DEAR AMY: My mother is a sensitive, shy person who loves children but sometimes has trouble connecting. In particular, she has trouble connecting with my son, “Oscar.” She only visits every three months, and loses track of what sorts of things he’s into. He’s 10. We asked Mom to take care of Oscar for three days, and she did. On the last day she asked him to do some homework. He replied, “You don’t know anything about me, and you don’t know anything about my parents, and I think you should leave me alone.” She’s making such a big deal out of this comment. I tell her it’s just kid stuff — he never wants to do his homework, and he’ll try to manipulate his way out of it. But she says he’s told her how he really feels, and she plans to “leave him alone” from now on. I’m upset that he has lost the love and care of a grandmother, even if she’s an awkward one. I can’t believe she would let one comment get in the way of her relationship with her grandchild. I think she must have a depressive personality. Is there anything else I could say to her?
Baffled and angry
DEAR BAFFLED: You don’t mention delivering consequences to — or even discussing this with — your son. Has he acknowledged this, or apologized? You should explain to him that adults are just like children; we get our feelings hurt when people lash out at us.
I agree that your mother could have handled this differently in the moment. Your son was actually issuing a (blunt) invitation for her to say, “Well, if I don’t know you, then maybe you could tell me three things about you so I can know you better. And I know a lot about your parents. In fact, I have a few stories about your mom when she was your age...”
You could smooth this over by telling your mother how disappointed you were with him, and by asking her advice about how she thinks you should handle your son’s outburst.
You should continue to include your mother in your son’s life, by sending her videos, encouraging interaction and continuing to visit with one another in person. The awkwardness should fade, and she should be encouraged to forgive him. As it is, her reaction is no longer in proportion to his behavior.
DEAR AMY: I am a 50-year-old man who cares for my wife, who had an organ transplant. I work full time. She is retired and stays home most of the time. We have no children. I assume all responsibilities for cooking, cleaning, shopping, laundry, etc. I have to admit, I spoil her. My main concern is how to motivate my wife to help, now that she’s doing much better. I’ve tried asking her, but she continues to just lounge, watch TV and gain weight. We argue over petty things, and I am completely at a loss. She is my world, but I am so depressed. I only find some peace when I’m not home.
In Love but Lost
DEAR IN LOVE: You should seek the help of a support group for caregivers, in order to talk with others who have similar burdens and responsibilities (check with the hospital that did your wife’s surgery).
You also need to have a frank talk with your wife. You should tell her that your relationship is on the line, and that some serious changes need to happen at home.
And then — you should stop enabling her. Your “spoiling” her is bad for her health. (She should be screened for post-op depression, too.)
Your wife should do all of the household chores that she is physically able to do. Ask her to do the laundry, for instance, and if she doesn’t do it, only do your own.
Your attitude should be consistent and supportive: “You can do it, so you should do it. I love you too much to watch you fade away.”
DEAR AMY: I could not believe your heartless response to “What the Heck in Denver,” about the husband’s refusal to feed their dog while the wife made dinner for the family. It is the whole family’s responsibility to provide care for a pet.
DEAR APPALLED: This dog was foisted upon the family by the wife’s adult son, without asking. My response was pointed toward the wife, who didn’t solicit her partner’s wishes concerning the animal. But dozens of readers agreed with you that my reaction seemed heartless.