Hi Carolyn - I live in a large apartment building; one of my neighbors has a child that frequently screams and cries for what feels (to me) like hours on end. This happens regularly; at least a few days each week. I'm not exactly sure which neighboring apartment this child is in. I have no idea whether the child is just at an age where screaming tantrums are common, or if the parents don't know how to deal with the child, or what the problem is. I am concerned for the well-being of both the child and the parents; it seems to me that someone here needs help. What can I do?
Please call Childhelp, 1-800-4-A-CHILD (422-4453). It's a nonprofit focused on the prevention of child abuse, so calling won't feel as drastic as calling CPS. The hot line staff will know what kind of questions to ask you to get a better idea of what's going on, and from there will be able to say what, if anything, you can and should do.
My mother and I do not share the same view on a number of politically charged topics. Discussing these topics with her doesn't really get us anywhere and her email forwards raise my blood pressure. She thinks that we should be able to dicuss the topics. I'm tired of it and would rather focus on what we do have in common. Am I wrong to not want to talk about this anymore or to receive these emails? She argues that as family, we should be able to discuss this. When I receive these email forwards, I want to avoid her for several days or even forever, but I do wonder if I'm not being slightly punitive or controlling. At the same time, my feelings of anger are real. (We live in separate cities and talk maybe once a week on the phone.) (If it matters, one of the issues is gay rights.)
As family, you also should be able to say when you've reached a point where you're not interested in further discussion. As family, you should also be able to recognize when differences of opinion are unlikely to be reconciled and so would best be left alone. As family, you should also be able to recognize where your common interests lie and use those to strengthen the bonds between you. As family, you should be each other's safe haven.
Translation: Your mother's reasoning arguably applies better to preserving the peace than it does to duking things out. At best it's a wash.
It's also manipulative. Don't let her bully you out of your comfort zone an into hers. Delete the emails without reading them, and kindlyfirmly change the subject or hang up when she tries to stir things up.
Is it fair to expect that when I am out with friends, that they will make some effort to include me from the conversation? Because of where we live, it often makes sense for me to go to happy hour with or get rides with two friends who work together. When the three of us get together, one them who is particularly gregarious talks extensively to my other friend about work stuff in ways I can't participate in - dropping names of people I don't know, using internal acronyms, and the like. By the time I can get a word in, I wouldn't even know how to insert myself in the conversation because I really have no idea what they've been talking about. I've basically started avoiding get-togethers between the three of us, but sometimes it is unavoidable. I can't help but feel hurt that neither of them seems to notice or care that I am being excluded, particularly the less talkative one, whom I am closer to. I also struggle to think of other topics to discuss among the three of us. I wouldn't mind if they were talking to me about their work, but they don't talk to me, they just talk to each other.
The solution really is to stop going out with the two of them. But, until you're willing to say "No thanks" to their rides, you can also say, "I know none of these people or acronyms. Okay if we talk about something else?" Sometimes you have to hit people with a rolled up newspaper, figuratively speaking, since it's wrong to hit and it's not as easy to find a newspaper as it used to be.
Hi, Carolyn: Like many folks, my father was less than stellar growing up (read: addiction). For the past several years, we have enjoyed an occasional and cordial relationship. More recently, though, he has been calling and reaching out quite a bit with multiple requests to see me and/or my young children. Perhaps this wouldn't bother me as is, but there seems to be a sense of entitlement to the reaching out, as if in his advancing age he deserves more time and attention. I keep putting him off, but I know this is neither helpful nor fair. I find myself at a crossroads: do I grudgingly give in to some requests (and enter therapy to soften my heart), or do I respectfully explain that I have no interest in investing energy into this relationship? Thanks.
Is his addiction still active, or has he gotten it under control? And, have you gotten therapy, specifically with someone who works with families of addicts?
These are x factors that could nudge the answer in one direction or another, but here's my general idea:
Get straight in your own mind how much time and attention you want to give him for your own reasons, want to give on your kids' behalf, and think he deserves. Also decide how much you need to give to preempt any guilt or regret that might kick in when he dies. That's what you give, and not a minute more.
As an example of how this would work, let's say you're okay with seeing your dad every other month. Next time he asks to see you and the kids, put something on the calendar that's about 8 weeks after your last visit with him. If he protests, then say you understand, but this is the date you have to offer.
Carolyn, I'm surprised that you didn't even ask the OP if any of his/her neighbors have new babies. A mother knows that a newborn cry sounds different from that of an older child, but a single person might not be able to differentiate between the two. Is is possible that what the OP is hearing is just a colicky baby? It seems unlike you to suggest calling a helpline without even mentioning this possibility.
This person doesn't know what s/he's hearing, and neither do I, so let the staffer sort out whether it's serious. A call doesn't mean it's a crisis; the call can also be to determine whether there is a crisis, or just intestinal gas.
I feel for LW2 in today's column. My experience has been different, but in the end, we are both struggling with the "what to call the in-laws" question. As for me, I have been married for almost 19 years and have a good relationship with my in laws. But when we got engaged, my in laws' first response was to ask me to call them Mom and Dad. I was horrified since I have a mom and dad, and I personally feel like no one else deserves those names but my parents. But I did not want to offend my soon to be in laws, so I smiled and have basically called them nothing for all these years. I cringe when they leave me voice mails and say it's mom or dad calling. It just feels awful to me, despite having a good relationship with them. Here's my advice to all in-laws - treat your children's partners/spouses like adults and use first names. Then no one should feel awkward, i.e. mom and dad or like LW2 being asked to use the overly formal Mr. and Mrs. If your children are old enough to get married, then give them and their partners and spouses respect and drop the formality of any titles. In return, I believe you will receive a more comfortable relationship with your children's partners and spouses. Just my 2 cents.
I agree on not forcing the Mom and Dad issue, and on using first names. I'll go one further and advise/beg that the parents of adult children specify early what they'd like their children's companions to call them. Adult child: "Mom, this is my friend, Bucket. Bucket, this is my mom."
Mom: "Nice to meet you, Bucket--and please, call me Shoe."
Such a gift, to make things easy for new people.
A friend of mine is a transman, and has a very unaccepting family. He went to a therapist for help on coping with what is understandably a very difficult thing: being denied as a valid person by his own parents. His therapist told him he would "grow out of it" and that he was "just a lesbian." This has left him terrified of therapists, and he fell into a depression that culminated with a recent suicide attempt. Luckily, a mutual friend was able to call for an ambulance and get him to the hospital in time. I'm just at a complete loss as to how to best support him, especially since he clearly needs a loving network of friends more than ever right now.
You don't say how old he is, but The Trevor Project (link) might be just the resource you all need. It's for "youth," but the age range reaches into the mid-20s, and even if he's older the issue of the unaccepting family is right in Trevor's wheelhouse (or the counselors can steer him or you to a more appropriate resource).
He does need that loving network of friends, yes, but friends who aren't mental-health professionals are in over their heads here. Just because the one therapist he saw was apparently incompetent doesn't mean there aren't people who are skilled, compassionate and trained to help him work through exactly what lies ahead of him.
Hi Carolyn, thanks for taking my question. Ever since I heard of them, I've thought charity registries for weddings were a great idea. I recently came across some people saying they were rude, greedy, and out-of-place at a wedding. (Apparently supposed to be a happy time, not reminding guests of the world's problems). Anyway, is having a charity registry improper etiquette? Or out of line?
Rude, we can talk about--but "greedy"? [Rubs hands together gleefully]: "I want ALLL your money, HOO ha hahhh, and I'm going to ... CLOTHE POOR CHILDREN with it!!!!"
Not wanting "remind[ers]" of the "world's problems," well, heck, let's just rewrite all those prayers people say before they eat, because having to be grateful for my food in light of the hunger of others totally trashes the experience of my filet mignon.
So, charity registries, yes, there are pros and cons, none of which these complainers really touched on, but if you want I can make a great argument against having idiots on your guest list.
I have been seeing a therapist for about two years...relationship issues, bad childhood issues affecting me in adulthood...I have made a lot of progress but, I think we are in a rut having the same conversations over and over again. I understand I have responsibility over my own actions, but I feel that each session is getting to be like Groundhog Day. What is the best way to take a break from your sessions?
"I feel that each session is getting to be like Groundhog Day--we're having the same conversations over and over. I'd like to take a break to try applying what I've learned here on my own."
So I hired this woman about a month ago to watch my year old daughter. I'd had a nanny previously who was awesome and when new nanny started, I was feeling uneasy with her, but she was the best of the very few applicants so I told my inner skeptic to shut it and carried on. She was pretty immediately terrible. I have to tell her to do things like, you know, play with my daughter. Or talk to her. Or do anything other that sit there and watch my daughter playing. So I looked at daycares and I looked new nannies, and to my surprise found someone who seems like a much better fit. I hired her. She starts next week. But that means I have to fire current nanny when I get home today. I typically avoid conflict like the plague. I'm freaking out about what to say. Think if I just tell her this is her last day that she'll be nice and leave? I don't want to dump on her with all the things she's done wrong. I've been telling her what to do differently for the past month so she really should know. Help!
Explain that she hasn't been a good fit for your family, because her way of doing things is very different from yours, and your efforts to teach her your way haven't worked. Say you're sorry things didn't work out. Give her some severance, too.
Tough for all involved, but it'll be good practice for when your child is old enough to challenge you. "Avoid conflict like the plague" is not a rallying cry that works well on boundary-testing kids.
Dear Carolyn, I'm in my first trimester of an unplanned pregnancy. Husband is ambivalent about having a child now (he would prefer to wait), but I am very excited. I am also more irritable than usual - which I'm told will subside in the 2nd trimester - and things my husband says or does will set me off. For example he is quite raunchy and will joke about sexual acts a lot, which used to not bother me. Now, however, his jokes make me cringe with disgust. He is very sensitive to criticism, and so I am reluctant to speak up. Especially because this isn't something that irritated me in the past. (He seems to be belching more loudly, cleaning up after himself less, and complaining about my tiredness - ahhhh!) I find it difficult to be around him. Is it better to suck it up until my hormones even out? Is there a way to bring up my negative reaction to the raunchy joking without coming across as an attack?
Good times! I know it's not funny, but, it is a little funny.
The way to bring up your negative reaction is when you're both in a decent mood, and he isn't making or hasn't just made a raunchy comment. Explain that you see his raunch as part of him, one that has never bothered you before, but is inexplicably bothering you now. Liken it to your just as sudden and strange need to eat ... I don't know, sesame sticks, and your total inability to be in the same buiding when someone is cooking salmon. You feel like someone else these days, though you expect you'll feel like yourself again after the pregnancy and post-partum phases are behind you.
I don't advise the "suck it up" approach in this case because it sounds as if your disgust is on your face. In that case, it's better to explain it than to pretend it's not there and leave him to imagine the worst. And by explain I mean once, with at most an occasional reminder as needed--no piling on.
Congratulations and good luck.
Charity Registries are not intrinsically rude, but they are unfamiliar and have some pitfalls. I can think of two things you should keep in mind: 1) be careful about making your friends/relatives/acquaintances with a traditional registry feel selfish or poor. Be careful in your wording and make sure you really don't think that doing this makes you better than someone else, because if you're thinking that, it will come out. 2) follow all the normal rules of registries. Write thank you notes that are heartfelt and personal, don't tell anyone about the registry until they ask, don't hold it against someone if they go off-registry.
Good stuff, thanks. I know some people also would prefer to donate to their own causes and balk at such registries, but that's covered by the "don't hold it against someone" clause.
To me it's similar to the "In lieu of flowers" instructions when someone has died, except it's in honor of instead of in memory.
Carolyn, I'd like to hear what the pros and cons to having a charity registry would be? I always thought they seemed less greedy and about "me" to help celebrate a newly-married couples big day. I don't get what or how that could be bad. It's still optional, as a gift registry is, and maybe people who do this do it because they are already set or well established in life. So help me out with seeing what the cons are for doing a registry this way?
The doctor supervising the transman's hormone treatments is guaranteed to have a list of trans-positive counselors. Furthermore, the hormones may need adjusting. Tell him to talk with his doctor RIGHT NOW about the suicide attempt.
Thanks. I assumed the hospital would have covered any medical angle, and shouldn't have.
This happened in my family too but the offender was my dad. Here's what I did. 1) Asked him to please stop forwarding the e-mails. Shocker -- they kept coming! so I... 2) Informed him that every time he forwarded me an e-mail about issue X, I would donate $10 to cause Y (that was in direct opposition to issue X). Guess what? No more forwarded e-mails!
Sibling D is going through some mental health and substance abuse challenges and is angry at my parents for their failures while we were growing up. We've discussed it, and I sympathize -- I went through a long period of anger myself, but I've gotten over it without ever directly discussing it with them. D is demanding an apology, and seems to believe that without one it will be impossible to get healthy. I don't want to excuse or ignore my parents' failures, but demanding an apology under these circumstances feels like emotional blackmail and I have no reason to believe that my parents are the cause of D's problems or that it would make a difference if they apologized. Selfishly, I have no interest in revisiting my anger or in reopening what I thought was a closed issue for me. D needs my support and I can't avoid my parents, so this will come up again. Any suggestions for how to handle it? Thanks.
Many, in this column I wrote in response to your question (link).
I also received a response to the column that covered something I missed: If your parents were abusive, then acknowledging that to D is so important, as is not minimizing ("no reason to believe that my parents are the cause of D's problems") what your parents did. He'd need validation from you and room to tell his truth. The part of the column about his gaining control over his own life still applies; a history of abuse would just change the precursor to those steps.
I'm really stuck. I'm starting to avoid certain social situations where I know my partner probably will drink to excess and leave me flying solo, embarrass me, refuse to dance with me, sleep with another woman unintentionally, or stay up so late that the sleep/hangover lasts well into a day we should have shared. (These all have happened.) Sometimes I can't get away from the party because it comes home with my partner. This has been going on for at least a year, and we fight about it on end. It's made me less pleasant. I snap easily, and we both react defensively to anything. My partner says I have an anger problem and I have to deal with that alone via a specific police-recommended program he found. He says I exaggerate the bad times. I feel at wit's end, and I want to talk to a professional. He says a professional will tell me to leave him under the guise of making me happy. We've been in counseling before, and my partner refused to fully participate. So, do I go to the music festival, knowing I might well again watch my favorite band alone? Do I go to a bar with a DJ hoping my partner is in the mood to dance when 11 p.m. comes? It hurts. We have a lot of good times sober. Do I just refuse the alcohol-related events except with girlfriends? Do I see the shrink?
Oh my goodness, get out, get out, get out--you're living with an alcoholic, and while addicts are known for being manipulative, this guy puts your average jerk-around artist to shame. He's got an answer to your every attempt to assert yourself, see? One that puts all the blame back on you.
That means he has left you two options: all in, or all out. You just described what "all in" is like, and it's strikes me as a rough approximation of Hell. But "all out" has to be your decision, not mine.
I think the shrink is a good idea, too, to help you figure out how you got sucked into this and how to get and stay out.
Thanks so much; I knew you'd recommended something like this before, but I couldn't remember what it was! You're right that I didn't want to call CPS or the police - it seemed so drastic. And to respond to the other poster - although I haven't been around babies in quite some time, I do have some experience with small children, and this sounds like an older child. I've also noticed, recently, what sounds like kicking the wall and/or floor - making me think maybe it's a child throwing temper tantrums that the family doesn't know how to cope with. But, as Carolyn points out, I want to let someone with even more experience sort this out.
Thanks for writing back. The kicking tells me the child also might have autism, or have special needs of another kind--it's so hard to tell. Thus the Childhelp referral.
Can I just throw out there that people can be irritated by the charity registry because it says to them "I don't want anything you might want to give to me to mark my special day; but you will pay for attending my wedding and the check should be made out to ...." This was a timely discussion at a recent happy hour. The comments boiled down to weddings went from "it used to be that you brought candlesticks and had cake and punch" to "wear [x], come to [p,d,q] events in MY honor and pay [$$$] to [charity of MY choosing] to make MY special day perfect! Not sure I feel that way but I can see the point.
I think we all can, thanks. Of course, it would be sad if the "wear [x], come to [p,d,q] events in MY honor" were spared and only the charity registry got voted off the island.
Again, no one says this (right?) about the "in lieu of flowers" directives in funeral notices--"Oh, they don't want my stinkin flowers, eh? Fine!"--so I think there's a way to make the charity option available without knotting up anyone's skivvies: by not becoming a me-me-me-monster when planning the rest of the wedding. Fair?
I don't know, Carolyn. What if the pregnancy and the realization that there's soon to be a child in the mix are putting into perspective the shortcomings of her husband? I saw these as possible red flags: sensitive to criticism, reluctant to speak up, belching more loudly, cleaning up after himself less, complaining about her tiredness, not to mention the raunchy sexual jokes, which might be an issue with a child in the picture. Maybe she's experiencing some valuable insights/instincts that she should not ignore?
You know, I started to write a Part 2 to that answer and stopped, because it wasn't coming out right.
It was about the sensitivity to criticism, since that is a major issue, and a relationship killer--especially when combined with the pressures that arrive with a new baby. Parents need to be able to talk to each other honestly, and fatigue will sometimes make that honesty a little more hard-edged than either parent would like, and both need to understand that and trust each other to get through this phase without undue hard feelings.
But when you put together all the behaviors, the possibility of a bigger problem takes shape, and you're right to flag it, thank you. The problem is, where do her hormones and irritability leave off and his bad behaviors begin? A person can be a loud belcher and a raunchy joke-teller and dirty-sock dropper and be a wonderful spouse and parent.
That brings us to the complaints about fatigue and his thin skin. So, OP, if you're still there--how much of an issue do you think your husband's immaturity is? Does he just act goofy but come through when he needs to, or are you having doubts that he will? If it's the latter, then marriage counseling or a workshop might be in order.
My spouse and I are getting together with a small group of friends to watch the game. The problem is that my spouse and another group member are in the middle of a disagreement and I could see their problems causing tension for the whole group. I would suggest not going to avoid causing tension but another member of the group is going through some tough times and could really use our support by being there. Any suggestions?
This group member who is going through tough times needs the two combatants either to behave or stay home. So, talk to Spouse, and figure out whether it's realistic to think they can both get through four hours without pushing each other's faces into the onion dip, and decide on your plans from there.
We go on one family vacation a year to the beach with our three young children. My husband, who only gets to see his best friend once a year, always invites him, although he hasn't made it every time. A few years we have gone with other couples with kids. This year, again just assumed, he invited his best friend. I expressed my annoyance with that because, although I love his friend and would be more than happy to host him at our house any other time, I really don't think it's a family vacation if it's our family of five and him. And now he wants to bring a (maybe) girlfriend (who I would be happy to meet any other time). So now I have to go on vacation with a stranger? I'm pretty much forced into having his best friend. Any suggestions for ways I can express to my husband how uncool it is to have to be put into this position of either having a total stranger on our family vacation or having to say no to his best friend.
You say he always invites his best friend--have you stated your objection to that in the past, plainly and kindly and before any invitations were extended? You say he "again just assumed," and I'm wondering why any assumptions are being made at all for something that happens every year.
I also am struggling to reconcile your "don't think it's a family vacation if it's our family of five and him" with the fact that in past years you have gone with "other couples with kids."
Maybe you've always preferred that it be just the five of you, and you haven't actually said those words--or your preferences are a moving target. By that I mean, you're okay with bringing others along, you just want some say in it before anyone gets invited ... or you're okay with other families, but not with a single guy ... or you're okay with the single guy but not when he brings a girlfriend you haven't met ... I'm confused, so maybe your husband is?
Please talk to your husband about how each of you sees this vacation and how you can both come to some mutually agreeable plan to accommodate family beach week, his best friend, his girlfriend(s) and other families with kids--whether you cram all of them into that week or spread them out over several different occcasions. Just don't start the conversation angry, if possible.
Dear Mrs. Carolyn Hax, From my topic you get the idea that I'm young, and probably not old enough to seek advice on an advice column on the web. My problem as of now is that I feel defeated in school as in that I can't focus on any of my work because of some past events like not being able to make a sports team, losing friends, family dying, grades dropping, and just plain old feeling alone even though there are people around me that I would hope to consider friends. I felt like I put a lot of time into some of the things listed above such as sports and studying in order to make a certain team or get the highest grades but something always seems to happen at the wrong time and it brings me back down again. My parents are also pushing me to see if I want to change schools and if "it would please me" to see a therapist or something like that as if I was some kind of mad man (which I probably am, might I say). I know these just sound like regular teen problems that "everyone deals with, so you're not so different!"; which I'm told a lot. I feel lost and cornered and I hope you can lend me some advice. Thank you. -Outsider
Seeing therapist does not = mad man. It sounds as if you're depressed, and that's just a "regular teen (and adult) problem," too--it's just one that involves treatment instead of just waiting for it to pass. Take your parents up on their offer and take advantage of the freedom that comes with unburdening yourself to a professional, someone you can't shock or disappoint.
Hi Carolyn! I'm a woman in my early 20's with self-esteem issues. I have accomplished essentially every goal I've set for myself so far, but I am still very critical of myself. I compare myself to people and then feel bad about myself. How can I break this cycle? I need to readjust my thought process, but I'm not sure how. Writing affirmations? Keeping a journal of things that make me happy? Thanks for taking my question (love your column).
Thanks for the kind words.
I think the beginning of the process of readjusting your thoughts is to find the source of that self-critical little voice. Who or what taught you to regard your frailties, which we all have, as costing you more of your worth than other people's frailties cost them?
This is a natural for therapy, but you might find that digging a bit on your own is enough.
As for affirmations and journals, you might as well try; orient it toward things you're grateful for and see how that affects your moods.
Can spouse call the combatant today and either negotiate a peace treaty or declare a temporary ceasefire?
That, too, thanks.
I saw a therapist when I was a teenager. Best thing my parents did for me. I came out of teenage hood a lot more stable because I had somebody who didn't have an agenda for who I should be there to help me figure out who I wanted to be. And how to do it.
"didn't have an agenda," amen, thanks.
When I was a teenager going through some serious depression, this is what I was told and I internalized it. I put off seeking help for my depression for way longer than I should have. It continued a lifelong pattern of diminishing the importance of my own feelings which has led to a whole host of problems that, ten years later, I am finally in therapy working on, such as staying in relationships while unhappy, have trouble standing up for myself, etc. To this teenager: don't let ANYONE tell you your emotional well-being isn't important just because you're a teenager. Go see a therapist. Get help now and you'll thank yourself for it later.
This is great too, thanks. Way to come through.
Hard, cold truth: I think teenage years are the hardest of your life. They were for me and they were for a all the adults I know. (Not a terribly scientific sampling, I know.) This is the hardest time in your life, so why not get a little coaching in dealing with it? Oh, how the world would improve if all teens were assigned a competent therapist. Let's say your only problem was that you weren't doing well enough to make a sports team: Well then you'd hire a batting coach, right? So look at a therapist as a batting coach for life stuff.
I don't necessarily agree with the "hardest" tag, but certainly I could go for a "most bewildering," since the magnitude of the suffering is largely in how ill-equipped teenagers feel to deal with their goals, questions, fears and feelings.
Then you have the tug-of-war between friends and parents, with friends amplifying any drama and parents minimizing it, to the point where nothing feels right ... how quickly it all comes back.
Short version, yes to the emotional batting coach when the player feels nothing else has worked. Thanks.
I've been where you are. Please don't shy away from seeing a therapist. Between school, chaos at home and family history of depression, I struggled a lot when I was your age. In fact, I waited so long to get help, I struggled into my mid-20s. Seeing the right therapist made a huge, huge difference. Go now and don't be afraid to shop around for the right therapist. If one doesn't work, find another! It can be a little daunting, but worth it.
Last affirmation. Thanks again, everyone.
And, bye! Thanks for stopping in, have a good weekend and type to you here next week.
I was the single friend for a long time and loved going on vacations with my friends and their families. I would have hated it if they started excluding me because they had kids. Plus he can play with them on the beach once in a while and give you a chance to crack open your magazine.
This, too, thanks.
It sounds like the husband might be 'acting out' because he isn't prepare to be a parent yet. The OP mentioned that he wasn't very happy about the unplanned pregnancy, but she is. It might be time to have a very honest conversation about his feelings about the pregnancy.