DEAR AMY: When my late father was ill, I always appreciated hearing comments from friends who visited Dad, since I didn’t live with him. It helped me adjust the level of care and change what I did for him. I’ve had two occasions where I have noticed some concerning things about the parents of two of my friends. I shared my observations with these friends, and both did not receive it very well. Mostly they were shocked to find out their parents were exhibiting odd behavior or had such strong dementia they could be a driving hazard. I truly felt that I was helping the greater good by mentioning to their families what I had noticed, or been told, or experienced. I think something had to be said. I was kind and factual. One friend has completely stopped speaking to me, and the second one decidedly cooled our long friendship. In the future, I honestly don’t know what to do.
Concerned in CA
DEAR CONCERNED: You mention passing along things you “had noticed, or been told, or experienced.”
There is a big difference between reporting something you have personally observed, versus something you have been told. In the first case, you are a first-person witness. In the second, you are a gossip.
You should re-examine how you are delivering this news. Being kind and factual is great. But you should start by preparing the person for the news by demonstrating that you understand how challenging it can be to receive it.
For example: “When my father was becoming more frail, I really appreciated learning what other people observed when they saw him. Sometimes it was hard, because I wasn’t there to see for myself. I just visited with your dad and noticed some things. Do you want me to share this with you?”
The person may not be prepared in that moment to talk about it, but might later. Offer assurances: “I just want you to know, I’ve been there. I know it’s hard.”
DEAR AMY: I am a freshman in college and I commute back and forth to the city. I’m turning 18 soon. I don’t have my driver’s license yet and my parents are bugging me about it. I have credit for Driver’s Ed. I took the road test once before and failed, and it’s been a year or so since I last practiced. My mom is on medication, which prohibits her from driving, and my dad works all day and makes up excuses about why he can’t take me out to practice. I finally convinced my mom (after a year) that my aunt could help me practice during holidays and then I can take the road test in her car. I really only want my license, not a car. My parents hound me to get my license, but don’t try to help me in any way. I can’t have a normal conversation with them because all of our conversations turn to fights.
DEAR STRESSED-OUT: It sounds like all of you are quite stressed.
I like your idea to do this with your aunt. Generally it is much easier to practice driving with anyone but your parents, so if she is willing, you should go ahead and set this up with her on your own.
Practice-driving is necessary.
If you can afford it, a driving school might be a great investment. You can go on the weekends and practice intensively. Sometimes they will also let you use their car for the road test.
Good luck. Having your license will change everything for your whole family.
DEAR AMY: I read the letter from “Anxious,” the grandmother who wants to avoid her son’s ex-wife at her granddaughter’s events. I am currently on the receiving end of this. I divorced my ex after 12 years of marriage and now his mother glares at me, refuses to speak to me and is downright rude. My daughter often says that she thinks her grandmother hates me and it makes her very sad. In fact, my daughter has started to attend therapy for this (and many other reasons). Please do not snub the mother. You do not have to be friends, just cordial. Children see everything.
DEAR SNUBBED: Thank you for offering your personal experience regarding how adversely this treatment affects a child. I hope things improve for your family.