Ask Amy

Tuesday, January 19, 2010 at 9:45pm

DEAR AMY: My daughter-in-law is constantly telling me that I raised my son wrong. They have been together for 20 years and have two teenage children. My son has been the sole provider during this time. She believes that it is her place to stay home with the children.

I get to hear how my son does not do enough for her. She says I raised a thoughtless brat. There are variations on this theme, but it is something I hear over and over. I smile and tell her I did the best I could at the time. She smiles and lets me know that I failed miserably.

I can't tell her to stop, because no matter how I word it, she will feel hurt and take it out on my son.

I never mention that her children have police records and that they don't know how to make decisions because she decides everything for them. I love these kids, but they are not too bright, if you know what I mean.

How do I tell her that no one is perfect? How do I let her know that after 20 years, maybe xshe has helped to make him the person he is now?

— No. 1 Worst Mother

DEAR NO. 1: There seems to be an abundance of hostility in your family. You are responding to your daughter-in-law's trashing of your son by trashing her kids.

The first thing you could do differently is to stop behaving badly yourself.

It should be obvious to both of you that your son is an adult and responsible for his own choices and shortcomings. The fact that the two women in his life are tussling over who is responsible for his behavior is an indication that you don't seem to view him as a grown person capable of choice and change.

If you want your daughter-in-law to stop complaining, you could remind her of her role in his life by saying, "Honey, I had him for 18 years. You've had him for 20. You do the math — he's more your creation than mine."


DEAR AMY: I am a 24-year-old woman.

I was taught growing up to write thank-you notes. I have always done so for gifts I have received for birthdays, graduations and holidays from my friends and family.

As I have moved out on my own, I have begun giving holiday and birthday presents to some of my parents' friends when I am invited to join them for a celebration.

I have never received a thank-you note from any of these adults.

Is there a rule that you do not write thank-you notes to people younger than you?

— Confused

DEAR CONFUSED: You make an excellent point. People who insist that the younger generation must be polite should behave as they would like to be treated.

In general, if the recipients are able-bodied and you haven't ever been thanked for gifts you've given, you could take a page out of the older generation's playbook and stop giving to the people who neglect to acknowledge the gift or thank you.

You have no choice but to assume that your gifts are of marginal (if any) interest to the recipients.

Next year a holiday card should suffice.


DEAR AMY: I am responding to "Still Looking," the man who wanted to marry a virgin.

I am a 44-year-old married man with three kids.

"Looking" implies that all women who have had premarital sex have low self-esteem and low self-respect.

He doesn't, however, mention anything about men.

Am I to think that my wife and I both have no self-respect and low self-esteem because we had premarital sex (with each other and with others prior to being exclusive) or only my wife because she is female?

There is nothing wrong with being old-fashioned.

There is something wrong about labeling people based on those beliefs.

— Tom

DEAR TOM: I am under the impression that "Still Looking" has one standard for women and another for men. As I replied to his letter, his harsh judgment of nonvirgins means he is eliminating some very nice people from his search.

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