My 20-year-old son wants to enlist in the Marines. He is a smart kid who was accepted to several good colleges and chose not to go. If he wants to go into the Marines, I would like him to go in with a college degree, but he refuses. I have also asked him to consider another branch of the military, but he refuses. I am dead-set against this, but he says it is his life.
Saying “It’s my life!” and expecting us to support his decision seems unfair, in the same way that if I were to head to Africa and start working with Ebola patients, admirable as that might be, my family would be justified in feeling angry, worried and sad. Help me frame this issue in a way that I can get through it.
— Aching Already
Worried, of course; sad … OK. Angry?
If someone you loved risked his or her life to help others, someone who wasn’t shirking other life-and-death responsibilities to offer that help, you’d be angry?
I’m sorry, I can’t join you there. Anger is for mistreatment. Recklessness. Inconsideration. Defiance.
The people who volunteer for hazardous duty in service of causes greater than themselves, to my mind, are models of conscientiousness and respect.
Anger exposes a boundary issue: He does something for himself, and you see it as something he does to you.
Your son might have other objectives here — yes, possibly to escape overbearing parents.
But because you’re clearly terrified of losing him, please realize you can’t stop him — but in trying, you can surely drive him away.
A good friend has a milestone birthday soon. Her husband has rallied people to help plan a party, which I believe he is paying for. The chosen planners are Birthday Girl’s Best Friend, Sister, me and Husband. The first two are big-time spenders, as is Birthday Girl. They go all out: catering, live band, photo booth, etc.
The spending is occasionally a point of contention between Birthday Girl and Husband. Husband and I are more of the backyard-bash type, although we’ve devised ways of making it look classy without breaking the bank.
Best Friend and Sister are about to throw in the towel and host their own party, because Husband doesn’t want to spend the kind of cash they’re talking about.
The girls called me to say they hate his ideas. I told them they need to talk to him. I won’t get in the middle. Is there anything else I can do?
— No Drama Please
Suggest to all the following: Husband decides the maximum he’s willing to spend, then hands it to Best Friend and Sister, who plan the party from there. They can choose to stay within the budget or add to it themselves.
Therefore, Birthday Girl gets her kind of party, Husband doesn’t get stuck with the tab for things he deems wasteful, Best Friend and Sister don’t have to chafe under anyone else’s idea of excess, and you avoid drama. Deal?
Email Carolyn Hax at firstname.lastname@example.org.