Dear Annie: For the past 10 years, my son, now a medical student, has dreaded having dinner with his father.
His dad and I separated more than 20 years ago, and every encounter with the children has included his father’s wife. She dominates the conversation, makes idiotic comments, talks about how wonderful her four children are and totally excludes my son. She even had the nerve to refer to her children as “your Dad’s family now.”
My son was not congratulated for making it into an Ivy League college, getting into medical school or being at the top of his class. His father missed his college graduation party because his wife wanted to go bowling.
When we first separated, my son had dinner with his father at least once a week, and he really enjoyed the time they spent together. Now, my son rarely has time alone with his father and finds his wife self-serving and obnoxious. The sad part is, Dad doesn’t have the backbone to leave his wife at home on occasion. All my son wants to do is spend a little quality time with his father. How can I help? — Mother of a Wonderful Son
Dear Mom: It is best if your son handles this directly. Urge him to ask his father about having some one-on-one time. If you regularly speak to your ex, you can tell him how much it would mean to your son to have some special bonding time with Dad. Other than that, however, please stay out of it, and under no circumstances should you repeat any of the unkind things you said about his current wife. Regardless of how you feel or what she may be like, it will not help your son if you (or he) treat her with disdain.
Dear Annie: I have a friend with a troubled son. “Zane” is 23, has no job, lives at home and has been in trouble with the law. I believe he has a drinking problem and probably a drug problem, as well. My friend and her husband make a comfortable living, drive new cars and have an abundance of luxury items. Several months ago, Zane briefly moved out of his parents’ home and applied for food stamps. He has since moved back, and my friend thinks it is perfectly OK for Zane to continue to receive food stamps. She says it helps pay for his room and board. She even goes shopping with him to make sure he buys what she wants for the house.
Should I keep my mouth shut? After all, it is my tax money that is supporting her lazy kid. — Wondering Friend
Dear Wondering: We do not know (and neither do you) whether Zane is still entitled to the food stamps. If you report it to the authorities as a violation, we guarantee the friendship is over. Instead, speak to the boy’s mother as the friend you claim to be.
Encourage her to get help for her son rather than enabling him and postponing his ability to handle life’s challenges. In an effort to protect their children, parents can inadvertently cripple them.
Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Crying in California,” whose daughter died after a long illness. She was upset that her doctors did not bother to send a condolence card.
Maybe doctors don’t send condolences because their lawyers tell them not to. In our litigious society, such a note of condolence could be used to convince the grieving family that the doctor feels culpable and should be sued for malpractice. — Len in L.A.
Dear Len: Actually, the opposite appears to be the case. Doctors who express condolences, including those who apologize, are less likely to be sued than those who are perceived to be too arrogant to care.