My mother is becoming a very bitter and angry old person. What is the best way to cope with her? Let her walk all over me or disconnect and not engage with her?
Dear Bad daughter,
There is seriously not enough room in this column for me to answer that question in the way I would like. So I am going to give you some short, simple, hard-earned suggestions that split the difference between the two extremes you present – neither of which seems tenable, since this is your mother we are talking about:
- Make sure she doesn’t have a urinary tract infection. They can send older people into some very scary places including sudden dementia. Completely different from younger folk. Also make sure she doesn’t have any other physical reason for being so grumpy.
- Spend short amounts of time with her more often vs. longer amounts of time with her less often.
- Enlist help of siblings, caregivers, other relatives or friends.
- Get her a cat.
- Find things that you can do together that you both enjoy like a crossword puzzle, crafts, reading aloud, cooking (if she’s able), eating (if she’s not), walks (if she’s able), TV shows (if she’s not), televised sports … etc.
- Bring photo albums over with you so you can talk to her about the happy times.
- Change the subject when she starts getting mean.
- Try to see things from her point of view, losing control over her life, etc.
- Hit your head against the wall.
- Leave when she gets too mean.
- Keep those expectations low and the boundaries high.
- Get her on antidepressants if she will agree to trying them.
- When she gets mean, say, “You sound frustrated. I’ll come back when you’re feeling less frustrated.”
- Talk to her friends about coming to visit more often.
- Talk to her doctor or your therapist about more coping strategies!
Good luck and Godspeed. You’ll need it!
I’m addicted to food from a box, like mac and cheese. How can I break out of this unhealthy habit?
It’s soooo good
Dear It’s soooo good,
Is there anything better than mac and cheese? I think not! But it is, indeed, a drain clogger.
Here are a few ideas to distract yourself from the fluorescent orange monster.
- Have mac and cheese once a week instead of four times a week.
- Buy things you enjoy, like fruit that’s already cut up and put it in the front of your fridge.
- Make a big salad and put it in a Ziploc bag and squeeze all the air out of it. They hold a surprising amount when packed down. That way, all you have to do is grab a handful and voila, a meal is born.
- Keep fresh hard boiled eggs on hand.
- Make a big pot of chili or stew or soup on the weekends and freeze it in small amounts.
- Buy yourself some other treats, a piece of aged cheese, nuts, avocados, dried fruit.
- Find something active that you love, like hitting a punching bag full force or pulling the shades and dancing around the house at midnight.
I could go on and on but you will have to find your own way. There’s no denying, it’s hard. Very hard. But, if mac and cheese addiction is your worst problem, you’re doing OK.
My son (I’ll call him Bill) happens to go to college with a high school friend of mine’s son (we’ll call him John). They are not friends, but his mom and I have rekindled our relationship, and we are hoping that they may one day become friends. In the meantime, her son lives on the same floor as one of Bill’s close friends.
Fast forward a few months, and John tells his mom that the optimum amount of time for the two of them to talk on the phone is once every two weeks. This was a stab in the heart to my friend, but she took it on the chin and said OK, thinking he was trying to set some boundaries, which is understandable. Then I found out, completely haphazardly, that Joe had Covid and successfully recovered.
When I put two and two together, I realized that he had Covid just when he told his mother he only wanted to talk once every two weeks. I am wondering if he did this because he didn’t want to tell her about having Covid, knowing how much she’d worry (reasonable!). I’m pretty sure she doesn’t know or she would have mentioned it to me.
Now I know that he had Covid, and she doesn’t. On the one hand, I think I should tell my friend because as a mom, I would certainly want to know if my son was sick. On the other hand, I don’t want to be a tattle-tale and invade John’s privacy. What to do?
A mum mom
I think you already have a pretty good hunch. Personally, I believe a college student or person who has left the house is, indeed, entitled to their privacy. If he felt it was important to tell his mom, he would have. It would be dicier if you had knowledge of something he had done that put him or someone else in danger, was illegal or threatened his admission to school.
But, thankfully in this case, all’s well that ends well, and no one is worse for wear. I could throw a few more aphorisms in there, but I’ll leave it at two. Such restraint. Well done, Mom!
Dear Gabby appears in the RoundTable every Monday. Yes, Gabby is an advice columnist – but not just any advice columnist. Because that would be boring! Gabby combines wisdom with wit. And a pinch of snark. She is not a trained therapist by any means, but has seen and loved many in her day. Her aim is to make you think while she makes you laugh. Gabby welcomes all questions and queries and is only too happy to hear your opinion, no matter how much it may diverge from hers. Write to Gabby at email@example.com.