Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: My son is 27 years old. He is extremely smart and has exhibited an interest in avionics from the age of 4. One of the first words he learned was "fuselage." He has had one formal flight lesson, and I always thought he would pursue a pilot's career. From the age of 16, he has held meager low-level minimum wage jobs, even though he calls himself a "genius." He went to junior college and two years at a state university, but dropped out. Then he went to work at a hardware store. I am so disappointed in him and his lack of ambition. He has social anxiety as well, and has never had a girlfriend. I had a great job for many years, but my son lives with his father, who drives a truck. I think he has no motivation or ambition, and it has driven a wedge between us. I have emailed him about vocational airline mechanic schools where he could learn a trade and have a career, but he doesn't care. He just doesn't answer me. I feel so sad for him and the man that he could become. Should I just back off (which I have for years) or continue to encourage him? He doesn't seem interested.
DEAR MOTHER: You don't seem to really know what kind of man your son has become, because you are focused squarely on your own disappointments -- professionally and personally -- that you might not know what he is good at. He might be "salesman of the year" at the hardware store, and yet you are pushing him to go to work with airplanes. If he responded to you, he might say, "If you are so eager about airplane mechanics school, mom -- why don't YOU go?" Your son might be wrestling with anxiety or other issues that you don't know about. But if he has held a job for a substantial period of time, you should be satisfied that he is doing what he wants to do -- unless he tells you otherwise.
Your son is an adult, not a little child whom you can try to mold to fit your version of what success is. You should back off and set aside your own dreams for him. Take him as he is -- and start there to build a relationship. If you are more accepting now, he might be more open to your influence down the road.
DEAR AMY: I am 27 years old. I have always been a daddy's girl. My dad and I were extremely close until his passing almost three years ago after a three-year battle with cancer. Before this, my parents had been married for 30 years. Recently my mother has been talking on her phone way more than usual, and I asked my sister whom she was talking to. Apparently this guy has been coming around and taking her on trips out of town and such. When I first heard this I was very bothered. I'm writing because my boyfriend is saying I'm being selfish for not approving of this. I'm still grieving, so why isn't she? Please help me understand and be possibly close to being OK with this. Is my boyfriend right?
DEAR GIRL: I don't think you really know how your mother is feeling, because you two don't seem to have talked about it.
Should your mother's grief prevent her from ever spending time with another person ever again? Should your mother grieve alone -- while you get to grieve in the presence of your partner? Should your mother's grief be exactly like yours? Sometimes, grief feels like fear. But the primary thing to remember when you are suffering a loss is: Be gentle. Be gentle with yourself and gentle toward others. Reach out to her and hold your harsh judgment.
DEAR AMY: My heart broke when I read the letter from "Brotherly Problems," who had become estranged from his brother after arguing over politics. I think it's really important to remember in this heated political season that we all need to be civil.
DEAR READER: Politicians will come and go. We really let the bad guys win if we allow political differences to overwhelm otherwise healthy relationships.