DEAR AMY: I think that my 14-year-old son, "Tyler" is growing up faster than I am prepared for. Recently, he left his email open on my computer, and I could not help but scroll through. Mostly it was benign, but a couple of exchanges raised my eyebrows and churned my stomach. One with a friend, discussing their crushes on girls, included possible "pick-up lines" that ranged from the stupid to the obscene, including lots of sexual references and profanity. My 14-year-old! He is the sweetest kid you can imagine. Is this just normal behavior for the age? Posturing between buddies? What if my sweet kid is actually a macho jerk? My husband and I have tried to foster open discussion with our kids, but Tyler keeps his social life very much to himself, and is quick to rebuff questions. I can imagine he is getting interested in girls, and that is a wonderful new stage of life to navigate, but I want him to be the right kind of boy amidst all that. I was very shy at that age. Is it a sign of something I should address?
DEAR WONDERING: Fourteen-year-olds can be pretty disgusting. (I was a disgusting 14-year-old myself, but -- like your son -- I confined this tendency to my interactions with peers.) I think the behavior you describe is in the "normal" range (check with other parents in your son's peer group to see if they are going through this, too). You should look for the overall progress in your son's development, without focusing on how he chooses to posture during those times when he thinks you aren't looking.
I don't suggest telling him what you saw, but I would suggest raising issues of behavior and respect whenever you can.
Your husband might be the most valuable person to mentor your son through this, and identify with some of his behavior. You should both continue to guide him to be the kind and respectful young man you know he can be.
DEAR AMY: I'm the mother of a wonderful 27-year-old woman who has everything going for her -- looks, intelligence, a great personality and compassion. She's gainfully employed and has many friends. During the week she sticks to a strict routine, but on the weekends she often engages in binge drinking. Her friends think she's the life of the party. While drunk, she's lost things, done things she can't remember and injured herself. Since she's always able to recover, she doesn't think she has a problem. I think she has a HUGE problem, but I don't know what to do about it. Expressing disapproval and concern seems to only have a short-term effect. She lives far away from us now and we don't want to sever contact with her. Suggestions?
Mom Who's Losing Sleep
DEAR MOM: Of course you don't want to sever contact with your daughter. Honest, nonjudgmental communication is exactly what your relationship needs, even if this produces challenges on both sides.
You should not be afraid to voice your concern, but she is an adult and she is making her own choices. Her behavior has many risks associated with it -- and she is experiencing some of these consequences already.
You and your husband could benefit from attending Al-Anon meetings (al-anon.org), to help you to cope with your anxiety over your daughter's behavior and to accept your powerlessness to control her, even if you continue to worry about her.
DEAR AMY: I thought your response to "Always a Bridesmaid" was spot-on.
I was in my late 20s when I ended a seven-year relationship. I wanted to marry, and he didn't. I'm now in my 50s. I eventually found a man who was as enthusiastic about marriage as I was, and we are still happy together. My former boyfriend married another woman and is now divorced. Before his wedding, my old boyfriend contacted me and said he was worried about whether he would make a good husband. This experience has led me to believe that marriage is right for some people and not others.
Happy on Long Island
DEAR HAPPY: Absolutely. Thank you.