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Ask Amy

Drunken brawl leads to sulking

Q. My 21-year-old son goes to college in a neighboring state. He lives in an apartment with several friends.

About three months ago, my husband and I were awakened in the middle of the night by our son calling. He had been arrested for public intoxication and disorderly conduct, after he and some friends got into a shoving match outside of a bar.

My husband was livid, and drove the three hours to the police station to bail him out and bring him back home.

When they arrived back to our house, our son was sullen and unapologetic. Despite multiple discussions, he accepted no accountability whatsoever.

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My husband and I decided to cut his monthly allowance in half moving forward, which would basically force him to work more hours at his part-time retail job in order to pay his rent. Our thinking was that he needed to have less time to get into fights outside of bars.

Our son complained endlessly about it being unfair, and has now given us the silent treatment for over a month. Besides confirming that he’s alive via text message, he won’t return calls or e-mails, and he did not show up at a recent family function.

My husband is starting to think our punishment was too severe. He wants to back down. I do not think my son has learned his lesson. I believe he is playing us. Am I being too harsh here?

Stand Tough Mom

A. Your logic, as well as the consequence, seems proportional and appropriate. However, in your narrative, you don’t cite what exactly you expect from your son at this point.

If the lesson you wanted him to learn is that getting in drunken brawls is a terrible and dangerous way to behave, then it’s possible that he has already learned his lesson. He is not mature enough yet to thank you for it.

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You should clarify where you stand regarding his behavior and offer him an opportunity to affect the outcome. E-mail him: “We’ve decided that if you pay all court costs and keep your grades up next semester, we’d be willing to discuss resuming our previous financial arrangement. Understand that receiving a middle-of-the-night phone call is an experience every parent dreads. We were shocked, scared, and disappointed in your behavior. We all make mistakes in life (ask me about the time I skipped my bio-chem final in order to go to a U2 concert); however, part of the process of turning the page is to take ownership of what you’ve done, in order to do better in the future. So far, you don’t seem to have done that.”

After you send your e-mail, don’t aggressively chase him for a response.

If he continues to sulk, understand that he is not yet the grown man he will someday be.

Q. How do you politely ask people to leave your home?

I host a holiday midday meal gathering of family and friends, totaling 16 people.

I get up at the crack of dawn to prepare with a nice table setting, food, and drink.

Throughout most of the day, I am busy with my guests and their needs. I never get off my feet.

Most meal gatherings I go to conclude once dessert and coffee have been served. For some reason, half of my guests decide it’s time to move to the living room and continue for several more hours. Usually these last holdouts stay three or four more hours after dessert. I am exhausted, I still have major cleanup to do and really would like to invite everyone to leave once dessert is over. But how?

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Won’t Host Again

A. I think this is happening because your event happens during the day. Guests don’t feel midnight bearing down on them.

You should ask stragglers to help with the cleanup. Give them jobs! And you take a seat and drink in your own hospitality.

If you want them to leave, you should say, “Well, this has been wonderful, but I really need to pack it in. Can I help you find your coats?”

Q. “Moving On” wanted to exit a long-term friendship.

I, too, had a 30-year friendship that was suffocating. Many times, I thought about how to gracefully exit. Then came the day I made a major life decision that didn’t include him. He dropped the friendship like a hot potato. I don’t miss him at all. Sometimes friendships just run their course.

Moved On and Glad

A. Exactly.


Amy Dickinson can be reached at askamy@amydickinson.com.