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ASK AMY

Middle son sends folks on guilt trip

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Amy Dickinson

Amy Dickinson

Dear Amy: My wife and I have been married for 40 years and have three grown children.

The oldest and youngest always towed the line, graduated college and have great jobs. Our middle son started having issues in high school with drugs and interactions with the police.

No matter what we tried, it only worked for a short time and cost us thousands of dollars.

After high school he came home late one night with his girlfriend. She was dead the next morning from an overdose. This event led to a three-year prison term.

After prison, things seemed better. He got a good trade job, married, had two children, house, cars, and was doing well.

Then out of the blue the drugs were back. He drained their bank account. His marriage fell apart. He sat in his house for months until it was foreclosed upon and the sheriff removed him.

Now he wants to move into our empty nest. With the drugs and the shady people he has been associating with, we don’t want him living here.

He is trying his usual guilt trip to get us to cave.

We are just hitting 60 and getting very close to retirement. Given his situation and history, are we wrong to tell him to figure this one out himself, and that living here is not an option?

— Exhausted Parent

Dear Exhausted: Given what your son has already experienced — and put you (and others) through — I’m wondering what possible grounds he might have to send his parents on a guilt trip.

From the evidence you present, he actually seems to do better when he is not living in your home. He has experienced a period of sobriety, and you should keep in close touch with him and support his efforts at recovery. Emphasize that he has done this hard work before, and that he can do it again. He is not starting over; he is starting again — this time with experience.

You should convey that no, he cannot live at home, but you may be able to help him find rental housing and connect him with local services and addiction counseling.

Ask open-ended questions. Do not overwhelm him with suggestions, or assume that you can “fix” him. Check drugfree.org for parent resources, including their phone helpline, text and email support. Communicating with other parents in a similar situation will help to clarify your position.

Dear Amy: We’ve been friends with a couple for over 20 years.

Our son grew up with their son — from elementary school through high school graduation. They played sports together and maintained a friendship.

Their son is getting married this summer, and our friends just informed us that while we are invited, our son and his wife are not — due to cost.

Our son will be hurt knowing that we (capable of giving a generous gift) are invited, but he and his wife (scraping by while he is in school and she is teaching) are not (and they would have spent their “gifting” money on expenses for attending the wedding — had they been invited).

Are we out of line to think that this is just bonkers?

The groom would much rather have his buddy (my son) and his wife at his wedding than us. We thought that this was weird.

Do we ask his parents to exclude us from the festivities and invite our son and his wife instead? Your thoughts?

— Invited

Dear Invited: It seems strange that the parents are communicating about the wedding guest list instead of the groom and bride.

You imply that you have been invited because you can afford to give a gift. This seems an unkind assumption to make. And, of course, you could give a gift even if you hadn’t been invited.

You should not dictate the guest list. You could try to clarify this by asking the parents, “Are you sure the marrying couple wouldn’t rather have our son and his wife at the wedding, instead of us? If so, we totally understand.”

Contact Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribpub.com. Follow her on Twitter or like her on Facebook.

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