Adapted from a recent online discussion.
DEAR CAROLYN: We’re married 30 years and have raised two boys to adulthood in a supportive environment complete with a stay-at-home mom, involved parents and fully paid college.
My wife and I are crushed by the boys’ lack of appreciation for their mother’s birthday and Mother’s Day, until I asked them to call her. (I received a card and gift for my birthday and Father’s Day last year from one son.)
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We spoke separately with each boy afterward, with one sincerely atoning, and sheepishly stating that the disparate treatment of me versus my wife was unintentional. The other boy refused to acknowledge the importance of my wife’s (or any other’s) important occasions on any level.
I usually nudged the boys during their adolescence to remember such occasions, but wonder how long to continue nudging. I wonder in general what, if anything, to do about a married 27-year-old son’s and 24-year-old son’s behavior toward their mom who gave so much of herself for their futures.
– Involved Parent
DEAR INVOLVED PARENT: They’re adults. You say your piece and then drop it.
This is like half of a couple bereft that the other half ignored Valentine’s Day. Is the ignored day truly dismissive of the love they supposedly share, or is it merely a sign that one person values greeting-card occasions and the other doesn’t?
If your boys treat the two of you warmly and make efforts to stay in touch otherwise, by young-adult standards at least, then I hope you and your wife take that as ample thanks for a job well done. Truly. While I believe a good way to show people you care is to express affection in a way they appreciate, I also believe a good way to show people you care is to accept their affection however they choose to give it.
And, speaking only for me, I’d rather have children who were well-adjusted, independent, productive members of society to my credit than a bouquet. (Assuming I had to choose only one, which we all must do sometimes.)
DEAR CAROLYN: When I am hanging out with my friend, she will sometimes take calls from her mother or grandmother and talk for two to five minutes. These are not emergency calls. She thinks this is not rude because the calls are short. I violently disagree. Resolve this for us?
– Chatty Cathy’s friend
DEAR CHATTY CATHY’S FRIEND: Violently?
I’m on your side, but I’m wearing hockey pads just in case.
My siding with you, and even your siding with you, is irrelevant. She not only thinks it’s fine but doesn’t care that you don’t. What are you going to do, grab the phone from her ear? You either wait out the calls or you step away to do your own thing when she takes them. If she doesn’t like that, then, eureka.
DEAR CAROLYN: Can any good ever come from telling someone they were the one who got away? I’m figuring usually not … so why is it so tempting?
DEAR ANONYMOUS: Is it possible even to know that about someone? It’s a counterfactual. You weren’t with them, so you don’t know what you would have had.
It’s tempting because you want to see what it’ll stir up. Do resist, though, unless you’re both free agents. Thanks.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax. Find her columns daily at www.seattletimes.com/living