Q. My mother was an alcoholic for many years. She wreaked havoc on my life (and my brother’s) in ways she doesn’t even recognize or remember.
My father’s desire to “keep the peace” in his own life enabled this behavior, even though he was a clinical psychologist. Now that they’re older, they’ve come to see themselves as saints who deserve more love and respect than they’re being given, even though we’ve done our best to give them reasonable access to our lives.
I bought the house across the street from theirs, for instance, hoping the proximity would ease their minds as they grow older, and my brother allows them to see his daughter, their only grandchild, as often as possible. Many people move far away from their parents in order to avoid this type of drama, but we haven’t, and we’re paying a huge price for it.
Is there any way we can get them to realize that their sense of entitlement actually points to the elephant in the room — the damage that mom’s drinking caused, and that dad’s weakness enabled — and that they should be grateful that we’re still around and haven’t abandoned them?
Sad in the South
A. Your desire for appreciation actually mirrors your parents’ in some ways. You are all trying to reframe your relationship and remake one another into something you’re not.
Because you are the family member reaching out for help, I’m going to assume that you are also the most capable of change. Grab your brother and attend an Al-Anon meeting together.
You must also work on ways to accept your folks’ considerable limitations without expecting them to change. In short, you must do something they will not do: See the truth for what it is and make choices based on that. One choice might be to relocate. A therapist (not your dad) will help you to deal with your anger and expectations.
Q. My spouse and I recently moved into a new neighborhood. Our house is one of eight homes that share a common courtyard that acts as a driveway for the first-floor garages. This is a master-planned community with a series of large parks and playgrounds. The houses are very close to one another.
Our neighbors let their two young children play in our courtyard early in the morning and late at night. They also let these two children scream at the top of their lungs, and the noise has been so bad one of the couples on our courtyard moved out because of it!
Now these neighbors have put up grotesque Halloween decorations for everyone to endure. They know why the neighbors moved, and we spoke to them about the decorations, but nothing fazes them, so what now?
New Kids on the Block
A. You sound exceptionally grouchy, and I can only assume this is because your sleep has been interrupted by screaming children.
If your community has rules about outside decor, then take your concerns to the community board. If there are no rules, then you’ll have to tolerate these decorations.
If you have spoken with the parents about this noise, and they haven’t done anything to mitigate it, you should handle this the old-fashioned way: Throw open your window, yell, “Kids! Pipe down! Some of us are trying to get some sleep!” and let the shrieks fall where they may.Send questions by e-mail to email@example.com or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 North Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.