My 17-year-old son, "Seth," is set to go off to college. He is going to a state university about 20 minutes from our home.
When filling out the paperwork for school, I did not sign him up to live on campus. His behavior during his senior year was less than stellar. I felt he needed to prove himself a little before I spent the money for him to live on campus.
He's furious with me, and I admit I am second-guessing my decision as I talk to other parents whose kids are all living on campus.
I want my son to be independent. I told him if he did well the first semester he could live there the second semester. Did I do the right thing?
- Perplexed Mom in New York
DEAR MOM: I know you want your son to be independent, but for him to become independent means he needs to accept responsibility for himself - and that includes filling out his own paperwork for school.
Dormitory living would have provided an atmosphere with some supervision and structure, but dorm rooms are usually assigned at the beginning of the school year - not the middle.
I know you meant well, but I would have done things differently and told my son that if he did poorly in his first semester, he would be living at home during the second one.
DEAR ABBY: We desperately need your help on how to say "no thanks," without hurting our friends' feelings. A lovely couple at church regularly invite us to their home for dinner. "Judy" is an avid reader and enjoys clipping recipes from newspapers and magazines.
When we arrive, the conversation usually starts with, "I got a new recipe." We have been served half-cooked bean soup that felt like we were chewing on little pebbles from the river, casseroles with cheese topping so hard it could be used as roadway asphalt, and cakes as heavy as lead. Thank God for lemonade to wash down the taste.
We feel like their guinea pigs. We like their company, but we're afraid our medical bill could be higher this year if we venture into the wrong meal. These people are great friends and fun to be around. How do we say no without hurting their feelings?
- Queasy in Kentucky
DEAR QUEASY: The next time Judy invites you to dinner, accept on the condition that YOU bring the main course. And when you do, be sure to bring the recipe with you. Then, during dinner or after, explain to Judy exactly how it was prepared. You'll be doing not only your hostess, but also yourselves, a big favor.
DEAR ABBY: My father was recently widowed at the age of 77. I know he's lonely because he has never lived by himself, but I'm concerned about his social behavior. He makes sexual remarks around women of all ages - from 21 to 101. If he sees that I'm shocked or embarrassed, he says he likes a good laugh and "this is nothing they haven't heard before."
I have tried telling Dad that his comments are offensive and degrading. I love him and want him to be happy, but I'm afraid he's making a fool of himself and will end up with a poor reputation in our small retirement town.
Am I wrong? How can I help him see the error of his ways?
- Disconcerted Daughter
DEAR DAUGHTER: You are not wrong. But you have already told your father that his remarks are offensive. He can see the effect that they have on you.
Unless he is becoming demented, which you should be able to determine if there have been other changes in his behavior, he may be one of those hard-headed people who have to learn things the hard way. *