Ask Micah 1-27-11


A Good Deed Never Goes Unremembered

Micah,

Can I borrow money from a friend, pay it back in full within a few months, and then expect to not have to hear about this big favor they did for me at every turn?  I paid it all back before I was even supposed to!  Still my friend continues to bring it up in conversations to remind me or other friends how good a friend he was to me when I needed it.  How can I get him to stop bringing this up?

D

Dear D,

It sounds like your friend has a serious need to look like a hero to people, regardless of whether it means embarrassing you.  He just isn’t thinking of how you may not want to publicize a particular moment in time where you were caught in a financial bind and had to reach out for help.  We’ve all been there and none of us like to be reminded of it.  You could just simply try to explain all of this to him.  If he’s a good–albeit thoughtless–friend, he will understand and will stop immediately.  If he doesn’t, or if he becomes defensive with you, then he is a “score-keeper”.  Scorekeepers love to pull out the log of “what I did for you” and dredge up long dead history to suit their arguments if they ever feel that you have somehow forgotten their favors or stopped feeling as if you are in their debt.  With these people there is nothing you will ever be able to do to make them understand that this is antagonistic behavior.  Anything you say will only make them more hostile.  Even if you’ve returned it all favor for favor, they’ll never believe that things are even between you.  So if your friend is one of those, then just start having some fun with it.  Start bringing up moments from his past that he isn’t proud of.  When he’s regaling mutual friends with the story  of how he rushed to your financial rescue, laugh it off and say something like, “Yeah, that was rough.  John really helped me out of that one.  But that’s what real friends are for.  Just like that time I helped cover for him by telling his girlfriend he was with me when he was really cheating on her with that girl that gave him crabs.”  Give this jerk a taste of his own medicine if he is unwilling to stop embarrassing you.

Ignorance Was Bliss

Dear Micah,

My 17 year old daughter is not who I thought she was.  I thought that she was a wholesome, honest teenager and I thought we had a close mother-daughter relationship where she could tell me anything.  I am heart sick to find out that I have been wrong and she has been lying to me about the things she does.  I knew that she kept a diary on her computer.  I wanted to be a good mother and make sure all was well in her life, so I read a few pages of her diary.  Well I found out way more was going on than I ever feared. I started reading it from the beginning and I found out that everything I thought I knew about her was wrong.  I thought she was a virgin.  Turns out she isn’t.  I thought she’d never drank alcohol.  Turns out she has been drunk on several occasions.  So far there have been no drug use but I wonder if that’s where she’s headed.  I feel like I need to step in and talk to her, but to do so will mean revealing that I read her diary every day now.  I also feel like I should warn some her girlfriend’s mothers of their behavior because she’s mentioned some of the things they’ve done too, but I don’t know if it’s my place.  What do I do with all of this stuff I now know about?  Should I talk to my daughter about her choices?  Do I reveal what I have done?  How should I go about this?

Shocked Mom

Dear Mom,

There is a reason the story of Pandora’s Box has remained a popular reference in modern culture.  You SHOULD NOT have read her diary if you weren’t prepared for what you would find and I am not totally convinced that you should have read it in the first place.  Don’t get me wrong, a proper investigation into your child’s private life can be beneficial sometimes–if justified.  I am not opposed to parents sticking their noses into diaries, journals, private letters, emails, text messages, etc. if they have reason to believe their child is in trouble or headed towards it.  I’m even in favor of going behind your kids and reading their texts and emails and Facebook messages for precautionary reasons.  Sometimes you need to get a sense of your child’s experience level in this crazy world around us.  However, it sounds like you’ve taken it all a step too far.  Reading her diary every day isn’t doing anything but making you feel more and more disappointed in your daughter, and it sounds like you haven’t really read anything that out of the ordinary.  I know that parents like to think that their little angel would never do these kinds of things, but they are almost always wrong.  I cannot tell you how many times a mom has told me in passing, “Oh my kid isn’t even thinking about that kind of thing yet,” and I always think, “You are so stupid.”  And perhaps it will happen to me too when my son reaches a certain age.  Maybe I will stick my head in the sand along with everyone else and deny to myself that he’s a human being with natural curiosities and urges.  I hope not, but I bet these other parents never thought they’d be so oblivious either.  The honest truth of the matter is that sex isn’t a big deal to people anymore, not like it used to be.  Hell, even in my teens it wasn’t that big of a deal.  Go back even further than that–Just the other day my own mother was telling me a story about how there were pregnant girls in her high school when she was growing up in the 50’s and 60’s.  It wasn’t all that uncommon then either.  Many people start having sex in their teens and don’t lose sight of the fact that kids are people.  Teen sex is not abnormal.  It isn’t preferable and it isn’t happening with every kid, but it happens with more than you want to believe.  Your daughter is not a horrible person because she has already had sex at 17 years old.  Now if you read something disturbing like she was raped, or had sex at 14, or is involved in group sex, or has had sex with a lot of partners, then you have a reason to be terrified.  But at 17, if she’s had sex with one or two guys it isn’t that out of the ordinary.  Again, it isn’t preferable, and it shouldn’t be encouraged, but it shouldn’t mean that she should be branded with a Scarlet Letter either.  We like to say that the world has changed and we like to blame MTV, the media, and pop culture for it;  But sex has rarely needed much encouragement from outside sources to appeal to young people and the kids today are not very different from the kids yesterday.  The alcohol matter is another story.  First let me say also that it is perfectly natural for teens to experiment with drinking and not uncommon for a 17 year old to have been drunk once or twice.  I also want to say that I think it speaks volumes about your daughter’s stability that she has never tried drugs.  I think that if she were prone to reckless behavior or on a path of destruction, she would have done some kind of drug by now.  So probably she is just a typical teen that has tried a little alcohol.  With all that said, alcohol can still destroy her life all on its own if she were to be intoxicated just once and get behind the wheel of a car or allow someone else to drive her around who’d been drinking.  You definitely need to try to start up some kind of conversation along these lines.  I think you can do so without revealing that you have read her diary.  Unfortunately there is always some sort of alcohol related story in the news, so you could use that to begin a conversation on the issue.  She needs to take alcohol consumption very seriously.  Don’t waste your time trying to deter her from drinking.  If she wants to drink, she will drink.  Instead try to teach her how to drink responsibly.  Give her permission to call on you  at any time day or night for a ride home–without repercussions or lectures–if she or her friends are ever intoxicated.  Allow her the wiggle room to be able to be honest about drinking without fear of disappointing you.  I’d wager that if she is ever comfortable enough with you to call on you for a ride home after a night out drinking, she may feel comfortable enough to confide in you about other things in her life.  It’s not too late to have that open and honest relationship you once fancied, but to have it you must be willing to hear about the parts of your daughter’s life that aren’t that pretty to you, and you must face them without judgment or ridicule.

Its time to stop reading your daughter’s diary and start seeing her for the young woman she is becoming.  You built up an image in your mind of who you wanted your daughter to be and she didn’t live up to that image.  Maybe when she was 15 she did, but now she is growing up and experiencing life and won’t be able to conform to your ideal any longer.  Try to start seeing her through new eyes and let the disappointment fade away.  Do not tell her that you read her diary.  You need to remain a trusted figure in her life and if you reveal that you have betrayed her right to privacy then she will never come to you with anything again.  And under no circumstance should you ever tell the parents of her friends anything.  They would only tell their daughters how you found your information and that would tank your relationship with your own daughter.  You stepped over a line.  Do not pull other mothers over it with you.  I think they probably want to leave Pandora’s Box alone.

Where Should the Remains Remain

Dear Micah,

My wife and I are making up our wills and we are stuck on what to do with our remains.  I want to donate them for medical schools and my wife wants to be buried.  Is it weird if I donate mine and she is buried?  She says we should both be buried for our kids sake.  I don’t know what to do.

Kevin

Dear Kevin,

These kinds of questions are things most people never really think about so I’m glad to hear that someone else (besides myself) is having this debate.  I always wanted to be cremated.  I always felt like too much land was being used for dead bodies in a world that is growing more crowded by the day.  My wills always specified cremation for me.  But now that I am a parent, I am questioning this choice.  My brother once told me that he preferred burial over cremation because that would give his children a place to visit to feel close to him long after he was gone.  I’d never thought of that before, but he was right.  Our father died when we were very young and it is comforting to be able to visit his grave whenever we need to feel close to him.  Now that I’m a father too, I have to consider that same argument for my son in case something happens to me.  On the other hand, donating one’s body to science is a noble gesture that could help teach future doctors how to save lives.  I can’t really advise you on this because none of the choices are wrong choices.  It might be odd though for your kids to have Mom in a grave and Dad nowhere to be found;  But research the medical thing because I want to say that I have heard that eventually the schools return the remains to the family and then they can be buried or cremated or what have you.   I’m not positive about that, but I think that’s a possibility, so you could do both.  Check into it.

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