Help! Can I Ask My College Kids Not to Come Home This Summer?

Advice on manners and morals.
May 9 2013 6:15 AM

Leave Mama Alone

Crowding kids, smelly daughters, and a mom who cries at the drop of a hat, just in time for Mother’s Day.

Emily Yoffe.
Emily Yoffe

Photo by Teresa Castracane.

Get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week; click here to sign up. Please send your questions for publication to prudence@slate.com. (Questions may be edited.)

Got a burning question for Prudie? She'll be online at Washingtonpost.com to chat with readers each Monday at noon. Submit your questions and comments here before or during the live discussion.

Dear Prudence,
I'm a divorced mother of three college kids. While I was raising them alone I had no time or money for vacations, home improvements, dates, or my own education. But with them all in college, I returned to school to get my degree and reconnected with my high school sweetheart. I’m in love like never before. He lives out of state but will be moving in with me soon. I want time to bond with him without having the kids around. My house is small and having three young adults around will mean no privacy. Two of my kids have apartments at college, and one son with Asperger’s is home taking a semester off. Their father lives nearby but was neglectful and is a selfish jerk with a personality disorder and a second wife and kids. I told my children in January that my fiancé would be moving in and my daughter said she planned to go to summer school and stay in her college apartment. My other son said he had a job and apartment lined up. Now my daughter’s decided she’d rather come home and my son wants to come on weekends because his job is in a boring town. I'm considering barring them from returning home and telling them to just suck it up and grow up. Will it cause permanent damage to our relationship if I tell them to stay with their father or only come one weekend a month? I’ve worked as a secretary and also cared for my elderly mother. Isn't it my time to be happy?

—Ready to Live

Advertisement

Dear Ready,
Of course you deserve happiness, love, and freedom. You’ve sacrificed a lot to get your fledglings (mostly) out the door. But I think you should take the long view before you slam that door in their faces. Yes, they are young adults, but they aren’t fully independent or self-supporting, and for now—and fairly so—they think of the house where you raised them as their home. I suspect one reason they all suddenly feel the need to return to the nest for the summer is because their world has tilted off its axis at the news that Mom—lonely, reliable, selfless Mom—is getting laid, and perhaps if they chaperone you’ll settle down and return to normal. But since your needs and those of your kids are somewhat in conflict, you need to have a frank (though not explicit) talk with these young adults. Tell your kids that of course they are welcome at their home, but you were under the impression at least two of them had made other summer plans, and so did you. Say you very much want them to get to know the new man in your life, but you think it would be better if you all didn’t get to know each other in cramped quarters on a daily basis. Explain you and your guy were planning on some quiet time together this summer, so you hope they can figure out a way to spend some time with you, but more time away. Please don’t suggest your children bunk with their father. You were their oasis from him, so don’t send them back to that emotional desert. Just being forthright with them might make them want to grant you enough privacy so that you don’t feel the desire to change your locks.

—Prudie

Dear Prudence: Her Lying Eyes

Dear Prudie,
I have a 14-year-old daughter whose body odor and room is very repulsive to me. My daughter takes a bath every morning before school but still always smells like she is on her menses, even when it isn't that time of the month. Her room has an even stronger odor and I can hardly stand going in there. I've spoken to her about it and she insists she can't smell it, though I feel she's become immune to the smell. My husband doesn't seem to notice it, not even her body odor. I've given her soap and shower gels telling her that they really smell nice in an effort to entice her to use them. After approaching her about this several times to no avail, I'm seeking your help in how to address this with her without her feeling that I'm always "on her case" about something. Please help!

—Malodourous

Dear Mal,
I’m hoping what reeks isn’t your relationship with your daughter. Let’s cover the basics. It’s wonderful that she’s bathing regularly, but now that she’s hit puberty she must use deodorant. If she hasn’t been, get a her a stick and say this is something every adult needs. If her clothes or sheets aren’t being washing regularly, then her laundry needs more attention. But frankly, Mom, your description of your daughter smelling as if she’s constantly having her period fails the sniff test. I have never in my life heard anyone say, “Nadine is such a lovely person, too bad she always smells like she’s menstruating.” There is however, a raft of medical conditions that can cause unusual body odor, so perhaps what you are picking up is an underlying malady that needs attention. Before you take your daughter to the doctor, you need the assessment of some other bloodhounds. You say your husband “doesn’t seem to notice.” Well, ask him to notice. Tell him to go into your daughter’s room when she’s in there and report back as to whether or not he agrees there’s something to your obsession. If that’s not conclusive, enlist a trusted, discreet female friend or two (women are noted to have a keener sense of smell) to get a whiff and let you know. If no one else understands what you’re talking about, then you’re the one with the condition that needs attention, Mom.

—Prudie

Dear Prudie,
A few years ago after my stepfather died, my mother, who has just turned 60, retired and moved in with me. I looked forward to her moving in but, unfortunately, the problem I foresaw has occurred. My mother has always has been an introvert. But now she’s a hermit and her world revolves around me. There are times when I feel like I'm suffocating. She cries at what she perceives as the slightest criticism. She often cooks and burst into tears one night because I grated some cheese to go with dinner which showed that she "couldn't do anything right.” She has become incapable of doing the simplest things; she calls me at work to ask if she should buy cucumbers. She's passive-aggressive and gets angry if I spend too much time with friends over the weekend, even though I usually invite her to come along. She even follows me around the house. I don't want it to be this way but I don't know how to fix things without hurting her. What do I do?

—When Did I Become the Mother?

  Slate Plus
Working
Nov. 27 2014 12:31 PM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 11 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked a helicopter paramedic about his workday.