DEAR AMY: I am a happy introvert. Always have been. I like to go to the movies alone, go out to eat alone, and do other activities by myself. My wife is the same way, though we obviously enjoy going out together. My question is about our 7-year-old son. We've never done play dates or thrown birthday parties that his classmates in day care or school were invited to because interacting with other parents is terrifying. I feel bad that my not wanting to interact with other parents might be depriving my little guy of friendships. So far, my son doesn't seem to mind our household's version of normal, but he is outgoing and I don't want to squash his extroverted nature. Should I go far outside of my comfort zone and force play dates, or will my son eventually make "real" friends when he's ready?
DEAR JOE: Many only children basically pair up with their parents in a singular way, and I assume your son enjoys this closeness with you two.
But yes, you should go outside of your comfort zone. That's what parents do. Because when parents bravely try new things, their children are inspired to bravely try new things. (That's how I ended up screaming my way down an amusement park roller coaster.)
Being your son's father will change you in many ways. You should do what you can to adjust to his extroverted nature. So — try harder.
At the age of seven, play dates and birthdays do not involve other parents. I know that some parents throw festival-sized combination birthday/cocktail parties with tons of kids and parents, but a birthday party should be child-centered, and it need not be overwhelming.
So yes, encourage your son to have a friend over, or to go on an outing — perhaps to a movie — if he would like. You should also encourage him to play soccer, clarinet, chess or any activity outside of the home that you think might be a good fit for him. If you and your wife are turned off by the sideline parent-scene on the soccer field, then you and she can sit quietly together. Your son will grow and change. And if you foster his interests and encourage him to take some social risks outside the home, you will, too.
DEAR AMY: I was married for 45 years to a man who was self-absorbed and acted like a teenager. I stayed, believing the family we had was important. We are in our late 60s, and have two children and four grandkids. My husband was moody, drank a lot, and spent his money on his hobbies and friends. After he left I learned he was hiding money, had kept his inheritance in his name, and was having an affair with a high school girlfriend. They are now together. He lied about this, and then joked when he admitted it was true. Should I see this man at family occasions? I don't want to make others uncomfortable, but I would prefer not to. Whenever I see his happy posts on social media, I cringe. He says he would like to remain in contact. He has told people that he has no remorse or guilt about leaving or cheating. He tells everyone we just grew apart. He tells me he cares for me, but I don't believe him. I am disappointed with myself that I stayed. It has been difficult, but I am managing. I work full time and sometimes feel isolated. What should I do?
DEAR LEFT: Have you ever done whatever you wanted? Maybe not. Now you can make your own choices, without regard to what your ex wants.
If you want to cut him off, then do so. Definitely de-link from him on social media (although you'll occasionally see pics of him with your grandkids).
I hope you can enjoy your own later-life do-over. It might be nice for you to attend a family function with a silver fox on your arm. Stepping out more will help you to shake off this unfair betrayal. Don't let your bitterness over this run your life. You've got more to do.
DEAR AMY: Thank you, thank you, for advocating for adopting older animals in your response to "Second Thoughts," who had just bought a puppy. Lots of people don't realize how many wonderful older animals are available at their local shelters.
DEAR GRATEFUL: I advocate for adopting senior animals — because I'm sitting next to one right now!