Q. I am the mom of three “adult” sons.
One of them, who will be 21 soon, is not acting like much of an adult. He chose to move out a little over a year ago, with no plan and no place to live. He has bounced between friends’ houses, a short stay at his brother’s house, and with a family he met at a church he joined. I’m not sure where he’s living now.
I have given him a lot of money over the past 14 months, and I mean a LOT! I put myself in a terrible financial situation (didn’t pay credit card bills for months, cashed in the tiny amount of retirement savings I had, etc.). I did this to help him, only to learn (by his admission) that he lied to me about many things, including what the money was for, having a job, and letting other people text me from his phone asking for money as if they were him, etc.
There was a brief pause in him asking for money for about six weeks when he was living with a family from his church and working. Now he’s back to asking for money almost every day.
I promised myself that I would not help him again but I can’t stand the thought of him being without food or a place to stay.
I need your help to figure out how to say no to him without feeling tremendous guilt and constant worry. I’m concerned that he doesn’t have the skills to make it on his own (he’s on the autism spectrum — high functioning), but then again, I think he is a master at guilt-tripping me to get what he wants.
My fear is that when I finally say no to one of his requests, that will be the time that he actually needs it.
No one knows how much I have sacrificed and given up for him — not even my partner. I am too embarrassed to tell anyone.
NEWLY POOR MOM
A. You know that you should not give your son money, and so the next time he asks, you should offer to meet him in person in order to share a meal with him or give him food.
If he is involved with a church community, you could reach out to the leadership to thank them for how they’ve assisted him in the past, and ask what resources might be available to him now.
Do not give him cash — ever. Your practice of doing this has impoverished you and might have contributed to his problems.
Do not give up on him. A clinical social worker could work with both of you to connect him with supportive programs and resources for someone with his particular challenges. He sounds like a savvy survivor, but he desperately needs some job and life skills coaching and support.
You must tell your partner about this. Your financial secrecy will hurt an important intimate relationship, at a time when you need personal support.
Q. What is it with all these huggers?
I may consider you a good friend, but I don’t want to hug you at every (or any) meetup. I especially don’t want to hug during a pandemic!
It seems this happens so fast, it’s hard to stop the unwanted physical contact.
Any ideas short of sending out an e-mail to known huggers that I really don’t like this physical contact? Shouldn’t people consider that others may not welcome physical contact, especially these days?
A. The pandemic did relieve people of the social pressure to hug and be hugged. Now that our world seems to be opening again, many people are racing headlong into close physical contact.
If you don’t want to be hugged, you may have to be very assertive about it. And you’ll need to train the huggers in your circle.
Use body language (putting both hands out) and say, “Sorry — I’ve stopped hugging. I hope a fist-bump will do.”
Q. “A Concerned Mother” was appalled by the disgusting conditions in her son’s dorm room.
I agree that training kids early to clean house is a great idea. But many years ago my son, who worked summers cleaning houses (and was “the porcelain specialist”) was such a slob in his college dorm that he was threatened with eviction.
I totally agree with your initial comment — never to visit a child’s dorm room.
A. It worked for me.
Amy Dickinson can be reached at email@example.com.