Thursday, August 11, 2011

Dear Ann Landers - Sadly Watching From the Sidelines

I was raised by first generation Italian American parents.

There were a set of, what I thought at the time were arbitrary, rules we had to follow.   I'm not sure who originated these rules or how far back they went,  but they were followed by all.  Now that I think about it,  I don't remember any rules for the boys in the family.  Hmm, but I guess that was the European way.

There was an age appropriate guide line for specific rights of passage, so to speak.
For instance;  eyebrow tweezing, shaving legs and lipstick were age 14.

Forget even mentioning dating a boy until age 16.   And by dating I mean school dances.
Curfew was always 11:30; even after I was engaged at age 21.

I'm sure even today's generation  has heard this from their parents. "As long as you are living under my roof, you will follow my rules!"

So you get the picture. They were very strict.

When I was 15, a boy asked me to go to a movie.   I approached my parents.   I went to my mother first.   She said ask your father.    I asked my father and he said "NO!"

Needless to say I was pretty upset and felt quite oppressed.

 As I sat on my bed, flipping through the newspaper, I turned to one of my favorite sections - The Ann Landers advice column.

I thought that if I wrote a letter to Ann and she put it in the paper and my parents saw it, they might consider changing their silly rules.

So that's what I did.   I don't remember exactly what I wrote, but it apparently had something to do with the lack of trust my parents had in me.   The letter didn't appear in the newspaper, but I did get the following response from Ms. Landers:

It wasn't until I became a parent that I understood what those rules were all about.

My children are grown now with children of their own.

The fact is I could use a little advice right now:

Dear Ann Landers,

I see one of my children heading down a path that I think may be potentially destructive.  As I watch from the sidelines,  I am not sure what to do.  Do I step in and try to help?
I've been there before to pick up the pieces.   I know that parenting is a lifetime role, but perhaps it's time to let go and let him find his own way, whatever the consequences may be.

I respect your opinion and would appreciate your advice.

Lynda Grace   


  1. I'm not a parent but I think you may need to let your child pick up the pieces themselves. I think you may need to voice your concerns, remind them that you will always be there to help with out judgement but ultimately, the decisions they have to make are theirs alone. 

    When I was in my late teens/early twenties, I was dating a guy who was no good. My parents weren't as strict as they could have been because my oldest sister was in a similar situation many years before and laying down the law back fired. What they did was express their concern to me, treated him politely and waited for me to mature and realize just what was wrong with the relationship. And it worked! 

    What helped was that they weren't constantly nagging me about how much they disliked him. That would have prompted me to stick by him just to "prove a point". When I realized that I wanted out, my parents were there with open arms and no judgements. I didn't hear "I told you so!" which helped me feel a little less embarrassed about not listening to them. My mom said she would have gained nothing by shaming me. All she wanted was to see me happy and free. 

    You know your child best. Say your peace, say it once and try to say it as unemotionally as possible. Don't get into a screaming match just state the facts as you see them in a level voice. There *is* a part that's listening. Your child just has to choose to listen to that voice of reason and to believe in that voice.

  2. Ah, adult children.  This is the hardest part of parenting by far, if you ask me.  Toilet training, tying shoes and teaching someone to read are an absolute snap by comparison.

    I don't think there are hard and fast rules; each situation is unique. If something is truly, truly destructive or dangerous I feel you have to say something.  A mistake that will cost a person some money or pride is one thing.  Anything that effects safety is another.

    Having said that, no one wants their mommy to nag them when they feel they are an adult.  Saying you are concerned once and then 'letting the chips fall where they may' is probably all that is in your power to do. Trying to listen is essential too, though I think it can sometimes be difficult.  I think it lays the foundation for our children to come to us, on their own terms, when they feel they need to.

    Tough love (or staying out of something) is always toughest on the parents, IMO, and waiting for someone to realize they need help and to ask for it is awful.  Give me diapers and broken nights of sleep over that!

    Wish you and your son the best; wisdom, strength and happiness.

  3. That's so interesting.  We may have hated those rules but now that I look back, I think my parents could have put a few more into place.  Why'd they let me date that one boy yuck!  I was too immature to know better, but they weren't!!

  4. Your are so right.  One of the most difficult things to do as a parent, especially of adult children, is find that balance between being supportive but not stepping over the boundaries of their independence.  

  5. When my daughter gets frustrated with her 3 year old and his toilet training, I think about how it seems like only yesterday that she was three.   And you are right those type of things are easy breezy in comparison.  
    Thank you for you well wishes.  

  6. Well I guess your parents understood that you had to date that one boy in order to understand the difference between the good guys and the ones you should stay away from.