ASK AMY: Allowing Parents to Seek a Way Out


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Dear Amy: Recently, our adult daughter « Clare » asked us for $4,000 to help her daughter attend an extremely expensive ($75,000 per year) college on the East Coast. We had already given Clare $5,000 (for another purpose) and offered community college tuition and housing. She refused.

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My husband and I are retired public school teachers. We sent the three children to college. They graduated debt-free.

Our monthly expenses exceed our teachers’ pension, but we have some savings and some income. Things are tight.

Claire did not manage her money well. When she was in college, we sent her $500 a month and she immediately quit her part-time job. She literally squandered millions on expensive projects and expensive homes. She now finds herself divorced and almost penniless – yet she refuses to find a job and is counting on us to help her.

Now her daughter is making similar choices.

Clare and her daughter were not close or kind to us and never stepped in during those rare times when we asked for physical help.

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Both lied about our treatment of them and ridiculed our gifts and our lives on numerous occasions.

I feel used when they come asking for financial help. Yet I feel compelled! How can we say, « This is not the kind of help we can easily continue to provide? »

How do you say « no »?

– Exhausted teachers

Dear typed: If you and your husband saw a child in your class whose parents always came over to do their homework, you would see how destructive this behavior is and how much it hinders the child’s ability to cope with challenges.

YOU have the expense problem.

Your lifelong practice of activating « Clare » has helped create an authorized, incompetent, needy, angry adult who lacks basic judgment – and now she’s passing that on to the next generation.

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You allow it because you are too anxious or afraid to face the discomfort you would feel if you stopped.

And then there’s this: Clare isn’t even nice to you!

She’s not nice to you when you give, and she won’t be if you don’t.

You have propelled your three children to a debt-free adult life. That’s more than many parents can do, and you did.

Your duty at this stage of life is to take care of yourself responsibly. (Will Clare welcome you when there’s nothing left?)

All demands must be satisfied: “We are not giving you any more money. You can solve your own problems – we believe in you!

Do not provide excuses or explanations.

Dear Amy: I chat with my sister a few times a week on the phone. We usually call each other on a whim.

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More and more lately, she is multi-tasking while we talk, either preparing and eating a snack, or driving, etc.

The problem is that these activities create a lot of noise, some of which is quite annoying or even squeaky through the phone.

When she is driving, the call is often cut off.

She even called me into a cafe and then asked me to wait while she ordered or paid.

If I’m in the middle of something when she calls, I ask her if I can call her back in a few minutes.

If I notice she’s multitasking when I call, I offer to call back later, but she usually says no and carries on with what she’s been doing.

What is accepted modern telephone etiquette?

– Hooked to the line

Dear suspended: It’s not necessarily « modern », but basic good manners mean you don’t talk with your mouth full of food, strike up a conversation when you’re in the middle of a transaction (or vice versa), or choose to contact someone when you can’t give them your full attention.

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Do not offer to call back. Ask your sister if she can call back when there isn’t so much background noise.

Dear Amy: I applaud your response to « Regretful », the gentleman who has been divorced from his first wife for many years and wants to apologize.

I wholeheartedly agree with your encouragement regarding this apology.

When my first husband and I were 34 years divorced, he called out of the blue and apologized for everything.

I didn’t know I needed to hear this, but I did.

He died very unexpectedly six weeks later. I am grateful that he passed with a clear heart.


Dear Judy: “A clear heart. This is what we should all aim for.

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