Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: I’ve been dealing with epilepsy and its unknown causes for more than 20 years. Several tests by my neurologist mark me as a good candidate for surgery. I’m currently planning surgery to possibly prevent future seizures. I know this is very difficult for my husband and teenage daughter to have to live with and accept. I try to be as positive as I can so as not to bring others down. I’m not allowed to drive, several prescriptions are beginning to affect my memory and I repeat myself often (so I’m told). My daughter isn’t old enough for her driver’s license, so Dad takes over as the family transporter. My daughter always responds to me in a negative way, angrily shrugging her shoulders with an agitated reply, as if I should know that. When I ask how she likes her new water bottle, she points out, “It’s a water bottle, Mom,” and immediately turns to tell her dad about all of its great features. Anything I say is argued, corrected or simply tagged as wrong. I’m afraid to bring up conversations with her to avoid the embarrassing skepticism. I feel like she doesn’t want me here; her dad alone is sufficient; I’m not part of the family like I used to be. Is she just being a teenager and do I have to accept her behavior as part of growing up? Does she understand that this is difficult for me, too? Shouldn’t we be able to strengthen each other as a team? Is she subconsciously preparing for negative results from the surgery? Is there something I can do to ease this situation for all of us?
DEAR MOM: You daughter is behaving like a typical teen, but in a stressful and atypical situation. Some of her anger toward you might be an honest expression of how put-out she is that you aren’t well (teenagers tend to see the world primarily from the vantage of how it affects them). But her anger toward you might also be a function of how worried and anxious she is about your very serious illness and surgery.
You and your husband should call a “family meeting,” with the express purpose of talking to your daughter about your upcoming surgery. She may roll her eyes, check her nails, or jones for her phone (all phones should be off), but she will also be listening to you. If you engage her through honest information but discuss your illness’s impact on HER, she will feel included and validated. Ask if she has questions. She may respond with snark, but she will leave the table knowing that you care about her and are trying very hard to communicate.
Teenagers frequently respond poorly to one (or both) parents, and then feel ashamed but trapped by their own behavior. Stay open to her and be tolerant and forgiving, without being a doormat.
DEAR AMY: Last spring, our two adult daughters (as well as my wife and I) received “Save the Date” cards from a childhood friend of the girls’, announcing her summertime wedding. Months later, one daughter received an invitation for said date; the rest of us did not. We have since learned that this practice of notifying friends of the impending event is increasing in popularity, but we’ve learned that actual invitations sometimes fail to show up. Is there an etiquette protocol established for this? We didn’t crash the wedding, of course, but should we have said something to the bride?
Wondering About Rules
DEAR WONDERING: If you received a “Save the Date” card for a wedding, you should then have received an invitation to the wedding. Otherwise, what are you being asked to “save the date” for, precisely?
When you didn’t receive the invitation, it would have been appropriate to inquire about it.
DEAR AMY: I’m afraid for “Sad and Lonely,” the wife you counseled who has an abusive husband. Suggesting he join her in counseling, when he shows her no respect, rings hollow for me. Since he is verbally abusive and controlling, she should be guided toward her and any children’s safety. She may need to leave him. Please revisit the counseling advice.
Worried for Her
DEAR WORRIED: I was alarmed at this person’s level of denial about what I thought was clearly abusive behavior. Thank you for your warning regarding couple’s counseling in abusive relationships — the abuser can certainly use anything said in a session against the spouse later. I appreciate the correction.