Love people for who they are, not who you want them to be

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Love people for who they are, not who you want them to be

Anonymous: Please help . . . I have a young son, 2 1/2, who ADORES his uncle. But while he loves my son, my brother doesn't make the time to see him. I'm tired of always inviting him to come over for dinner, play minigolf, whatever — just to see his nephew.

Recently my brother and I got into a fight because he doesn't think he is doing anything wrong. My problem is that he makes time for his girlfriend, his girlfriend's family, etc., and he can't make time for me and my family (for even an hour every other week).

For what it's worth . . . we live only about 30 minutes apart and are more than willing to come to him. How do I get him to grow up and spend some time with my son? Or do I just ignore it and let him develop the relationship when he is ready?

Carolyn: I wish spell-checkers would spot the phrase "How can I get him/her to . . . " and turn it into bold red flashing text.

Drop it, please. Clearly, you have already made the case to your brother that you want to see him more. Now, just let go and love the brother you have, not the one you want him to be. More important, teach your son to love the uncle he has, not the one you want him to have.

Invite your brother whenever the spirit moves you, and treat it as an invitation, not an obligation, meaning he can say no without penalty.

Then, when he does say yes, take it for the pleasure it is, no more, no less. Enjoy his company. Say bye, see ya next time.

Then don't pout, complain, mope, apply pressure, say anything about your disappointment that your son can hear, or wear it on your face for him to see.

Your chances at a closer relationship are much better if you give it a hospitable (as opposed to guilt-thickened) environment for taking root. And if it isn't meant to take root, then backing off will keep you from planting expectations in your son that are destined never to be met.

To help teenager be good mom, be on standby, but let her explore

Atlanta: My 17-year-old daughter is pregnant and for religious reasons will keep the baby. My husband and I were very disappointed at first but have adjusted to the idea, and are looking forward to having a grandchild close by.

Given that my daughter has no experience with babies while I've raised three, how much involvement is appropriate?

I don't want to cripple her growth as a new mom, but I also can't imagine letting her screw up the baby just to keep up my hands-off approach.

Carolyn: You've both got a lot of learning to do, so start it off by setting the precedent of openness and trust: Put your question to her. She may be a minor, but she is also, already, a fellow mom, and the sooner you respect that, the more open she'll be to your input.

Remember, too, it's not just her inexperience at issue here; after all, you were a rookie once, too. It's that she's nearly a child herself. So, teach parenting by example: Let her explore, and catch only the dangerous falls.

Love people for who they are, not who you want them to be 08/16/09 [Last modified: Sunday, August 16, 2009 5:30am]

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