January 20, 2012 in Features

Make peace with your daughter now

Washington Post
 

Dear Carolyn: Our 25-year-old daughter chose a different lifestyle than we’d imagined for her: She parted ways with college at 20 and has been bartending ever since. She has good management skills and has never been out of work, and we respect the fact that she’s finally responsible for herself.

Our issue is with her use of foul language. We’re not prissy, but both of us work in professional settings where the casual use of such language is not acceptable.

She has recently gotten married and hopes to have children. I’ve told her that her language will sound a lot different in the mouth of a 3-year-old. I worry about how she’ll be perceived by others, particularly once her putative children start school.

The language issue is a roadblock in our relationship with her. Is there anything we can say or do? – Ears Hurting in the Suburbs

Yes! Yes, there’s something you can do. You can see in your letter that you are in the early stages of estrangement with your daughter over language she might or might not use around children she doesn’t even have yet.

Then you can try to persuade me that her cussing is more harmful to family health than your judging.

You praise her management skills and faint-praise her self-sufficiency (“finally” … ), and your expressed purpose is concern for your someday grandchildren, but if there’s such thing as writing through clenched teeth, you’re doing it here. It’s achingly clear that you can barely abide your daughter, and that’s the thrust of your note.

To wit: A question about her language didn’t require mention of her dropping out or bartending, did it?

Conveniently, the answer to both questions, text and subtext, is the same: The best thing you can do for your grandkids-to-be is make real peace with your daughter, not just peace from one end of a 10-foot pole.


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