Q: My mother-in-law has begun doing the “pop-in.” My husband passive-aggressively hinted that he wished he had known she was coming over. Her response was, “I’m your mother; I don’t need to let you know when I’m coming over.” I regard this as total disrespect.
She has done this plenty of times, including popping in when I was having a dinner with my parents and children, which made her mad because she and my father-in-law hadn’t been invited.
She did the pop-in again last week. My husband, four children and I were about to sit down to a family dinner when she rang the doorbell. I didn’t have enough food for her and my father-in-law, which made us all uncomfortable. She made a sarcastic comment, “Gee, I guess I shouldn’t have come over,” then she sat in the living room staring at us as we ate.
I have begged my husband to say something, but he says it would be disrespectful. I said it is disrespectful that she comes over without checking with us first. What’s your take on this? — No Pop-Ins, Please
A: You have my sympathy. Your mother-in-law is a handful. Your husband may be so cowed by his mother that he’s afraid to assert himself. You are under no obligation to entertain anyone who pops in, including her. The next time she shows up unannounced, remind her to call first and suggest that she come back some other time.
Q: My fiancee has a 15-year-old son, “Jason,” who spends countless hours in his room playing Xbox with his buddies. He is loud and obviously has fun, by the sound of it. However, when he comes out for meals, he doesn’t communicate or answer questions like, “How was school?” or “What do you think of that?”
My fiancee and I don’t live together. We see each other three times a year for two to three weeks at a time. My fiancee says Jason acts the same way whether I’m here or not. He isn’t close with his dad, either.
Is this a phase that he will grow out of, or does he need professional help? We get along, but there is never much conversation. I ask questions to encourage interaction, but it hasn’t been successful. — Frustrated in Montana
A: Whether Jason’s going through a phase or not depends on whether he has always had poor verbal skills and ignored questions he was asked. He might be reluctant to answer because he’s having problems socially or academically in school, or because the opinions you’re asking for concern things he has never given much thought to.
Boys that age are sometimes less verbal than when they are older, and their dependence on social media has contributed to it. Teens who spend most of their time in the virtual world tend to have lower verbal abilities than those who spend less.
If you and your fiancee are truly concerned, she should talk about this with a counselor at Jason’s school and ask if counseling or intervention of any kind is needed.
Write Dear Abby at DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.