Dear Amy: I was the disciplinarian while my children grew up.
I freely admit that I crossed the line multiple times in disciplining my son, but I have apologized many times.
I try to help each of my children, especially in terms of financial assistance.
My son is now 51 and lost his father (my husband) two years ago to COVID.
Then his wife was in a terrible auto accident. I took care of her for six months before they moved back to their house (which is adjacent to mine).
Three months later she went into a coma and never came out of it.
He called me to come while the paramedics worked on her.
He asked me to take him to the hospital, where we spent several days before she passed.
I helped him with his finances and paid his bills (with his money), and set up a system he could maintain.
He has a lot of anger issues.
He mostly takes out his anger on me. He talks rudely to me, and only comes to my house when my daughter and son-in-law visit to help with projects around my property.
He is only sweet to me if he wants something.
I don’t know what to do. I am 72 and I don’t want him to live with regrets when I am gone.
My daughter says he can’t forgive me for events that occurred while I was raising him.
— A Mom in Crisis
Dear Mom: It is possible that your “discipline” in childhood (which I assume includes physical punishment) might have actually broken your son’s spirit, consigning him to an adult life where he is both dependent on you and burdened by his rage toward you. This is a truly soul-injuring combination.
You freely admit that you “crossed the line multiple times” during your son’s childhood, but the apologies you offer are empty because he is already broken.
Your husband (possibly his protector in childhood) has died. His wife recently died in a prolonged trauma.
He has been through hell, and because of your treatment of him during his childhood, he doesn’t have access to a range of emotions — anger might be all he is able to feel, especially in relation to you.
It sounds as if you have been helpful when he and his family have been in crisis. These heroic measures are your way of being a good mother to him now, but you cannot go back and undo the damage to this wounded person.
You should protect yourself from his anger and only react positively when he behaves well toward you (he obviously knows how to do that).
You and his sister should urge him to get professional therapeutic help for the many wounds he carries.
Until he receives some actual healing (versus apologies), you should also understand that when you’re gone, he might feel only more rage regarding his losses.
Dear Amy: My daughter was married recently, and one of her good friends who attended the wedding with her husband did not leave a gift.
Last year when this gal was married, my daughter gave a very generous gift.
Should she just let this go, or is there a diplomatic way of addressing this?
— Concerned Mom
Dear Concerned: I wonder why you, the mother of the bride, are keeping such close score? Your daughter is an adult; this really is her issue to handle.
If there was a gift table at the wedding, there is always the possibility that one or more of the gifts was mislaid.
A less-rude way of trolling for wedding gifts would be to contact the couple and say, “We are worried that some wedding gifts might have been mislaid, so we’re following through to make sure that yours was not among them. If you brought a gift to the wedding, please do let us know so we can try to track it down.”
Dear Amy: “Secret Child” learned, late in life, that they had been adopted and was now contacting bio family members — some of whom wanted this person to remain “secret” to the others.
Some may not understand this need or desire to know one’s biological family.
I was adopted by a wonderful family, and was born in Asia. Despite DNA searches it seems that I will never even know my tribal or ethnic roots (other than “Asian”).
My family understands my longing, but many others don’t.
Dear Adopted: Thank you for describing this deep desire. I hope you find some answers.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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