Ask Wendy

Jewish World Review Nov. 1, 2002/ 26 Mar-Cheshvan 5763


Should son be able to flee the nest to the college of choice?; elderly 'friend' is becoming different person


By Wendy Belzberg

http://www.jewishworldreview.com | Q: My only child is about to apply to college. My husband says he can go wherever he wants. In this very tentative time, I do not want him going more than a few hundred miles from home. At the exact moment when we should be united, my husband and I show our son only conflict. Is it right to set limits, or should our son be able to flee the nest to the college of his choice?

A: Imagine the worst-case scenario: Osama bin Laden himself lands on our shores and takes the entire United States hostage. What is your plan? To run the hundred miles separating you from your son, pack up his CD player and duvet, and sprint back home?

I am not convinced that these times are any more tentative than others. On the other hand, I am well familiar with the phenomenon of parents - and in particular mothers - melting down as their children flee the nest. Think about your choice of language; confront what is really going on, and let your son go. His final year at home, no matter if he moves 100 or 1,000 miles away, should evoke a warm and fuzzy memory, not one of strife and divisiveness. Moreover, it is time to get in synch with your husband as the two of you prepare to walk off alone into to the sunset.

Q: What can be done about an 86-year-old man who has until recently been active and engaged but all of a sudden seems to be ready to curl up and die? His doctors have told him that he is perfectly healthy except for his arthritic knees, which act up every now and then. As his significant other, I've enjoyed almost 25 years of his company and am not ready to let go. However, he is driving me crazy, telling me he's not a "joiner," lacks patience with people, etc. I have no luck when I try to get him involved in activities that used to appeal to him. I have done all I can to try to help him, short of schlepping him to a psychiatrist. He tells me that his behavior is natural and normal for his age; I think he's suffering from depression. What's your opinion?

A: Start dating other men. That ought to shake up your significant other and give him a well-needed nudge toward the living. Alternatively, you could spike his warm milk with mood elevators - which take the edge off depression and existential crises alike. Your companion could be suffering from either one - as can a person of any age. The difference between full-fledged depression and an existential crisis then becomes one of a chicken-egg tautology. Which came first? The answer is, it doesn't really matter. You have known your partner to be intellectually curious and energetic for the past 25 years; clearly something is amiss. Talk to his internist and together decide on a treatment plan. You may be surprised by how pliable a patient becomes when following a doctor's prescription rather than that of a loved one.



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© 2002, Wendy Belzberg