Baggage Check Live: The art of riding in cars with teenage boys

Aug 27, 2019

Licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Andrea Bonior will be online to take your comments about her advice column, Baggage Check, and any other questions you might have. These comments may appear in an upcoming column running in Express and online.

She’ll discuss her recent columns and answer any questions you may have about relationships, work, family, mental health and more.

Waiting for the chat to go live? Read Baggage Check columns.

Follow Dr. Andrea on Facebook here.

Welcome, everyone. How are you doing this week?

In today's Baggage, we've got a not-so-fabulous SIL who expects to be anointed godmother (check out that absolutely perfect illustration by Ben this week!) And in L2, we've got a friend who may very well be a chronic liar.

What do you think? A lot of you are talking in the comments already. Love it!

Let's get started.

“My husband and I are expecting our first child and she is expecting to be the child’s godmother.” 1. How does your husband feel about & respond to her treating you badly? 2. Are you going to have godparents? Have you discussed with husband yet? If so, what will their role be (religious guidance? first choice guardian if something happens to you? Name you give out that’s essentially meaningless?) 3. I’m not sure how someone else tells you they expect you to honor them, but boy does it sit wrong with me. I know you can’t go back to that moment. I would be tempted to tell anyone who assumes that they would be receiving an honor that hubris alone disqualified them. 4. If your husband doesn’t support you vis-a-vis his sister, please get counseling, STAT. Bringing children into a relationship where your spouse devalues you and your perspective will be tough.

Great questions here. Thank you!

Andrea's advice about "it’s possible that the two of you aren’t imagining it in the same way" is key here. What does "godmother" really mean to the both of you? Is she going to be involved in your child's religious upbringing? Does she want to have a specific role that's closer than "aunt," or is this just an honorific she wants to have? Are you using "godmother" as shorthand for 'person to take care of my kids if we both get hit by a bus'?

Well said. Thanks!

Just wanted to say that I so appreciate your thoughtful, empathetic response to my submission in the Aug. 6 chat. Your words (and permission to consume half a Costco-size crate of boxes of Kraft mac & cheese) comforted me more than you could know. I also really appreciate the support of the Baggage Check online community who rallied around me and shared their stories of grief, hardship, sadness and hopeful happy endings, in some cases. I'm doing much better, but one month later, I still cry sometimes when I'm alone and the weight of it all is too much for me to bear. I'd also like to share a story:

Last weekend, I was traveling home from a wedding in a small town in Michigan when my flight got delayed several times, taxi'd us back from the tarmac to the gate, and ultimately canceled our flight. I sat there for 7+ hours, frustrated and helpless and fighting back tears for what I can now recognize felt like a total loss of control not only for the flight situation but because I've been feeling lately like I have so little control over my own body. I sat in this corner of the airport, waiting, hoping, in despair, when I noticed a couple my age sitting next to me. "We're ordering Dominos to the gate. Not even kidding," the woman said. "Do you want in on it?" I smiled and declined but thanked her for her generosity and ability to make lemonade out of lemons (small airports allow this! who knew?) and as her partner left to get the pizza on the other side of security, she said to me, "Sorry, he's just overly protective because I am about 8 weeks pregnant." My heart sank as the memories came flooding back to me, but I asked her how she was feeling, how this would fit into her life, and if this was her first. She got quiet and said, "Yes, well, kind of. I had a miscarriage a few months ago early on." Andrea, I couldn't believe it. That this happened while I was at my lowest, that a stranger in the airport was brave enough to share this with me, with no shame, no guilt, just matter of fact, this sh***y thing happened. I told her my story, how similar our paths were, and when her fiance came back with the pizza, she said to him, "This woman is going through the same thing we did." And instantly, he got it. We talked for awhile and I told her she seemed to be in a good place now, as she was outgoing, spunky, very happy go lucky type of personality. And she and her fiance exchanged looks and said, "No. We cried every day for awhile. It's been incredibly hard." The fact that they were so open and honest with me was something I will never forget in my life. We shared a long, tearful hug, and in that moment, I felt so much less alone and in good company and hopeful for her next pregnancy and mine as well. It was just such a moment of destiny, where I felt, Oh, THIS is why my flight was cancelled. I asked my husband if he believes in destiny, and when I told him, he told me the story gave him goosebumps. What a chance meeting that has led to a beautiful Facebook friendship. Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you to all who wrote in with their stories who made me feel so much less lonely and hopeful that I will have a successful go-round of this at some point, whatever that looks like, and know that I have support systems in place when things get tough.

Every time I get a particularly beautiful update and think that there can't possibly be another that lovely, there it comes.

I am just so glad that luck or fate or coincidence or *&%$ airline delays led to this. What a gift.

And what a gift for you to write in and let us all know. We're all in this messy but gorgeous life together, and sometimes the most meaningful encounters come when you least expect it.

So thank you so much for writing in. You've got a ton of people rooting for you!

My husband and I were very friendly (dinners in one another's homes, dinners out, babysitting their child) with a couple in our neighborhood for 10 years. They moved to the opposite coast spring 2018. We are older (72-82) and no longer take flights, so they know we would not be traveling to visit them. They each have a parent living within 30 miles of us. Last year, they came here for the holidays, and we met with them for a dinner at a restaurant that is a favorite of everyones. We exchanged gifts, which we had been doing for all the preceding years. We have texted them 2, 3 times and Skyped with them once this year. This is their preferred mode of connecting and we are fine with it. However, our most recent text (a few days ago) hasn't been replied to, and we are always the one to initiate a contact. Since they are in their 40's and busy with their careers and child, we realize that replying to us is not a priority, but we also wonder if the relationship is dying a natural death. Other than family, they are the only people we exchange texts with, so we may be behind the curve in understanding how their generation views "just saying hello" texts. Any insights from you and your readers would be helpful. Thanks.

Well, first, I think there's a danger in assuming anything from just one text's non-response. I would hate for you to jump the gun and lend it more meaning when it could have nothing to do with anything except what was happening on a Saturday at 8:21 p.m. when that text came in.

That said, I think it might be helpful to open yourself up to thinking about what kinds of forms this friendship could take that would still be satisfying for you. They have parents in the area; would you be okay with seeing them when they are in town, but having little contact otherwise? That's just one example, but my point is that friendships come in all different shapes ... including ones that used to have the shape of frequent in-person contact and now have to move into a different shape.

"Just saying hello" texts can certainly be different things to different people. It could very well be that with the geographical distance they don't necessarily see staying in frequent keep-abreast-of-your-lives text contact as much as a priority as you do. Or it could be that they're fading out of your lives. Or it could be that this is all just a fluke.

I think cross-generational friendships are all too rare and all too precious, though, so I would love to see a way for all of you to still be in each other's lives.

Chatters?

Hi Dr. Bonior, I love you columns and chats! Any advice on recovering momentum when things go badly? Today is gorgeous out, and I had a really fun planned. I was going to take my five-year-old on a hike into the beach. When we were five minutes away, he threw up all over himself. Of course I didn’t have a change of clothes for him, so we had to turn around and go home. I then spent the next hour cleaning him off, and cleaning out the car seat. It’s still a beautiful day, but I am just done, and ready to park myself on the couch. But I know later I’ll feel like I wasted the day.

Thanks for the kind words!

I think it's the word "wasted" that is problematic here. That involves some sort of zero-sum game, like Go Big or Go Home, as if Go Home is devoid of any meaning in its own right. So what happens once your five-year-old is sick? Can you not view that still as bonding time, nurturing time? Can couch time be seen as valuable for its own sake?

Think about your values — I'm guessing that high among them is helping your child have a childhood that feels loving and creates good memories. Honestly, being-sick-at-home-with-a-parent is a childhood experience that, on the parent end, can be such a slog — and makes it feel like is taking away from all the things that everyone is supposed to be doing — but with a little reframe, you can remind yourself that when a kid is sick and you are meeting their needs and making them feel safe and loved, that is EXACTLY what you are supposed to be doing. That is the childhood memory they are supposed to be having. (And you would seriously be surprised how often being sick at home with a parent comes up in therapy, for better or for worse, as an example of what kind of upbringing a child had. After all, it's when they feel at their most vulnerable — and are the most needy.)

So this is all a way of saying, don't be so hard on yourself. Try to enlarge your definition of what a worthwhile day is. Maybe you can sit outside in the beautiful day — if your kid's well enough — and use it as an opportunity to see that things can be flexible and imperfect and plans can be thwarted, and that can be disappointing and even exhausting — but it doesn't have to be a loss of something. It can be an experience that matters all the same.

My husband and co-worker “Steve” tends to over-promise and under-deliver, both professionally and with family. He knows it’s harmful to back out of agreements, but what he doesn’t realize is that it’s even more harmful to cover-up the fact that he’s backing out. Instead of being honest that he’s breaking a promise or quitting a project, he’ll hedge, delay, sow confusion, make excuses, avoid people, and pretend he’s on the verge of contributing. It’s total fabrication to cover his exit, and he’s really good at weaving webs that people believe. I’m relatively unaffected because I know he’s constantly dishonest, but everybody else takes him at his word and suffers for it. After years people figure out he’s flaky but nobody realizes how much damage Steve has caused. I’ve definitely told Steve I think he’s constantly lying, and he agreed I had a point, but he’s in denial about the broader implications, and about the harm others suffer. Counseling didn’t help. To what extent should I approach people (close family, vulnerable colleagues) and help them translate Steve-speak into reality? What level of notification do I owe Steve before I say something that will change how other people interpret him? This is my spouse, and it’s not my place to control his insanity, but I don’t want to be complicit in his fraud via inaction.

I've got to be honest with you about what happened when I read this.

I was zipping along (yes, I have to read faster than I'd like, 1000 percent of the time), and misunderstood who this person was, thinking at first that he was your husband's coworker, rather than your husband and coworker.

And my first instinct was that the long-term plan should be for your husband to extricate himself from Steve as soon and as completely as possible. That Steve's damage is too great, his cavalier attitude about other's too inexcusable, his insight into his actions too poor, to open up either of your lives to this kind of nonsense any further.

Um .... imagine my reaction when I realized that Steve actually is your husband.

AND your coworker.

Honestly I don't know how you aren't more directly damaged by this, and — as much as I hate saying it — how you could be married to this (the main issue I see it is not the under-delivering, it's the not caring about others enough to want to change the behavior or even see its ramifications.)

You already have the instinct to protect others from falling prey to his deceit. (And yes, it's a great instinct, so yes, follow it.)

What about protecting yourself? (And yes, I understand this isn't the highest of marital crimes by any stretch ... but you refer to damage so many times in your letter that let's not pretend this is just a dude who claims he'll do the laundry and then needs to be reminded again.)

[In response to last week's chat] I have tried therapy but I haven’t found the right therapist. I know my self esteem is poor, I know my mother loved me but she had her issues ... but I need to move on from that, I need to improve my self esteem and get motivated. It’s probably the question of finding the right therapist or psychologist. I didn’t think the one my doctor recommended. My friends aren’t going or don’t admit to go to therapy. Finding one from the phone book didn’t help. Plus it’s tough to find one taking new patients.

I know it's tough, and I'm so sorry it didn't work out with the first therapy.

Yeah, it's not enough just to know what causes your challenges (though that's a start.) Insight alone doesn't change your behavior, though.

I think you could do well with an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) practitioner, or someone who is super Cognitive-Behavioral (CBT). The key to look for is how they will help you mange your thoughts in a fundamentally different way, so that the negative thoughts (with self-esteem, for instance) don't affect you so much, and so that you can actually change your behavior in the process. There needs to be accountability there as well with the nudging yourself toward overcoming the behavioral patterns that are keeping you back.
Do keep trying. There is good help out there!

I would not confront the compulsive liar. It's not as if this came out of nowhere - it's just a more serious problem than LW2 anticipated. Yoga friend may feel the repercussions of having told LW2 this issue, especially if it's a personnel issue. IME, fabulists can be very dangerous, precisely because of their facility with lying.

It's a good point — I definitely wouldn't want Yoga Friend to be collateral damage.

That said, I'm not sure LW can get away with doing nothing. If they choose to transition out of the friendship because of this, then that's a confrontation of a different form anyway. I think ghosting could be even worse.

And I'm hoping/guessing that this person is a liar-for-attention-and-entertainment kind of person rather than a lying-because-I-am-busy-manipulating-everyone-to-get-what-I-want-and-will-damage-you-without-batting-an-eye type of person. But you never know!

This weekend, I get to spend 24 hours with my 15-year-old step-son without his sibling or other parents around. We're going to do a fun activity together, which is a 3-hour drive away, and we're camping out the night before because we have to meet up with a group for the activity early in the morning. Kiddo and I have a good relationship and he's pretty chatty, but we both tend to be quieter when his dad (my husband) isn't around. I'm really looking forward to this trip, but I could use some advice about conversation topics in case kiddo clams up. I'm always good about asking him about his interests and hobbies, but once we've said all there is to say about those topics, what else can we talk about? FWIW, with adults, I like to have deeper conversations, and I'm generally a pretty good conversationalist. Kiddo can be talkative but so far hasn't shown much interest in deeper conversations.

Well, this is going to be counter to what you're looking for, but I do think the first thing to do is to embrace being more comfortable with silence.

Seriously.

15 year-old dudes aren't necessarily known for being effervescent rivers of nonstop dialogue. And this one is on the quiet side at that (at least when his father is not around). So, make sure you aren't putting so much pressure on yourself to have an entire weekend full of the highest quality of conversation just because you are a good conversationalist. And don't over-personalize it to mean that if there are long periods of silence that that says something negative about your relationship. Sometimes, companionable silence — especially while enjoying nature — is actually a sign of comfort, respect and compatibility.

The being together is the point of this trip. That alone is valuable and doesn't have to result in any big breakthroughs. You're building your relationship just through the shared experiences. And you say it's a fun activity, so that alone will provide some banter. Sure, come prepared with some topics that you find interesting or important and that you think he can relate to, but don't make it all-or-none that there has to be so much of that.

So ... in terms of topics. I bet some chatters will have some good ideas. But to nudge the conversation a little deeper, how about having a few anecdotes that you read about in the news? Having a minor issue at work that you'd want his opinion on? Wondering his thoughts about some teenage trend you heard about (without making it sound like you are giving him the third degree?) Finding out more about his friends and school in a non-intrusive way by sharing something about your own experiences growing up? Talking about what you love about his Dad and hearing what he does too?

Also, for the camping part, to take the pressure off of having deep wonderful conversations, will you be bringing some games you two could play? Even a simple deck of cards can help a lot with the de-clamming process.

Chatters?

I bet this will go great; just take the pressure off yourself a bit.

The idea of a godparent rarely has anything to do with the child. For example, I've only met my godmother three times. She lives in a foreign country, and we do not speak the same language. I doubt she would recognize me. I think I've had two conversations with her via a translator. My dad didn't do it for me; he did it as a gesture to his siblings. Then when my brother made me godmother to his youngest, my sister got tipsy and told me that my brother didn't really want to do this but he did it because she and my other brother were already godparents to his other kids and he felt sorry for me. My brother's gesture was out of pity and not wanting to start a fight. I haven't seen my "goddaughter" in six years. (I don't really consider my niece my goddaughter because the title isn't sincere.) Don't make your SIL godmother if you don't want to. But know that the title is usually meaningless and empty and is done as a gesture to make the godparent feel included. The title is about as meaningful as a cake cutter at a wedding.

Thanks.

I think it really can mean a lot of different things to different people ... so it's key here for them to operationalize this variable, so to speak.

...can anyone explain why ordering pizza = overly protective?

I think it just meant that he was not going to let his wife go a minute more without having some food in her belly, airline security be darned.

My guess was that she probably didn't want to seem high-maintenance so felt like the pizza was worthy of justification.

My sister-in-law has a theory that everyone has a friend they don't like — someone whose company they really don't enjoy but they continue to be friend with due to longevity or proximity or convenience. I have a person like this in my life. She's a total narcissist who is rude to waitstaff and has completely different priorities than I do. At one point, we had an argument and I told her I thought it would be good for us to take a break. Several months later she got back in touch and we spent time together, although much less often. After a very upsetting judgmental comment I told her I couldn't see her anymore. It's been a few years now, and I've been much happier without her in my life. Now she's come back again. I don't want to see her anymore, but I don't know how to say so. It was hard enough to suggest a break and then tell her I couldn't be friends with her. Now I feel like the only way to get through to her is to be mean. Help!

That's the thing, though. "It was hard enough to ... tell her I couldn't be friends with her."

But you did it. And so you've already paved the way.

How you respond to her depends on the exact nature of her contact (I'm not sure what "she's come back again" means). But really, don't feel you have to over-explain (or even explain) anything at all, really. You already told her you couldn't see her anymore.

Want to have dinner? "As I've mentioned, that's not something I can do anymore, but I wish you the best."

And so on.

If you have a particularly volley that she has lobbed your way, I am happy to role-play!

I have a friend like this too — I've never addressed her massive lie or any of her exaggerations. They don't really impact me, so I never saw the point of talking to her about it. I figure as long as her lies/exaggerations aren't hurting anyone, then let her have whatever drama or spotlight she needs. It's just information that is filed away in my mind.

I guess it depends on the closeness, but I think my question here becomes at what point this damages overall trust to such a point that although the lies may not be "hurting" anyone in particular, they might be harming the relationship.

Maybe part of what you do with that information you're filing away is have it keep you from trusting her about stuff?

"It is not the under-delivering, it's the not caring about others enough to want to change the behavior or even see its ramifications."

It sounds like, when he overpromises, he thinks he's caring about others. But he's actually harming them and his own reputation. Can it be put to him that way? OTOH, if counseling didn't help, he's probably hopeless.

Yes. It's unclear how much he's letting himself off the hook here.

I hope there is still hope.... but I haven't necessarily seen anything to justify it.

Keep this in mind, these people made time to see you when visiting for the holidays. That's a busy time and tends to have lots of commitments. I think they they like you. Don't read anything into it, keep up contact with a light touch so they don't feel pressure. Send something that you would think interests them or text a story that made you think of them, with a few catch up sentences. Perhaps even overtly say no pressure to respond, sending love sort of thing. If that's your style. I think you're fine.

I like this. Thanks!

[In response to last week's chat] I’m writing again just to thank everyone for the kind words. Unfortunately, because I really just wanted help working with my husband, I didn’t bother to specify that the dog’s incontinence is fecal, not urinary, so none of that advice was helpful. Puppy pads & newspaper didn’t work because she just drops it wherever she happens to be, and a diaper would leave her lying in her own waste. Incontinence drugs don’t help and everything else my vet has tried in terms of medication or other treatment has only given the poor dog more GI issues. (I’d explain, but this is graphic enough already.) As for my husband, I was amused by the person who decided that I “flew into a rage” when I asked if he was suggesting that we kill the dog so we could sleep. He, however, wasn’t offended because that was what he meant. Also, he sleeps fine in the guest room, I’m the one who gets woken up all night. However, by writing the whole thing out and seeing it all dissected, I was able to identify the primary feeling driving my response as one of betrayal, as Dr. Andrea said at one point. So we had a long, calm, non-accusatory conversation in which I explained why I found his suggestion so shocking and hurtful. 1: We had agreed—over multiple conversations—to support her for as long as her quality of life remains high (and we had discussed what that meant in terms of dog behavior) and yet he changed his mind because of things that were outside of that assessment. And 2: I had always thought that he truly cared for her, so it felt like that was a lie and he was really just tolerating her as part of the marriage. He, in turn, acknowledged that the suggestion to put her down was a breach of our agreement but said that, although he loves the dog, he loves me more and wanted me to feel better, so he thought it was worth considering (although he agreed that his delivery was harsh and ill-timed). I appreciate that point of view, but I would suffer more and longer from the knowledge that I had put down a companion who was still enjoying her life than I will from lack of sleep. He accepted that, although he made it clear that he would make different choices if I wasn’t around. So I guess we're muddling through the same as before but with a little more openness. I also had another long discussion with my vet, who suspects that (as someone here suggested) the dog is dealing with canine “Sundowner’s syndrome,” so I'm trying to address that through lifestyle changes as there isn’t much we can do with medications that doesn’t make things worse in other ways. So, thank you for helping me/us work through that. And, even though the doggy advice didn’t help me, it might help somebody else.

Thank you so much for this update.

The "more openness" part is no small thing — and it's especially important that you two were both able to express your feelings and listen to each other openly and respectfully and civilly. Seriously. From the perspective of my therapy chair, that is absolutely huge.

I am sorry there are not easier veterinary answers to come by, here. I so wish there were. But it sounds like the two of you have at least laid the foundation for handling this more as a team, and that there might be some hope in addressing the Sundowners syndrome a little better. 

Please do continue to keep us posted.

My bonus kids are always telling me that they really appreciate that I'm so comfortable with the silences together. Their actual mom and their paternal grandmother are constantly talking at them, so to be with an adult that doesn't need to fill the air with sound is a huge relief for them.

Yes!!

I know I am guilty of this so much with my own children. We need to better recognize how exhausting it can be — especially for certain personality types — to have to always keep up their side of a "grownup" conversational volley. 

"Usually"? I think you've just insulted a lot of religious people in the world.

Yes, I am guessing they meant that you can't TELL what a person means from that title alone, rather than it actively meaning nothing most of the time.

What strikes me is how positive this chatter is, but I am not sure she realizes it! She was being too, too hard on herself for not bouncing back from the miscarriage.

Yes!

Sometimes the expectation that we are supposed to bounce back from something super quickly, ironically, is the harshest and most cruel within the people who are generally positive and loving and optimistic people. They can be so hard on themselves!

"Now I feel like the only way to get through to her is to be mean."

"No" is not mean! You might be a pleaser, and your friend is just taking advantage of it.

Exactly.

I was just editing this section in Detox Your Thoughts the other day:

Being Kind Does Not Equal Being a Doormat.

False equivalence!

"I'm not sure what "she's come back again" means"

I figure it means she's alienated everyone else in her life so she's making the rounds of people she alienated earlier to see whether any of them are suckers enough to spend time with her again.

Yup.

I think I just need more specifics in how she is reaching out and whether she is asking to get together, etc.

But your guess seems totally on point!

I think work and personal life are different. At work, it's really up to his manager to deal with this. Personal life is different. You owe it people to translate Steve speak as you say. I would tell Steve you're going to do that going foreword and the implement this. Why doesn't counseling help? Does he not think he has a problem? This affects you - so what about marriage / family counseling together?

Great points.

Yeah, who knows what the work situation is. When I hear "spouse is my co-worker" I often assume that maybe it's a family business rather than there being an independent manager somewhere in the mix .... OP?

Just to clarify, kiddo was not actually sick. He has just started to get car sick recently. But he is feeling fine, and wants to go do something else.

Got it!

Even better, because that increases your options in terms of things you can still do around the house.

So sorry about the carsickness. We have lived that, and — though this is certainly beyond the scope of this chat — have an actual checklist of risk factors (idiosyncratic to our own kid but gleaned over many hard-won-months, so maybe it can be helpful to others) that we have learned make things worse:

--early morning

--very sunny car

--smell of gas somehow in car

--windy roads (of course)

--having eaten dairy recently

--not having had enough sleep

--dehydration

--having come down with a cold

--lack of adequate ventilation/too hot in car

--empty stomach

--looking at something small and detailed in car (of course)

One or two of those and we are okay. Move to four or five, and you better have the big glass wedding centerpiece vase (ah, another tip!) ready.

Part of this is that as a society we're wedded to having plans and a goal and if that doesn't work out, we failed. Your little boy threw up. That is not a failure. You can have a non-wasted lovely day either cuddling up together / making cookies or, if he's better, going to the park, going for a walk etc.

Bingo!

"Life is what happens when you were busy making other plans"... and so on.

I find this to be a fairly common complexity in friendships with people who are in their 70s, even those who are not retired. 40s and 50s are almost peak busy season in people's lives, and IME people in their 70s have more free time. It's a generalization, of course, but I myself am having trouble managing the expectations of a very longstanding friend who simply cannot process how little free time I have, even though she was just the same way when she was my age.

It can certainly create a gap in expectations. Thanks.

Before I even read Andrea's reply I felt as she did. Let the quiet be — it will be companionable. You're in nature — what nature stories do you have to share?

Another good question!

Maybe you have some camping hijinks stories of your own.

Thank you so much for answering my question and for nudging me to accept comfortable silences. I embrace them with people I'm really comfortable with, but since I sometimes feel insecure/unsure about how to be around my kiddo and don't want him to think that not talking means I'm not interested in him or what he has to say, I've been afraid of the silences. Maybe this is a bigger issue that I need to work on, since whenever I'm with someone new who isn't a big talker, I spend a lot of time trying to carry the conversation (which is exhausting for me as an introvert). I will try to remember your advice and accept the breaks in conversation when they come. I'll also bring some cards for the evening, just in case. Thanks again!

You are most welcome!

Yup, work on it for sure. I think there are a bajillion ways of showing interest in someone and that you are enjoying just BEING with them even when you're not talking. (In fact, sometimes by trying to fill up every silence in those situations, it makes it seem that just being with them isn't good enough, that they have to sort of prove themselves.) I bet you will do just great in letting him know that you are valuing this time with him — and I bet it will add to your overall comfort with him in the future.

Please do write back with an update!

IME, they are thrilled if you don't force them to talk when they don't want to. If there's a natural silence, embrace it. We have a tendency not to be comfortable with silence, but that's particularly tough on teens, who often feel like adults are extracting information from them. If there are silences that you both find awkward, why not let him pick some music?

Another vote! Many thanks.

Ha — I came across the inverse of this: read somewhere about "friends who you like." And I thought "Wait, isn't that ALL of your friends?" until I realized that it's not. There's a friend-of-a-friend who's in your circle but who you don't really care for, someone you went to college with or used to work with who you realize is a "friend" of habit or convenience ... I wouldn't say that *everyone* has one, but it's kind of liberating to recognize this kind of relationship exists & give yourself permission to see less of them, if you see them at all.

Yes, indeed.

And friendships evolve (or devolve) over time. It doesn't negate what you had in the past if you have to take a break (even permanently) at some point later on. Thanks.

It's not mean if she's putting you in that position. Or is it difficult being straightforward and clear? I understand it's hard to say something like "I appreciate you getting in touch, but I'm just not going to keep up contact with you." What did you say last time — can you say you still feel the same way and then just ignore anything else?

Wonderful. Thank you.

That should do it. With any luck she'll flounce off out of your life.

ha!

God forbid she's willing to get take-out instead.

A couple of points from a mother of previously and currently teenage boys ... First, what Dr. Andrea said! Silence is amazing. Especially when driving. When it's just the two of us, my 15 year old opts to sit in the back seat and just seems to spill with the questions, life observations etc. It's very non-confrontational for him, and I like it, because it seems to imply he values my input. He will definitely bring up comments, school happenings etc from 2 or 3 weeks ago that he's been mulling over. Another point, and this one, I wish someone had clued me in on a long time ago. If your son asks for your opinion on a moral, political, even societal or pop culture topic, give your answer as quickly and succinctly as possible, and ask him the exact question back or something like "Why, What do you think of  that?" He wants to run his evolving moral compass past you and get some non-judgmental validation back. It's a great sign of trust if it happens. But if you (I'm referencing my own past mistakes here) think he's asking for your guidance and therefor you deliver a lecture on why Politician B is worse than A, or how classmate C should be judged for his breaking of rules, then you've lost a golden opportunity to learn how he's turning into an adult. Ooooh one more thing! If he offers to play you a song he likes, #1 act eager to listen and #2 find something nice to say about it. Many of my best trips have been taking turns introducing each other to great music. We may follow a topic (road trip, anti-societal songs) or allow each other's last play to inspire the next play.

"Riding In Cars With [Teenage] Boys" — it's an art! But you sound like you have nailed it. So true about the evolving moral compass idea. Thanks so much for this.

My 9-year-old twins and I went to see a family we are friendly with this weekend. We made an effort, leaving our weekend home early and driving to their house. When we arrived, their kids ignored mine. For a full hour. Not even a hello, or any kind of acknowledgement we were there. The mom made some feeble attempts to get her kids to interact (they are 8 and 6), but to no avail. My kids were disappointed and hurt, and hung out with the grownups who caught up over coffee. After an hour of this, I got up from the table and said, I am sorry, but we are going home! We left. I am still not sure I did the right thing. I didn't want to teach my kids that it was okay for them to be treated rudely -- but at the same time, we are talking about an 8-year-old who got caught up in her own bad behavior. What do you think?

Well, how did the friend respond?

And I understand that those situations can be awkward and we may expect too much of kids to gel right away, but for her kids to have not even said hello for a full hour is just absurd. (Presuming there were no special needs there on the part of the kids, which, if there were, it was up to Mom to have found a way to convey that and mediate the situation.)

I'm not sure how long you were originally supposed to stay, but if you truly gave it an hour and there was no progress and your kids were hurt, it doesn't seem unreasonable to have cut that short in a civil way.

Thank you for sharing your carsickness list which (a) I suspect is accurate for many + (b) made me laugh out loud!

Glad it was helpful!

Man, the process of identifying those variables was more arduous than my dissertation research, let me tell you.

When I was little, my parents had to take very mountainous bad roads in order to get to where my mother's parents lived, which tended to make me car-sick. They made a deal with me: If I was starting to feel AT ALL like I was going to throw up, I was to tell them immediately, and they would pull over to the side of the road so I could get out. Sometimes I vomited, but other times it was just a matter of needing fresh air and a lack of motion, so the feeling quickly passed. But even for all the false alarms (which slowed the trip), they NEVER complained about the time lost on the trip.

Very patient parents! So sweet.

Too bad it doesn't work quite as well on, say, the Clara Barton Parkway.

The incidence of child carsickness has probably been forced upward by the requirement to have the child-seat in the back, where the kid can't look out the front window at distant objects. And you can't tell a five-year-old to look out the side window until he stops feeling queasy. Poor kid, I hope he outgrows it.

True. No doubt it's a tradeoff that is necessary for safety, but I do think you're on to something.

Three hours each way... six hours total. Book on CD? Let them pick. Bonus it gives you something to talk about when camping.

Yes!

I'm sorry, but isn't this a classic example of co-dependence? If you continually run interference for a partner who refuses to address their own issues, then you shield them from the consequences of their actions (or inactions, in this case). How does that help anyone, least of all you? Steve is an adult. Steve is creating his own problems, so why are you responsible for fixing them?

It's a great point.

I think in this case, though, OP is trying to protect OTHERS from Steve, because she doesn't want to see these other people hurt by her husband. Which is commendable, except it shows you even more how screwed-up this situation has gotten.

Your chat colleague Gene Weingarten, a long-time dog lover, has written and commented about when to put a sick dog to sleep. He has said "If you have to ask whether you waited too long, you did." An old dog that has no control over its bowels and bladder and has other medical issues as well probably doesn't have much "quality of life" by any reasonable standard. Dogs have no sense of their own mortality. They are not afraid to go to sleep and not wake up. How much should this dog suffer before its "parents" decide it's enough?

Yes, this brought Gene to mind for me as well! But in this case I think it's an entirely different question.

Because OP was not asking whether they were waiting too long. They felt (and their vet as well) felt the quality of life for the dog his-or-herself was still high, no matter the lifestyle inconvenience of the incontinence.

It is such a fraught and personal issue. I don't think there's any magic answer for anyone. But in this case I don't think that was at issue.

Said to me by a co-worker the first time we went out to lunch together. We both laughed. Don't know whether that line is advisable for a teenage boy, though.

Okay, this cracked me up!

But it's a great point — if the silence is too much to bear for you at some point, I think making a joke about it (and perhaps even your discomfort with it that you are working on) could be a great tension-breaker!

One chatter above listed that the "Godmother" title is meaningless based on her interactions with her godmother and goddaughter. I'm part of a culture where your godparents have a religious role at your baptism and after that it's up to the parents/godparents to determine how important the relationship is. For me, I'll always associate my godparents with evenings at a local ice cream parlor and Chinese food. It was just a few hours of special attention every few months, but it meant the absolute world to me. Plus my godparents would let me get 3 scoops of ice cream with brownies and hot fudge without commenting, something my mom would definitely comment on.

This is so sweet!

 

I may be missing something here, but if this person has already been told, hey, I can't be friends with you anymore, why can't you just ignore her? I wouldn't think of that as ghosting if you've already had the end of friendship conversation. I suppose it would be more awkward if she pops up face to face, but if she's calling or DMing, just don't answer.

Yup, my thinking as well. That's why I was so curious about exactly how she is reaching out and what she is saying.

One of my kids when they were younger threw up a lot, also not because of sickness. I know what you are feeling. We always had extra clothes, wipes, couple of bottles of water, and a box of gallon ziplock bags stashed in the car. Saved a lot of outings. Good luck. Mine learned how to minimize the mess for the most part eventually.

Yes!

There is light at the end of the tunnel.

Is your child old enough to sit in the front seat? If so, teach him to look at what the road is doing — curving, bouncing, whatever. I finally got out of being carsick when I learned to drive, and could tell what was about to happen. But oh, the airplanes!

Unfortunately, with a 5 year-old, OP has a long way to go with this!

But the light at the end of the tunnel is there!

The fact that this kid is going on this trip with you speaks volumes in itself. If he wasn't comfortable with you, I assume that this trip w/o siblings or his dad would not be happening. Take some confidence in that going in.

Excellent point!

(From last week's chat) Although I am close to the age of the OP now, when I was younger I stayed with my grandparents for the summer and they let me sleep as late as I wanted. After a while, I was sleepy all day and really could not wake up. So I decided on an (early) rising time and made myself get up. In a few days I was wakeful and alert during the day again. Although the other suggestions were good and might solve the OP's problem, giving in to the desire to roll over and go back to sleep might actually be part of the problem.

Thank you for this!

Sleep rhythms can be all over the map. And it's true that for some folks, the late sleeping just drags them into a vicious cycle.

You made me laugh out loud AGAIN!

You are kind!

But it was the truth.

I started thinking about how I handle this, and I give one-word answers: Is the rest of your family still in [my hometown]? Yep. Is your dad in assisted living? Yep. Do you visit them? Yep. I find that's the furthest anyone digs. Either the other person can tell that this avenue of conversation is a dead end, or we just naturally move on to more fun stuff. The other suggestions were good too.

Thanks!

I do recommend adding a question onto the one-word answers so that it makes it clear that it's the topic that is unwanted, rather than conversation in general!

I bet your kids think your a freaking super hero. I was forced into so many interactions like this as a kid and if my mom had stood up and been like "yeah, this isn't gonna work for us" I would have admired her even more.

Seriously.

 

While this was terribly rude, I spent much, much time growing up - and as a nine year old - entertaining myself. Of course, I loved reading so as long as I had my book with me was happy.

True. That could help, for sure.

I just can't get past the fact that if the whole point of the trip is a visit with this family, then to not even be greeted is just so insulting. It could put a damper on the mood of the place no matter how good a book awaits.

To my mind, twins have an advantage in this situation ... each other. Why were they hanging out watching the grownups catch up over coffee? I'm not a twin and I'm pretty sure I would've 1) Approached the 8yo and asked, "Wanna play?" or 2) would've gone outdoors to explore around their house, with or without host's kids.

I see your point, but at some point I can imagine it would feel super uncomfortable (and potentially invasive and rude in its own right) to start exploring the house of kids who have made it clear they have no interest in letting you be a part of what they're doing. It's not out of the question to imagine they'd take umbrage about you looking at their toys or games, for instance, and make things even worse. Just awkward all around.

Thanks for taking my question! The mom was apologetic but unable to get her 8- and 6-year olds to acknowledge us. Not sure our friendship will survive but it didn't look like she was blaming us for leaving. The kids are both fine, very intelligent with no developmental/mental issues so their behavior was just incredible to me.

Incredible indeed. Thanks for the update. Yeah, consider yourself absolved!

May I just say how much I love the phrase "Bonus Kids"? What a wonderful descriptor!

It is, isn't it?

And kudos to the OP for referring to her stepson as "my kiddo!" Both of you belong in the Stepparents Hall of Fame.

Love it!

I had a family member (FM) in this situation - old dog with fecal incontinence and other needs, spouse who was increasingly irritated by the dog and FM. Is it possible that spouse feels like his quality of life is unimportant to the dog mom (or less important to her than the dog's)? I'm not advocating for putting the dog down, just pointing out that part of the conflict could be about the husband feeling like the impact on him is being downplayed or not acknowledged. I think I recall that this has been going on for a year with no end in sight. That's a long time not to sleep in your own bed, even if you sleep well in the guest room. I know that when I'm making uncomfortable sacrifices for my spouse, it means a lot to me when he acknowledges it. Maybe acknowledging it here could help diffuse the conflict?

It's a good point. Thankfully, they seem well on their way now of better acknowledging each other's feelings!

I never had godparents, but I rejected my religious upbringing at age 12. What would've happened if I'd had godparents? Would they have tried to force me back into the fold? If they failed, would they no longer be godparents?

Well, again, I think there are all different flavors of this in the world.

I say this as someone who is an agnostic godparent! (Hope I don't get the boot.)

The time has flown, as always.

Lots of good updates today — and even the ones that weren't peachy still had room for hope. I always appreciate hearing back!

Thanks to everyone else here today, as well. I will look forward to seeing you next week when the Back to School vibe is in the air. In the meantime, be well, and see you on social media and in the comments!

In This Chat
Dr. Andrea Bonior
Dr. Andrea Bonior is a licensed clinical psychologist and the voice behind Baggage Check since its start in 2005. She serves on the faculty of Georgetown University and is the author of the Publisher's Weekly best-seller "Psychology: Essential Thinkers, Classic Theories, and How They Inform Your World" and "The Friendship Fix.”
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