While I'm away, readers give the advice.
On people you know are talking trash about you:
J.: When someone wants to share a third party's juicy/hurtful/critical comments about me, I like to reply, "Her opinion of me is none of my business." Stops 'em dead, and I love the expression on her face as she tries to sort out what I said.
On parents who accentuate the negative:
Older and Wiser: I struggled with a mother who was negative about everything I did. With therapy — and prayer — I learned to handle my anger, frustration and sadness at having a mother with whom I could share little. Over time, I realized that the "hurt" she showed when finding out at the last minute, or after the fact, about events in my life was a form of manipulation. Until her death, I remained a dutiful but distant daughter.
Some of the last words she said to me on her deathbed were, "I don't think I was a very good mother." At that instant, I saw that she had known all along of her shortcomings. Her insecurities and criticisms had kept us from having the close mother-daughter relationship we both wanted. Thank heavens, I had the presence of mind to squeeze her hand and say, "You were the best mother ever."
E.: My mother continually told my siblings and me to "not get your hopes up." She was so right. All that discouragement made us all afraid to try things, taught us to expect defeat and disaster when we did try, and set us up for a lifetime of anticipating troubles that sometimes occurred, but sometimes did not.
I realized eventually that she was passing along the way she was raised. I tried very hard not to follow her pattern, and have some capable, confident, productive children who weather life's ups and downs without whining or blaming others. Negative parents need to change their ways. It can be done.
On pouting over a birthday:
C.: I used to give my mother and sister flowers on my birthday. My mother gave me the life whose anniversary we were all noting, and my sister was a much-loved part of that life, so it seemed only fitting to thank them for this priceless gift.
Now that Mom is gone and my sister is too ill to celebrate, I take friends out to lunch on my dime. I don't tell them it's my birthday, just that I'd like to have them join me.
Without these people and their gift of friendship, my life would be dreary. Why not let them know that? If only people could accept that the world doesn't revolve around and because of them.
On "deadbeat dads":
P.: This phrase always makes me cringe. My husband and his kids were the victims of a campaign of parental alienation by his ex, wherein he was portrayed to the children as a "deadbeat dad," violent, alcoholic and on and on, none of which was true. He paid every penny of his enormous child-support obligation and tried desperately to stay close to the kids. Even adult kids need to be sure they have real proof or real memories of abuse or problems, not ideas planted by a disturbed and obsessed alienator.