Q: Mom is 61. She lost her husband (my dad) six months ago. They had been married for 37 years. He used to do almost everything for her. Now her world has changed because she must do things for herself, like doing the dishes or paying the bills.
When we talk, she constantly complains about tasks that have the simplest of solutions. If I offer advice, she gets defensive and says, “Fine! Tell me how I should live my life.” I have reached the conclusion that she doesn’t want advice, but she continues to complain and be upset. My siblings and I don’t live close by. How can we help her? — Caring Daughter in Colorado
A: Six months ago, your mother lost half of her “self.” Tasks that seem ordinary to you are still new to her. Resist the urge to help with advice unless you are specifically asked. And recognize that when she complains, rather than looking for advice, she may be venting about her pain and frustration.
Q: I often see parents “help” their elementary school-age kids violate safety laws. For example, if they are running late, they’ll hurry their kids across an intersection against the flashing red hand signal, or jaywalk across the middle of a busy street instead of going to the corner. This saves them about two minutes.
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I also see parents watch their kids playing on their skateboards right under a sign that says “No skateboards.” These kids are old enough to read and understand the signs and signals.
Sometimes I call out to the parent, “Nice job teaching your kids how to get away with something!” or, “I hope your kids remind you about this when they are teenagers and want to do something stupid!” The parents always ignore me. Can you suggest a better comment I can yell out? — Don in California
A: What you are witnessing is regrettable. However, my advice is to keep your mouth shut, because you’re not going to teach parents like the ones you have described anything with a shout-out.
Q: My husband and I have an ongoing disagreement. He said I should write to you to see what you thought.
When we’re in a group, I say it’s rude to make plans that don’t include others who are standing with us. He has no problem with it. I’m uncomfortable discussing where to go for dinner with four members of a group when others are standing beside us. He says I am too sensitive and too easily embarrassed. What do you think? — Disagreement in Ohio
A: I don’t think that you are too sensitive. While discussing where to go for dinner in front of people who haven’t been invited isn’t “rude,” it is insensitive because they may feel excluded.
Write Dear Abby at DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.