Q. My neighbor has three kids and a minivan. I work at home and often notice she warms her car up for a long time (often 10 minutes or more) from a remote starter. She is unnecessarily polluting the air we all breathe and wasting gas.
I feel like she is infringing on my rights to live in a clean world where we already have such a climate crisis. Is there a way to address this with her?
A. If you want to open up a conversation about carbon footprints, be aware that there are real and relational consequences. If you weigh in on your neighbor’s polluting habits, she might decide she’d like to come to your house and evaluate your pollution-emitting carpet, furnace, or roof shingles.
If you feel your health is at risk from your neighbor’s vehicle exhaust, you have a right to ask her not to idle her van near your house. Know, however, that while you have the right to make any request you like — unless your neighbor is breaking a local statute or law, you cannot prevent her from doing as she pleases, including “wasting gas.”
Q. My 20-year-old daughter “Katie” has had her share of ups and downs with me and her dad. She has shown incredibly bad judgment by engaging in risky behavior, displays hypersexual tendencies, and shows no remorse for the pain she has caused us over the years. She has struggled with manic-depression since she was a teenager but will not take her medication or participate in therapy.
I have recently discovered that she is having an affair with a married teacher at the local high school.
She is not even a little bit guilty about this. I saw one of their text messages and it was like reading a chapter of “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Now his wife has found out about her husband so they are no longer hiding the affair. Katie refuses to discuss it with me. She will yell, slam doors, and carry on if you try to approach any subject she does not want to discuss.
She is engaged to a nice guy. I really want to tell her fiance about what is going on, but I don’t know if I should. I have hinted to him that my daughter is not the “perfect angel” he has imagined her to be but he refuses to listen.
I cannot even stand to be in the same room with my daughter knowing that she is lying to everyone by not coming clean about the nature of her relationship with this man. I keep wondering if I should contact the school to let them know what kind of teacher they are employing.
Disgusted and Confused
A. Your daughter’s behavior is distressing. I know it’s a challenge to avoid being drawn into her mess, but you should do your very best to distance yourself from her drama and to keep your focus on urging her to get treatment — and protecting yourself from her emotional maelstrom. Focus on your own behavior — staying strong, calm, and consistent.
I don’t believe you should plow along, making phone calls and warning people about your daughter; you should seek professional support and advice for yourself about how to cope with (and react) to her. Author Kay Redfield Jamison offers professional and personal insight into bipolar disorder in her memoir, “An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness” (1997, Vintage). I highly recommend it.