Dear Carolyn: Since he graduated from college four years ago, my son has been drifting among friends and family but mostly staying with his cousin and his wife.
My son is searching for his dream job and shows signs of pursuing that dream but basically doesn’t work. I try not to feel ashamed, but it really bothers me.
My brother and sister-and-law always find ways to make comments about the situation. I have pleaded with my son to get a job and get out of my nephew’s home, and I have asked my nephew to put my son out. Although he also rails at my son, he won’t ask him to leave. It’s as though they enjoy taunting us with this.
I don’t have a close relationship with my son because I still “parent” him. I suggest, I gently nudge, I speak outright, etc.
How do I get through holiday gatherings with my chin up? What can I say when someone asks if the cousin is attending an event and my brother responds, “I guess they’ll have to bring their 27-year-old kid”?
– Bummed Out
A: If it makes you feel better, you aren’t alone in your overinvolvement in the younger generation’s problems – how is this your brother’s business?
Let’s dissect: Your son is staying with his cousin and job hunting without much conviction; your nephew and his wife are housing your son; you’re suggesting, speaking outright, pleading, etc.; your brother and sister-in-law are commenting and taunting.
By my count, the youngers are the ones doing, and the elders are merely talking.
As adults themselves, your son and nephew are free to perpetuate this awkward residential farce as long as their taste for it endures.
You, too, are free to keep talking – but nothing you and your brother say is making any difference, except to keep the bad feelings in constant circulation.
To stay cool through holiday harping, keep this chain of responsibility in mind: You aren’t your son, don’t control your son, can’t reraise your son, and can’t change how anyone deals with your son. So when anyone tries to use him against you, make the point (firmly, not flippantly) that no matter how hard you pull the strings, your son’s arms don’t move.
Maybe you did overraise him into this paralysis – assuming that’s the implication here – but who appointed your brother to audit your parenting mistakes? Stop pining for the outcome that will impress others; I can think of no finer example for your son.
And when the snark flies, consider not responding at all, except maybe to have a cookie and ask yourself whether it’s really necessary to spend your holidays with such punitive people. Nothing says you must.
Invite exes to party
Dear Carolyn: Two of our friends broke up several months ago. The woman is a closer friend to me, but my husband is closer with the man. We would like to have a party, but I am perplexed as to whom I should invite – her or him? We don’t want any awkward situations at our house. My husband thinks the man has made more of an effort to host events at his place, so we should invite him.
It was my idea to host a party, so shouldn’t I choose who gets to come? Who is right?
– Name Withheld
A: Neither. Invite both friends and tell both the other is invited.
Who wants “awkward situations”? But when you’re willing to hurt someone’s feelings (by exclusion) just to avoid awkwardness, you’re letting party perfectionism muscle its way to the top of your priority list.
Your friendships belong at the top of that list. Honor them and let the exes sort it out like the adults they presumably are. If they touch off a melee over the canapes, then your next guest list will write itself.
“It was my idea”? Really?