Dear Amy: I am a mother of two boys, ages 12 and 14. Their father is in and out of their lives. He very rarely contributes to their upbringing.
The boys have spent a total of 10 days with him this entire year. He lives 20 miles away. While with him, my sons decided their dad could use a new cellphone. I have no idea if this was their dad’s idea or theirs, but my boys asked to put their savings together (earned from doing chores and/or saving birthday money) to buy a new phone for their dad.
Amy, their dad has taken numerous vacations this year, including cruises and flights out of the country. He did not bother even once to take the boys. He even promised he was taking them on one of his trips to New York and did not take them. He didn’t even bother to tell them he wasn’t taking them; he just didn’t show.
I am conflicted on whether I should let our sons buy him a phone. I don’t want them to, obviously, and my thoughts are if he needs a new phone, he should skip a vacation and buy one. But I’m not sure how, or even if, I should explain this to my boys. Should I just let them do a good deed for their father without interfering?
Trying to be a Good Mom
Dear Trying: Your son’s father is not an attentive or responsible parent. Your boys haven’t had consistent contact.
This is what I think is going on: These boys love their father; they want him in their lives and they are turning themselves inside out to please him. Human nature leads children to seek love, and to try mightily to have contact with — and please — their parents.
These boys are secure in your love for them, which means, paradoxically, that they won’t be giving you a new phone anytime soon. They know your love isn’t contingent on the shallow pleasure of receiving material things.
In short, they are trying to win over their father, and he is taking advantage of this dynamic, because he isn’t the man he should be.
Say to them, “You have earned this money. Are you sure you want to do this? I know that Dad can take care of himself, but I won’t stop you, if that’s what you really want to do. It’s your money to spend as you wish.”
Make sure they understand that you will not make up for this expenditure, and make sure that you will be there for them (emotionally) when they get burned. Unfortunately, there is a high likelihood that this purchase will not be a good investment.
Dear Amy: My husband has OCD. He refuses to seek treatment. His behaviors annoy and irritate me in many ways.
However, the worst for me is when we must ride in the car together.
He cannot be still and simply drive the car.
We both love listening to music. However, he must add a jaunty whistle, an enthusiastic percussion drummed on the steering wheel or his lap, or, most annoyingly, a “ch-ch-ch-ch” sound.
Without going into detail, suffice it to say that the music we listen to is NOT enhanced by jaunty whistling. There is no point in asking him to stop, because he will immediately turn it back on me and come up with something I do that he doesn’t like.
Instead, I sit in the car and dig my nails into my fists. I want to slice my ears off.
What can I do to make this better?
Not Van Gogh
Dear Van Gogh: If you and your husband learned how to lovingly and respectfully communicate, you might be able to tackle this together.
It’s possible that you each have ironic and repellent disorders: OCD for him and misophonia (an outsized rage-reaction to certain sounds) for you. What are the odds?
Given that he won’t even acknowledge or validate your struggle with his various tics, you’ll have to resort to your own fixes. Deep breathing and earbuds might help to distract you.
Dear Amy: Thank you for your practical advice to “Travel Bugged.” If you don’t enjoy traveling with family members, then don’t do it!
Dear Solo: Once people have successfully suffered through an experience — and survived it — they sometimes feel locked in for a repeat. Don’t do it!