Reality Check

Brooke Wisdom

Down and out

| July 01, 2010

Best fix for moping teen is tough love … and time


Dear Carolyn,

My daughter has terrible self-esteem. She’s miserable about her weight, hair, friends and lack of boyfriend. I’m at my wit’s end with this girl. She would rather complain about her situation than actually do anything about it. I sign her up for exercise classes, take her shopping for cute clothes and try my best to increase her self-image. But nothing is working. She’s 13 years old. I hate to think I have to deal with this for the next five years of my life. My husband is on the road all the time, so he’s no help.

Any suggestions?

Carla

Dear Carla,

She’s 13. She’s supposed to be a miserable excuse for a human being. My suggestion is a dose of tough love. Cook healthy food, invite her to go on walks with you and be available for her when she needs you. But stop being in charge of her self-esteem. I give you permission to be happy with yourself and let your daughter’s personality unfold on its own time. Meanwhile, assign chores and set up consequences when they are not done. One of the best ways to help her is to sign her up to work in a soup kitchen or volunteer at a nursing home, hospital or pet shelter. Get her out of her own head, and she’ll blossom.

I’m just say’n.



Dear Carolyn,

I met a trucker online a few years ago, and we really clicked. I’m a nurse, so our schedules never really synched up and we had a hard time meeting in person. Over time, our relationship changed to one of friendship. Now, he’s dating someone and often asks my opinion about her. He wants my advice on what to wear on dates and what to buy her for presents. He says he loves her.

I am happy to help because I really care about him. However, I have to admit that it hurts, too. I’m not over the whole “what might have been,” and it’s painful to hear about this other woman. Sometimes I wonder if I’d be better off with no contact than always dreading the sight of a new e-mail from him. Should I call this whole online friendship thing off?

Tessa

Dear Tessa,

Oh, darlin’, on the one hand, it sounds like he’s a good guy and doesn’t realize he’s hurting you. On the other hand, an “online only” friendship cannot compete with real-life ones. The last time I checked, a computer screen is not very huggable after a long day. I think you should tell him what you told me and gently suggest you move your friendship from wingman to the occasional casual email. Eventually, without food and water, it will dwindle to the category of “people you used to know well but now just think about from time to time.”

After you do that, start putting some of that energy into actual living, breathing humans you run into in your real life.

I’m just say’n.



Carolyn,

I’m engaged to marry a really great gal. This is my first marriage, and because I’ve been really picky, I’m no spring chicken. I turn 50 next week and had resigned myself that I’d be a bachelor for life. When “Kate” came along, she blew me away with her smile, kindness and beauty.

But there’s one dark cloud hanging over our pending marriage. She’s in her late 30s and says she doesn’t want to have any children. I can’t understand that and have decided that she will change her mind once we are married. What do you think?

George

Dear George,

Oh, I was reading your letter and feeling really good about love and marriage and weddings and happy people. And then, BAM! You ruin it with the one question advice givers hate to hear: “Can I change her?” Really. You want me to speculate on the possibility that this paragon of virtues you’ve searched for your whole life and who is honest with you about her lack of interest in becoming a mother will somehow see things your way and change her mind?

Here’s the answer: Maybe, but I doubt it.

Weigh your life with her/without children or without her and then resume the search for the perfect woman who also wants children. I can’t answer that for you. But I can tell you that it’s very unfair of you to marry her under false pretenses. She’s told you how she feels about kids. You need to tell her how you feel about kids.

I’m just say’n.