0

Ask Amy: Rise above mom's behavior for dad's benefit

DEAR AMY: I am 40 and the mother of two small children. Since I was young, my mother has always used biting sarcasm to be very critical of my sister and me. If I say something that makes her mad or hurts her feelings, she will go weeks without talking to me. After she is done giving me the silent treatment, she will carry on like nothing has happened.

I am determined not to carry on this tradition of hers with my children. I have always put up with my mother because I love her. But now she is affecting my children. The last time we were with her, she made numerous comments in front of the kids about what a bad mother I am. This hurt, and I asked her to stop. She got mad and refused to talk to me or say goodbye.

My husband and I wrote her a note telling her that we loved her but that we couldn't allow this to continue. We asked her to change her ways so that we could continue visiting her. Guess what? We are getting the silent treatment.

Now we can't go and visit my parents, which is difficult because my father has advanced Parkinson's disease and may not be with us much longer. We are all suffering because of this.

Is there anything more I can do to bridge this gap with my mother but keep it a healthy relationship? - Frustrated in Indiana

DEAR FRUSTRATED: So far, you've been clear about how your mother's behavior affects you. Good for you. Now you should step back just far enough to refocus your energy onto your father. If your mother won't let you into their home without some sort of kissing up to her, then you should do so to see him. You should make sure that your dad is well cared for, and that your mother has everything she needs and isn't stretched and stressed to the limit -- some of her behavior might be a result of stress.

The minute she starts in with the sarcasm or put-downs, you should kiss your dad, tell him you'll be back soon, say a cordial goodbye to your mother and go to your car. If your mother queries you about your departure, you could say, "Well Mom, you seem tired so we'll get out of your way. Please let me know if you or Dad needs anything."

I know it sounds fake. I know that if you do this you might think you're rewarding your mother's bad behavior, but what you're really doing is rising above it, taking the high road and keeping your eye on the ball. Choose your cliche - you're in the right.

DEAR AMY: You've probably seen the show "Desperate Housewives." Well, what about those of us who aren't housewives but are still desperate?

I'm a single mother and raise my son on my own, which is hard enough. I work for a living, but after the bills are paid, we don't have much left over. I have few friends to talk to. Also, as I stated before, I'm single. This is my major problem.

I haven't had a date in two years. I've tried everything I can think of to meet someone - everything from the grocery store to the movie rental place to the park. I even went to a singles dance and wasted money on a singles hotline. Just about everyone in these places is way older than I am - I'm only 26.

Everyone says I'm so young, but does that mean that I'm supposed to stay single? - Desperately Seeking Love

DEAR DESPERATE: Because desperation isn't working for you, I suggest you take a less desperate approach - by concentrating on your own self-improvement.

When I was a young single mother, I took a free class at the local university. Did I meet the guy of my dreams there? No, but I learned something. Then I volunteered at my church. Was my guy there? No, but I loved what I did. Then I joined a book group. My guy wasn't there, either, but I made lifelong friends.

My point is that you are spending your youth looking for love in all the wrong places. I'm not saying you should stop looking, but in addition to looking you should develop personally and professionally, mentally and spiritually. Men really like women who know who they are and aren't too desperate.

Guys, am I right?

Send questions via e-mail to askamy@tribune.com or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.