying out to bring her home for an extended holiday.

I have been counting for years, on being able to have my own life after the children moved out. I am not sure what to do.

You are your childrenís parents for the duration of their lives. Your job isnít over when they leave home. It just changes. To expect your children to receive your catastrophic, family-killing news without comment or reaction is naive at best.

College counseling centers see a number of devastated young adults attempting to understand their parents impending divorce. Understand that you and your wife are still the guideposts by which your children measure their lives. You need to think this over.

 

 

December 11, 2000

 

 Two Long Letters

 

Dear Mrs. Web,

I have been attracted to a certain man for the past year. It has been obvious he has been attracted to me. This surprised me because I had always assumed he was homosexual. I needed to clear this question up. We met for dinner at my request. I told him I was attracted to him. It turns out he is homosexual. He explained he found women in general and me in particular, attractive, and sexy. He said he enjoys womenís company.

He also denied he was aware of any attraction of any kind between us, but most of us know when someone is attracted to you by his actions. Did I misread his signals?

No, you probably did not misread him.  Some people can only relate to others in the power/sexual way. Having others find them sexually attractive makes them feel powerful, wanted, and whole.

You were wise to find out his sexual tastes and back off. Some women just keep trying to win him over. That is a losing proposition because the issue is power instead of sexual or emotional attraction.


Dear Mrs. Web,

I was a widower with a three-year-old boy. Six years ago I met and married a wonderful woman who is parenting my son and our daughter. My wife is very involved in my sonís life.

 

My son misbehaved in school today, spending much of his day in detention. This was the first time he has had problems of this kind in school. My wife grounded him for the weekend and revoked other privileges.


He was supposed to spend the weekend with my mother. Mom was angry about this visit being postponed. She wants me to overrule my wifeís decision. I think my wife made a good decision. I donít want to cause any wife/mother problems here

 

You are wise to back and support your wife. Your mother should be told that although it is disappointing to have to change her schedule, she would certainly want to support instilling good values in her grandson. The bigger picture is worth the inconvenience.

 

You are the husband and the son. You can be very kind but clear with your mother that you are using your authority not only to support your wife in this decision, but that it is your decision too. In other words, for your mother, you are where the buck stops. If she has a problem, she should take it up with you, not your wife. I firmly believe that people should deal with their own parents in a marriage, and not let the burden fall on the spouse.

 

An aside, a child who is spending all day in detention is having some self-management problems. If he were mine, I would make an appointment Monday to see his teacher and any other adults and find out what happened, why, and how to work with the school to make sure it doesnít happen again. I believe in cracking down on first offenders Ė hard!

 

December 8, 2000

 

 The Entertainment, 

Messy Room,

and Mother Problems

 

Dear Mrs Web,

My mother plays piano. She can read notes and stumble through a song. She has absolutely no ear and inconsistent rhythm. At every family gathering,  and party my father insists on having her entertain us with her latest accomplishment. Visitors sit bolt upright and stare at the carpet until it is over, some cringe occasionally. Christmas is coming. How do we get our parents to stop the show?

It is their show in their house. You smile and applaud. It builds character.


Dear Mrs Web,

My thirteen-year-old daughterís room is a mess. It drives me nuts and causes a number of arguments. What can I do?

Draw up some bottom-line requirements for her room. Make it a really a low bar, i.e., no dead animals, no food that moves by itself, no overflow of room debris into the hallwayÖthen close the door. To keep the mounting debris manageable, periodically encourage girlfriend sleepovers. Use peer pressure to your advantage!


Dear Mrs. Web,

My mother is a strict and rigid woman who is always angry when I do not meet her demands fully. I am in my mid-twenties, married and with a career. My mother cannot accept the choices I have made in my life; therefore, she refuses to deal with me. I am parentless. It is harder than if she died. The rejection is awful. What do I do with it?

She is your mother. Whether you choose to patch things up and have a superficial relationship with her or walk away, that fact will never change. You can accept her and have a relationship of sorts with her, or you can accept her from a distance. 

In both cases, you need to realize she is never going to be the mother you want. You also can accept responsibility for your part in your estrangement from your mother. Everyone in this situation has some responsibility.

Add older adults into your life that you admire and would like to emulate. Choose people who live their lives with grace, lovingkindness, and dignity.

There will always be a hole. It is an "un-fill-able" spot. It will sometimes be painful, and at other times be barely perceptible. However, the hole will always be there.  The key is how you manage it.

Learn to treat yourself gently and find things that nurture you and strengthen you when it is painful. Recognize the wound it is, and know that time is a healer. Someday you will look upon your mother with pity and understanding.  She is a broken reed, as we all are, in some ways.

 

December 7, 2000

 

The Company You Keep, 

Clothing Wars and 

The Silent Treatment!

 

 

Dear Mrs Web,

I just discovered that one of my two roommates is trading sexual favors instead of her share of the rent. She is an English major. The landlord suggested that I might be interested in taking a percentage off the rent in this manner also. I was speechless and shocked. There is no room for me in student housing. What do I do?

You are living with a prostitute, albeit one with an acquaintance with Late Modern Poets. How sad!  

You are known by the company you keep. Donít wait for the end of the month. Move out now. 

Find a friend or family member to put you up and find an alternative housing arrangement. Perhaps your family will help you move into a short-term residence until you can find an affordable housing. Your reputation is worth the move.


Dear Mrs Web,

My daughter is fifteen. She has been the most cooperative and obedient of children until recently. She has an entire closet full of expensive and attractive clothes. She refuses to wear them. How do I handle the change? I am ready to pull my hair out.

Teenagers need to differentiate from their parents. That means she will try to be the Not-you. Negotiate clothing within your standards: clean, safe and modest are my bottom line. She gets to choose her clothes within your agreed-upon framework; but she must wear Parent-Approved clothing upon request i.e. Church, weddings, funerals, fine dining, extended family gatheringsÖ

Donít worry, in ten years she too will cringe at pictures of herself in bellbottoms, cargo pants, and oversized jackets. Time is a great equalizer.


Dear Mrs. Web,

There is a woman at work who refuses to speak to me. She absolutely refuses to say one word to me and uses others as go-betweens. It is truly embarrassing. I donít know what to do.

Usually someone plays the "I am not talking to you" game because she is trying to control the situation. She is angry with you and part of the control game is for you to be unbalanced by her behavior. She wants you to try to please her and read her mind. Since most of us are not accomplished mind readers, you end up feeling controlled and embarrassed.

The best way to deal with this kind of behaviors is to speak to her privately, asking her why she is not speaking to you. If she blows you off, do it with witnesses. 

If you still do not get resolution, you need to turn it into her problem. Explain to everyone that she is not speaking with you for reasons she chooses not to reveal. Your position may feel embarrassing. However, it can be seen in a humorous light too. What she is doing is silly, self-centered, and childish. I would treat her with the careful, polite, regard one gives a backward, non-speaking five-year-old.

 

December 6, 2000

 

Santa Claus, Children?

and Making Time

 

 

Dear Mrs. Web,

 

My neighborís family does not believe in Santa. Their older children just told my six-year-old son that there is no Santa Claus. What do I do?

 

You tell your son, "They are wrong. Our family celebrates with Santa." Then you calmly and nicely call the parents, explain the situation, and ask for their cooperation.

 


 

Dear Mrs. Web,

I have been married to my wife for two years. She has a child by a previous marriage and had always said she wanted one or two more children. I have been planning and looking forward to enlarging our family.

 

Recently, she has been hinting she does not want more children. She has even asked whether I would be troubled if we did not have children. She has changed her attitude. I love her and want a family more than I can say. This could end our marriage. What should I do?

 

The first thing you need to know is what changed and why. I think these are both fair questions for you to ask and for you both to talk about in detail. Your wife has had a heart-change.

 

 

She is your beloved. Sometimes women just need to talk though the changes that happen with new little ones.


 

Dear Mrs Web,

 

I am an artist. I am retired. I am not getting enough time in the studio. I have grown children and a wife I love. My urge to follow my art has become strong I have been thinking of leaving home so I can get the time I need for my work.

 

We have a big spread that takes a lot of care. All I want to do is paint. How do I get my wife and family to understand I need to work on my art?

 

I think that you should have more time for painting. However, I do not think you should walk away from your other responsibilities and commitments.

 

What do you do to meet your need to paint? Look a your household and see if there isnít a way you can rent work space, a room, or trade paintings to someone in return for maintenance. A college boy or a neighborís son might just be the ticket. 

 

Somehow, you need to decrease the load to give yourself the time and energy to fulfill your dream. Perhaps it is time to build a small house on your property and let one of your children take over the big one and all maintenance.

 

It is time to negotiate with your wife. You need to tell her that your painting is a "need" to fulfill your heart and soul. Ask for her ideas on how you can both carve the time into your lives. Negotiation means that you probably wonít get 6 days but four or five would be reasonable. Perhaps you can negotiate painting marathons if that is the way you work.

 

Life is about balance, mostly balancing our wants and needs against our commitments and responsibilities. Our wants and needs can shift over time and reworking and negotiation is normal and healthy. Send Dear Mrs Web some pictures of your work! It is wonderful to hear about talented readers out there.

 

 

 

 

December 5, 2000

 

Fears, 

Two Women, and 

Reading Assignments

 

Dear Mrs. Web,

My 12 year old is afraid to go to sleep. Every few months she'll start telling me she is afraid someone is going to kidnap her. She will get a stomachache and cry and want to sleep with me. We are unsure of the cause of her fears. She also refuses to stay alone at home even for 10 minutes. How do I help her fight these fears?

She is only twelve; that is very young. I would give her the comfort she needs. I have met more than one twelve year old who doesnít like staying at home alone. In this case, I would not fight fear but support strength with your presence. I would also teach her self-calming methods such as warm baths, warm milk or teas, soothing music and deep breathing.

Evaluate her life.  Is she under a lot of pressure at school or in her extracurricular life? Also, step back and review the kinds of media to which she is exposed. Movies, books, television programs, and news shows that show violence and a dangerous world may not be appropriate for a sensitive child.

If fearfulness begins to rule or limit her life, you will want to think of professional intervention with a counselor who has experience with both young teens and fears.


 

Dear Mrs. Web,

 

I am a 28 year old male dating a 25 year old woman. We have been involved emotionally, not sexually.  Our relationship has been wonderful. She is leaving for a few weeks for an extended tour overseas. We are ending our relationship on a good note.

 

I have recently become fascinated with another woman. I do not want to distract myself from the last seconds of a beautiful relationship that is ending very soon. However, I can't shake my compelling attraction to the other woman. I think about her constantly. I don't know what to do.

 

You are in an enjoyable relationship with a woman. The relationship appears to have no commitments or future. It is entertaining for the moment. In addition, the relationship is ending.

 

An interesting distraction is in the wings.  You are looking at five weeks more of commitment. I think it is a good exercise of character.

 

How? Well, you own your thoughts. You choose what you put in your mind and what you dwell on. You do not have to be ruled by your senses, desires, and emotions. This is how people stay in committed, lifelong, monogamous relationships. They backburner or round-file the things that get in the way of the commitment.

 


 

Dear Mrs Web,

 

My eight-year-old daughter has a wonderful third grade teacher for her accelerated class. She has immersed the class in interesting projects and events. The teacherís choice of reading assignments concerns us. Each child is required to read two books a month. All the teacherís choices are contemporary juvenile fiction. Fiction containing murders, abuse, death and other difficult or ambiguous issues.

 

Parents and children are supposed to read the books together and discuss them. They are also discussed in class. It just seems so inappropriate. I have talked to the teacher twice about it and so have other parents. She feels strongly that her list is appropriate. She asked me whether I was "censoring" her when I continued to disagree. I do not want my daughter to be pulled from the class. I donít know what to do.

 

Any professional who cries "censorship" when honest questions of appropriateness arise, would be a concern.  You may need to resolve this at a higher level and emphasize that the issue is appropriateness, not censorship.

 

People sometimes mistake the ability to read, with the ability to comprehend and assimilate young adult fiction. Just because one is an accelerated eight-year-old doesn't not mean one has an emotional and abstract reasoning needed for todayís contemporary fiction.  Accelerated elementary children learn easily and quickly, they do not struggle. However, they are not necessarily more advanced in their abstract reasoning than their slower peers.

 

Developmentally, eight-year-olds are concrete, black and white thinkers. Literature with gray areas and unresolved conflicts do not work well with them. This age group thrives with one-theme stories, humor, and fully resolved endings.

 

If she were my daughter, I would opt her out of the reading requirements in favor of a more age appropriate list. I would also discuss opting out with other unhappy parents; there is strength in numbers.  The Uses of Enchantment is a book for parents interested in delving into this issue a bit more.

 

 

December 4, 2000

 

Rude Daughter, 

Cruising Romeo, and 

Not Enough Time Together

 

 

 

Dear Mrs. Web,

I am embarrassed over my daughter. I have been dating a lovely woman for about three years now. She is the nicest person I have
every known. 

My 30-year-old daughter says, "she's ugly". My daughter and former wife are obsessed with physical appearance. How do I deal with this?

The best defense against shallow and limited people is to require decent manners from them. Your daughter should be told it is never appropriate to talk about anyoneís appearance, except to praise him or her or express concern about their health. Anything else is tacky gossip. 

Sit down with her and make your expectations clear. The most unattractive women in this world are the rude ones.


Dear Mrs. Web,

Three weeks ago I went on a cruise with my mother. I met a man who works on the ship. He was our waiter. He swept me off my feet.

Since I have been home, he has either e-mailed me or called me daily. He says he is in love with me. He wants to purchase a cruise package for me so I will return to the ship. He also wants me to go home with him to his own country this spring. Should I pursue this?

You were on a cruise. Your waiter is inappropriately attentive. He is pressuring you with his interest. He wants you to return to the ship, while he is working, with some sort of discount employee ticket. He even wants to take you home to Mother???

What do you know about him? Nothing. What do you get out of the relationship? Not much I can see. What does he get out of the relationship? Hmmm?

Would I continue this relationship? No! Would I spend intimate time on a cruise ship with a man I didnít really know? No! Would I go to a foreign country with a man I didnít know? No! It sounds like he was trolling and you took the bait. 

There are men who prey on unattached women. They are charming. Thatís why it works. I would walk away from this immediately.


Dear Mrs. Web,

I am a 16-year-old guy who has been seeing a terrific girl for the past couple of months. We really love each other.

We talk on the phone every night for up to 4 hours. She really doesnít want to spend all her time with me. If we go out one night she just wants to stay home for the next few nights. Not to do anything special,  just not to get together. 

I would really like to hang out together with her. Other couples at our school are with each other almost 24/7. I want that too.

Am I trying too hard? I need some advice.

Your girlfriend does not want to glue herself to you. This can be a healthy and mature sign. When an individual pursues her interests, and takes time for reflection she is deepening her personality.

Couples who glue themselves to each other are not able to exist happily as whole single human beings. Since they have not overcome being "glued" to each other, they are more prone to making poor life choices to maintain "glued" status.

When looking for a mature guy, young women look for a man who can be devoted to her, and have a successful life and a variety of interests.  Young men with an aim and plans for the future.

Cut back, find some additional interests, and work on being becoming the kind of adult you want to be. On my bookshelf page, I recommend Life on the Edge as one of the best books about the choices teens make that affect their future

 

 

December 1, 2000

 

Holiday Cards Across Traditions, Lonely Holidays, and 

Do I Tell Him I Like Him?

 

 

 

 

Dear Mrs. Web,

I send quite a few Christmas cards out each year. To our family, Christmas is a religious as well as cultural celebration. Our cards reflect this. However we have a few Jewish friends and I am never sure whether to send them cards or not. I donít want to offend them. Any advice?

Being offended by someoneís religious or cultural celebrations and traditions seems small-minded to me. One must take responsibility for oneís emotional reactions to these sorts of things and be respectful. The space between different cultures and religions must be a "neutral zone" for us all to live in harmony.

A wonderful friend, a rabbiís wife, and I exchange holiday greetings and chatty letters each year. I send her a Christmas card. On the inside I draw a line through the "Merry Christmas" and write in "Happy Hanukah". When her Hanukah card arrives the traditional greeting is crossed out and "Merry Christmas" is elegantly penned in. A true reaching across boundaries without compromising.


Dear Mrs. Web,

I have lived with my father since my mother died of cancer 10 years ago. My father has become more reclusive over time. He gets about the neighborhood but he refuses to leave home during the holidays although we have several invitations from family and friends. We sit and watch the games on television and eat take out. It is so depressing.

My brother and his large family, who live about four hours away, have always extended warm invitations but Dad says no way. I would really like to go, but feel terrible about leaving my 72-year-old father alone at Christmas. What can I do?

Your father is making a choice to stay home. It does not have to be your choice. Tell him you are planning to spend Christmas with your brother. Help him make whatever arrangements he will need to spend the holiday. Go, and have a good time.


Dear Mrs Web,

I have been attracted to a gentleman for about 10 months. We have become very good friends. I am not able to keep my feelings bottled up any longer. I believe he also has feelings for me. We are meeting soon to have a talk. Am I being too forward if I tell him how I feel?

I donít know. It depends on what kind of feelings you are talking about: physical attraction, "love", spiritual empathy, emotional bondingÖ 

Letís look at this more closely. You like a man and have become good friends. You have been attracted to him for some months. His combination of physical and personal charm causes you to open your emotional boundaries toward him.

After 10 months of being good, and I assume close, friends, you should have a handle on his character. If you want to test the waters and move the relationship along a bit, you might tell him youíre interested in exploring a relationship with him. I am not sure it would be wise to drop all your feelings in his lap. After all, this is not solitaire. Give him enough room to react and make this a mutual decision.

 

 

 

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