Dear Annie: I have a 17-year-old son. Until three months ago, he was the best son a mother could ask for. He’s captain of the varsity baseball and golf teams, band officer, top 10 in his class, you name it. He gave his father and me no problems until recently, when he began dating “Holly.” Now everything has gone out the window. Our son’s curfew is 9:00 p.m. on school nights and 1:00 a.m. on weekends. The problem is, Holly has no set time when she needs to be home. She can be out all night and nobody cares. Our son feels since she has no curfew, neither should he.
Holly is his first girlfriend, and we understand he is head over heels for this girl. My question is, do I have the right to contact her parents to find out why it’s OK for their daughter to be out 24/7? Can I ask them to keep her at home more?
When I was growing up, my parents had time limits for how long I could be out with my boyfriend and I followed the rules. I thought that was what every respectful young lady did. We have gone from being best friends with our son to being his No. 1 enemy. Please help me understand. – Heartbroken Mom in El Paso, Texas
Dear El Paso: Stick to your guns, Mom. It is not your job to be best friends with your son. It is your job to guide and protect him, and teach him to become an independent, responsible adult. Sometimes that will put you at odds and it’s OK.
You might consider raising his weekday curfew by one hour as long as it doesn’t affect his school performance, but giving him unlimited freedom is actually likely to create some insecurities. We feel sorry for Holly, whose parents give the impression they don’t care about their daughter. Instead of calling them, befriend her. You can then model what a caring family should be while becoming a more influential part of your son’s teenage life. Win-win.
Dear Annie: I have an old college buddy of 30 years. We’ve had get-togethers over the years, frequently visiting and attending each other’s parties. Since I married 10 years ago, the guy has yet to come to our house, in spite of repeated invitations to drop by any time. I’m OK with that. The problem is, he continues to invite us to his parties, frequently asking why we haven’t been around.
As the weather warms up and there are more casual get-togethers, how do I tell him it’s a two-way street without coming off as condescending? – One-Way Road
Dear One-Way: It could be that he doesn’t feel comfortable with your spouse or thinks the casual drop-in attitude you had when you were single is no longer appropriate. Since you still consider him a good friend, the best policy here is honesty. Tell him you are disappointed he hasn’t stopped by and ask if anything is wrong. Then invite him for a very specific time and date and see what happens.
Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Gagging Patient,” whose orthodontist had bad breath. When my daughter was 13, she had a similar problem with one of her teachers. She liked this teacher, but was uncomfortable being honest. She got together with two other students and typed an anonymous letter to the teacher telling her how much they admired and respected her. Then, as gently as possible, they mentioned the breath.
The teacher took care of the problem and never mentioned the letter, and the girls never told any other classmates what they had done. I was impressed that these 13-year-olds came up with a compassionate solution that caused little embarrassment to anyone. – Proud Mom
Dear Mom: Although we are not fans of anonymous letters, in this case it was for the best, as it was done with kindness and protected the students as well as the teacher.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.