blame it on lorraine – archives

Ask Lorraine a question | Recent questions

How Can I Take it From a Hobby to a Job?

Q:Dear Lorraine;

How did you get into the writing/journalism world?

I’ve been told that I’m an entertaining writer through emails and Facebook (no!  It’s True!) but can that translate into a second job and not an infrequent hobby.

Love your columns in the Toronto Star, keep up the good work and keep trying to get the motorcycle licence.

Firefighter/Writer

A:Dear Firefighter/Writer,

I fell into it bass-ackward, was my late mother would have said. I started writing 5 years ago with my Motherlode column, and happened into a time when the Hamilton Spectator was undergoing a redesign and a spot for my brand of Lorraineness opened up. As I was contemplating getting fired from yet another office job (After Divorce is a gross time), I realized if I didn’t write now, I never would.

These days, it usually happens that way; tried and true ways are out the window as the writing world struggles to redesign itself, and the internet rips the carpet out from under all of us. It used to be Journalism School was the only way in. It used to be Journalism School was nearly a guarantee of a way in. All that has changed as papers and magazines compete against a tidal change of, well, change.

I won’t go into the whole story – to include it all takes about an hour of talk time in a seminar or workshop. Of course, I fluff up the humour and downplay the tears – wouldn’t want to discourage anyone. But the truth is, it takes a great deal of creativity and promotion outside of your writing. You reinvent yourself as the craft reinvents itself.

Start paying attention to trends and demographics; who would make money off of your words? You have to think outside of how you would make a buck, and realize others will only entertain publishing you if they can make money off of you. In this way, you must think like a business, not an artist.

Venture into other forums that can give you feedback. Play in Open Salon, on Salon’s website. There is some good writing there, and getting bashed a little can be very informative. There’s a range of talent; good to know who’s on the field. There are other forums, but many, many of them are really huge and totally bruising. Be warned: opening yourself on the internet is tough, tough, tough. Be prepared to start working on the rhino hide you will need to write in public. It’s easier to stand in front of room full of people naked. Or so I’ve been told.

And the best advice in the world? Write, write, write. And read, read, read. The best writers I know are voracious readers. And learn to write to deadlines by creating some for yourself, either in a blog or something like OS. Learn discipline; writing requires huge amounts of discipline. I write the same time every day, every day of the week. If you don’t have the structure to work at home, you won’t have the discipline to write to deadline.

Don’t quit your day job – most writers I know do other stuff. Find critics outside of friends and family who will be ruthless with you. Learn to edit yourself, never fall in love with anything you’ve written, and practice writing shorter. People are loathe to read over 500 words these days – use that as your boundary.

And thanks for the motorcycle licence encouragement. Dunno if it’s going to happen, but that’s an example of living outside my comfort zone, to have things to write about.

Good luck!

Should I Be Suspicious?

Q: Dear Lorraine;

I joined the rest of you mortals in the 21st century and signed up for Facebook several weeks ago. As I searched for friends via e-mail, my husband’s invitation-only account popped up. Now this was the first I had heard about him being on Facebook so I sent him a friend request. Days passed without a reply. When I confronted him about it, he told me he put it up as a lark and never checked the damn thing anymore then promised to add me as a friend if it meant that much to me. I sent a second request, which he again ignored. Whenever I reminded him, he’d promise to get around to it but of course he never did.

After a couple of weeks of cat and mouse, I created a fake Facebook page with the photo of the buxom blonde that came with our wedding picture frame scanned in as my profile shot. I sent a request from the laptop while he hogged the desktop. Guess What? Within minutes, he accepted this friend request!

As I was nosing around his facebook page, I noticed something suspicious: all of his friends were women. Under interests he listed “philandering” and he named Bill Clinton as a personal hero in the about me section even though he makes fun of me for following American politics.

When I confronted him about all of this, he got angry at me over the fake identity. He then said all the female friends were just a coincidence and that we are all members of the human race and it is wrong to categorize people by gender. As for listing “philandering” as an interest, he claims he meant philanthropy but he didn’t know how to spell it. I find that amusing because he won’t even donate a dime to the Salvation Army at Christmas.

My husband says I’m getting jealous over nothing. Should I be suspicious, Lorraine?

Suspicious

A:Dear Suspicious,

Well, you already are. And who knows this guy better than you do?

While I’m guessing this letter is being flown by me to test my BS radar, the topic is relevant enough that I’m going to bite anyway. The Internet makes the original Wild West look like a garden party.

I have several hard and fast observations. One of them is that if you snoop, you will eventually find something you don’t like. So, don’t snoop. The problem is that for much of the population, snooping is hardwired, like picking at scabs. Or peeling sunburn. Or clicking the drop-down on ‘history’. Or opening up someone else’s mail. Hell, you pretty much invite pain doing any of that. And you do so knowingly.

Facebook is just this great, big, retarded time warp. And I mean that literally. Nearly everyone playing on there believes they are sitting on their 18-year-old butts, using eyes that don’t need bifocals, and typing with fingers that aren’t wearing wedding rings. It’s kind of fun to be fabulous when you don’t even have to take a shower or brush your teeth to get ready.

I don’t believe people in a relationship ever know everything about each other. I don’t believe they necessarily should. It’s not about lying or mystery, it’s about things that are relevant to your commitment to each other. It’s also a reflection on our screwed up culture that keeps insisting that happy marriages feature people wearing matching Christmas sweaters, toasting the camera with umbrella-laden drinks on some cruise, and choosing the new drapes for the bedroom together.

So, I’d ask myself this: Is your philanderer – let’s call him Phil – respectful of you? Do you spend time together? Does he have lots of unexplained absences, middle of the night phone calls, or lost weekends sucked into the computer? Is he hiding his Visa bill? Is Phil suddenly getting vague about future vacation plans with you? Did he forget your birthday? Has he stopped sleeping with you, or is he now going at it double time? (Yes, this is a sign. Horny people will boff anyone – even the person they’re married to.)

Is he distracted? Is he snapping down the computer screen the instant you walk in the room? Is he being short tempered with the kids? Has he changed? Be very aware of another thing sometimes overlooked: if you’re married to someone with an addictive personality – if they’ve battled booze, drugs, gambling etc – the internet mimics the process. Trade out the word ‘computer’ for ‘beer’ or ‘slot machine’, and read the signals again.

Facebook, and similar networking sites, have destroyed tons of relationships. Probably more then they have created. But I still believe some things are a cause, and some things are a catalyst. If you’re running around a room that’s in flames, you hardly stop to read the name on the door that opens to let you out. If you’ve slumped in your own dedication to the relationship, remember that nature abhors a vacuum, and that space will be filled. That space where you don’t sit down to eat together anymore. That space where you stopped going to movies. That space where you don’t see friends, hold hands, or talk about anything except the kids.

Phil may be a total jerk, reliving his dating years and hauling your marriage down in the muck. But there are plenty of people who remain happily married, and for whom internet sites remain recreational and educational. If someone is calling Phil out to play, and he’s going, you need to grab your marriage around the throat and find a counsellor to referee.

As for spyware and dummy bait accounts, by the time you resort to this, you already know the answer. You’re only looking for confirmation. Please try a counsellor; if Phil refuses, stick a fork in it and call a lawyer.

Help! My In-Laws Are Coming For A Week!

Q: Dear Lorraine;

I love your website and your humour and wisdom. So hoping you can help. My husband’s family is visiting for a week. This includes his parents, his two brothers, one brother’s family. A lot of people who I get along with reasonably well. We have a typical family relationship, good times, bad times, the works. My problem is that when my MIL visits, she loves to boss my husband around, getting him to do work for his other brother (who is 31 but still a dependent student).

This brother is a nice guy but selfish from what I’ve observed, very willing to take whatever advantages he can get from his family, but not so willing to contribute his help. For instance, my MIL still washes this brother’s underwear (he’s 31!) when they are all at our place. This is their business and is a family joke, but it bothers me when my poor hard working husband is made to do extra work, drive around picking and dropping people and things when he doesn’t need, or there are easier ways of getting things done. They will try to get him to pick between helping me cook for 10 people and picking his brother from university (while he can just as easily TTC).

This creates friction between my husband and me. My husband complains about his family afterwards but doesn’t say or do anything to fix things on the spot. I’m more of a say- it -directly and fix-it kind of person.

My MIL also loves snooping around our bedroom when we’re not at home. We’ve considered putting locks, but I don’t know if that’s a better solution than just saying it to her nicely not to intrude our privacy. My FIL loves re-organizing my kitchen, and puts everything in illogical places that I cannot reach. I’ve jokingly threatened to reorganize his tool shed hoping he gets the idea, but it didn’t work.

I want to have the kind of family life where our family and visit and we can all have a good time together, but how to I instil boundaries and ensure my husband isn’t treated like a doormat?

Signed, In-laws, Out-laws

A:Dear In-laws, Out-laws,

Well, let me just say I think you’re a frickin’ angel letting that many people descend on you for a week. I’m afraid I’d be making hotel reservations quicker than you could say “Honey, start the car.”

You already know this is your husband’s problem. Right? Don’t you? Let me tell you why. Men have a habit of marrying women who are very much like their mothers. Don’t yell at me – let me explain. His mother is strong-willed, dominant, used to getting her own way. Her belief that she uses this power for good let’s her sleep well at night. Now, does ‘strong-willed, dominant and used to getting her own way’ describe anyone else you know? You.

Put two queens in the hive, and watch the fun begin. If you were in her home, I’d tell you to suck it up. But this is your home, and she’s your guest. Your husband is a grown man who can’t be ‘made’ to do anything he doesn’t want to. And if he truly believes that it’s easier to give in than fight, ask him to add up how many additional hardships have been lobbed onto him during each of these visits. People push because they can.

Want my list?

1. There is absolutely no reason that you should be cooking for ten people on your own. Delegate chores at each meal, and tell them to get off their asses and help you. Don’t choose now to decide you’re the only one who can do it right. Good enough is good enough, and anyone can make a salad. Keep meals simple, ask others what they’d like to prepare – make a big deal of someone’s World Famous Somethings, and ask them to make them. Kids can clear dishes. And it’s a chance for them not to turn out as bad as Uncle Mama’s Boy.

2. A 31-year-old man is a man, regardless the fact his mommy washes his underwear. Oh, and ewwwww. Just, ewwwwww. Tell your husband to haul his brother aside as soon as they arrive, and make it clear they are equals. Hand him the TTC schedule. Surely he’s acquired enough education to read it. This is between your husband and his brother. Tell the brother being a mama’s boy is a sure-fire way to never, ever have sex. Ever.

3. You can’t lock your bedroom door. If she’s not stealing anything, lock up your porn and anything you’d rather she didn’t find, and wait out the week. Or, plant all kinds of terrifying sex toys in your drawer, and cure her once and for all.

4. You’re stuck with your father-in-law and his odd arranging habits. It ain’t fatal, it’s annoying. We’re choosing battles here, and it’s easier to get a step stool. Think of it this way: he’s found something to do, and you don’t have to take him to Niagara Falls and the CN Tower, it’s cheaper and easier.

I’m telling you to navigate up the middle here. Tell your husband he has to take the lead. Remind him his mother isn’t half so scary as he thinks (really, we all think we are, but we’re not. The threat of losing our precious boys will yank all but the worst of us into line, pronto), and that the two of you are a united front. She is dividing and conquering, but ultimately, she needs to be told that it will cost her her son, not keep him closer.

You understand this woman more than you realize. You are fighting fire with fire, and that gets you nowhere. Recognize that you probably share many of the same traits (no, really), and that your husband likes strong women. This is a good thing. Don’t contradict your husband in front of his mother. She’s scores a point when you do this. If he hasn’t got the balls to say he’s not doing something, then so be it. His problem.

You sound very able to be gracious. The ‘prize’ here is your husband, with everyone jockeying for his time and attention. You’ve already won. You’re just renting him out for a week.

And just wait until that brother gets married. Then you can sit back and really enjoy this show.

My Health & My Family: How Do I Save Both?

Q:Hi Lorraine;

I have been reading your column for a while and must admit it often makes me laugh out loud when I think of my own family.

I have a some big decisions to make and I just don’t know where to start. In September 2008, I had to move to Toronto to be on a waiting list for a lung transplant . I have to be within a 2.5 hour radius of the hospital. Because we were told that the average wait was 6-8 months my husband and I felt that it was important to give our sons (11, 15) as much stability as possible. My brother and sister-in-law moved into our home to stay with them. What a gift! But now we already have to consider the next school year. One son moves into grade 7 and does well in school. Our other son goes to grade 12 but has had a lot of motivation problems this year, making poor choices. He just doesn’t like school.

We are now in the ninth month of waiting still in Toronto and we are thinking about the future. Even after the operation I will need to be in the Toronto area for at least 3 months. Currently and after the operation, I need to go to the hospital three times a week for physio and clinic appointments.

On top of all this, my husband has been re-structured out of his job so we have that to deal with as well. So he is currently looking of a job in both Ottawa and Toronto.

Here are my issues:

We are currently staying with friends, our sons are still in Ottawa. We have terrific friends but their house is too small to accommodate my herd. Do we rent a home and move the boys to Toronto (Whitby) to be closer to their cousins and go the same schools as them for a year? or Move to where we feel we might settle permanently even though we don’t know where my husband is going to be working? And we have to do something with our current home, we can’t afford to run two households, we have already had to dig into our savings since September. It has been a really difficult time. I miss my sons so much, I feel that I will have to re-start my relationship with them on so many levels. I just do not know what to do or know when I might be called for my operation.

I need just one thing to be decided to know which direction to go. Please help me find my arrow and point me in the right direction.

Thank you.

Signed, Stuck Between A Rock And A Hard Place

A:Dear Stuck,

Oh, my. First, I’m hoping your health is recovered soon. So much on your plate, I’m so sorry.

I actually waited to talk to my son about your predicament, so I didn’t just go flying off down a mommy tangent with my advice. He agreed with me. Your family needs to be together. Having cousins in place makes a new school less daunting, and being with your mom and dad day -to- day is more reassuring. Even if you’re all going through tough times, you need to go through them together. Distance can lend itself to imaginings that are worse than the reality.

There is a ton of pressure on kids in grade 12. I’ll be honest – I don’t think an extra year, the so-called Victory Lap, is such a bad idea for a lot of kids. If your eldest is experiencing too much pressure, let him know there’s a release valve – he can make it up when things have settled down a bit. Give him an out – I’m sure both boys are frantically worried about you. And trying not to show it. But a family unit is stronger than scattered pieces – and you all need now more than ever not to be scattered. What their aunt and uncle have given them is wonderful – but they want and need you.

Can you rent out your home in Ottawa? I know it’s disruptive, but there are realtors who specialize in leasing, and it might be a better stop-gap than selling, both in this market, and until you know where your husband will be working. Home is where your family is. There are houses, but a home is where your family lives. Your home can be anywhere.

Talk to the boys. Let them know the priority list. That your relationship with them is first and foremost, recovering your health and getting things back on a financial even keel follow next. People will yell at me here and say your health is first; but I’m a mother, and that’s just not how it works.You would ignore me if I said put your health first. I know you would. I’d ignore me too.

By reassuring them, you will reassure yourself. And a sense of hope will make you all stronger. It sounds like you have some wonderful support systems in place, which is a blessing. You must have done many kindnesses yourself. You will rise above all of this. I just think your kids need to do it with you.

Take good care.

Neighbourhood Bullies Are Tormenting My Kid

Q: Hi Lorraine;

We moved onto a quiet crescent about a year and a half ago and have two girls – one in grade 7 and one in grade 1. Two kids live in the home immediately to our right – a girl in grade 5 and a boy in grade 3. The home next to them has two boys  – one in the same grade 1 class as our younger daughter and one in grade 5. Directly across the street from us are two kids as well – a girl in grade 5 and a boy in grade 2. These six kids (the “gang”) play outside together ALL THE TIME. Our youngest wants and has tried to join in (our oldest feels older by far and doesn’t appear to be interested in joining in). But the gang won’t have anything to do with her. They’ve made a game of calling out to each other when they see her and they run and hide together in their garages or backyards, occasionally venturing out to see if the coast is clear. Lately they’ve started circling in front of our house on their bikes and scooters in what I perceive to be a taunting fashion.

When we’re in the house they run onto our property and use our front yard swing. It eventually got to the point where not only did our daughter realize what they were doing, she started to question her value as anyone’s friend. At that point we reached out to a few of the parents asking for their help – saying things like our daughter is really interested in playing with the kids but they seem to be going out of their way to exclude her. We did not mention any names or blame any one child in particular. We also didn’t give a blow by blow description of what was going on. I guess we were hoping that if they were alerted to the problem that they would make attempts to remedy the situation, or at least stop the meanness.

It appears to have backfired entirely. The kids are no better. In fact, I believe that things have gotten worse. She has been told that “a grade 5 girl hates her” and that she can’t join their club because she doesn’t have an older brother. Interestingly, a four year old boy  has since moved in next to us on the other side and they’ve willingly taken him into their fold (although they’ve made it clear that his older brother with autism is not welcome to play with them and I’ve seen them being quite mean to him).

In the meantime, we’ve spent a lot of time outside in front working and playing, making small talk with the parents and trying to get to know the kids, etc., etc. We’ve also arranged several playdates for our daughter to help her realize she does have lots of friends and have given her lots of reassurance that what’s going on isn’t her fault.

How would you handle this situation Lorraine? We’re definitely at a loss. Thanks for any suggestions you may have.

Troubled Mom

A:Dear Troubled Mom,

Ah, kids can be heinous little beings, can’t they?

As I untangle the ages and genders at work here, I think a big part of this is the fact that the only girls (outside of your eldest) are two in grade 5. This puts your little one at a severe disadvantage for bonding. Two 10-year-old girls feeding off of each other have the power to stare down Genghis Khan.
As for the assorted boys, well, boys are different beasts.

Boys play – most happily by burning things and throwing things and rolling around like puppies – and if there is an argument, they beat the snot out of each other and then carry on. By the time you get out of the house to see what all the shouting is about, they’re looking at you all wide-eyed, wondering why you’re yelling.

Girls plot. They exercise their power usually by excluding others (as you’ve found out) instead of punching someone. The problem is that they hone that manipulation and cause far more hurt and damage than a punch would have delivered. And one way to *instantly* feel like you’re in the inner circle, is to magically create an outer one, and throw someone in it.

My apologies if I’m wrong, but I’m going to make a few assumptions about your little one. With the gap between her and her sister, she was probably raised almost as an only child. She probably hasn’t had to hone many survivals techniques that you get with having siblings, especially close in age. She’s a veritable babe in the woods outside of the house. She isn’t tough. And if she’s shy, that’s like a target on her head to a couple of tougher girls who instantly scan for weakness.

While it’s appalling that the other parents aren’t responding with a little more kindness, as you noted, it can also backfire spectacularly. Ever ‘made’ a kid be friends with someone? Makes them even more of a target.

So, you have to toughen her up. You’re doing the right thing – she needs a friend or two from outside this little Peyton Place. A kid only needs one ‘best’ friend to get through, and grade one is about on target. If you take her to school or pick her up, chat with other parents, especially those of the kids she likes. Start building bridges for the summer. If she has her own circle, she’ll be less likely to get tricked by the others – kids can be horrible, and I’d hate to see them burn her by trading on her trusting nature.

I also think being outside a lot is a good thing. And if you overhear any of them mistreating the autistic lad, I’d call them on it. A quietly delivered “I heard what you said and it’s wrong. Don’t do it again” can remind some of these miserable little brats that you won’t be pushed around, even if they believe they can push your daughter around.

Your older girl might also be able to help. Pay her to ‘babysit’ her little sister, maybe if she has friends of her own over. Grade 5ers idolize grade 7s, and who knows, maybe the example will be set.

Depending on the nature of the neighbourhood, a group BBQ might be an icebreaker. We used to have kids of varying ages where we live, so I’d go to the bulk store and buy 4 kinds of wrapped candies in as many colours as there were kids. I’d hide them all over the backyard, or neighbourhood, and tell each kid to go and find ‘their’ colour. You can hide in tougher spots for older kids, easier for the little ones. They’d usually end up working in pairs, and it would take about an hour for them to each find their 40 candies. For about 20 bucks, they were concentrating on something they could all participate in.

If kids see parents cooperating, they tend to see less chance to do battle.

Ultimately, your little one is learning a big ol’ life lesson. As much as you want to do battle for her and suck up her pain, you’re best off giving her the tools to deal with it herself. She needs to hear from you that Sometimes Kids Are Mean. Somebody may have been mean to them at some point, and while that doesn’t excuse what they’re doing, most people who are bullies got bullied themselves. Keep talking with the other parents, keep giving your daughter other options.

Build up her armour. Best of luck.

She Seems Perfect. Am I Dreaming?

Q: Dear Lorraine;

About 7 months ago I broke up with my girlfriend of almost 4 years. Since then I wasn’t at all interested in getting into another relationship until a month ago something changed. I met the most amazing girl out of the blue and got her number. We talked for hours on the phone for 3 days consecutively and it felt like being in high school again (I’m 27). I took her to dinner and afterwards we went for milkshakes, having the best night I’ve had in what seems like years. She is the complete polar opposite of my ex and EVERYTHING I’ve ever looked for in a person.

Her personality and character make me turn to goo. I finally feel like I can be myself again. After many bad relationships of being cheated on, lied to, disrespected, and walked on for being a nice guy, I put up some serious walls and refused to let anyone in. She not only broke through those walls but tore them down completely. I am so much at ease around her it’s frightening. We’ve been together for about a month now and I can’t seem to find any faults in her. Even the things that would normally bother me about someone are no longer an issue. She eats very well, and I feel encouraged to follow suit since I’ve always wanted to improve my diet. She’s in amazing shape and doesn’t mind that I’m not as physically active as she is. I’m not overweight but I also don’t have a 6 pack, big chest, or huge arms. I’m just average and she doesn’t want me to change how I look nor does she want me to change who I am.

So I guess my question would be: is this too good to be true? I haven’t met a girl yet who makes me feel like she does, treats me like she does, accepts me for who I am and wants me to stay that way. I am quite skeptical about how long this will last and no offence, but find it hard to believe that all girls aren’t materialistic, self absorbed, high maintenance, and don’t want to change their mate to how they want them to be.

Signed, Head Over Heels

A: Dear Head Over Heels,

Well, putting aside your closing statement that women are, ahem, materialist, self-absorbed, high maintenance and only want to change their mate (wait a minute, it takes awhile to put that aside….) you’re pretty much in a classic position. I mean, at the one month point, even I would look pretty fantastic to various men.

New love is an anaesthetic. Everything floats, nothing hurts, and there’s just no downside to this legal high.

So quit looking for one.

Nothing is too good to be true if you’re being truthful. If you’re becoming healthier because you want to, and not because someone is making you, then it’s the truth. If you’re being honest about your dreams as well as your fears, it’s a good thing. If you love her even when you both have morning breath, it’s a good thing. If you’ve held her hair back while she barfs, it’s a better thing. Here’s the thing: you need to go through a lot more than one month to be thinking there’s been any kind of test. But you can’t speed up time, and you’re meant to enjoy these days.

You need to consider something though. If your past relationships have always led to you being crapped on, the common element is….you. Is there anything you need to think about, or change, to make sure it doesn’t happen again? I mean, most people don’t set out to be horrible to others. If you’re a bitch magnet, what are you emitting? I’ll be honest; 27 is young in people years. Maybe women are forming you to what they want, and maybe you’re malleable enough to let them. Perhaps it’s time to define who you are – to yourself, first – and not be moved from those ideals. If fitness is important to you, make the promise with yourself to maintain it. If you’re an artist, make sure you’re with someone who respects that, or it’s doomed. Said the artist.

If it matters to you to live off the grid or make partner by 30 or cross the English Channel in a canoe, make the promise to yourself, and keep it by being with someone who respects that. Surest way to not be pushed around or trodden on is by asserting the things that matter to you right out of the gate. In the quest for love (or a warm body that’s willing to sleep with you), it is easy to kind of become tofu – taking up the flavour of whatever you’re next to. Growing up is maintaining your own needs and dreams, and finding someone who shares them – and then supporting each other. If you don’t want to be defined by someone else, define yourself.

I’m babbling. Here’s the deal: women are wonderful. Truly. So are men. But we all want the same things. And we will all get burned and hurt in the process, but we still keep going. There are no guarantees, but I can’t imagine living a life where you refuse to risk for fear of being hurt.

It’s summer. Let things unfold in their own time, and recognize that while you both will change, sometimes, you grow towards each other. Be true to her, and to yourself.

Birthday Wishes... Or Not

Q: Dear Lorraine;

We share in common the raising of two teenage boys. While I have what I would like to think is a pretty darn good relationship with my kids every so often something happens and you have to wonder…yikes.  Have I not made any impression on you?

I was incredibly touched by the fact that it was my birthday a week ago and my boys actually acknowledged it with more than just a hug, kiss and “oh yeah , happy birthday Schmummy”. Pre-planning and gift- giving is not their strong point. Flowers with a sweet card showed up mid -day from them both and I have had my bouquet  proudly displayed on our front hall table.

Well, yesterday my 17- yr- old handsome, self absorbed, jock provoked me into grounding him and taking away his video games, TV/computer and his right to drive the car he shares with his older brother.  He did something he knows was stupid and irresponsible and rather than sucking it up he has, in his wisdom, chosen of course, to be mad at me. So as I was going out the door later in afternoon I passed by the table where my flowers had been;  card gone, vase now empty with only greenery and murky water left behind.

I looked in his room later (when he was out of it) and saw my beloved flowers dumped on his bedroom floor.  There they remain today.. dead. His floor looks like a burial plot.   This is a side to my kid I didn’t think I’d see.  And dammit, I have a thick skin (naturally with boys) but ouch, that one hurt.  So I am thinking,  just how I would like to acknowledge this and since I like your quirky and blunt way of looking at things, thought I would ask your opinion.

Birthday Mom

A: Dear Birthday Mom,

He will look back on this as the day he wishes he could rewind to, and relive. Trust me.

Forgive him. And not for yourself, but for him. Teen brains do dumb things. Each day is The Only Day That Ever Was. Remember as a teen how every weekend was going to change your life? And now you know that weekends are a lot like weekdays, but with more laundry and worse TV shows?

I think sometimes kids must feel incredibly powerless. The ways they have to express their anger, rage, frustration or disappointment with us – and yeah, we deserve it sometimes – is limited. They can’t take away our car, our computer, our wine or our freedom. But they can use the mightiest weapon they have – they can withhold their love. My sons know I would be devastated without their love. They know it. But thinking they might not know how important they are to me is not a reason to hold back my love. I’ll risk getting hurt.

17 is the centre of the universe. Somewhere in the murk of the boundary between childhood and adulthood, he’s flipping back and forth. Thoughtful enough to think ahead for your birthday, childish enough to hurt you in the most obvious way. Let me guess: you made a really big deal about the flowers, right? He didn’t have to think too hard how to get to you.

He’s hurt you, because they weren’t just flowers. They were a symbol that he was growing up. But he’s got a ways to go, and sometimes, as much as you want to plant your foot in his backside and give him a good push out of the nest, remember that it happens in stages. He thinks the grounding was something you did to him, not for him. He’d be a pretty odd kid if he didn’t.

I’d clean up the flowers. I’d wait a day or three, then I’d tell him that he hurt you. Calmly. I’d tell him it was a selfish act by a young man that you don’t believe intended to act selfishly. And knowing me, I’d add a few lines that I break my butt to take good care of you kids, and I expect a little respect in return. That would fly with my two, I don’t know about yours.

But knowing you’ve hurt your mother sucks. Note it, then move on. Because grudges are poison. And for what it’s worth, mothers everywhere will share your pain. Kids all break our hearts one time or another. You are in good company.

Niggling Doubts: Justified or Magnified?

Q: Dear Lorraine;

My boyfriend (who divorced his wife before he met me) had a very long, drawn out emotional relationship with a female friend of his. This was an inheritance from years of bad marriage and we’ve spent the first year of our relationship figuring this out. He’s since realized what kind of relationship this was himself, and has changed his behaviour towards her. It took me a while to trust him again and we have even separated briefly to think over things.

It’s been about a year since we’ve resolved this – however, I still sometimes feel that I can’t trust him fully. Even though most days I’m perfectly happy with him, and I know that he loves me and he’s fully committed to me, these little doubts in my mind makes me think that maybe I should stop being in a relationship with someone who I cannot trust at all times. What do you think?

Frustrated

A: Dear Frustrated,

Let’s start at the start, okay? Did the female friend play a role in the breakup of the marriage? If so, this makes her a toxin. Sorry. It’s the truth.

I worked in the carpet cleaning business years ago. There was a code listing for cleaning up after floods. If something was ‘white water’, it meant a washing machine had overflowed, and you cleaned the carpet and carried on. If it was ‘grey water’, that meant dirt and muck, and it could be cleaned and disinfected. But ‘black water’? That meant poop. No cleaning, no disinfectant – garbage. Gone.

So. What’s the female friend? White, grey, or black?

You will trust him as much as you trust him. Sorry to be obtuse, but you already know the answer to this one. Because you’re actually being asked to trust two people – him and her. And before anyone jumps up and down and says ‘no, no, she doesn’t have to worry about Female Friend if she trusts The Guy’, well, that’s crap. You can’t help how your jaw seizes up when she’s around.

Marriages go bad for lots of reasons. I hope he’s accepted his share of the blame – and yeah, everyone gets some. Lots to go around. But you can’t build a house on a foundation that’s already full of cracks, so here’s what I suggest: go find a marriage counsellor, and get this crap out on the table. All of it. If he won’t go, go on your own. Get a referee to tell you your hurts are real and your concerns are valid. Hopefully he’ll see the value in going with you, so he can hear your fears and do what has to be done to shore up your trust in him.

But it sounds to me like a carpet has to be pitched out.

Did Someone Say 'Amazing Grace'?

Q:Dear Lorraine;Would you be interested in participating in the ‘Amazing Race’?

Signed, Perry G.

A: Dear Perry,

If I get to drive something, somewhere, sometime, and I’m all yours.

Is She Just Not That Into Me?

Q:Dear Lorraine;When my husband and I married 22 years ago, I inherited some his high school mates.  They are an interesting, eclectic and somewhat offbeat posse of friends.  I have remained close with one of his old “girlfriends” and we have shared a number of ups and downs together.  In the last couple of years, her career has taken off and we have had less time to spend together. I have initiated contact the last few times we have seen each other so I am waiting (and  waiting) for her to call me to plan time together.

I’m not sure if she considers me a relic from the past or a friend she wants to maintain contact with.  I miss her perverse sense of humour and her rambling monologues.  Any suggestions?

Sick of Waiting

A: Dear Sick:

I’m going to answer this question from both sides, because I’ve been on both sides.

First, I agree that 22 years is too long to let go of without a proper answer. I’ve had a few friendships that have weathered a lot of storms, with contact being sporadic for often years at a time. I always found that when people have kids, time seems to evaporate, especially. And if you don’t have kids, the whole concept of people going on, and on, and on, about potty training and braces and hockey games and vaccinations can tax the most dear of relationships. And then of course, you have one of your own, and it’s their turn to roll their eyes when you show up with a play pen, a snuggly, organic baby wipes and a how-to manual as thick as the phone book.

I have a point. Lives intersect, and then they don’t. True friendships recognize this. Call her once more, or send her this link, and then leave it. People reach an age where they finally – finally – realize that careers aren’t enough, and it’s the relationships that have stood the test of time that become even more cherished. I’m a firm believer in plain speaking: “I haven’t heard from you, I’m not sure why, I miss you, want to get a coffee?” If she’s a late bloomer, cut her some slack for chasing her success – when she realizes she’s blown a little off course, she’ll appreciate the chance to put it right. If she’s decent.

And now to the other side of the fence. If you have a friendship you’ve been trying to extract yourself from, be decent about it. You needn’t lay bare every transgression you can think of, but if you just know it’s run its course and you have no intention of proceeding, make the break. “We really don’t have much in common anymore. I’ve been distant to try to protect your feelings, or maybe my own, but that’s not fair. I wish you well.”

Sometimes a friend makes choices that force your hand. If somebody was a wild and crazy funfest in high school, and hasn’t really grown up, you aren’t wrong to keep their questionable, or illegal, activities from your kids. End of story. There are always high maintenance friendships. They can be rewarding with the right people, but you need a pre-set spending limit in your head – decide ahead of time how far you’ll go to support a friend. A hundred bucks? A place to stay for a night? A month? A job? Bail? True friends don’t ask you to endanger your own well-being.

If we can count our trusted friends on a single hand, we are blessed. In this ragged world, it’s important to know who has your back – and who can count on you. I choose my friends based on loyalty. Period. And if you two have come through two decades and never questioned each other’s loyalty, she deserves the phone call, and you deserve an answer.

A Co-Worker Was Fired - What Do I Say?

Q: Dear Lorraine;

It seems every workplace is laying people off now, and it’s happening around me. Someone I’ve worked with for 6 years got told yesterday her job is gone.

What do I do? I feel terrible for her, but I can’t help being relieved it wasn’t me. She’s always kind of wasted money (in my eyes), and while that’s none of my business, it’s hard to have to listen to her freak out now. We get along okay, but we don’t see each other outside of work. I still want to be supportive.

What do I say to her? I’m dreading the next two weeks.

A: Dear Still Working:

Think how much more she’s dreading them.

Regardless of imminent clues, headlines or newscasts, job loss is always a brutal gut punch to anyone who goes through it, and the people around them. And right now, it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

Your co-worker is going to be going through a range of emotions right now – and they’re all going to be extreme. When she’s upset, she’s going to be crying. When she’s angry, she’s going to be raging. What can you do? Let her vent – without it interrupting your work. If you can offer constructive help – opportunities you’ve heard about or job leads – let her know. But, be careful. Your recommendation comes with your name on it – only provide references if you believe this person is truly suitable. Sometimes the best information is taking a minute to define what her (and possibly your) job is, and how many applications it could have in related fields. If the skillset can be applied elsewhere, it might be encouraging for her to remember she’s not limited to one particular industry. On your own time, maybe spend an hour combing some of the jobsites and email her – at home – some possible leads.

Then, and this is for both of you, identify where the future might lie – economic downturns always provide silver linings for somebody – somebody who is smart enough to gauge where everyone will be headed. They will fix things instead of buying new ones; teaching others how to save money; honing your bartering skills. Don’t bother reminding her that her past buying habits are coming home to roost. You never know the true extent of anyone’s life unless you’re living it, and it’s much too easy to judge from the outside.

Be empathetic without twisting yourself up in her grief. “I’m sorry this has happened to you. If I can think of anything that will help, I’ll be sure to let you know.” Let her rant, but avoid joining in. This is still the place that provides your paycheque, and they’re watching your reaction.

I’ve been fired. It sucks, and it’s terrifying, and you feel like the bottom of your world just dropped. But we keep moving forward, and if it happens to you, your job becomes to find a job. Which is harder than having a job, believe me. But slap your priorities in place and believe you will emerge from the other side stronger.

Staying Off The Sidewalks

Q:Dear Lorraine;My Father-in-Law is coming up on 81 and still driving. He is also an Alzheimer’s patient.

Last year he passed his written test much to the amazement of all.
His driving skills were never the greatest, and they are deteriorating. He now on occasion stops at green lights, forgets where or why he is going, and tends to steer towards whatever he is looking at.

We as a family are considering approaching his doctor to ask him to pull his license. In order to save Pop’s some embarrassment, do you know of any way to execute this maneuver without getting the authorities involved?

A: Hi there;

The first thing you need to do is make an appointment with your Father-in-law’s primary care physician. Go with another family member or two, but make the appointment.

Tell the doctor your concerns as you have listed them here. By law, physicians are obligated to report impaired drivers. They just don’t always know what is going on outside of their office – we have a tendency to ‘put on our best front’ for a doctor. This doctor should already be aware of Pop’s condition, and needs to enforce the law. After all, physicians are responsible to not only take care of their patient, but to not knowingly let them kill anyone else, either.

I remember asking my father (who fought the whole licence pulling thing – hard) how he would feel if he hurt someone else. it added another perspective to the conversation. Didn’t make him like it any better, but at least it lent it another spin.

This is about pride for your Father-in-law. Independence, mobility, freedom and pride. To be told you will suddenly become reliant on others is a tough thing to take after a lifetime spent behind the wheel, no questions asked.

Whether you choose to talk to him as a family with his doctor present, or alone, have a plan in place. Take into consideration all the things he uses his car for now, and have a plan. Divide up grocery shopping, doctor’s appointments, outings – anything that will keep Pop feeling independent. You may discover he is actually using the car for small errands just to get out of the house. If he doesn’t feel cut off, he may adapt sooner.

Another thing to remember: you are the spouse. Ultimately, the responsibility rests with your husband/wife to gently, but firmly, make this decision in conjunction with other brothers or sisters. You can be supportive, but I’d advise against you taking the reins personally.

Another consideration: there are driving schools and instructors that specialize in skills for the elderly. While I feel strongly that his doctor should be exercising his legal duty and suspending his licence, sometimes a few sessions with one of these instructors, under controlled conditions, will convince Pop that he really shouldn’t be driving.

Expect anger; understand it’s frustration more than rage; make sure he knows your concern stems from love, and social responsibility, and don’t forget about him.

Is She Curious or Serious?

Q: Dear Lorraine;

I’ve been dating a woman for just over a year.  While we have a wonderful relationship, on every level, she has told me she finds herself attracted to women occasionally.  She admitted that at one time she had an intimate relationship with another woman that lasted several months.

She tells me she doesn’t feel drawn to women and prefers men, but there are simply times when she finds particular women attractive.

I asked her if she would be intimate with a woman who was obviously interested in pursuing a relationship with her.  She said if she was single and the woman was bisexual, she would consider it.  This bothers me and has caused me to question how serious or committed I should be with her in the future.

I can’t help but feel that she could be latently homosexual even though she said she did it ‘just to see’.  However, I’m convinced the fact she would do it again, if the circumstances were right, says a great deal more.

What’s your view on this?

Confused

A: Dear Confused;

Let’s toss aside the labels for a moment. You asked her if she would sleep with someone else. She said if she were single, she might.

That sounds about like the right answer to me. She’s been with you for a year, you have a great relationship, you’ve both treated this like the exclusive relationship it is. I’m worried that you using terms like ‘latently homosexual’ is exposing more of your bugaboos than hers. She’s been honest with you. While most of the population lines up under ‘straight’ or ‘gay’, there is still a significant number who fall in love with people based on the bond more than the genital configuration.

Is there any guarantee she won’t fall for a woman and leave you? No, but from your letter, it sounds like she’d be far more likely to leave for another man. If you function within your relationship measuring the potency of external threats, you’ll sabotage it anyway. There is nothing worse than someone hounding you about something you *might* do.

You asked her some questions; she answered you truthfully. If homosexuality makes you uncomfortable, please, break up with her. This is your problem to deal with, not hers. She did nothing wrong, and cared enough about you to be honest. If you love her, love all the aspects of her that have made her who she is. For the record? I think she’s straight. She just happens to be honest that some women are fiercely attractive. I can give you a list of hot women as long as my arm. Doesn’t make me any less hetero – just someone who enjoys beauty.

Oh, and “if the circumstances were right”? That means you wouldn’t be around, right? Moot point.

How Do I Convince Him I Don't Have A Daddy Complex?

Q:Dear Lorraine;I had a less than perfect childhood.  For my parents, alcohol and drug abuse was the norm and I was kicked out of the house on my sixteenth birthday. I followed in their footsteps as far as the drugs and booze goes and I moved in with a guy who shared my addictions.  By the time I was 20 I’d had two young kids.

Their father was a sadly wasted soul, but somehow my maternal instincts took over.  I’m 27 now and have been clean and sober for over four years.  I’m proud of that and owe it all to my two little men.

After their father and I split up I focused on being the best mother I could be.  Dating, relationships and men generally were pretty low on my list.  About two years ago I met “Jeff” and what started as a completely casual acquaintanceship (is there such a word), has become the most passionate relationship in my life.

Jeff is not a wealthy man, but he is the most gracious, devoted and respectful person I’ve ever known.  Last week the boys and I had a BBQ at Jeff’s place, I looked at him and the words I love you just fell out of my mouth.  I’ve never actually said that to anyone, sober at least, and I know I’ve never meant it as much.

Jeff was startled to put it mildly. The thing is Lorraine, he will be 50 this year and I’m sure he thinks I’m crazy. He is convinced I’m looking for the father I never had.  I have a father and mother and even though they’ve led tormented lives, I love them both.

How do I convince Jeff my feelings for him are genuine?  How do I make him understand our age difference means nothing? He says he loves me too and wants us to be together, but the age and father figure stuff keep getting in the way.

Finally Found Him

A: Dear Finally Found Him;

First off, congratulations for kicking the self-destruction. Amazing, actually, considering what you’ve lived through, and your sons are lucky to have you. You read stories about a mother finding the strength to lift a car off of her kid – you’ve lifted a car off of yourself.

Jeff sounds like a very protective kind of guy, which means he’s trying to protect you from getting tied a man he considers old – him. He’s probably looking in the mirror each morning and wondering how he got to have all this wonderful family stuff at this point in his life. You don’t mention if he has other kids or not. If he does and they aren’t a big part of his life, he may be hesitant to fall in love with another family, only to lose it. It happens. People get gun-shy for good reason. If there is a raggy history here, make sure you learn the nuts and bolts of it before you haul your kids in. Your first obligation is to protect them.

Or maybe he’s skated through and this is new to him. It’s a lot to consider; people needing you, relying on you, and looking to you for stability and direction is a serious matter. The words you use to describe him hint of a man who doesn’t take responsibility lightly. Appreciate the fact he is weighing this seriously. Your sons, while thriving, have nonetheless suffered some bumps and bruises along the way. Early turmoil can raise issues later, and you’ll need all your concentration and parenting ability to deal with them.

You don’t mention Jeff’s family. Are they supportive? If they have issues with your presence in his life, are the issues valid? If they aren’t, is he prepared to support you and do the work to iron out the wrinkles?

You need to really think about the words “for better or worse”. While anything can happen to anyone at anytime, a 23 year age difference raises the very real possibility that you may be caring for someone facing 70-year-old ailments when you’re in your forties. Your boys will be grown. Teenagers can be a handful, especially at an age when many people are hoping to retire. They cost a bundle – if Jeff’s resources are limited, is he worried about not being able to extend them to help you care for them? Assure him you have considered your boys’ needs, and have a plan to take good care of them.

The father figure stuff I consider less of an issue, actually. I look for traits in men that remind of my father. So what? Admirable traits aren’t about age, they’re about character. Jeff needs to understand you’re not trolling around for an older guy to parent you. It sounds to me like you have finally found in him qualities that go beyond age. Stability, kindness, respect and grace. You have searched your whole life for peace, and with him you have found it. Raising your sons in a loving relationship is a terrific gift – and good men and women come in all shapes, sizes and ages.

If you have a minister or counsellor you can talk to, you may want to address the important issues – both pragmatic and emotional – that are being raised. Every couple should do this, actually, before they make a commitment, especially when kids are involved.

He knows you love him; he knows you’ve been damaged, and is fearful of hurting you. Maybe he’s worried you’ll drop him for a young(er) buck, and he’ll lose a whole family, not just a wife.

Just remind him that sometimes while you’re busy overthinking something, you lose it.

All In My Head...For Now?

Q: Lorraine;

I am married (for the second time) to a beautiful, caring, loving and, if I do say so, the sexiest woman I’ve ever known.

For the past five and a half years, things have been as ‘perfect’ as a married couple could ever expect; I’m a realist, I know relationships have their ups and downs, but I’m thankful every day we have many more up moments than down.

My problem is this; recently I’ve been having thoughts of ‘other women’ while making love with my wife.  From famous movie stars to women at work to ladies on the GO train I see regularly on the daily commute to and from my office.

At every other hour of the day, I have no inclination or desire to be with other women, but I can tell you the images that dance around in my mind at the most intimate of times can be more than a little off-putting.

What’s my problem?

Harem In my Head 

A: Dear Harem;

I’ll be honest; I don’t think you have much of a problem. Any guy that considers his wife the sexiest woman he has ever known gets a gold star from me. Any guy that so realistically embraces the ebb and flow of a long relationship and still uses words like ‘perfect’ and ‘thankful’ gets another one.

It’s totally normal and natural to be engaged by the women around you. Men are very visually oriented, and any woman who believes a wedding ring will blind a guy is just stupid. I’m not going to get into a long debate about the Neanderthal origins of hunting and gathering and monogamy and seed spreading – I believe the best thing you can do is pretty much what you’ve already done – you’re honest with yourself that you are attracted by, and think about, other women, but your wife is who you come home to and bring that desire with you.

Try making love to your wife with your eyes open. The whole time. It’s instinct for many to close them, but maybe that’ll chase out some of the images that are confusing you. If, on the other hand, your fantasies are adding to the experience, that’s fair and healthy – your wife is probably entertaining a few of her own. The fact that these feelings surface during sex probably mean they are appealing to you at a purely sexual level; your note indicates you are wise enough to get this, and you’re not envisioning running off with Angelina or Oakville Express.

If you truly find that the images are impeding your physical relationship with your wife, grab an hour with a counsellor who specializes in couples. I’d go on your own the first time. I don’t know your wife; there are people I would tell to be forthcoming about this with their partner, but as a woman, it could also be a little tough to take if I heard I was being beat out by random beauties. A counsellor can give you the direction you need to make sure both of you get through this intact, and in love.

That's Me: Providing An All Around Satisfying Automotive Experience

Q: Dear Lorraine;

I always read your Wheels column; it is a great read.  Because of this, I checked out your website (terrific by the way – congrats to Web God Jeff) and found the “Blame Lorraine” section.  I loved it and since I have need of advice, here goes.

When I left for university, my father gave me his old car, a gas guzzling Ford Crown Victoria.  I guess Daddy didn’t want his little girl driving one of those ‘foreign, tin foil’ compact cars on the highway for safety reasons.  I drove ‘The Beast” throughout university, I even lost my virginity in that car! But it was a very expensive car to own and operate.

Upon graduating, getting a job and trying to become a bit more environmentally responsible, this year I finally traded the Crown Vic in on a Toyota Corolla. Much to my daddy’s dismay.  I love the car, the fuel economy, saving on insurance and the joy of its maneuverability especially in tight downtown Toronto parking lots!

Lorraine, my problem is this – compared to the Crown Vic, there is virtually no room in the Corolla to make out with my boyfriends!  It is virtually impossible to find a comfortable position.  I really enjoy lovemaking in a car; the chance of getting caught is a huge turn on.

So, given your experience in the automotive world, do you have any suggestions on how I might make my Toyota an all around satisfying automotive experience?

Thanks,

Too Many Legg Cramps

A: Dear (Pulling My) Legg;

Three thoughts spring to mind:

1. Your Dad called – he wants the Crown Vic back. And he’s very disappointed in you.

2. You were seriously still a virgin until university?

3. Be glad you’re not driving a Harley. But I guess if you were, the vibrations would pretty much make the boyfriend a moot point.

TMI: When Horny Neighbours Horn In On Your Sleep

Q:Dear Lorraine;I have a perplexing problem.  I live in a wonderful apartment building , my neighbours are all lovely, friendly folk and we chat in the hallways as we go about our daily lives.  Over the years, I have become somewhat of a ‘surrogate grandmother’ to the delightful young daughters of my next door neighbors, and they certainly do make me feel ‘part of their family’.  However, the young couple shares a bedroom wall with me and are not only assiduously ardent in their freakishly frequent lovemaking, they are very vocal.

I confess, I am awakened at all hours by what sounds like the unseemly marriage of a commercial hoover and a bull moose in season.  I’ve even tried ear plugs but even they offer little relief from the fracas. What can I possibly do?

A: Dear Perplexed;

Okay, one of the best questions yet. Let me start of by saying there is a definite upside to young marrieds still being so enamoured of each other even after the kids have come along. Too often it can be the death knell of a sex life, and usually a marriage.

That being said, this is your home, and you’ve the right to enjoy your sleep without it sounding like a porn set next door. You obviously have a terrific sense of humour, and I can guarantee that’s why you’ve developed a great relationship with this family. So, use that humour to disarm what might otherwise be an uncomfortable subject. Pull aside whoever you’re most comfortable with – husband or wife – and briefly outline your problem.

“Ever notice how thin these walls actually are? I love you guys like my own kids, but I don’t want to hear them getting it on with their spouses, either. Would it be possible for maybe both of us to reposition our sleeping quarters, so we can all continue to do what we love to do in bed? I have the new Grisham book, you apparently have each other…”

Smile, and drop it. Never mention it again. Even if the noise continues, move your bed, get a fan (or other white noise machine), and carry on. I’m not going to suggest moving, because it sounds like you have a terrific relationship with all your neighbours. Loving communities are so preferable to warring ones, I’d far rather be open and honest to preserve one rather than leave it because of embarrassment.

If you just can’t bring yourself to speak, take a radio or TV and put it beside your bed. Turn it up. Loud. Leave it on at odd times for a few nights. When they approach you and ask if you realize that the noise carries right through the wall, smile sweetly and say “yes”.

When The Son Never Rises: Getting Teenagers Up In The Morning

Q:Dear Lorraine;Lorraine help settle a debate! We watch a reality show.  The 17 year old son was close to getting suspended because he was late so often. Parents are weighing in everywhere. Most are ripping the mother.  Some are saying she should try harder to get him up. It seems to consist of constant trips to the foot of the bed, yelling for him to get up, leaving to attend to the other 3 children and repeating the cycle another 5 times. She used to use a cow bell with no success! She also whips him with the covers…no
luck again!  Some are saying she’s not trying if she hasn’t thrown a bucket of cold water on him (I’m serious!).

Others are saying she has it all wrong. She should call him once, if he doesn’t get up, let him be late, suffer the consquences, and start taking privileges every time he is late (no sports, no friends over, etc.)

And then there is a big debate about if this is normal for a teenage boy to literally need to be beaten awake and dragged out of bed or if this is just an extra lazy kid.

So what’s your opinion? What is a parent to do when their teenage son is apparently unconscious in the morning and won’t wake up in the morning. Is it a parent’s duty to drag him out of bed or should a parent be teaching the kid responsibility by calling him once and leaving him to face the consequences?

What do you or would you do?
Thanks!

A: Oh, man, are they filming this in my house every morning?!

I deal with this every single day. And I’ve tried everything but the water, and finally accepted that by this age, kids have to accept a little something called “personal responsibility”. My son sleeps like a dead person. I can wake him up, we can have a conversation, and he won’t even remember it later. We put his alarm clock (which has no music setting – he just incorporates the song into his dream and keeps on snoozing) across the room on his dresser, so he has to get up to turn it off. It doesn’t help much, but it’s a start.

I am a yeller by nature. I admit it. And it does no good at all. So, I fling open his door, bark “good morning” (he still sets his alarm), do the same to the next kid – Angel Boy Ari, who gets up first time, every time. Of course, he’s only 13, so the best is yet to come…I encourage Ari to make as much noise as he wants, I tell the cats to go get their boy up (one obeys, the other quizzically wonders what a ‘boy’ is), and let the chips fall where they may. If the weather is lousy, I drop them off at school. Christer has missed rides, because I won’t wait.

Here’s the thing: they’re not bad kids, they’re normal kids. Their sleep cycle is scientifically different at this time of their lives – they don’t stay up later to make us nuts, they do it because they’re not tired yet. And even if they fall asleep early, they still can’t get up in the morning. It doesn’t last forever. I let Christer take the lates, and the consequences.

If you’re still not sold, the following should do it. I once knew a woman with a kid she did everything for. I mean, everything. I don’t think that child ever wiped his own butt. She made him every single meal, to order, long after he was grown. The kid contributed nothing to the household. Never shoveled snow, cut grass, raked leaves, nothing. He sat around watching his mother do all this stuff. Laziest, most spoiled brat I’ve ever seen. And she created this monster. If he got in trouble, it was never his fault. She battled schools, other kids, everyone, on his behalf. He’s an adult now – and the most coddled, reliant, lazy, unmotivated person you could never want working for you, or to have your daughter bring home. A son or daughter like this is not a success story. Often some early stumbles make for stronger stock.

The only experience my son is going to learn from is his own, not mine. Flunking a class is not the end of the world, and sometimes some outside pressure is exactly what’s called for. Usually they manage to get up and going for stuff that matters to them. If you have a child who is not motivated by anything, just wants to sleep all day and isn’t engaging on any level, I suggest speaking to a counsellor specializing in teens. Sometimes both of you going can help clear up the message you’re sending and the one the kid is hearing – your kid can finally hear you’re concerned for his future, you can finally hear he’s not doing it to drive you mad.

Either way, I’m still learning the time to have this discussion isn’t when I’m screaming like a banshee at 7:00 am, and it’s important not to characterize the child as the action. I have to stop myself – my child is acting irresponsibly by not getting up, but he is not an irresponsible person. His actions seem lazy to me, but his is not a lazy brat. I can hate what he’s doing, but still love the kid. Important distinctions.

My job is to raise healthy, responsible, kind boys. Seems to me self-discipline is the root of most admirable attributes, and they aren’t going to learn it if I do everything for them.

Dating Wars: Is Still Living At Home a Dealbreaker?

Q: So today I have a question for you . . . I’ve been dating a fair bit lately, but not really the fun kind of dating, more the lots of first and second dates deal, which are basically little better than interviews. At any rate, I had a date last night with a nice guy who I just met recently but have had coffee with a couple times at work informally. Seems like a nice guy, good sense of humour, personality, etc. Last night as we were chatting he reluctantly admitted (didn’t lie about it, but didn’t volunteer the information until it was clear I would have otherwise gotten the wrong impression) that he still lives at home. He said he knows it’s a deal breaker for a lot of people, and that he’s looking to buy a place this summer and has been planning accordingly for a while now.Ok, that doesn’t sound so bad, I guess. But, he’s 31. 31!! And has held a steady (quite good) job since his early 20s. Even though I know it seems ragingly superficial, there is something about this that really does not sit right with me — something about his situation, as well as my reaction to it. I know I am unusual in getting my stuff sorted out at such a young age (I bought my own place at 22), and also very fortunate to have a great job that pays very well (again, at such a young age), but 31! And it’s not like he ever lived anywhere else, or was married and divorced and is getting back on his feet, etc., he has just never left home.

Can’t wait to hear what you think!

A:Dear Can’t Wait:

Easy. Just ask him who washes his underwear.

If it’s mommy, turf him.

Okay, now the not so easy part. I’m trying to learn to be less judgmental about this living-at-home crap, because apparently finances are much more difficult than when I was a pup. I also know there may be more of a cultural element to this situation in some cases, but that shouldn’t preclude someone from cooking, cleaning, doing laundry and house maintenance. An adult is an adult.

Something else I want you to consider. You can’t use yourself as a yardstick! There are losers. There are achievers. There are overachievers. And then there are people like you, the superachievers. Not too many of those lying about. I hesitate to tell you to hunt down older guys, so at least they’ve achieved something they can hold up to you (other than their erection), but I’m not going to suggest you attempt to take on a single Dad, or a lying ‘my wife just doesn’t understand me’ arsehole. Too much baggage for someone of your tender years and directed career plans.

So, the choice is clawing your way through the haystack looking for Mr. Superachiever (and remember, rare, and never, ever the one holding a sign that says ‘I’m a Superachiever’), or developing a relationship with a guy who shares your humour, your values and thinks your ass looks sublime in those pants.

What would I do? If he seems funny and kind and you find yourself wanting to kiss him, go to Date #2. Tell him the living at home thing, while not a deal breaker for you (you are not that judgmental – repeat this over and over until it sounds almost natural), gives you pause only because of your own admittedly guided missile career path. Be honest in admitting while you don’t think his domestic situation is perfect, your own is also different. He’s looking to move this summer, and buy something? That seems reassuring, if it’s true. Ask a few real estate-y questions to see if he knows something about it. You’ll learn the truth pronto.

In the end, you can’t be attracted to someone you’re not attracted to. You have fast tracked so many things in your life, but love ambles. It throws the plan out the window, stops and starts and takes pee breaks. It’s not a dentist appointment. It’s not an oil change. It wakes you up in the night. It doesn’t wait for your hair to go just right. It also doesn’t care if mascara is running down your face.

Judge with your heart.

And ask who washes his underwear.

Letting Out The Leash, But Keeping Kids Safe

Q: Hi Lorraine,

My kids are 10 and 8 and are both fairly mature for their ages. We live about 1 km from their school and I am just starting to let them walk/ride their bikes to school.Whenever I tell my husband that they have gone to school by themselves, he gives me the googly eye….are they too young or am I right in assuming that now is a good time to let them branch out and test the waters (so to speak)?

P.S. I always drive past the school on my way to work to make sure that they have arrived safely.

Thanks for your input.

A:
Well, your hubby can toss his evil eye my way for awhile. I think you’re doing exactly the right thing. The parenting leash gets let out a little at a time, and I’ve seen the result of people that keep a choke chain on a kid until they go away to college, and then it’s just a train wreck.

I wouldn’t let kids walk along a rural highway, but other than that, if they’re together, they always take the same route, and you get to check as you go by? Perfect. We’ve convinced ourselves that kids will be stolen if they walk to school. We’re crazy. The most danger my two are in is of beating each other up, not some stranger danger.

Kids love to be trusted, and to have their good behaviour rewarded with more trust. The whole point of living close to a school is so kids can walk to it; we really don’t need any more congestion in front of the schools. I also don’t recall melting or freezing to death when I walked – my father wouldn’t drive us unless the schools had been closed for a blizzard.

One more thing: this is the perfect age to start, because in a couple of years they won’t want to walk to school. They get really lazy – I practically need a taser to get my 16-year-old up in the morning. Are they legal?

Buying Used: Buying Someone's Else's Trouble?

Q: I look forward to reading your article in Wheels. Today’s article (the 1994 Intrepid) raised a question that I have been curious about.I had an opportunity to purchase a mid 90’s BMW 540 that had not been used for approximately 4 years. I did not take up the offer as I was afraid of the car having sat that long, although I did know the complete history of the vehicle and was acquainted with both previous owners.

My question to you is how is the reliability of the engine / drivetrain? Or is it too early to ask? Thanks again for your articles and keep them coming. All the best.

Pajo

A: Hi Pajo,

The Intrepid is terrific, but I had several advantages going in. I checked in advance with my mechanics on the advisability of making the purchase, at the proposed price. I also know the car (make, model, year) extremely well, based on having owned one already. The seller also got it certified, and I had copies of work orders, drive clean and certification. A car that has sat in the elements has taken more of a beating than one that has been in a climate controlled environment.

The first thing I asked about was whether the car had been driven occasionally, as a car that has just been sitting is not great. It had not only been driven every week or two, but the owner’s son-in-law had continued to have oil changes done at regular intervals. Very important. We put new tires on it right away – tires deteriorate not just due to mileage, but to age. All rubber does. This is why you need to check all the hoses, weather-stripping and tires on a car with low mileage, but upper years. I can’t stress enough having a good mechanic in your portfolio of professionals to help you with this. I go to Ardent Automotive in Burlington – Jim and Nigel are terrific.

Another thing I considered in this purchase was the popularity of it; I can (and have) found parts and components at wreckers. I don’t want to be putting major dollars into a 15 year old vehicle. A North American mass produced mid-range model is going to be easier to locate a door or a power window mechanism. Imports often don’t break as easily, but if they do, it can get pricey.

I’m no mechanic, and have to rely on others for their expertise. Buying used cars can be dicey – there are a lot of curbsiders out there. And though it is often said ‘never buy a car from a friend’ (too easy to blame if it breaks down as you pull away), in essence, a car that you do know the history of can be a good thing.

Should you have bought the Beemer? If you loved the car, the price was right, and a mechanic you trust had checked it out, probably. But only if all of those planets aligned.

Cutting to the Heart By Cutting Out My Mother

Q: I haven’t spoken to my mother in 4 years. I have no intention of changing that in this lifetime. Having recently started a new job and filled out a stack of benefit beneficiary forms, I remembered that my will left everything to my mother. That has now been changed and has not left anything to her. Am I morally obligated to inform her or other members of the family (yes, they still speak with her) of my decision? I’m thinking the likelihood of me pre-deceasing her is unlikely, so I should just keep my yap shut. By the time they find out on their own I’ll be dead anyways right?Heartless?

A: In a strictly intellectual way, I do not believe that children owe their parents anything. We choose to bring them into this world, and therefore we owe them the best we can provide for them until they are adults. We also owe them the tools to become productive, decent adults. Some people achieve this, some don’t. I further believe that once you are an adult, it’s time to take responsibility for your own demons, and quit blaming your parents, or anyone else, whenever life drops you on your head.

You have no intention of speaking to your mother again. I have no intention of telling you that you should. I trust you. I trust that your reasons are deep-rooted enough that they have changed you significantly. The fact that this is poking at you tells me you are probably a sensitive, thoughtful person in other areas of your life, and are finding it hard to reconcile something that is supposed to be as easy or obvious as a child loving their parent.

Wills are funny things. You sit there imagining others enjoying toys or security that you’ve worked hard for. First, I’m glad that you have an updated will. Too many people don’t. You don’t have to explain anything to anyone about your will; it’s personal. I hope you choose an executor you trust, and I’m thinking it probably shouldn’t be a member of your family. This is the person who should be aware of your wishes. The lawyer that drew up your will needs to know you require it to be bullet-proof, in the event someone contests it.

The fact the rest of your family has maintained a relationship with someone you have excised from your life means there’s always an elephant in the room. I’ve found this can be untenable – there are many, many people who will stand to be treated deplorably rather than be brave enough to do something about it. If your life has been better over the past four years because of the decision you’ve made, then you made the right one. If you’re still carrying around old hurts, I strongly suggest a session or two with a decent counsellor to air it out. The weight of parent guilt can haul you down – if it’s paired with more family guilt, it can drown you. But loud and noisy doesn’t equal right.

Where you direct your assets in the event of your death is totally your business. I hope it reflects what matters to you, and will carry on those things that are important to you. Your only duty is find some peace in your decision. If anyone is rude enough to ask the contents of your will, tell them to outlive you if they really want to know.

Who's Lying Now?

Q: I’ve been with my boyfriend for about 5 years with plenty of ups and downs. After attending a bbq at the friend’s house, she called me the next day and said my boyfriend had cornered her in a bedroom and came onto her. I immediately called him at work and he said “bring her to the house right now, I’m on my way home”. This didn’t happen as I believed him as he was so strong in his denial. He’s never liked my friend anyway, just puts up with her because of me.I feel uneasy about this situation as we’ve had trust issues in the past. (he screwed around several times). I don’t know who to believe, my best friend or the man I’m in love with.

Am I Crazy?

A: Okay, every woman who hasn’t been involved in some variation of this game, raise your hand…counts no hands…..thought so.

Here’s the deal, Crazy. The most obvious trouble spots I see in your letter aren’t about your friend. They’re about your relationship. “Plenty of ups and downs” means one, or both, of you is waiting for “way less ups and downs” to come along, and will be off like a shot when it does. ‘”I immediately called him at work” is grade 8. Grownups don’t call each other at work for this crap. They have grown up discussions about it, in person, in private.

Maybe he came on to your friend; maybe he didn’t. Maybe she calls “coming on” passing in a narrow hallway, and he calls it “should have stopped a beer ago”. I’d like to tell you your friend should be wise enough to step out of this mess, rather than putting her strappy gold shoe directly into it, but I’m guessing she’s up for a little drama, even at your expense. If a guy who isn’t yours comes on to you once, it’s desperately easy to just say “no”. And no, that doesn’t become “your little secret”. It becomes his mistake. He does it twice, it becomes everyone’s secret. If your friend is loyal, remove her from the scenario and deal with this directly.

The only person you need to believe is yourself. You know he’s a loser. Kick him to the curb.

Oh, and for the record? “He’s never liked my friend anyway” from a guy who spouts denial like a water fountain? He likes her.

Disclaimer:

Lorraine offers her opinion on a variety of subjects. She is not a licensed therapist or professional is not liable or responsible for the results of following her advice in any given situation. Submissions may be edited for length and / or content.