Dear Ann Landers: This is for “Feeling Guilty in Woodbridge, Va.” She said her adult children wouldn’t forgive her for the lack of affection they experienced growing up. When I read that letter, I said to myself, “That’s me.”
My father worked six days a week and my mother was always cleaning, cooking and doing laundry. They both came from undemonstrative families with parents who never showed any affection and never told them they were loved. So, of course, this explains why they didn’t know how to give affection or express it in words.
My life changed at age 9 when I stayed overnight at a girlfriend’s house. Her mother kissed us both good night and tucked us in. That did it. I was so moved by that loving gesture I couldn’t sleep. I thought, “This is the way it is supposed to be.” When I left, I was angry at my own parents for a while, but I couldn’t hold it against Mom and Dad for the way they were.
This is what I did to reverse the process: I began kissing my mother so often that I got her to laugh about it. I married at 17 and had two children before I was 20. I kissed them until their little cheeks were red. When I talked to my mother on the telephone, I would say, “I love you, Mom.” After a while, she finally said, “I love you, too.” I’d never heard her say that before.
After a few weeks, when I’d go to see Mom, she would say, “Where’s my kiss?” When it was time for me to leave, she’d say, “I love you. You know that, don’t you?” I’m so glad I was able to change things because my precious mother passed away not long ago. I cherish the many letters from her saying, “I love you.”
So to that person in Woodbridge who feels guilty, I say, I hope your children read this. It’s never too late to change, and I promise you, it works. - Sun City, Calif.
Dear Sun: What a beautiful letter! That goodnight kiss from your friend’s mom changed your life. What a brave (and wise) little girl you were to force kisses on your mother when you didn’t get any from her.
Many readers have written to say they have learned a lot from my column, and this pleases me. Your letter today will teach a life-enhancing lesson. Thank you.
Dear Ann Landers: After reading the letter about the child with the port-wine birthmark, I felt compelled to write.
Our son, “Kevin,” was born with one eyelid that drooped noticeably. We tried to correct the problem surgically. Before he was 5, Kevin had had seven surgeries by three different doctors. We later learned his problem was a rare syndrome that is not correctable.
After angrily responding to people who asked, “What’s wrong with the boy’s eye?” I realized a different approach was necessary. I explained to Kevin that these people weren’t being mean, they were just inquisitive, and I asked how he wanted to reply. I gave him three choices: 1) tell them to mind their own business, 2) say “I don’t want to talk about it,” or 3) say “I was born that way.” He decided on No. 3.
While in the first grade, Kevin learned that when he told his little friends, “I was born that way,” the response was simply, “Oh.” Kevin is now 14, well adjusted and happy. Recently, he was elected student-body president of his junior high school. - Vancouver, Wash.
Dear Vancouver: Kevin must be quite a guy. He learned early that if life hands you a lemon, you can turn sour or you can make lemonade.
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