Giving son tough love will be tough
Dear Annie: My wife and I have a 20-year-old son, “Joe,” who has “failure to launch” syndrome. He coasted through high school, smoked pot, played video games and did the minimum to get by. After graduation, we agreed he could work part-time and go to college while living at home, although I would have preferred he work full-time or join the service.
He took no classes over the summer and continued his part-time job delivering pizza for less than minimum wage and tips. Most days, he started work at 4 in the afternoon, and he got into the habit of coming home at 10 p.m., playing video games and/or partying with friends until 4 in the morning, and then sleeping or staying in bed until 30 minutes before work. If he was not scheduled for work, he would end up in the basement playing video games.
He successfully completed one college course in January. He started his second class in September and withdrew by October. He figured out college “was not for him.” We told him he had to get a full-time job. The late-night partying and video games continued until December, when we insisted he stop smoking pot and apply for jobs. Surprisingly, he ditched his friends, quit pot and became a different person who was more outgoing and would talk with us.
Unfortunately, this didn’t last more than four weeks. He never actually applied for any jobs and started partying with his friends again. At the end of January, my wife and I had had enough. I told Joe he had to have a full-time job by the end of March, or he had to move out.
Fast-forward to today: My wife doesn’t want to kick Joe out because he told her he has no place to go.
At 20, I want Joe to grow up. I tell my wife that we have enabled his lifestyle for long enough and Joe needs an ultimatum to learn.
Since this is one of a few things my wife and I disagree on, we both agree we would follow your advice. By the way, Joe has refused individual counseling, and I know he wouldn’t show up if he had a scheduled appointment. — Failure-to-Launch Father
Dear Failure-to-Launch Father: Tough love is tough to give, but that’s what’s needed here. The best thing you can do as Joe’s parents is to stop enabling his self-destructive behavior. Stick with your deadline for his moving out. It’s the right thing to do, though it might feel wrong.
Consider attending therapy and Nar-Anon or Al-Anon to learn how to detach from Joe’s situation. To quote Melody Beattie: “Detaching does not mean we don’t care. It means we learn to love, care, and be involved without going crazy.” Beattie’s book “Codependent No More” might be helpful during this time, as well.
Dear Annie: I have licked my knife after meals all my life. Whenever my friend “Jill” and I are at a restaurant together, she tells me how gross it is and looks away. Doesn’t everyone do this? — On the Edge
Dear Edge: Appearances aside, this just sounds dangerous. Even a butter knife could do some damage to your tongue. Why not scrape the food off your knife with your fork instead? It’s safer and more sightly.
“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now. Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Go to http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.