DEAR AMY: I am a divorced mom. I raised my four kids pretty much on my own. We are a close-knit family. We get along well. The kids are all in their 20s now and doing well, but I have a dilemma about my birthday. I recently turned 58. Two of my kids spent the evening helping me celebrate. It was wonderful. One child recently moved a few states away for grad school, but he checked in with a phone call. It was great. However, my youngest, who is doing a college internship in another city, made no contact with me at all. I know that his siblings reminded him of my birthday. This is now two birthdays in a row (as well as Mother's Day) that he has blown off. I feel hurt, and I called him out on it. Amy, I am not looking for fancy parties, gifts or travel to celebrate my day. A phone call is all I ask. He responded that he didn't call because he was having a bad day and that he doesn't need me to pile a guilt trip on top of it. He said the same thing regarding Mother's Day. Should I continue with life and pretend it doesn't matter? Should I blow off his birthday and show him how it feels? Advice appreciated.
DEAR SAD: When he neglects to celebrate you on special days, your son is not necessarily and exclusively expressing his feelings about you — he's actually showing you how he feels about himself.
It would be easy to dismiss this as the immature act of a spoiled youngest child, but I believe it is more complicated than that. Your son is rebelling in a way that looks, and feels, like rejection.
You have done a good job of being honest in expressing how this deliberate neglect makes you feel. His siblings have likely delivered a message along the lines of, "Dude, really?" You should assume that he got the memo.
Immature people don't apologize and work to make things right — instead they double down on their transgressions and make things worse.
Your son might be depressed, and/or angry about things he can't articulate. His guilt trip started long before you called him out.
More pressure won't help. Don't pretend it doesn't matter to you, but do accept that he has messed up. Tell him, "I want you to know that a call or a text on these special days makes me happy in a unique way. I don't want to box you in, but it's just one of those little things that nice young men do for their mothers to make them feel good."
And then make your own choice — to forgive him. When he finally knows better, he will do better. No, I do not think you should blow off his birthday, because I don't believe it would make either of you feel better.
DEAR AMY: I am a mother of two young kids and am in the process of buying a house. I'm worried about work, because I have exaggerated my credentials and have put myself in a very precarious situation. I've been a teacher for 12 years, and claimed I had a certification that I don't actually have. The certification I claimed to have doesn't have an impact on the subjects I teach, but I am worried that all my exaggerations may come to light soon because my position is changing. Coming clean could be detrimental to my family and our future. My boss became aware of my exaggeration and I admitted it, and my boss was very understanding about it. I'm not sure what to do and have no one to talk to without outing myself. I'm very worried my co-workers will find out. What should I do?
DEAR WORRIED: You should get your certification. If you can't, you should work with your institution to make sure your false claim is removed from your personnel file. You spread a falsehood. You've been lucky so far, because your boss has given you a pass. Now you should make it right.
DEAR AMY: You published my question ("Obligated ex-Boyfriend") about my former girlfriend who kept asking me for big favors, and I was agreeing out of guilt. You basically told me that I would have to break up with her again. Thank you so much for the advice. I believe it will help me through this.
Not So Obligated
DEAR OBLIGATED: Respectfully delivered clarity will help both of you.