Ask Amy: Advice for the Real World

Dear Amy: How should I respond to parents of troubled offspring? These not-so-young adults seem set on destroying themselves or going to jail.

Some have committed unspeakable acts and endangered others.

These parents and their sons and daughters have been my friends for many years. I saw nothing but love in their homes. I am not a parent, so I don’t trust my feelings here.

In some cases, I am so furious with the offenders that I don’t think I can be in a room with them without going into a rage.

They don’t seem to realize how much their actions impact the lives of the people around them.

When I catch up with my parent friends, I wait to see if they mention their wayward progeny.

I’m afraid to ask, and yet I feel it seems like I don’t care if I don’t ask. I’m reluctant to make a connection for fear they think I’m being snoopy. I just want to hang out with my old buddies!

Can you guide me?

— Miss My Friends

Dear Miss My Friends: The way you present this, you are surrounded, or feel surrounded by, friends and their felonious offspring.

I truly hope this is not the case.

Your question is whether you should ask your friends about their adult children, in the polite way that people do. The answer is “yes.”

It doesn’t seem like snooping if you simply ask, “How is ‘Marta’ doing right now?” The friend can either answer in detail, or give you a noncommittal brush back.

If you sense tension, you can say, “Are you OK with me asking? I don’t want to upset you, but I want you to know that I care.”

There is no need for you to spend time with offenders, if it makes you uncomfortable or fills you with rage. But when communicating with these parents, leave your harsh judgment behind. Regardless of how you may feel, you should assume that they continue to love and care about their children.

Dear Amy: My wife and I have a blended family. We both have adult children from previous marriages, and these children have children of their own.

Food seems to be our only issue. The children have mixed nutritional wants: One won’t eat meat, another fish, one is vegetarian and another family is vegan. Their children seem to be omnivores. During family gatherings at our home, we try and accommodate everyone’s preference, but it can be difficult, as no one is willing to budge off their own diet.

However, when we visit their homes, they serve only what they eat and do not take into consideration our preferences. If they are vegan, we eat vegan.

It seems to be a one-way food street, with us trying to go in both directions. It can get frustrating, to say the least.

I’d like to say something to everyone involved, but I don’t know how without causing discord. Do you have any suggestions on how to keep everyone happy? Or is this not possible?

— Not Quite Nourished

Dear Not Quite Nourished: Confronting this shouldn’t be an insurmountable challenge, except that you are going to have to abandon the idea of keeping everyone happy.

These adults are responsible for their own happiness. You only need to rustle up some chow.

The simplest solution is for you to offer a vegan meal to all during these group meals. This is the most restrictive diet, and everyone can eat vegan food (certainly for one meal).

Otherwise, assign dishes. Send an email to all of the offspring: “We’re having trouble keeping up with everyone’s diets. So we’ll provide meat (and/or fish), roasted potatoes, and beverages. Candace, can you bring a vegan dish and a fruit salad to share? Victoria, can you bring a vegetarian or vegan casserole? Bradley, please bring dessert?”

And then yes, when you are at their house, you should eat what they serve. If you need or want to eat meat at the vegan or vegetarian family’s house, then you can bring a dish to supplement what they are offering.

Dear Amy: I’m disappointed that you told “Nanny in Need” not to take a dog that had come to the family she worked for. Now the poor dog is being neglected by everyone!

— Upset

Dear Upset: The nanny had taken on the dog’s care during work hours. She should not succumb to pressure to take on the dog full time. That’s not a solution for either of them.

Contact Amy Dickinson at: askamy@amydickinson.com