DEAR AMY: Our son graduated with honors from a private high school several years ago. He wanted to take a year off to find a part-time job, volunteer or travel before starting college. We agreed to the year off. That has now turned into several years, and he has not looked for any sort of job. He spends his days at home on the internet, reading and watching TV. When my wife and I try to talk about his immediate plans or future goals, he becomes very upset and defensive. As parents, we have provided him with a very good upbringing and wide range of experiences and travels. We have gone out of our way to ensure that he has a better life than we have. He obviously lacks any sort of motivation and suffers from low self-esteem. He has started to get tattoos, but fortunately does not do drugs. We now realize that we have perhaps catered too much to him, and fear that he is losing out on basic life skills and experiences. We need your advice!
DEAR PARENTS: While you pat yourselves on the back for all of the experiences you have exposed your son to, he possesses few life skills, has no work history, and is deeply insecure and defensive.
I can think of at least one experience you neglected to provide during his privileged childhood: the experience of working and of feeling useful and competent.
This feeling can come from doing volunteer work during a gap-year, or from working at the drive-thru window of a fast-food joint.
Not only has your son not had either of these experiences, but he doesn’t seem to have had any others along the work spectrum.
At this point, he may be anxious and depressed, partly because your expectations are very low, and yet (I assume) you judge him for being so useless.
He needs to get a job. Immediately. I suggest something physical, like washing dishes in the kitchen of a busy restaurant. He must move toward supporting himself.
Tell him you will pay the tuition for community college or be supportive of him entering the military. He will have to arrive at his own future the way the rest of us do it — through trial and error. Because you don’t seem capable of conveying positive messages and reasonable expectations, you could also try to find a professional who might provide you all with parenting and job coaching.
DEAR AMY: Over Memorial Day weekend, my son-in-law’s grandfather died. Many of his relatives were coming in from out of town, and I volunteered to pick up two people coming in on different airlines at the airport. They didn’t know each other, and I didn’t know them. I was picking them up at an extremely busy airport on a very busy holiday weekend. I would have to navigate traffic, airport traffic security and look for them at the same time. My son-in-law texted my car’s make, color and license number to them. I asked him to also ask them not to receive or respond to text messages from others (after initially texting me) until I picked them up. People who are texting are not paying attention! My son-in-law refused to do this, saying that he was uncomfortable asking a person of his generation not to text. Was this an unreasonable request?
B in Chicago
DEAR B: Yes, this was unreasonable. Asking someone not to send or receive text messages at the airport is akin to asking them not to pick up a newspaper and glance at it while you are cruising around and looking for them.
Additionally, texting is also a very efficient way for them to find you. You could have been in touch with both of them directly (not through your son-in-law), saying, “I’m parked outside the C exit in a blue car now...” You should not have had to find them in a crowd — the burden should have been on them to find you, and texting is a great assist.
DEAR AMY: A letter from “Upset Father” revealed that his daughter completely disregards him when she is in the midst of a migraine attack. Your answer was OK, as far as it went. This father should ask his daughter what sort of contact she wants/needs when she is suffering from a migraine. Sounds to me like he needs to back off completely.
DEAR FELLOW: I can imagine that any sound at all could be agony during a severe attack. Thank you.