Annie's Mailbox

Ask Amy column

Q. I was suddenly widowed five years ago. I waited about two years and then started to date. I have recently fallen in love with a great guy, and we are very happy. The problem is that my 18-year-old son is having a hard time accepting this situation.

I know it is difficult for my son to accept the fact that I am dating and happy again. How do I get him used to the idea and help him accept the fact that this guy is really nice and makes me very happy?

Cautious Mom

A. Your son is at a transitional age. He sees his adulthood looming. This prospect doesn’t always fill a person with excitement. It can be a time of extreme anxiety about the future and wistfulness for the end of childhood.


Layer on top of that the loss he suffered in adolescence, which is significant and life altering. I can’t imagine anything tougher for a boy.

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And then there is this: We parents need to realize that our own personal happiness is not always paramount to our children. This is one of the toughest personal lessons of parenthood. Our children love and care about us — but when we are in love or get a promotion or win at the track, their joy is often tempered through the familiar (and natural) filter of childhood, where they think, “What about me?”

You need to deal with this by realizing that your son will probably always care more about his personal life than yours. Continue to be thoughtful and careful. Don’t push this man at your son and don’t insist that your son be happy because you’re happy.

Talk to the young man about his own life. Draw him out about his own dreams. Fold your new guy slowly and naturally into your life and assure your son at every step of the way that he is not losing you and that he will be fine. Talk to him about his dad and — most importantly — listen to him with an open, patient and loving attitude.

Q. We took care of our parents (and other family members) for years. The out-of-pocket expense was considerable.


When it was time for the inheritance, the whole family was treated equally. Some of the siblings would not even talk to our parents, let alone offer any help.

There was not much money. By the time it was split six ways, the amount we received did not even pay for our expenses.

How should an inheritance be treated?

The Workers

A. An inheritance should be treated as the private preference of the person writing the will. How parents should be treated is another matter.

Surely your caring for your parents provided nonmaterial compensation to you. Shouldn’t this boil down to much more than the bottom line?


Q. “Fretting in Oak Park” was bothered by her neighbor’s idling minivan each morning. There are state laws making it illegal to leave an unattended vehicle running.

The best solution is to let the police know of the problem, and let them handle the situation.

If the pollution and wasted gas wasn’t enough of a problem, think how much worse it would be for the neighbor if someone stole the van while it sat in her driveway. Fretting would actually be doing her a favor by getting this practice stopped.


A. Many readers wrote in to let me know that leaving an unattended vehicle running is prohibited in many places.

I’m not sure if going to the police is the best response to a neighbor who (like me) may not be aware of this prohibition. It seems that a friendly “heads-up” would be the place to start.

Send questions via e-mail to or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.