Ask Amy

Monday, April 20, 2009 at 10:00pm

DEAR AMY: My son is in seventh grade, and he recently has started coming home with gross and obnoxious jokes. Some of his favorites are "your mom" jokes, and also a joke in which the punch line is, "That's what she said."

Whenever I slip up and say something "wrong," he is there at my side with a gross joke at the ready.

A few weeks ago, at a company barbecue, a minor incident happened involving a hot dog. I made an innocuous comment, and my son of course shouted from the table, "That's what she said!"

The yard was filled with nervous laughter. This was extremely embarrassing.

My son's habit is gross and embarrassing. It needs to stop. What should I do?

— Mortified Mom

DEAR MORTIFIED:
For adolescent boys, "Yo' mamma" jokes are the height of hilarious sophistication — and even if they can't pronounce "double entendre," they know one when they see one ("that's what she said").

Your function in your son's life is not only to be long-suffering and patient (unless you're Michael Scott, the fictional boss from "The Office," boys do grow out of this), but also to guide with the swiftness and certitude of Mom.

If he embarrasses himself, you and others in public, you should ask to speak with him privately, tell him in no uncertain terms that his comment was offensive, say he owes you an apology for embarrassing and insulting you, and tell him that if you ever hear him uttering offensive comments, the consequences will be swift and sure.

Ideally, this lesson would best be delivered along with the boy's father, who was once an adolescent boy too.

DEAR AMY: My ex-husband and I were married for almost 20 years. We married at 18, had our first child 10 years later and separated soon after. We reconciled and had our second child.

During our marriage, my biggest issue was my husband's job: a family restaurant open round-the-clock. The job always came first, and he would never take time off — for any reason. We finally divorced in May.

We've both dated other people, but recently have found ourselves wanting to give our relationship another chance, for us and our children. We don't want to confuse the kids, and we're not sure how to make it work. He now owns our old house; since the divorce, I bought my own home 10 minutes from him, and the boys and I absolutely love it there. They spend 95 percent of their time with me.

I know he'll never leave his house, as the land has been in his family for years. I don't want to leave mine.

Where do we go from here?

— Conflicted

DEAR CONFLICTED: You and your ex have a checkered history. To give this relationship another try, you'll do best if you change the way you come together.

Instead of crashing into one another and dealing with these huge issues all at once, you and he should consider an old-fashioned courtship. Take things slowly, talk things out, go on dates and live in your separate homes while you do.

Don't talk to the kids about moving, and if they ask, say "Dad and I like the way things are for now — but we'll let you know if we make any big decisions."

Unless you and your ex make some changes in the way you live your lives together, your problems will continue to follow you. A marriage counselor could help you find new ways to relate to one another and develop a strategy for the kids.

DEAR AMY: When I was reading your response to "Need a Restart," I knew I had to write to you.

I volunteer at the SPCA and felt I had to mention its fostering program. Consider it a "try before you buy" program.

You get to help the animals and free up space in the shelters for more to be received. Best of all, you get at least a few weeks to see if they are a good fit with the family and other pets.

With shelters across the country being so crowded, it's a great way to do some good even when you don't have a lot of time or money to give (like so many of us these days). I really hope you will share this great program with your readers.

— Natalie

DEAR NATALIE:
I agree that the SPCA's fostering program (available at many shelters) is an ideal way for an animal lover to press the "reset" button. Thank you.

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