DEAR AMY: My husband and I have been married for 18 years. We have a 7-year-old son who is a funny, bright kid who has no problems at school.
Our marriage was great, right up until our son was born. My husband is jealous of our son for "taking me away" from him. These are his words.
As a result of this jealousy, he is mean to our son, not physically, but emotionally. He bullies him. Our son asks me why dad hates him. I tell him that dad loves him but he has a hard time showing it.
My husband had a rough childhood and didn't have a good example of how to be a parent. Sometimes he is loving and nurturing, but you just never know. I feel as if I play referee all the time to keep my husband from verbally attacking our son. He recognizes he is like this. He goes to counseling and is on medication for depression.
I want my son to have good memories of his childhood. I want my husband to be happy with his life (he says most of the time that he hates his life). And hey, I want to have a good life too.
We go out together as a couple, so it's not as if we never have time alone, but short of holding out until my son grows up and leaves the house and my husband can "have me all to himself again," how should I handle this?
— Anxious Wife
DEAR ANXIOUS: Your husband can't see your son's finer qualities because he is depressed and unhappy and has no template for good parenting.
A person's childhood lays down a script that most of us continue to act out, unless there is a real determination to do things differently and positive reinforcement along the way. He is now helping to write the script for the rest of your son's life, creating a legacy of emotional challenges.
Please see a therapist together.
Dr. Phil McGraw faced extreme challenges in his own childhood. He is particularly wise in counseling parents and advocating for kids. Read his book, "Family First: Your Step-by-Step Plan for Creating a Phenomenal Family" (2005, Free Press).
DEAR AMY: My home-cooked "comfort food" is always welcomed during times of crisis in our friends' and family's lives, and those times have been frequent recently.
Recently I prepared a week's worth of dinners for a couple, and when I was about half way finished with the cooking, I was informed that I needed to also provide for their housemate.
I have never met this housemate. He is a friend of theirs.
The extra person definitely made a difference in the cost, and I was put into the position of taking his likes and dislikes into account. And then I found out that the couple invited friends over to share the food too!
I consider my efforts to be a labor of love for the couple, not for others. My husband says that a gift is a gift and that I cannot dictate the terms, which I understand. How can I tactfully handle this?
— Frustrated Chef
DEAR FRUSTRATED: Your husband is right. But this directive also applies to the recipients. Just as you can't dictate how your comfort food is consumed, the recipients cannot special order more comfort from you. You'll have to be honest about what you are willing (and able) to do.
DEAR AMY: More on the issue raised by "Speechless," whose daughter accidentally dropped her friend's cellphone.
My teenage son had his cellphone in his pocket at his friend's house. The phone fell out, and their dog ran over and chewed it up!
My son was distraught, and one of his friends said he should ask the dog's owners to pay for it. I said, no way. The phone is your responsibility, and you pay for a new one.
— Mary in Coronado, Calif.
DEAR MARY: If he had asked his friend to hold it and mayhem ensued, would your position have been the same?