DEAR ABBY: I have two sons, 18 and 20. Since they were young, whenever we invited one of their friends to join us for an activity, dinner, etc., I have treated that friend. Over the past few years, we have included one friend in more activities as well as on numerous family vacations.
The problem is, the more we have treated this friend, the more he has expected. For example, during our last weeklong vacation, he expected us to pay not only for every meal, but also every little incidental. When he was once asked for $10 by a vendor, he immediately complained. (It was for a short safety class so he could jet ski as our guest.)
Before he was 18, his parents sent money to help cover expenses, but now I cover it all. This would be a lot easier to accept if he even once said “thank you” or seemed appreciative. Aside from this, he’s a pleasant, respectful 19-year-old who has been my sons’ friend for almost 10 years.
Should I say something to him? Should I ask if he enjoys our trips and activities and if he can cover some of his own expenses? It is easily financially feasible. I don’t want to risk my sons’ friendship, but I feel the situation has gotten out of hand. — NOT AN ATM IN THE SOUTH
DEAR NOT AN ATM: You mentioned this young man’s parents stopped reimbursing you for their son’s expenses when he turned 18. What other things do they expect him to start shouldering responsibility for? You have been more than generous by continuing to subsidize him.
Because you are uncomfortable with the situation, a conversation is overdue about how these things should be handled in the future. Be sure to let him know that he is always welcome, but now he is an adult and some ground rules need to be set. And since your son’s friend seems not to have mastered the words “thank you,” it would be a kindness to remind him how important they are.
DEAR ABBY: Is there a sensitive and appropriate way to suggest to my mother that she would benefit from therapy? Our family has suffered from generational abuse. After years of therapy, I’ve been able to stop that cycle, and my children have grown up in a loving, non-abusive household. However, my mother holds on to unhealthy behaviors. She can be quite mean to family, and it makes me not want to be around her. My kids aren’t close to her because I limit their exposure to her.
I’d love to have a healthy relationship with my mother, but I know it isn’t possible until she gets some help. Is there a way to tell her I think she’d be happier and healthier and we’d have a better relationship if she went to therapy? Or must I just accept that this is my mother and leave it be? — HELPED IN MASSACHUSETTS
DEAR HELPED: Tell your mother you would like to have a closer relationship with her, but something is holding you back. Rather than say SHE could benefit from therapy, suggest that if the two of you could get some family therapy together, it might be helpful. Explain that talking with someone was enormously helpful for you and your family. If you approach the subject obliquely rather than head-on, she might be willing — IF she’s interested in a closer relationship with you. If she’s unwilling or defensive, you will have to accept the status quo.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.