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Son Worship

By Mink Stole | Posted 7/28/2004

Danny, my 23-year-old son, is an only child, and he and I have always been close, much closer than he ever was with his dad. Heís always enjoyed going places with me, but for some reason he does not like to spend time with his father. My husband is a sports fan and has always tried to get Danny to accompany him to games, but even though I encouraged him to go with his dad, Danny always preferred to stay home or go to a movie with me. Now my husband is insisting that itís time for Danny to move out. He says itís because he wants Danny to grow up, but I think heís jealous of our closeness. Danny lived with us all through college and he has a good job, but he has some friends Iím not crazy about, and Iím afraid if heís forced to leave home heíll start spending all his time with them. Plus, I know I will miss him. I love my husband and I love my son, but Iím tired of the fighting and the tension, and I feel like Iím having to choose between them, which is making me very sad. What do you think?

Mom in the Middle

It might be about time to push the little boy out of the nest, MITM. Every species kicks the kids out eventually, not to punish them but because itís natureís way. Itís called letting them grow up, itís normal, itís a good thing. Whether Danny has some unresolved oedipal issues, or is just too lazy or cheap to find his own place voluntarily, youíre not doing him any favors letting him stay, especially when itís causing this kind of friction. For one thing, it gives him way too much control over your lives. If Dannyís going to rule the roost, it should be his own damn roost. Itís terrific that you and your son have such a close bond, but itís not your job to be his social lifeóor to choose his friends. Your husband may be jealous, but that doesnít mean he isnít right. And you can be sure heís no less tired than you are of all the tension. Having Danny move out is not ďchoosingĒ your husband over your son; itís choosing to live as a wife and mother whose adult child no longer lives with you. It is not the wholesale withdrawal of all your love; itís a change in living arrangements. Period. And, while I know youíre dreading the empty nest now, once itís a done deal you might find you and your hubby fill the space up quite nicely.

My ex-husband and I divorced three years ago after he decided that being a husband to me and father to our two small kids (then 4 and 6) was way more responsibility than he could handle. It also turned out he had a ďgood friendĒ at the office. He swore their relationship didnít become physical until we had actually split up, but Iíve always blamed her for our breakup. Iíve tried to keep my anger and disappointment away from the kids and have made it a point not to say or imply anything bad about her, but itís been hard sometimes. Theyíve met her and know that sheís special to their father, but he hasnít made a big deal out of it. He and I agreed months ago that he could take the kids to Disney World for a week before school starts, and theyíre really excited. Now he tells me sheís going with them, that theyíre getting married, and that he wants the kids to get to know her. This feels really threatening to me, like Iím being displaced, like sheís already taken my husband and now wants my kids, too. And theyíll like her better because sheís all about fun while Iím all about schoolwork and chores. Am I overreacting? If I canceled the trip, it would break my kidsí hearts, which would make me feel awful. Should I just let them go and pretend itís OK with me?

Theyíre Mine

This may be the hardest part of divorce, TM, having to let other adults into your kidsí lives. Donít cancel the trip. Not only would it make you the bad guy, but if your ex is really marrying this woman, it would just postpone the inevitable. Unless you want to wreck the kidsí relationship with their dad, itís best if they have a good relationship with her, too.

You may be overreacting just a smidgen, but itís OK. She is not taking your place. On a purely practical level, your husband doesnít want the full-time responsibility, remember? And youíre their momóthey love you the best. Just because itís your job to pay attention to their homework doesnít mean you never have any fun with them, just donít get suckered into a bidding war for their affection. You deserve major credit, you know, for not having turned this woman into the wicked witch, so while theyíre away, instead of cleaning out your closets, clean out your pores: Get a facial and a massage, some major pampering. Donít do anything drastic to your appearance, though, because your kids are going to miss you a lot, and theyíll want you to look just like they remember when they get home.

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