DEAR AMY: My mother is a very hardworking and dedicated mother, but she has some very problematic views of the world. She assumes refugees are going to terrorize our country and that women only gossip and tear each other down (for instance). The thing is, she is an immigrant herself from a Latin country. When I explain to her how problematic her thinking is, she tells me one story about something she saw that backs up her claims. I was privileged enough to graduate from a private liberal arts school (through scholarships). That experience opened my eyes to racism, sexism and other problems in our country and around the world. I visit my mother once a week, and we read the newspaper together. We start a dialogue about the never-ending stories about sexual assault and police brutality, and it always ends in a fight. I want to spend time with my mother, but it’s hard to listen to the things she says. I think it’s important for me to explain to her what I know and have learned, but I also don’t want to spend my evenings with her doing that. How can I spend time with my mom and talk about these important issues without arguing?
DEAR DAUGHTER: For now, you should table your impulse to educate your mother, and spend your time together getting to know her as an adult.
Your mother is more than the sum of her opinions regarding current events. She is a person with a story of her own.
I love it that you read the newspaper together, but you two might need a new routine that promotes togetherness. This might sound hokey, but working on a giant jigsaw puzzle comes to mind. As you hunch over the image, you can talk and catch up. Try asking open-ended questions and listening without correcting.
Some of what you are experiencing now is the real-life irony being played out when someone with a fancy diploma comes home and uses her privilege to try to change her parents. (I know because I did this myself.)
Your mother’s view of the world might never come around to your standard. But she might be offering you insights that you are too offended to recognize.
Instead of leaping in to correct her, you might say, “I know what you think, but I don’t know why you think the way you do. Can you explain?”
DEAR AMY: My husband and I shop at a wonderful grocery store that has self-dispensing machines for nuts, candies, chocolates, peanut butter and other nut butters. Underneath these machines is a tray. The shopper can take a pint plastic container to fill. Often some nuts or candies are spilled onto the tray. While we were shopping in that aisle, an elderly woman scooped up a cup or so of pecans that were spilled on the tray, along with some chocolate candies. She put them in one of the store’s plastic containers and put them in a large bag she carried. She said, “They just throw these away, so I might as well take them.” What she did next blew us away. She picked up a plastic container lid and put it up to the peanut butter machine, scraping off the peanut butter from where it comes out of the machine. She licked the lid off, then used the same lid to scrape off the nut butters from the other two dispensers, licking the lid off after each one. We were flabbergasted, but we did not know what to do. Should we have said something to her? Should we have told a store employee what happened?
Not Buying the Nut Butters
DEAR NOT BUYING: In this age, when some supermarkets have antibacterial wipes to use on the shopping cart, I can imagine some fairly serious consequences from essentially licking machine dispensers.
I would have let the nut filching go, but when it came to the nut butters, you could have said, “Ma’am, please. That’s not sanitary.”
Understand that this elderly person might have cognitive or other health problems affecting her behavior.
You should definitely have asked a clerk to assist after the fact.
DEAR AMY: “Upset” objected to her Asian in-laws setting places at their holiday table for deceased relatives. Thank you so much for your educated and respectful advice! Families everywhere should embrace their cultural differences, so we can all learn from one another.
DEAR FAN: Thank you. I completely agree.